Family Travel, Major US Cities, Most Recent Travel, Museums

Chicago with Kids: Science & Natural History Museums

The Field Museum

I was beyond excited to see the Field Museum, considered one of the most historic but also innovative natural history museums in the world. It was massive, and we could have spent the entire day easily, but were limited by our timed afternoon tickets for the Shedd Aquarium. Our American Science Museum Reciprocal Membership allowed us to save on a basic entry pass (a $70 value), and we upgraded for an additional $60 to have access to the special exhibitions and the 3-D movie that explained the history of the excavation and preservation of Egyptian mummies. 

Arriving at opening was ideal; we were part of only a handful of guests in the Wild Color and Jurassic Oceans special exhibitions. Our next stop was the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet. We were welcomed by a life-size Pteranodon replica, a first for me. From there, we walked through 4.5 Billion years of Earth’s history, with very obvious markings for mass extinction events. The nearly intact T-Rex Sue is the most famous “resident” of the field museum, and his/her/their exhibit space included a projection show.

With just three hours we had to narrow down our visit to cut out nearly 1/2 of the museum. We focused on the more interactive exhibits, and found a lot of opportunities for digital-native Alice to learn via kiosk while Alex and I took turns in reading old-school interpretive signage. I was most impressed with the Regenstein Halls of the Pacific, with artifacts, art, and photos pertaining to rich cultures that are underrepresented in other museums.

For dining there were two options; quick service cafes in the basement and the lobby. We opted for a quick veggie burger and Jurassic Sue-themed IPA on the main floor.

Wild Color Exhibition at the Field Museum, Chicago, IL 2022

I included an obligatory stop at the Lions at Tsavo display (they were popularized by the movie The Ghosts in the Darkness), and learned that male lions in very hot parts of Africa do not grow manes.

The Field Museum: Prehistoric Exhibitions

The Field Museum: Plants & People Exhibitions

I had thought I would just fly through The Plants of the World halls, but quickly realized that I needed more time. Plants in a diorama setting have the benefit of looking like plants for interpretive purposes but requiring no upkeep. They were also sorted in the way that I think about plants; how they are used by people.

With more time we would have visited the Cyrus Tang Hall of China, the Africa Exhibits and the Halls of the Ancient Americas. We would have also spent more time in Restoring Earth galleries; they focus on the practical applications of science today and how conservation efforts are benefiting both the environment and people around the world.

The small entrance to Discover Ancient Egypt exhibits hide the massive amount of artifacts inside. Families with young children who might be sensitive to the actual mummies can skip ahead to the interactive “Market” area. 

The Field Museum: Animals Exhibits & Special Exhibitions

Much of the taxidermy animal collection that would normally just be displayed as dioramas was given a more creative twist with the “What is an Animal?” and “Nature Walk” themed exhibits.

Underground Adventure and Wild Color were more interactive than the older exhibitions, with larger than life photo ops and other creative immersive aspects (we “shrunk” to the size of an insect in the Underground Adventure).

The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL

The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago is located in one of the few remaining buildings from the 1893 Columbia Exhibition World’s Fair. The building itself was a driving point for my visit, having recently completed the book Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. 
Much of the museum combines history and science. Yesterday’s Main Street was a cute collection of replications of early 1900s Chicago storefronts (including the first Walgreens!)

The central piece of a huge World War II exhibition was a captured German submarine. Galleries around the U-505 gave historical context and focused on the technology utilized in warfare in the 1940s. Transportation exhibits included train cars, wagons, and a Boeing 727 restored to its 1960s interior.

During our visit the most popular spot for families was in the Genetics exhibit. The baby chick hatchery has been in operation since it was introduced as a food-related exhibit in 1956. Currently visitors find one side of the hatchery filled with puffy chicks and the other with chicks in various steps of the hatching process. 

Transportation Gallery at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL 2022

We only covered ½ of the museum in our allotted 4 hours. We chose to not add on any additional experiences (Mirror Maze, Flight Simulator, Mining Exhibition, etc.)  to our basic ticket. 

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