Arts & Culture

5 Exceptional Museums in Chicago

The Windy City is the complete package, with a dramatic skyline, beautiful parks, eclectic ‘hoods, a lively arts and culture scene, pro sports galore and myriad landmarks. On the whole, the museums of Chicago rank with the very best in North America. Check out five of the best – outside of the obvious Field Museum of Natural History.

Museum of Science and Industry

Set in Hyde Park, the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the most popular museums in the United States and the dominant science museum in the Western Hemisphere. The MSI hosts various exhibits related to the human body, transportation, space exploration and the environment. Among the over 2,000 exhibits on hand in 75 major halls, visitors can see a German U-505 submarine, Zephyr train and British Spitfire. Other random exhibits range from the world’s largest pinball machine to a reconstruction of a 1933 Illinois coal mine. Another fascinating feature of the museum is Science Storms, which recreates extreme natural phenomena such as tornadoes and avalanches. Temporary exhibits include Jim Henson’s Fantastic World, a tribute to the creator of the Muppets and Hubble, an IMAX feature showing the impact the Hubble telescope has had on astronomy. Check out superb rates on Chicago hotels in the area.

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The Art Institute of Chicago

Located in Grant Park and guarded by two bronze lions, the Art Institute of Chicago was opened in 1879 under the name of Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. This foremost masterpiece is one of the most photographed attractions in the city and houses a vast permanent collection that takes hours to fully explore. The museum features one of the most impressive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, with prominent works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Matisse. Other works on display include lavish European decorative arts and exhibits showcasing over 5,000 years of Asian art. Since May 2009, the museum’s Modern Wing by starchitect Renzo Piano has injected new life into the venerable institution and unfurls a fine collection of contemporary art. In between tableaux-gazes, you can unwind and grab lunch at the museum’s restaurant or peruse through art-centric items in the gift shop.

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The Shedd Aquarium

The historic Shedd Aquarium was, for a time, the world’s most immense. More than 2 million annual visitors pass through the massive facility, which contains over 25,000 fish. The Caribbean Reef, Oceanarium and Wild Reef comprise the most notable exhibits, with all the sharks, stingrays, Beluga whales and eels you could ever want under one roof. The aquarium is part of Museum Campus Chicago, together with the extraordinary Field Museum of Natural History and Adler Planetarium.

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Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum

The senior-most planetarium still in existence on the planet offers a lot more than the average astronomy museum. The Adler has a wide variety of exhibitions, from Planet Explorers to the Galaxy Wall, CyberSpace to the IBEX Show. A U.S. National Historic Landmark, the planetarium won Ernest A. Grunsfeld, Jr. a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1931. The indelible magnum opus is a linchpin of the man-made Northerly Island.

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The Chicago History Museum

A thorough tour of Chicago invariably involves a trip to the Chicago History Museum. A peerless collection of eclectic objects tells the remarkable saga of the city in vivid fashion, from textiles to railroad cars, decorative to industrial arts. A phenomenal research library is a veritable treasure trove of Chicago lore. After a visit, be sure to tour the the Old Town Triangle neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

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