City Stories

Chicago List: Museums

Growing up with Chicago as one’s back yard is a sweet deal in a lot of ways. That skyline. Those hot dogs. All those amazing museums.

For me, childhood is marked by weekends at the Museum of Science and Industry. A behemoth to kid-sized me, the building and the endless wonders inside loomed large over my imagination in those formative years. With a family membership, my mom, brother and I found ourselves watching baby chicks hatch, walking through a person-sized model of a heart, and watching the latest Omnimax show on the domed screen all the time.

Thing is, there are A LOT more museums in Chicago than MSI. Think I might have to find my way to them, and soon.

Field Museum – You can’t be a school-aged kid in or around Chicago and not end up on a Field Museum field trip at some point in your early years. And I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I’ve been. I made it to the Museum of Natural History in NYC before I moved back, and enjoyed it way more than I anticipated. Seems to follow the Field, with an exhibit on the Vikings and this gal rocking all the science, would have some fun times in store for a grown-up visit.

Adler Planetarium – I think what I love most about the Planetarium is its location, this exceptional perch on the very edge of the city, its lenses and telescopes soaking up the skies over Lake Michigan. Neil DeGrasse Tyson might not be in residence at this planetarium, but they do have some super cool programming going to celebrate their 85th year.

Shedd Aquarium – Giving the Planetarium a run for its money location-wise, the Shedd Aquarium takes advantage of its water-centric location with stunning views and hands-on exposure to all things aquatic. Putting this one on my list for the summer, what with programming like Jazzin’ at the Shedd. No, seriously. That sounds awesome.

Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art – Wait, there are art museums in Chicago that aren’t the Art Institute? Who knew! MCA is in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, showcasing all kinds of art that’s not what you’ll see at the Art Institute, which is exactly the charm of it.

Chicago History Museum – The Windy City is teeming with history, and I like to think that I know quite a bit of it. Even so, I’m willing to bet I’ve barely scratched the surface. Enter: the Chicago History Museum. Chock full of memorabilia and stories from the city’s past, I see an afternoon of wandering the relics in my future, and more than a few revelations to show for it.

Int’l Museum of Surgical Science – We’ll file this one under oddities and curiosities. Housed in an old mansion on Lake Shore Drive, the museum features an exhibit dedicated to Polio in the early 20th century, a turn-of-the-century apothecary shop, and the drawings of a medieval anatomist. I am not one for the sight of blood and guts, yet this sounds exceptional.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art – I feel like that name says it all. Oh, and their website is simply “” – how badass is that? Intuit calls itself the home for art removed from influence by “the mainstream art world.” Well, well, well. Everything about this place dares you to be impressed, and that’s something I can get behind.