10 best Chicago museums: Top institutions to visit in Chicago

The Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and more of the best Chicago museums to take in art, nature, history and culture.

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The Art Institute is the best Chicago museum guarded by lions.

The Art Institute is the best Chicago museum guarded by lions.


Whether you're a local or an out-of-towner, if you have a day off in Chicago, spending it at a museum is a no-duh. Ferris Bueller knew this. He hit up the Art Institute (just follow a school group around; it's cool). As did the folks attending a Field Museum gala in 1997 horror film The Relic. (What they didn't know is that they'd be stalked by a lizard-like monster.) 

These well-respected institutions offer informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture. For instance, the Museum of Science and Industry is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. (Hence the classical Romanesque design and Ionic colonnade, natch.)

There's variety to be experienced: Tour the AIC's bright, Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, commune with butterflies at the Notebaert Nature Museum or encounter aquatic life at the Shedd Aquarium. Whatever your agenda, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Other no-duh suggestions: 1) Take advantage of the museums' free days. (Days and times vary.) 2) Steer clear of lizard-like monsters.

  1. 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, (at McFetridge Dr)
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  1. 111 S Michigan Ave, (at Adams St)
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  1. 220 E Chicago Ave, (at Mies van der Rohe Way)
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  1. 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, (at 57th St)
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  1. 1601 N Clark St, (at North Ave)
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  1. 1200 S Lake Shore Dr
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  1. 2430 N Cannon Dr, (at Fullerton Pkwy)
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  1. 1852 W 19th St, (between Wolcott Ave and Wood St)
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  1. 1300 S Lake Shore Dr
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Chicago History Museum

  • Price band: 1/4
  1. 1601 N Clark St, (at North Ave)
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The Field Museum

  • Price band: 1/4
  1. 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, (at McFetridge Dr)
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  1. 1852 W 19th St, (between Wolcott Ave and Wood St)
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  1. 800 S Halsted St, (at Polk St)
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Audrey F
Audrey F

I highly recommend TIMING your visit to Museum Campus (Adler, Field, Shedd)  to enjoy LUNCH at ADLER, and take in a sky show before or after.   You get a million-dollar view of the skyline from Adler's floor-to-ceiling glass-walled cafeteria, with friendly budget-priced HEALTHY menu options.  I'm a big fan of Alder (and a member) and know they have the finest sky show theater technology in the WORLD, and the friendliest astronomers too.  Also, Adler's  adults-only  "Adler After Dark" the 3rd Thursday each month from 6pm - 10pm has been voted the most popular museum date-night event in Chicago. Don't forget to look through the telescopes and make a wish upon a star (or planet ; )   ~cheers+stars, Audrey

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