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.) These well-respected institutions are among the top Chicago attractions, offering informative and inspiring encounters with art, history, science and culture, not to mention noteworthy architecture.
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. Whether you plan on spending time in the Loop or traveling to Pilsen, be sure to hit our list of the best Chicago museums. Another no-duh suggestion: Take advantage of free museum days.
The best Chicago museums
If you’re into exhibits loaded with interactive bells and whistles, this expansive Hyde Park locale is your ticket. The museum’s focus is broad, with permanent displays that include the popular mirror maze in the "Numbers in Nature" exhibit, the whiz-bang "Science Storms," plus the old favorites: A restored U-505 German submarine, a simulated coal mine and a vintage diesel-electric train.
Though it’s staffed by world-class researchers at the forefront of their field, the museum’s real draw will always be the virtual-reality trips through time and space in the Sky Theater, which features the "highest resolution and quality possible." Themes usually center around the known and unknown universe and how humans have engaged with it throughout history. The recently renovated "Mission Moon" exhibit allows visitors to see the Gemini 12 capsule and learn more about the early days of the space race. For some after-hours fun, check out the monthly Adler After Dark parties.
Not so long ago this vibrant museum was the stodgy ol' Chicago Historical Society, which let you cull through thousands of archived photographs and curio. Well, that library still exists, but joining it are several permanent and temporary exhibits, the largest of which is "Chicago: Crossroads of America," a treasure trove of historical objects, including a chunk of the original Fort Dearborn. Other exhibits include “Sensing Chicago” (kids swarm around the giant Chicago hot dog) and revolving displays that explore the life of Abraham Lincoln.
You don't have to look any further than Pilsen to find one of the largest Latino cultural organizations in the U.S. Visit the National Museum of Mexican Art and explore its 6,000-piece permanent collection, rotating exhibits, performing arts showcases and educational programming that represents an illustrious Mexican culture.