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Chicago's first Museum Week lineup announced

Written by
Madeline Wolfson

Chicago's got an event for everything from fashion to fiery foods. And although our city boasts some of the world’s best museums, there has never been an event solely in their honor, until now. Twelve of the city’s top institutions have teamed up to bring Chicago its first Museum Week from October 1–7. Art, science, history and nature museums are coming together to offer a week filled with special tours, shows and events, plus extra family and kids programming and extended hours. To sweeten the deal, participating museums offer bonus free days for Illinois residents, discounted admission and big savings on memberships. Here’s what each museum is bringing to Chicago's first ever Museum Week.

The Adler Planetarium

The planetarium packs the week with free events. Adler astronomers get into the weirdest and most wonderfully bizarre stuff in the universe in a special Space Oddities panel (Oct 3, 1pm). Tuck into the story of Curious George and the Rocket on October 5 for Stories Under the Stars (Oct 5, 10am, 11:15am & 12pm). Design your own rocket at the Rocket Science Workshop (Oct 5, 10am–12:15pm), and get into Halloween mode at the family workshop Spooky Slime Science oozing with info on slimy polymer science (Oct 1 & 3, 10am–12:30pm). Don’t miss the exclusive Museum Week Sky Show The Pluto Encounter for the latest breathtaking look at the distant dwarf planet (Oct 1–7, 2:30pm).

Free Days: Oct 5–7 free general admission for Illinois residents

Deals: $10 off any level of membership

(Adler Planetarium, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Mon–Fri 930am–4pm, Sat & Sun 9:30am–4:30pm)

The Art Institute

Stop in at noon any day this week for a free tour and lecture, the awesome kind on iconic masterpieces, with admission. Families can unleash their own inner Seurats and Hoppers at the Artist's Studio with free drop-in art-making (Oct 3 & 4, 11am–2pm). (Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S Michigan Ave, 10:30am–5pm, Thursdays 10:30am–8pm)

Free Days: Oct 1, 5–8pm free admission for Illinois residents

Deals: $10 off new membership

Chicago History Museum

Join free 30-minute highlight tours of Chicago: Crossroads of America every afternoon. The museum offers a special extended hours event on October 6 where you can dive into the museum’s collections with curators and experience a special flash tour (5–8pm. Adults $5, children under 12 free). (Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark St, Mon–Sat 9:30am–4:30pm, Sun noon–5pm)  

Deals: $4 off admission, 20 percent off memberships and 20 percent off at cafe and gift shop

The DuSable Museum of African American History

Learn about the African-American experience with special guided tours this week and make sure to visit the new interactive exhibit “Freedom, Resistance and the Journey Towards Equality,” chronicling major periods of African-American history. (DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E 56th Pl, Tues–Sat 10am–5pm, Sun noon–5pm)

Deals: Two-for-one admission, half off memberships, 10 percent off store

The Field Museum

All week, you can pop in for daily Museum Highlight Tours (11am), then learn about the biggest T. rex ever discovered at SUE Talks (noon). Spend an afternoon digging into the museum’s vaults, getting a behind the scenes look with The Field Discovery Squad (Oct 2, 10am–2pm). Bone up with a Dinosaur Talks presentation (Oct 5, 10:15am) or attend an Ancient Americas Tour (Oct 6, 10:45am & 1pm). All events are free with admission throughout Museum Week. (Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, 9am–5pm)

Deals: Oct 4, free admission for Illinois residents  

Lincoln Park Zoo

Families can't miss the zoo’s new Fall Fest running in conjunction with Museum Week. Rides, live entertainment and educational activities will take place throughout the week, and the zoo gets autumnal with a hay mountain, corn maze and pumpkin patch from Oct 2–4. (Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N Clark St, 10am–5pm)

Free Days: Admission is always free

Deals: 10 percent off membership

Museum of Contemporary Art

Make sure you’re at MCA Prime Time for a night of artist-driven spectacles, including a hallucinatory experience from Luftwerk, electro pop from Dan Deacon, new film Fresh Dressed by Sasha Jenkins, and live screen printing (Oct 2, 7–11pm). Contemplate architecture at MCA Talk Architecture Is Art…Is Architecture Art? (Oct 4, 1pm), and hear influential figures David Grubbs, John McEntire and Rob Mazurek from Chicago’s post-rock music scene dish on avant garde jazz (Oct 6, 6pm). (Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago Ave, Tues 10am–8pm, Wed–Sun 10am–5pm)

Free Days: Oct 6, free admission for Illinois residents

Deals: Half-off admission with a receipt from another museum during Museum Week

Museum of Science and Industry

This stellar museum is adding two free days for Illinois residents to explore awesome exhibits like Robot Revolution, featuring an international army of helpful and quirky robots, You! The Experience, where you can run in a human-sized hamster wheel, and the interactive Numbers in Nature mirror maze. (Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, 9:30am–4pm)

Free Days: Oct 5 & 6 free admission for Illinois resident

Deals: $20 off any membership

The National Museum of Mexican Art

If you haven’t taken in the culture and artwork of this Pilsen gem, Museum Week is the time to get acquainted. Explore the colorful acrylics of a Chicago talent at the new exhibit “De Vuelta: Works by Chicago Imagist Errol Ortiz.” Celebrate the Day of the Dead at the country’s largest Dia de los Muertos exhibit in the country. (National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W 19th St, Tue–Sun 10am–5pm)

Free Days: Admission is always free

Deals: 15 percent off at shop 

The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture

Get in touch with Puerto Rican culture at this Humboldt Park institution. Observe the whimsical and vibrant paintings of Chicago-based artist Oscar Luis Martinez in his solo exhibition “Metamorfosis of Divine Entanglements” and come face to face with a striking collection of vejigante masks in “Las Caras Lindas: Intervenciones Actuales.” (The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, 3015 W Division Street, Tues–Fri 10am–4pm, Sat 10am–1pm)

Free Days: Admission is always free

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

There’s a frenzy of Museum Week events and deals at the city’s oldest science museum. City Creatures: Animal Encounters in the Chicago Wilderness, featuring art and essays on urban wildlife, and Peanuts…Naturally both celebrate their grand openings this week. Join artists Hector Duarte to create beautiful butterfly masks (Oct 3, 11am) and get festive during Sunday’s Harvest Festival. Explore the museum and Judy Istock Butterfly Haven until 8pm with special extended hours (Oct 6). (The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N Cannon Dr, Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm)

Free Days: Oct 1 free admission for Illinois residents

Deals: $5 off adult admission with receipt from another museum during Museum Week, $15 off one-year membership, $25 off two-year membership, chance to win lifetime membership, 10 percent off at shop 

Shedd Aquarium

Explore the life aquatic this week with special talks and discounts. Learn about sharks, penguins, belugas and sea lions with multiple Animal Chats, explore masters of both surf and turf at special exhibit Amphibians and get tactile at Stingray Touch. Families can further their fishy festivities with Fun Fall Finds maps. (Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 9am–6pm)

Deals: Oct 5 & 6 Illinois residents discount days, special discount offers on Extraordinary Experiences, special programming and discounts for new members all month 

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