Best Places for Art and Culture in Chicago

From dinosaurs and dioramas to DNA discoveries and paintings by Degas, Chicago museums rock


Spend the whole day surrounded by art or just a couple of hours with the kids engaging in hands-on activities and entertaining displays. As an added bonus, you'll find yourself in some of the city's grandest architectural landmarks when you visit the Windy City's top museums.

Awesome Museums for Art Lovers

Past the bronze lions that guard the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago are masterpieces filling a million square feet of exhibit space. Despite its size, you'll find the museum is easy to navigate with free mobile apps and rented audio guides. Don't miss the iconic American Gothic painting by Grant Wood, George Seurat's famous A Sunday on La Grande Jatte—you might know it as Sunday in the Park—and the impressive Asian collection. If modern art is more your style, head to the Museum of Contemporary Art where Andy Warhol's Soup Cans and Alexander Calder's hanging mobiles share space with the works of talented new artists making a splash in the current art scene.

Cool Museums for Active Kids

Keep the young ones in your crowd entertained at the Chicago Children's Museum located on the Navy Pier. Tiny tots climb and crawl through the Treehouse Trails and Kids Town. Big kids can create inventions in the Tinkering Lab with real tools. The Museum of Science and Industry is majestic, and even your teenagers will find the U-505 submarine, science storms and the flight simulator scintillating. Of all the museums in Chicago, the most outdoor fun is at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Nature trails designed around native plants and bird habitats are perfect to exercise little legs while exploring the frogs and butterflies—before checking out the curious creatures inside.

Fun Museums Celebrating Chicago's History

Stroll through the city's past at the Chicago History Museum. The crackle of flames in the Great Chicago Fire; a tribute to Illinois' own Abraham Lincoln; a whiskey still from the Roaring '20s; and an old-fashioned streetcar are just a few of the favorites that bring the city's legacy to life. From this Chicago museum, you can join tours by bus, bike, trolley and on foot to get an up-close, personal glimpse of landmarks and neighborhoods. The story of Chicago wouldn't be complete without the rollicking fun of its sports teams. You'll find memorabilia and more at the Chicago Sports Museum, adjacent to the beloved Chicago sportscaster's restaurant, Harry Caray's 7th Inning Stretch.

Best Museum Area for a Family Outing

Make a day of it exploring the three famous natural history museums in Chicago on Lake Michigan's shore. Start at the Field Museum with Sue, the largest Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. Interactive exhibits featuring culture and science mysteries from around the world could keep you here all day, but save time for solar system discoveries at the Adler Planetarium, followed by a deep dive into the secrets of the seas at the Shedd Planetarium. Treat yourself to lunch at one of the museum's cafes and linger a little in the grassy park areas to enjoy the panoramic view of Chicago's skyline.

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