Chicago is filled with amazing museums. From the Art Institute to the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, it’s hard to run out of places to learn, to touch artifacts and to create.
Our local museums offer interactive exhibits and resources to teach kids of all ages about everything from history to how their heart works and how to conserve energy. These are 38 not-to-miss museums for Chicagoans of all ages.
Note: We’re updating our website as quickly as we can, but changes may occur due to COVID-19. Please double check before heading out for the most updated information on safety precautions and any last-minute cancellations. Stay safe!
- Address: 711 N. Main St., Rockford
- Cost: $9, free members and under 1 year; timed tickets required
Exhibits for ages up to tweens include a planetarium, sports dress-up, sound waves, electricity, an outdoor discovery park, a tot spot, health and body, weather, bubbles and more. Monthly activities rotate and highlight science, nature and agriculture among others, helping kids discover their passions. It’s worth the trip to Rockford to try it out.
- Address: 301 N. Washington St., Naperville
- Cost: $15 kids/adults, Free for kids under 1
Daily drop-in events include story time, music and movement, and time in the studio. Rotating exhibitions add to permanent hands-on exhibits about energy, architecture, physics and art, and there’s even a spot designed just for kids under 2.
- Address: 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview
- Cost: $15 kids ages 1-16, $15 ages 17-64, free for kids ages 12 months and under
Kids can play, test, try and put their hands on nearly everything at Kohl. The museum has opportunities for littles put on coats to be doctors, play on a train board, explore outdoors and so much more. In addition to a revolving exhibition area, the museum hosts events and festivals throughout the year. In 2020, it was voted No. 4 in the USA Today 10 Best Children’s Museums in North America competition.
- Address: 5100 Museum Drive, Oak Lawn
- Cost: $9.50, free members; advanced registration required for two-hour play times
Exhibits range from water and sand tables to gravity experiments to a grocery store and moo cafe to a crawlers/infant-only area. Kids learn about air, dairy, movement, STEM practicals and music. Always check the website before you go, and the “kite” system tells families how many field trips are expected that day.
Located at the Metra train stop in Oak Lawn, this is easy access for families who don’t wish to drive. Limited play times are available in the mornings and afternoons, and the museum is located next to an ice cream shop.
- Address: 9301 S. Stony Island Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $5, Free members
- COVID-19 updates: Temporarily closed.
The country’s first African American children’s museum, exhibits include a tour of healthy eating, African American inventors who changed lives, Bronzeville’s top landmarks and STEM activities. The museum is best for kids ages 3-9.
- Address: Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $19, Free members and under 1 year
Two levels of hands-on activities include rotating exhibitions, playing with a fire engine, climbing a tower to the second floor, exploring Cloud Buster that looks over Navy Pier, architecture experiments, an art studio and exhibits that will attract toddlers through tweens.
- Address: 6445 West North Ave., Oak Park
- Cost: $9, special rates apply for families of military, teachers, seniors, first responders and those with EBT or WIC cards.
The hands-on museum is recommended for birth to age 8 and is all located on one floor. Kids can play dress-up, sort groceries, visit the “fire house,” ride in kid-sized vehicles, make art and one of the five “experience zones” includes an outdoor organic garden. Weekly and monthly specials include story times, art, sewing, nature and science, transportation, the senses and more.
- Address: 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $39.95, $29.95 ages 3-11, special rates for Chicago residents, free members; timed ticket or registration required
Kids can touch aquatic animals or see them up close at one of the daily presentations. Exhibits include fish, sharks, penguins, dolphins, sea lions and other water animals in their regular habitats, showing life in rivers, streams and different ocean environments. For families not ready to return to a museum, virtual experiences include encounters with sea otters, sharks and sea lions.
- Address: 1401 Middlefork Drive, Lake Forest
- Cost: Free, registration required
The City of Lake Forest maintains the Wildlife Discovery Center as a living natural history museum. Kids can meet reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals while enjoying hands-on interaction with nature. Programs exist for preschoolers through college students to keep them in tune with nature. The indoor exhibits are open Tuesdays and Fridays-Sundays for groups as many as six people.
- Address: 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $9, $7 students and seniors, $6 ages 3-12, free members and under 3 years
Daily story times and Critter Connections that let kids touch and feel animals keep families coming back to Peggy Notebaert. Those, and the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, where butterflies of all kinds, colors and sizes fly around and even land on visitors. Hands-on exhibits let kids learn about water, rivers, the environment and a climbing structure keeps them active. Revolving exhibits have recently involved dragons, bugs, treehouses, amphibians and Dora & Diego.
- Address: 1899 West Winchester Road, Libertyville
- Cost: $10, $6 residents, seniors, ages 4-17 and students with ID, $3 resident seniors and kids, free 3 and under; timed tickets are required for 90-minute visits
Located in the Lake County Forest Preserves, the museum includes a Dryptosaurus skeleton, information about prehistoric Lake County, lessons and artifacts about Native Americans who lived in Lake County, the American Frontier and Civil War. Great for kids ages 6 and older, there are also rotating art exhibits and monthly events and programs.
- Address: 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
- Cost: Free, $5 parking, $10 parking weekends May-September
- COVID-19 updates: Second Saturday family programs are virtual for the time being, with craft supplies available for pickup at the park.
The former home of Colonel Robert McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune and member of the U.S. Army’s First Division, two museums sit on the 500-acre land in the western suburbs. The Robert R. McCormick Museum teaches visitors about the public and private life of the man while The First Division Museum houses interactive military historical exhibits.
Monthly and season events bring visitors to the grounds, which also includes three miles of walking trails, a golf course, classes in the education center, and a cafe and gift shop in the visitors center.
- Address: 1601 N. Clark St., Chicago
- Cost: $19, $17 seniors & students ages 19-22, free Illinois children 18 and under; timed ticketing required for morning or afternoon visits
Learn about Chicago and Illinois in the time of Lincoln and Robert McCormick and beyond, then view the photographic archives of the Chicago Sun-Times and squeeze yourself into a Chicago-style hot dog. This museum is most fun for kids ages 6 and older who have a background in U.S. history.
- Address: 120 E. Park Ave., Elmhurst
- Cost: Free; timed, one-hour reservations required
Rotating exhibitions have included trains, marriage, political posters, Snoopy, the power of children, roller skating and Disco Demolition. Weekly and monthly events include crafts and workshops geared toward preschool to late elementary students. Virtual programs have included crafts, historical discussions and streamed radio plays.
- Address: 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $24, $21 seniors and students with ID, $17 ages 3-11 (Illinois residents); timed reservations required
Seeing Sue the T.rex is on every Chicagoan’s bucket list. But Sue isn’t the only dino at the Field Museum, and they are not the only thing there. Kids can learn about ancient civilizations, meet and talk to scientists, learn about Earth conservation and test out the hands-on space in the Crown Family PlayLab.
Some high-touch elements have been closed due to the pandemic, and virtual exhibitions include Sue Saturdays when families can be introduced to dinosaurs and other STEM topics.
Address: 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie
Cost: $15, $10 seniors, $8 ages 12-22, $6 ages 5-11, free members; advanced ticketing required
Best for ages 8 and older (because of the subject matter), the Harvey L. Miller Family Youth Exhibition center teaches kids about Upstanders and how to stand up for themselves. They can peek into the school lockers of kids like Rosa Parks, help solve problems and even tell their own stories. Permanent exhibits include interactive hologram and survivor stories experiences.
- Address: 523 S. Webster St., Naperville
- Cost: $12, $10 seniors, $8 ages 4-12, free residents, members and under 4 (summer admission; winter admission is halved); advanced ticketing recommended
The living history community tells the story of Naperville in its early settlement days. Historic buildings can be toured in the summer months and the visitor’s center is open year round for revolving exhibits. Kids will be charmed by costumed villagers and special events include a summer outdoor concert series. Outdoor walking tours are available with a guided app, and masks are required inside buildings and when social distancing isn’t possible outdoors.
- Address: 1155 E. 58th St., Chicago
- Cost: $10, $5 under 12
Located within the University of Chicago, visitors can learn about ancient Middle East with artifacts excavated by the school’s archeologists. Galleries about Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo are permanent and rotating exhibitions include events for kids, adults and seniors.
- Address: 5211 N. Clark St., Chicago
- Cost: $6, $4 students and children, $15 family
- COVID-19 updates: The children’s museum is temporarily closed.
The Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration located on the third floor includes a 20-foot steamship and a Swedish farmhouse with cow to milk, table to set and chores to be done. Kids will also learn about pioneer life in a log cabin. Keep an eye on the events calendar for virtual crafts, story times and the Scandinavian Jam. The museum is available weekends with capacity requirements and Tuesdays-Thursdays by appointment only.
- Address: 740 East 56th Place, Chicago
- Cost: $14.50, $11 seniors and students with ID, $5 ages 6-11, free 5 and under and members
Visitors learn about the Chicago Race Riots, the role of the African American soldier and the history of Harold Washington. TIME Studios selected DuSable to open its virtual reality program “The March” about Martin Luther King’s speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963. This museum is best for students ages 7 and older.
- Address: 3001 Central Street, Evanston
- Cost: $7, $5 youth and students, free members and tribal members
Weekends at Mitchell are primed for crafts as kids learn about the Native American culture and history through doing. Crafts vary by age and change each month. Past crafts have taught kids to make moccasins, canoes and dolls. Virtual events include artist discussions and films.
- Address: 10406 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $5
- COVID-19 updates: Temporarily closed. Will reopen Sept. 4, 2021.
The museum celebrates African Americans in labor history, focusing on Pullman Porters. On a National Monument dedicated by President Barack Obama in 2015, the museum is best for ages 7 and older, and is great in the summer when your family can also visit the Pullman Monument.
- Address: 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $22, $16 seniors, students and teens, free children, members and Chicago teens (special rates for Chicago residents); timed tickets and reservations required
- COVID-19 updates: Ryan Learning Center is temporarily closed.
Littles will enjoy the gallery story time on the first Thursday of the month, as well as the drop-in family arts programs. There is also a gallery of artwork made by children, families and teens, as well as the chance to visit the gallery’s permanent and rotating exhibits.
- Address: 150 Cottage Hill Avenue, Elmhurst
- Cost: $15, $12 seniors, free 18 and under; advanced ticket purchases are encouraged
The museum hosts family day workshops monthly and includes interactive exhibits in its rotating exhibition schedule. The McCormick House, a Mies van der Rohe-designed structure, is on the museum campus, and interactive programs and exhibits are often held there. In addition to in-person exhibits, families can enjoy the museum “At Home,” which includes artist discussions, behind-the-scenes looks at exhibits and more.
- Address: 1220 Kensington Road, Oak Brook
- Cost: $10, $8 seniors, $5 ages 7-18, free 6 and under
Ongoing weekend programs at the museum include workshops for kids to learn about identifying rocks and minerals or learning how to make jewelry. Collections include gemstones, fossils and an ornate castle. Online activities include virtual jewelry classes and rock identification classes.
- Address: 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $15, $8 seniors, students and teachers, free members and age 18 and under; advanced registration required
Family Days on the second Saturday of each month give parents and kids an opportunity to dive into art using different mediums. The program has continued online during the pandemic. Stroller tours on the first Wednesday of the month give babies and toddlers their first looks at contemporary art without the parent worry of noise in a gallery.
- Address: 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago
- Cost: Free, timed reservation required
In the warmer months, kids of all ages will love visiting the outdoor sculpture garden and all year long families can try their hands and Family Day on the first Saturday of the month. Located on the University of Chicago campus, students, faculty and alumni often contribute to the exhibitions.
- Address: 180 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $14, $9 seniors and teachers with ID, free ages 12 and under
If your babies or toddlers haven’t been to a Little Squirrels Storytime, use it as a reason on a Saturday morning to visit the Children’s Literature Gallery at the Writers Museum. Tweens and teens will also love the chances to meet authors at semi-regular book launch breakfasts. Currently closed due to the pandemic, families can find online versions of Little Squirrels Storytime on the website plus virtual meet-the-author events.
- Address: 111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $12, $8 students, free under 5
Family days on the second Saturday of the month allow families to work together to learn architectural properties (like how buildings work). Teens can get on Teen Workshops and learn from professionals. All ages will love to get out of the museum for an architecture walking, bus or L tour.
- Address: 1852 W. 19th St., Chicago
- Cost: Free
From folk art to photography to textiles, the National Museum of Mexican Art capitalizes on its galleries and exhibitions with ongoing and family-friendly events (for instance, during an exhibit about weaving, patrons were invited to learn to crochet to start their own traditions).
Family Weekend workshops include all-ages art activities and events throughout the year highlight the Mexican culture, like Day of the Dead Xicágo, the Folk Art Festival and Día del Niño Health Walk and Family Festival.
- Address: 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago
- Cost: $10, $8 college students with ID, $6 seniors and ages 4-11, free 3 and under, or with a restaurant reservation at Harry Caray’s adjacent to the museum
The interactive experiences are high-tech and a must for Chicago sports fans of all ages. Kids can try on championship rings, geek out in the fan section and learn about players’ superstitions. Masks are required in the museum, and some high-touch exhibits are closed.
- Address: 18022 Dixie Hwy, Homewood
- Cost: $5, $10 family of two adults and two children
The museum has a combined online and in-person model to teach kids more about STEM topics. Online, families can learn about Science at Home, Girls in STEAM, Watch Video Courses and more. The museum is also open as a pop-up on Saturdays for families to register for a slot to see inside.
- Address: 1524 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $17, $13 students, seniors, teachers and military with ID, $9 ages 4-13, free members and ages 3 and under; advanced ticketing recommended
This is certainly a museum for older kids, but they’ll enjoy everything from the mural gallery to the Hall of Immortals. Watch the museum’s website for family-friendly events and crafts days. Masks are required and the museum’s capacity has been reduced.
- Address: 25 E. Washington St., Chicago
- Cost: $15-$23.50; timed tickets required
There are more than 80 exhibits designed to wow your mind and make you think. There’s also a Smart Playroom with games to challenge yourself or your family. An anti-gravity room, an infinity room, tunnels and a place to take photos of the kids with their heads on a platter are all part of the fun of Chicago’s newest museum. Masks are required.
- Address: 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $21.95, $12.95 ages 3-11, free members and 2 and under (save $2 when you purchase tickets online); advanced tickets required
This is an “everything” museum. From history to STEM to weather to live chicks, MSI has it all. Toddlers through early elementary are drawn to the Idea Factory, where they can build and play with water. Older kids love the flight simulator.
Everyone digs a tour of the U-505 submarine. There is something for every member of the family at MSI. Some elements of the museum are temporarily closed (like the submarine tours, the flight simulator and the Idea Factory), and stylus are provided for interaction with the exhibits. Capacity limits are in place and masks are required.
- Address: 27582 Volo Village Road, Volo
- Cost: $15.95, $13.95 seniors, $12.95 veterans and military with ID, $8.95 ages 5-12, free military in uniform and 4 and under
An entire section for kids includes vehicles used in the parades at Disney theme parks, a gallery of Warner Bros. vehicles and Disney dioramas, antique arcade and an outdoor playzone with three playgrounds and a gallery of rideable kiddie rides. During the pandemic the museum upgraded exhibits and added new features, including an indoor Jurassic Gardens dedicated to dinosaurs.
- Address: 1130 W. Monroe St., Chicago
- Cost: $32, free ages 2 and under; timed tickets required
Head to wndr Museum on select Sundays to check out Sunday Morning Cartoons, a series that includes classic cartoons as you remember them and all-you-can-eat cereal (kids 10 and under a free for the cartoon events). It’s also a place to check out stunning installations, new works and an infinity mirror gallery. The museum is open Thursdays-Sundays.
- Where: 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
- Cost: $19, $3 ages 8-11
- COVID-19 updates: Temporarily closed. The planetarium is currently offering summer sky shows through Aug. 29, 2021.
The Community Design Labs are family-friendly and destinations for all ages. One for star seekers under 6 years recently opened and another has been added within Chicago’s Night Sky exhibit.
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