Family Guide to the Museum of Science and Industry

Have you been to the Museum of Science and Industry lately? It’s the largest science museum in the western hemisphere, so a trip with kids may seem a bit daunting. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your visit and make it more manageable.

Be WOWed

Maybe this is your fifth or sixth trip to the museum, now’s the time to take a peek where you’ve never been before. For an extra ticket, take the WOW! Tour, a behind-the-scenes look at the museum, learning something new about the baby chicks, the 727 and exclusive peeks into the MSI offices.

Skip the lines

Buy tickets ahead of time. If you’re looking forward to seeing something specific, buy online and avoid the frustration of finding out it’s sold out. Tickets online are also cheaper, and if the exhibits you want to see are timed, you can plan out your day before you leave the house.

Make a souvenir

There’s more than one way to make your mark on a great day. After the success of the Wanger Family Fab Lab—where kids can fabricate their own ideas—the museum has added Makers United as part of the new Wired to Wear exhibit. Visitors ages 6 and older at Makers United will construct a wearable gadget from the circuit board on up. The Fab Lab and Makers United require a timed ticket. Visitors can also personalize a toy in the Toymaker 3000 machine. For those seeking nostalgia, there are MoldARama machines located throughout the museum with rotating figurines moderately priced.

Amazing temporary exhibits

If you saw the Pixar exhibit in 2018, or Lego in 2017, or Disney in 2015, the temporary exhibit space at MSI has taken a turn for something new in 2019. Wired to Wear is a first-of-its-kind showcase of how technology has and can change our clothes. From a flying suit to sports equipment that will make you healthier or safer and so much more, learn all about the possibilities of how clothing and technology can mesh.

Take in a show

The Giant Dome Theater is host to several shows a day, including a look at Cuba, a trip through Tornado Alley and a chance to be amazed by the Oceans: Our Blue Planet (co-produced by BBC Earth & OceanX Media). Movies change through the year, and these are in the theater through May 23.

Stay for the chicks

A trip to see the baby chicks hatching is more than worth the awws and ohhhs it will elicit from your kids. Learning about genetics and eye color is just an added bonus.

Photo credit: J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Get to know YOU! 

YOU! the exhibit has amazed all ages for years, with interactivity galore. Kids and parents can run, jump, map their heartbeat, see the body inside and out and learn about growth. Preschoolers will love how big they can look and teenagers might just curl a smile as they add to what they already know. Even grandparents will get a kick out of seeing themselves in all stages.

Great ideas

Have little ones? Check out the Idea Factory with one of the best water play areas of any museum. It requires a free timed ticket, and the hands-on area also includes balls, blocks and even an area for crawlers to explore. Don’t forget to pack a change of clothes. Kids will get wet!

Photo credit J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

See it again

If you’ve already memorized the ins and outs of the permanent exhibits, it’s worth another look, and bring your friends. Out-of-town guests love to look at the U-505 Submarine, the Pioneer Zephyr, the Fairy Castle and the model railroad. Amaze your family with the tornado cloud or the transportation gallery. Your inside knowledge will make their trip.


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This article was originally written by Cheryl Eugenio and appeared at ChicagoParent.com in July 2016. It has been updated.

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