20 New and Upcoming Chicagoland Museum Exhibits to Check Out

When visiting our favorite local museums, families have so much to explore in science, history, arts and culture. There are also some great exhibitions that make the trip worthwhile.

From Chicago History Museum’s new Great Chicago Fire exhibit to the return of the beloved Christmas Around the World at MSI, there’s a little something for everyone this fall. Check out these new exhibits in Chicago and the suburbs this fall.

Current Exhibits

Photo Credit: Sandro Vannini

Frida Kahlo: Timeless

Through Sept. 12, 2021

Frida Kahlo: Timeless is the largest Frida Kahlo exhibition in the Chicago area in more than 40 years. It features a 26-piece collection on loan from the Museo Dolores Olmedo as well as a multimedia timeline, 100+ photographic images from the artist’s life, a family-friendly children’s area and a Frida Kahlo-inspired garden.

Art on theMart

Through Sept. 16, 2021

Enjoy a digital art project on Chicago’s Merchandise Mart nightly. Current programming includes Footnotes by Wills Glasspiegel and Brandon K. Calhoun, Woven by Spectralina and Frida Kahlo: Timeless by Cleve Carney Museum of Art.

Par Excellence Redux: The Front 9

Through Sept. 26, 2021

This actually playable putt putt course is part art, part family fun. An homage to the 1988 exhibition Par Excellence at the School of the Art Institute, is in use with the museum’s active COVID-19 protocols and each hole is based on a different collection or theme.

Van Gogh for All

Through Sept. 26, 2021

Van Gogh For All is a pop-up experience that uses modern technology to engage 21st-century audiences in the 19th-century paintings of the world’s most famous artist.

Model Railroad Garden

Through Oct. 10, 2021

  • Address: Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe
  • Cost: $8, $7 seniors, $6 ages 3-12, Free ages 2 and under; -$1 per price for members

Kids and adults love the G-scale trains that run on 18 tracks past and through 50 miniature, American landmarks. Families will also see more than 5,000 plants and shrubs in the setting, including more than 300 varieties. Before you go, download a Railroad Bingo activity card to play during your visit.

Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes

Through Oct. 24, 2021

Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes celebrates Marvel history with more than 300 artifacts, including original comic book pages, sculptures, interactive displays and costumes and props from Marvel’s blockbuster films. Guests can examine the origins of iconic characters such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, Hulk and Captain Marvel and see how they have evolved alongside society over the past 80 years, making these characters a pop culture mainstay.


Through Oct. 31, 2021

Hide from reality and seek a world of childlike wonder. Jump into a 10,000-square-foot pop-up world and get lost in ’90s-themed, immersive installations designed to let you feel like a kid again.

Immersive Van Gogh

Through Nov. 28, 2021

Take a look at the world’s most iconic impressionist artist, Vincent Van Gogh, in this fully immersive exhibition in Chicago. The U.S. premiere of this exhibit allows visitors to transport into Van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces with large-scale projections that cover the entire room, along with music, storytelling and socially-distant circles.


Through Jan. 8, 2022

The last time guests at The Field Museum saw Biomechanics was when the traveling exhibition debuted in Chicago in 2014. A new group of families can explore how animals and humans move while avoiding the forces of gravity, water and predators. See how a giraffe’s heart can pump blood through its long neck or how luna moths can “smell” almost 7 miles away.

Drawn To Combat: Bill Mauldin & the Art of War

Through May 14, 2022

Families and teens can learn more about editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin by viewing 125 original drawings, an additional 35 reproduced images and more than 20 original artifacts. Mauldin was an art student in Chicago before joining the frontlines of WWII in Europe then returning to Chicago to join the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons.

Coming Soon

The Great Fire of 1871, Chicago: The race for life over Randolph St. Bridge.

Weather to Climate: Our Changing World

Opens Sept. 12, 2021

Weather to Climate presents the fundamentals of weather and climate and explains how the two phenomena are connected through fun interactives and engaging content. The exhibition connects weather to the science behind global climate changes and explores how it affects human and animal communities around the world.

Nancy Rubins: Our Friend Fluid Metal

Begins Sept. 30, 2021

Artist Nancy Rubins’ newest creation repurposes equipment from playgrounds, amusement parks, and coin-operated rides into sculptures of art. Two works from her series Our Friend Fluid Metal will be located on the Bluhm Family Terrace.

The Questioneers: Read. Question. Think. PLAY!

Opens Oct. 1, 2021

Based on the best-selling series of books by author Andrea Beaty and illustrator David Roberts, Questioneers characters Ada Twist, scientist; Rosie Revere, engineer; Iggy Peck, architect; and Sofia Valdez, future president, come alive. The interactive exhibit celebrates diversity, creativity, curiosity, bravery and resilience. Kids get to fly with Rosie in her Cheez ‘O Copter, question how the world works while sitting in Ada’s thinking chair, build a bridge to save the class with Iggy, and lead a movement with Sofia while playing a game at Sofia’s Citizen’s Park.

City on Fire: Chicago 1871

Opens Oct. 8, 2021

Learn about the Great Chicago Fire during the 150th anniversary year with an exhibit designed for families. Explore and discover the impact the fire had on the city and the people who lived here. This family-friendly exhibition features more than 100 artifacts from the Chicago History Museum’s collection, interactive and multimedia elements, and personal stories from survivors of the fire.

Par Excellence Redux: The Back 9

Oct. 13, 2021-Jan. 2, 2022

This actually playable putt putt course is part art, part family fun. After experiencing The Front 9, return to Elmhurst Art Museum to enjoy 9 more mini golf courses. The exhibit is an homage to the 1988 exhibition Par Excellence at the School of the Art Institute.

Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement

Opens Oct. 17, 2021

  • Address: Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie
  • Cost: Included in museum admission 

Explore the groundbreaking exhibit, Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement, about the June 1969 police raid of the Stonewall Inn that became the flashpoint that ignited the modern gay rights movement in the United States. The exhibit weaves together moving narratives of gay rights history and the ongoing fight for civil rights. Rise Up also examines popular culture’s role in influencing and reflecting attitudes about the LGBTQ community through film, television, sports and music. It features more than 80 artifacts and interactive kiosks.

Wild Color

Begins Oct. 22, 2021

Rooms at the Field Museum will be dedicated to different colors of the light spectrum and visitors can see how color is displayed in the natural world: gems, minerals, animals that glow under UV light and more. The presentation includes sounds, vibrant visuals and media projections.


Begins Nov. 12, 2021

Attendees will bask in the glow of thousands of twinkling lights walking through the Cathedral of Light, listen to the playful choir of singing trees, and be delighted by new shining moments along the mile-long path.

Christmas Around the World

Begins Nov. 17, 2021

  • Address: 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago
  • Cost: Included in museum admission

This Chicago tradition began in 1942. The museum’s 45-foot Grand Tree takes center stage in the Rotunda, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. Stroll through the trees, enjoy falling “snow” and savor performances on the stage. 

Illumination: Tree Lights

Begins Nov. 20, 2021

Be surrounded by color as you walk a one-mile paved path amid interactive lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter. You will be awed and delighted to see returning favorites and surprising new sights. Enjoy seasonal music, marvel at ever-changing, captivating lighting designs, and warm up by a crackling fire with a cozy drink or roast marshmallows for s’mores.

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