Family Guide to the Art Institute of Chicago

Design your own tour and explore the collection of one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world.

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest and oldest art museums in the world — and we’re lucky enough to have it right here in our city! The museum building itself is a work of art that was built during the Columbian Exposition and is flanked by two iconic bronze lions. From ancient Chinese sculptures and textiles to innovative modern art, the museum’s collection includes more than 30,000 pieces from around the world. 

Those unfamiliar with art museums might assume they’re not a place for kids. This is far from the case at the Art Institute. With engaging family programming, a bright, fun Modern Wing and stunning art that’s so breathtaking that even kids can appreciate it, the entire family can find something they love

Here’s how to make the most out of your family’s next cultural expedition. 

Quick details about the Art Institute of Chicago

Photo credit: Art Institute of Chicago

  • Address: 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago
  • Hours: Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Monday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 
  • Cost: $25/adults, $19/seniors, students and teens 14-17, free for children 13 and under. 
  • Getting there: 
    • If taking CTA trains, exit at the Jackson red line, Jackson or Monroe blue line, or Adams/Wabash brown, pink, orange, green and purple line stations. 
    • The 3, 6, 20, 28, 62 and 151 CTA buses have stops near the Art Institute.
    • The museum is within walking distance of the Millennium and Van Buren Street Metra train stations. 
  • Parking: Find a parking spot using SpotHero, or park at one of the underground Millennium Garages. Prices vary by day, time and parking location. 

Things to do with kids at the Art Institute

Photo credit: Art Institute of Chicago

  • Visit the Ryan Learning Center,  is a creative learning hub where families can make art, engage in creative experiments, explore the Multisensory Gallery or attend family workshops. The center is open every Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 
  • Use the JourneyMaker tool at the Ryan Learning Center to customize your family’s tour of the Art Institute. Play hide and seek with works of art, learn about colors and shapes or hunt for wild creatures lurking in the artwork. Pro tip: Use this online tool before you head out so you arrive with a customized game plan. 
  • Head to the lower level and find Thorne Miniature Rooms, 68 intricate, elegant rooms that catalog a history of interior design that is both accurate and impressively tiny. 
  • Stare up in wonder at Marc Chagall’s stained glass “America Windows”. (Tip: If you’re looking for a colorful photo op, a stop here needs to be on your map.) 
  • Older kiddos will love spotting art that they recognize from references in pop culture — think “American Gothic,” “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” “Nighthawks” or Vincent Van Gogh’s self-portrait. 
  • Worried your child won’t last long in a quiet museum? Here are’s the museum’s most iconic works that you can see in an hour, tops.  

Tips for families when visiting

Photo credit: Art Institute of Chicago

  • A free coat check is available for families who need to check coats, bags or backpacks. Bags larger than 13 x 17 x 4 inches are not allowed in the galleries and must be checked. Exceptions will be made for bags that are needed to pump or nurse. 
  • A private Infant Care Room and comfortable seating in Griffin Court are available for nursing mothers. 
  • Toys are not allowed in the museum.
  • Outside food and drink are not permitted. The museum has two dining options, the Market and the Modern Cafe, which offer sandwiches, salads, desserts, coffee, tea and snacks for purchase. 

What to do nearby

  • The Art Institute is located in the heart of downtown Chicago. Inspire some civic pride in your young Chicagoan by showing them the must-see sights of downtown
  • Explore and play at Maggie Daley Park. The massive city park has roller skating, (ice skating during the winter months), a climbing wall, mini golf and the popular Play Garden, an imaginative 3-acre playground with slides, swings, water and spray features, bridges, climbing structures and more. 
  • Check Navy Pier off your bucket list. Take a ride on the Centennial Wheel and enjoy the many kid-friendly restaurants, shops and treats that this popular tourist destination has to offer.
  • Walk the Chicago Riverwalk and discover public art, great skyline views, restaurants and more. The best part about this free attraction is you are guaranteed to have a different experience every time depending on the day and time you go.

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Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts is the assistant editor on the Chicago Parent team. She is always on the lookout for the coolest and trendiest new attractions, restaurants and events for Chicagoland families. Her newsletters, online family guides and exciting digital content keep families informed on all the latest happenings around town.
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