Stellar Space Activities for Chicagoland Kids

We’re lucky to have so many family-friendly places to spark kids’ fascination with the sky above them.

There’s something special about space that really sparks kids’ – and adults’ – curiosity to learn all they can about the stars and planets and imagine what lives beyond what we can see clearly.

The most obvious place to start is the amazing Adler Planetarium, which has finally reopened after the pandemic forced it to close. But don’t miss out on exploring some of the other hidden gems.

Adler Planetarium

Not only is Adler considered one of the nation’s best planetariums, but it also features the largest telescope you’ll find in Chicagoland, meaning the best view of the universe, and lots of family-friendly hands-on activities and can’t miss space shows. It is currently showing Destination Solar System, Imagine the Moon and One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.

Cernan Earth and Space Center

This gem of a planetarium on the campus of Triton College offers several space shows for families. Upcoming is a family-friendly all-ages cosmic laser show to The Beatles, featuring 17 songs including Lucy in the Sky.

Museum of Science and Industry

MSI’s Henry Crown Space Center features artifacts of space exploration and interactives to spark kids’ interest. Favorites include the Apollo 8 module and Aurora 7 capsule. In the Giant Dome Theater, the museum is currently showing Dark Universe, a look at dark matter and dark energy in space.

Strickler Planetarium

This planetarium, located on the Olivet Nazarene University campus, is one of only three in Illinois with digital projection capabilities. Check its website for upcoming shows, but one not to miss is Attack of the Space Pirates, a full-dome space thriller. In it, the Starship Intrepid races against time to assemble an ancient alien technology while encountering exoplanets, giant stars, pulsars and black holes. It includes a live star talk.

Challenger Learning Center

Address: 720 W. Judd Street, Woodstock

While primarily for school groups, the Challenger Learning Center offers family science nights. The next one is planned in April. Also, check its website for at-home learning and space exploration activities.

Dearborn Observatory

  • Address: 2131 Tech Drive, Evanston

The observatory is reopening to visitors in April for public events, including looking through the giant telescope (must climb stairs to use it) and star talks.

University of Chicago

The Ryerson Astronomical Society hosts public observations and talks on Wednesday nights during the school year at the observation dome on the roof of Ryerson Laboratory.

Looking for more space fun? Check out the podcast, REACH: A Space Podcast for Kids, available on your favorite places to listen to podcasts. The weekly family-friendly podcast explores the galaxy and beyond and features expert guests on questions posed by kid listeners.

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