6 funtastic family film experiences

Watching a movie is fun, but on IMAX or 4-D you feel like part of the action. If you are spending your spring break right here in the Windy City, check out the shows our favorite spots offer to help you combine fun and learning this month.


“Destination Solar System” at Adler Planetarium


The Museum of Science and Industry boasts Chicago’s only five-story Omnimax dome, wrap-around theater. “Journey to Space” launches there March 19. Hold on tight as you blast past the reaches of shuttles, satellites and space stations to the Red Planet.

“Flight of the Butterflies,” a stunning natural history epic about the migration of the monarch butterfly, ends March 18. Watch Dr. Fred Urquhart and his team of citizen scientists unravel the mystery of their secret winter hideaway in the mountains of Mexico.

“D-Day: Normandy 1944” will run through May 21. This captivating documentary, narrated by Tom Brokaw, guides you through the Battle of Normandy, the largest military operation ever undertaken. It pulls you in to explore history, military strategy, science, technology and human values. This 43-minute film is best for ages 8 and up.

Additional timed entry tickets are required for all MSI Omnimax movies.

Navy Pier

The IMAX Theatre runs G-rated films before noon on its six-story-tall, 85-foot-wide screen. Its new movie, “Pandas: The Journey Home 3D,” captures the efforts of the Chinese government to save the giant panda. This 40-minute National Geographic documentary captures for the first time the highly endangered species breeding and being prepared for release back into the wild. Witness the birth, nursery care and teaching of panda cubs by zoologists so dedicated that they wear panda suits disguised with panda scent. While the pandas are playful and adorable, watching this movie with young kids will conjure up questions on breeding and the dangers of the natural world.

Shedd Aquarium

“Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs-The 4-D Experience” is a 15-minute version of the 2009 animated film featuring Manny, Ellie, Diego and Sid the Sloth. After Sid decides to raise three dinosaur babies as his own, a chase ensues. Loud, booming dinosaur steps are countered by silly water-spraying-in-your-face burps and regurgitations.

“Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure 4-D” is a shortened version of the National Geographic film. Marine reptiles in prehistoric seas slither in photo-realistic animation. I literally jumped aside as an ugly creature’s giant jaws jutted out to grasp me.

Shedd recommends the 4D Experience for kids 4 and up. Timed-entry tickets are required and can be purchased as a part of most premium packages.


Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg offers 4-D movies that rotate throughout the day and are included with entry. Catch “Clutch Powers,” “Legends of Chima” or “Spellbreaker,” 15-minute Lego movies with effects like orange or skunk smells, snow and rain.

Field Museum

“Waking the T. Rex 3D: the Story of SUE” is a 23-minute biopic that reveals the life and discovery of Sue, the largest and most complete T. rex ever found. This high-drama science adventure is best for school-age kids. The 7-ton lizard king roars in your face, attacks prey and devours 100-pounds of flesh and bones in one gulp.

“Titans of the Ice Age 3-D” transports viewers 20,000 years back in time to the frozen era of giant sloths, wooly mammals and prehistoric humans. Discover the story of baby Lyuba, the best-preserved mammoth mummy in the world. The best part of this film, my tween cousin and I agreed, was how it connected the past to the present.

3-D movies require timed-entry tickets available with All-Access and Discovery Passes.

Adler Planetarium

“Destination Solar System” is an immersive tour of the solar system led by a live, trained actor in the most technologically enhanced domed theater ever created. My 5-year-old son and 7-year-old nephew raved about feeling like they were in a real rocket.

“One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Big Adventure” aims to give kids 4-6 an introduction to astronomy. Big Bird, Elmo and their friend from China, Hu Hu Zhu, take little ones on a tour of the night sky.

Tickets are required. Shows run about 30 minutes each.

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