4 ways to spend MLK Day in Chicago

Martin Luther King Day sometimes can feel like just another day off from school. But this year, Chicago museums are hosting events to help kids (and even some grownups!) understand the significance of this holiday and the great man who inspired it.

Here are four things to do to fill the day:

  1. Dr. King stood for things like peace and social justice, so it’s fitting this program focuses on those same themes as families explore the Art Institute’s many galleries. Kids will enjoy storytelling and the chance to take home their own socially conscious work of art. Free. 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 20. Art Institute of Chicago, 159 E. Monroe, Chicago. (312) 443-3600,
  2. Sometimes the easiest way to understand the complicated Civil Rights Movement is to see it play out in front of your eyes. “What Does it Mean, Dr. King?” takes kids on a journey back in time to learn about freedom through interactive theater and songs. Free with admission. 11 a.m., 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Jan. 20. Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave. at Navy Pier, Chicago. (312) 527-1000, chicago
  3. Dr. King helped open the way for future African-Americans to excel in every area of life. Celebrate some artistic accomplishments at an exhibition of African-American art, which has been held annually since 1970 (only seven years after the March on Washington). The exhibit includes a youth category, so you get a glimpse at the world-changers of the future. Free with admission. Jan. 22-Feb. 23. Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. (773) 684-1414,
  4. Brookfield Zoo is offering free admission (parking fee still applies) for the day. At noon, the zoo’s Discovery Center plays host to performances by members of Mt. Carmel Parish of Darien, Eclectic from John F. Kennedy High School in Chicago, Chicago Metamorphosis Orchestra Project, and Eisenhower High School Show Choir in Chicago. In between each performance, guests will be able to watch portions of Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Kids are invited to share their wishes and decorate silhouettes in the shape of peace doves, which will hang in the Hamill Family Play Zoo. 8400 31st St. Brookfield. (708) 688-8000,
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