Where to go to learn more about Chicago

Be honest: How many times have you seen Sue, the ginormous T. rex, at the Field Museum? What about the enchanting miniature Fairy Castle at the Museum of Science& Industry?

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with these tried-and-true favorites (who doesn’t love dinos and dolls?), there are more than 30 other museums in Chicago worthy of a visit. And even better, there are several that focus on our great city itself.

When you meet someone who learns where you’re from, they will more than likely ask you about two things: Michael Jordan and Al Capone. While both people have played important roles in Chicago’s history, there is much more to learn about the Windy City.

Chicago history

Educate yourself and your family at the Chicago History Museum. Here you can learn all about Al Capone and 1920s gangland Chicago, but you can also dig deeper into the city’s history and expand your knowledge about the role of our city in the formation of unions, why Fort Dearborn was so important, and how exactly Chicago innovations impacted our entire country.

One of the more unique exhibits is called Sensing Chicago. Geared toward children (but fun for us adults too), this experience allows you to smell the Chicago Fire while learning how it destroyed the city in just 36 hours. You’ll see first-hand what it’s like to ride the “L” and fly over the city. You’ll step on floor sensors that play sounds such as Southside Jazz Band, and you can even discover the tasty history behind our famous Chicago-style hotdog.

Chicago sports

If sports are more your kid’s thing, head downtown to Water Tower Place and visit the Chicago Sports Museum. Here you can stroll through the Hall of Legends and see how you stack up against Chicago’s sports greats through a series of interactive games. In the Measure Up exhibit, you can compare your jumping ability to that of Air Jordan, see how your wingspan compares to Scottie Pippen’s and test your hand-eye coordination and reaction time. And if you have a kid who is just itching to get an on-air experience, you won’t want to miss the replica Wrigley Field broadcast booth.

Tickets to the museum are affordable at $6 per person, and if you grab a bite to eat beforehand at the 7th Inning Stretch next door, your tickets are free.

Chicago life

Interested in what life was like in Chicago before all of the skyscrapers showed up? What about when the city was barely a city at all and the Civil War hadn’t even started? The Clarke House Museum, located in the Chicago Women’s Park lets you experience all of this and more. Built in 1836, this is the city’s oldest house. Inside, you will see what life was like for a Chicago family during the city’s formative years. The museum’s annual Family Day takes place Sept. 12 and includes historic demonstrations by costumed interpreters.

Next to the park, you’ll find the Glessner House. Built in 1887, it was a radical departure from the Victorian homes of the times and was one of the inspirations for the Prairie Style of architecture developed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Chicago heritage

One of the things that makes Chicago great is that our city is filled with people of different nationalities. Learn about what it was like to immigrate to America at the Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration at the Swedish-American Museum in Andersonville. Although it’s told with a Swedish focus, the story and experience is similar among most of Chicago’s immigrant groups. Here, kids have the chance to experience the Old World by trying different historic farm tasks before riding a 20-foot immigrant steamship to America where they learn about life in a log cabin.

So, with a little creativity and a willingness to try something different, you can experience a side of Chicago your kids (and you) might never have seen.

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