Chicago is a great city to visit if you love museums, but with nearly 70 options, it can be hard to figure out where to go with your limited time. Our quick guide below highlights five of the best options in the Windy City, whether you want to go classic with some of the best art and history museums in the country or if you want to learn about more obscure topics in a more unconventional setting. As always, try to reserve your tickets online in advance to save time and take advantage of special discounts.
Chicago’s Fantastic Museums
Art Institute of Chicago
You don’t have to be an artist yourself to know that the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most famous major art museums in the world. Their unrivaled collection spans all time periods and styles for comprehensive art documentation across the globe. The massive museum space has several permanent exhibits, with galleries dedicated to pottery, fashion and metal sculpture. Special events like gallery tours and lectures are included with membership, including studio time to make art alongside local or visiting artists. Note that museum access is free for those under age 14 and that the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Field Museum
The Field Museum is, in a word, iconic. From the columned entrance and arched, sky-lit halls to the Sue, the largest and most complete tyrannosaurus rex fossil ever found, coming here is a rite of passage for Chicago visitors and residents. The museum compound features a boggling number of galleries and exhibits based on artifacts collected for over a decade. Due to the museum's sheer size, you may not be able to see all you want in a single visit or day, but it’s definitely worth a spot on your list. Discounted or free admission tickets are available for Chicago and Illinois residents, teachers, military and EBT or WIC recipients, with documentation.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
For a more eclectic museum experience, consider visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Wright was one of the most famous and influential American architects, and much of his work and influence can be seen in Chicago and surrounding areas. The Home and Studio offers a unique opportunity to take part in a guided tour of the artist’s home and workspace, focusing on his signature prairie style and his impact on the city and field, sprinkled with interesting facts and stories from his life. Architecture enthusiasts can also add an optional self-guided audio walking tour of the surrounding Historic District. When combined, visitors can expect to spend around two engaging hours immersed in the uniquely American buildings.
WNDR Museum is a more modern museum style, with a less formal structure and an emphasis on experiencing art and interacting with it rather than just looking at it. The museum features over twenty separate exhibit rooms representing various art forms using light, sound, design technology and the spoken or written word. An overarching theme is used here to show that everyone is an artist in their own way, even if what they create isn’t the typical painting or sculpture generally accepted as “art.” One of the major attractions here is the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, titled “Let’s Survive Forever,” featuring a mirrored infinity room that is a significant draw for taking photos. Due to the exploratory structure of the museum, timed entry tickets are required to ensure that visitors have adequate time and space to take in the exhibits.
Museum of Ice Cream
Those looking for a more unique museum-going experience may want to check out the Museum of Ice Cream. The name alone conjures up a colorful array of flavors, colors and fun, which is fittingly appropriate for this museum. Visitors here can experience the magical learning that occurs when you are fully immersed in having fun. From the life-size pool of (inedible) sprinkles to a putt-putt golf course designed around desserts, you never know what might be around the next corner. In addition to offering plenty of fun and photo opportunities, you will learn about the history of ice cream itself. Staff guides are stationed throughout the museum installations to facilitate activities and keep you moving along to the next fun flavor. Your route through the museum includes plenty of ice cream samples (including vegan options), with classic favorites and some genuinely unusual flavor combinations. Note that this is a pop-up style experience that may not be around for long, so book your trip soon to avoid missing out on the fun.