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9 Popular Museums In Chicago You Should Explore Right Away (2024)

America’s third-largest city (by population), Chicago, is a hub for tourism and entertainment. While the city of Chicago is portrayed for its bold architecture and iconic skyscrapers, every American simply wants to be here. For the fans of art, history, science, and marine, Chicago transforms into the home to hundreds of world-class museums. Your idea from far away may feel smaller than what the ‘Windy City’ actually holds. From the top-rated Art Institute of Chicago to the impressive Chicago History Museum, the list of best actually never ends here.

Chicago offers the best city life. It wasn’t always the desired American city, but with influential people and notable attractions, it turned into one. From getting settled over a muddy mess to housing the world-renowned museum building, Chicago’s journey so far is appreciable, and to learn and honor it more, here we have the comprehensive guide to Chicago Museums.

9 Popular Museums In Chicago You Should Explore Right Away

If you want to learn about the city in depth or if you are simply those museum enthusiasts, do stick till the end.

1. Art Institute of Chicago

The most well-known cultural building in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, is a museum and a learning stop. Not only is it the best and popular in the State, but the Art Institute of Chicago is also the second-largest museum in America. Spread over 280,000 Square Feet, the museum is home to over 300,000 artworks in its permanent collection along with endless temporary displays. The collection here is brought all over from Korea, South Africa, India, Brazil, Thailand, China, Japan, Sudan and preserved from the American past. From history’s most famous paintings to breathtakingly beautiful gardens and undisputable views around, everything here deserves appreciation. If you are an art lover, make sure to be a part of 1.5 million visitors who explore the Art Institute of Chicago every year.

2. Museum of Science and Industry

Located in the Jackson Park of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. It is housing in the only remaining building from the 1893 World’s Fair and is quite fun and interactive. The museum runs with a mission of ‘encouraging the inventive geniuses’ via its digital displays and interactive experiences. The mind-blowing exhibits here include a German submarine from WWII (you can climb) and an Illinois coal mine visit. Visitors can also board a 727 hanging from the ceiling, manipulate a 40-foot tornado, and navigate through a mirror maze. Unlike your regular science museums, every experience here is worth making it a must-visit stop.

3. Chicago History Museum

The most popular museum in Chicago, History Museums, deserves a place in your itinerary. The museum takes you back to the vast history of Chicago and its contribution to present-day America. Spanning over 16,000 sq. ft, it is famous for the exhibit known as Chicago: Crossroads of America. Further, you can observe George Washington’s compass, Lincoln’s deathbed, and several manuscripts, artifacts, and paintings from the early 1900s. Visitors can also access the museum’s Research Library, though only via registration. For any American history lover, the Chicago History Museum is a great place to be at.

4. Field Museum of Natural History

World’s (one of) largest museums of its kind, the Field Museum of Natural History, is an unmissable component of Chicago. The museum is popular for housing the incredible and the largest T. rex specimen discovered. If research is believed, it is nearly 67 million years old and one of the most celebrated searches. The exhibits here include several displays from departments like biology, ecology, and geography. One can observe over 24 million specimens, artifacts, and objective collection here. The museum attracts over 2 million enthusiasts annually and thus is one of the most-visited museums in Chicago. Here you can also learn about the history dating back to the prehistoric age.

5. Museum of Contemporary Art

Located in downtown Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the notable art museums. It was established in the year 1967 and is notably one of the largest contemporary art venues in the world. The collection here is dedicated to art post-1950. Some notable objects include work from Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Frida Kahlo’s first US exhibition. While moving through the galleries, you will come across over 2500 artworks that will leave you dazzled for hours. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday, allowing entry with a minimal admission fee. And if you are an Illinoisian, you can visit it for absolutely free every Tuesday.

6. National Museum of Mexican Art

A Nationally acclaimed museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art is a must-visit when in Illinois. It is located in Harrison Park and is home to Mexican, Latino, and Chicago art and culture. Today the museum is home to a 10,000-piece permanent collection by both American and Mexican artists. From photographs to paintings, sculptures, and folk art, every single piece here is admirable. If you are a Mexican, this art museum will leave you spellbound about how an alien country is preserving your roots this beautifully. It is open all through the week from 10 am to 5 pm, and admissions here are free. Also, if you are free on time, make sure you try the authentic Mexican breakfast or lunch in its neighborhood.

7. Smart Museum of Art

The Smart Museum of Art is one of the free-to-exploration museums in Chicago. However, that’s not what defines it. It is located on the campus of the University of Chicago and is home to over 15,000 objects in its permanent collection. It specializes in objects from Asia and Europe, ideally in contemporary and modern art. While the buddha statues here are surprising, the scrolls and ceramics from China will leave you spellbound. Visitors can observe the artwork of famous artists of times, including Roberto Matta, Paolo Veronese, Luca Cambiaso, and Normal Lewis. The museum is open from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm (till 8 pm on Thursday).

8. American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum is located in the heart of downtown Chicago celebrating writing and American Literature. It’s not been very long since it was established (2017); however, its popularity took pace soon. The museum is home to nearly 12 exhibits named like Readers Hall, Mind of a Writer, Word waterfall, Surprise Bookshelf, and more. For anyone who is into American writers and writing must make sure to pay a visit here. Don’t let its small size fool you, as it will swiftly occupy your 2 hours. While admission for kids is free, adults have to pay only $12. The museum is operational all throughout the week from 10 am to 5 pm.

9. Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium is a popular public museum in Chicago that you should explore right away. It was the first planetarium established in America and is absolutely out of the world. The museum is solely dedicated to the study and research of astronomy. Here one can observe interactive exhibits & high-tech sky shows and have a blast. Wait for the stary night shows or if you are an adult, consider enjoying an after-dark series. Visitors can peer through ancient telescopes, touch some of the oldest space equipment, and learn about the history of astronomy. Also, to top that, after walking through the museum galleries, enjoy the lakefront views.

While these were the 9 Popular Museums in Chicago you should explore right away; our recommendation doesn’t end here. If you have more time and the concepts are interesting, do visit:

  • Museum of Contemporary Photography.
  • The Shedd Aquarium
  • Chicago Design Museum and
  • Chicago Maritime Museum.

TIP: Many Chicago museums offer free admission days a year. While most of them open free for all, some are reserved for Illinoisians. Consider checking such schedules beforehand to save a little on your traveling budget. You can also opt for Chicago CityPASS and explore 5 museums while saving a lot on the bill.

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