Top Museums in Chicago to Visit During Your Trip

Chicago’s diverse and unique museums are one of the main reasons tourists visit The Windy City. How can you skip a chance to see any of these institutions when they quite literally have a Museum Campus in the middle of the city?

Whether you’re an art, history, or architecture enthusiast or interested in science and wildlife, you’ll find an educational and entertaining museum on our list.

If you’re planning a vacation to Chicago, our local experts put together a list of the top Chicago museums to consider adding to your itinerary.

Our ultimate museum guide includes…

  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • The Field Museum
  • Museum of Science and Industry
  • Chicago History Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • and more

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The Art Institute of Chicago

Photo by Terra Foundation of American Art

This world-renowned art museum is a must-see for any visit to Chicago. Consistently ranked as the best museum in the United States, The Art Institute of Chicago is home to some of the most sought-out art in the world.

Browse through impressive collections ranging from modern photography to medieval armor and ancient artifacts. The museum also hosts several vibrant and continually changing exhibitions in addition to their permanent collections.

See James Webb: Prayer, a celebration by the South African artist of spiritual affinity in Chicago, or Rosalind Nashashibi: Vivian’s Garden that depicts the relationship between mother and daughter.

Some of the most famous works of art you can see there include Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Black Cross, New Mexico,” the Chagall “America Windows” stained glass windows, Matisse’s “Bathers by a River,” Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” and lots more.

Be sure not to leave before stopping in the Thorne Miniature Rooms, 68 European rooms recreated on a one-inch-to-one-foot scale!

Insider tip: download the museum’s Mobile App to plan your visit and learn more about the art you see.

Getting in: The Art Institute of Chicago Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

The Field Museum

Travel back in time and all around the world at this famous museum of science and anthropology. Meet Sue, the world’s largest and most famous T-Rex skeleton, and explore more than 35 other world-famous exhibits.

Walk through Underground Adventure, where everything is 100 times its normal size, or discover 23 Egyptian mummies at the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit. You can even explore 10,000 years of Chinese history and culture all in one place.

It’s the perfect place for adults and kids alike, as it combines story telling with fun and interactive exhibits. Examine DNA in the DNA Discovery Center, partake in DIY projects, and explore the culture and artifacts of civilizations all over the world.

At the Field Museum, you’ll learn to understand and appreciate the diversity of the world in which we live.

Getting in: The Field Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Museum of Science and Industry

Recently named one of the Top 25 Museums in the United States by TripAdvisor, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere and the only remaining building from the famous 1893 World’s Fair.

Visitors will enjoy the interactive, hands-on exhibitions and will be able to explore over 35,000 artifacts that call the 14 acre museum home. You can see a real WWII German submarine, control a 40-foot tornado, descend into an Illinois coal mine, and more.

Some of the can’t-miss exhibitions at the museum include Science Storms, which gives you the chance to explore the science behind some of nature’s most powerful phenomena; YOU! The Experience, which showcases what it means to live a healthy life; and the U-505 Submarine, the only place you can step inside the only German U-boat in the United States.

Getting in: Museum of Science and Industry tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Chicago History Museum

Chicago-History-Museum-1If you’re curious about Chicago’s past, present, or future, the Chicago History Museum is an attraction you can’t miss.

The museum’s goal is to illuminate the past in order to help us understand the present and shape the future. The building houses 22 million artifacts and documents pertaining to Chicago and U.S. history. Collections include architecture, costumes, archives and manuscripts, decorative and industrial arts, and prints and photographs.

See how the Great Chicago Fire changed the city forever, explore themed galleries that tell the story of Chicagoans in Chicago: Crossroads of America, and take the kids over to Sensing Chicago, where they can make themselves into a giant Chicago-style hotdog or become part of a Chicago postcard.

Several hands-on galleries make the museum a great place for history buffs and kids alike. Create, construct, and test your own Chicago-style bridge or act out the city’s history on the museum’s front steps.

Getting in: Chicago History Museum tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Museum of Contemporary Art

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The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is proudly one of the nation’s largest facilities dedicated to current art. It’s the residence of an expansive collection of contemporary artwork in painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance.

You’ll see lots of works of art by living artists and get insight into the creative process, learning more about new trends in artistic expression across all forms of media. The museum features innovative exhibits, a 300-seat theater, and a terraced sculpture garden with a fabulous view of Lake Michigan.

Explore showcases like Enrico David: Gradations of Slow, which explores the Italian artist’s collection of pieces that revolve around the human figure as a fragile, vulnerable vessel. Or try to the colorful display of paintings by Federico Herrero in Atrium Project.

Getting in: Museum of Contemporary Art tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour

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Take a tour of the private residence and studio that once belonged to the world-famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

His home is a result of Wright’s architectural experiments with the iconic design concepts that became his architectural philosophy. You’ll get to see his home, and the complex it resides in, which is made up of 29 of his own buildings, the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in the world.

This is a must-see attraction for any architecture enthusiast. It’s a chance to see the personal and professional spaces in which this architectural genius worked and lived.

Getting in: Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Robie House

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Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his client Frederick C. Robie, the Robie House is considered one of the most important buildings in the history of American architecture.

Designed in Wright’s Oak Park studio in 1908 and completed in 1910, the building is both a masterpiece of the prairie style and renowned as a forerunner of modernism in architecture – a must-see for any architecture buffs.

Tours of the site offer both a first-hand experience of its amazingly contemporary spaces and the current restoration work that is returning the house to its original appearance. It is also the perfect complement to your visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.

Getting in: Robie House tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Children's Museum exterior in May 2016

By MusikAnimal (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Located right at Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum is geared towards kids’ education enrichment.

Kids can build a skyscraper, climb a tree house, fish in a river, create art, and more. They’ll enjoy the chance to explore a realistic firehouse in Play it Safe!, they can dig about for fossils in Dinosaur Exposition, and they can even use real lab materials to tinker with technology at the Tinkering Lab.

There’s always something go on at the Children’s Museum, check the calendar online to plan your visit around any special events.

Getting in: Chicago’s Children Museum tickets are included on Go Chicago Card.

Adler Planetarium

Explore the universe at Adler Planetarium, located right in Museum Campus, and learn about all things space. You’ll travel 91-billion light years across the universe, all from the safety of Chicago’s premier planetarium.

Adler Planetarium is the perfect place to take the kids if you’re looking for something educational that will still be loads of fun for them. Each exhibit is interactive, allowing kids and adults alike to explore the mysteries of the universe.

Something big is out there; join the search for a new ninth planet in Planet Nine. Crawl, climb and fly through Planet Explorers, a modern-day space adventure for kids and families. Take a fast-paced tour of your cosmic backyard in Destination Solar System. You can even look inside the historic Gemini 12 spacecraft and experience the Apollo missions through the eyes of Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr. and his family in Mission Moon.

In addition to a never-ending list of awesome exhibits to check out, you can also catch a showing at the Atwood Sphere Experience. Choose from a myriad of planetarium shows that will have you feeling you’re actually traveling through space and time.

Getting in: Adler Planetarium tickets are included on the Go Chicago Card All-Inclusive Pass.

American Writers Museum

Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the American Writers Museum is home to interactive exhibits and programs that put all genres of writing on display. Recently named one of the 10 Best New Museums in the World by Fodor’s, it’s a must-see for any literature lover.

From typewriters to touchscreens, the museum offers something for visitors of all ages. The American Writers Museum strives to educate the public about writers of the past and present through interactive and captivating displays and exhibits.

The museum offers six permanent exhibits, like A Nation of Writers, where you can explore over 100 authors’ pieces, and The Mind of a Writer, where you can try to get inside the mind and emotions of the world’s most notorious writers.

Getting in: The American Writers Museum tickets are included on Go Chicago Card.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

The Sculpture Gallery of the Driehaus Museum

By Lmh9y6 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Learn about Chicago’s “Gilded Age” at the Driehaus Museum,  housed within the restored, 1883 palatial home of Samuel Mayo Nickerson, a wealthy Chicago banker.

You’ll learn all about the design, architecture, and decorating styles that were popular in the art nouveau era. This museum is also home to one of the largest collections of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Getting in: Admission is separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago Card.

Chicago Cultural Center

Photo by City of Chicago

A national landmark itself, the Chicago Cultural Center offers a wealth of historical and cultural information about Chicago with more than 2,000 exhibitions, concerts, and performances, featuring performance, visual, and literary arts.

From historic to contemporary, the Chicago Cultural Center focuses on featuring artwork by underrepresented artists, with an emphasis on those from Chicago.

The building itself was built to showcase Chicago’s status as a thriving metropolis in 1897. It was designed by some of the world’s leading architects and houses the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass dome.

Getting in: admission to the Chicago Cultural Center is free.

Chicago Oriental Institute

UC Oriental Institute Persian section 08

By Nightryder84 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Run by the University of Chicago, the Chicago Oriental Institute explores the history, art, and archaeology of the Near East.

You’ll get to see permanent exhibits with displays featuring objects found in excavations from ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, and the ancient site of Megiddo. In addition to permanent exhibits, the Chicago Oriental Institute plays host to educational exhibits on rotation.

Getting in: Admission is separately ticketed and not included on the Go Chicago Card.

Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Photo by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Go on a free daily guided tour of the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and learn all about the role of the Federal Reserve System and the Chicago Fed.

Getting in: Money Museum admission is free and available to the public every day except national bank holidays.

Remember to Save on Museum Admission

Our list of some of the most popular museums in Chicago.

Remember, many (if not all) of these options are included on the Go Chicago Card, where you can save up to 55% on combined admission vs paying at the gate.

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The information contained in this post, to the best of the author's knowledge, was accurate at time of publishing. We do our best to ensure and maintain the accuracy of this information.

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