Chicago History Museum

Kids Play at the Chicago History Museum

Our visit to Chicago happened to span the first weekend of the month, which meant that as Bank of America customers, it’s also free museum weekend. Before our trip, I looked up the list of free Chicago museums and was delighted to find the Chicago History Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Shedd Aquarium on the list.

I’ll be honest… the Chicago History Museum wasn’t one of our top choices of family-friendly things to do in Chicago, partly because it was all the way up by the Lincoln Park Zoo and required a cab ride. But admission was free, so we decided to check it out before heading over to the downtown riverwalk for an Architecture Boat Tour, and I am so happy we did.

While the Chicago History Museum does cover the interesting history of the city through photographs, stories, artifacts, movies, interactive displays, and more, it also boasts exhibits on American history. There’s one item on display that suddenly make Brian and I feel really old… a telephone booth! It crazy that those are now so obsolete that they are now in museums!

Visiting The Chicago History Museum

The Chicago History Museum exhibits inspired us, tugged at our heartstrings, got us thinking and prompted deep conversation, and even had us laughing. We learned about events that shaped the city of Chicago, like the Great Chicago Fire and played in the children’s sensory exhibit and I was made into a giant Chicago hotdog. We learned about the raw and real history of freedom in our country and about major events where American was attacked from within. We discovered the work of an incredible fashion designer and were entertained by the incredible stories of everyday objects.

Our visit to the Chicago History Museum lasted just under three hours and was a blast! We all enjoyed the visit and recommend you check it out too if you have a chance.

Sharing Chicago Stories at the Chicago History Museum

Permanent Exhibits

  • Chicago: Crossroads Of America: Climb aboard L car no. 1, visit a jazz club, picture yourself in the fashions of the Marshall Field’s store window, and learn what makes Chicago home sweet home. Explore the city’s history through a series of galleries that highlight artifacts through interactive features and multimedia presentations.
  • Facing Freedom In America: Generations of Americans have grappled with the meaning of freedom defined by the nation’s founders. Discover how the quest for equality over the past 200 years has transformed what it means to be free.
  • Lincoln’s Chicago: Lincoln was a frequent visitor to Chicago, which became his second home and political headquarters during his rise to prominence. This gallery features portraits of Lincoln’s contemporaries with lithograph views of Chicago created in the 1860s. The pairings provide a glimpse of the city that Lincoln knew — a dynamic young metropolis on the verge of greatness.
  • The Secret Lives Of Objects: Want a good story? Pulled from the darkened shelves and hidden crates of the Museum’s collection storage rooms, these remarkable objects are finally getting their spotlight, and they have some pretty amazing stories to tell — from sassy to somber, historic to heartfelt, ridiculous to sublime.
  • Sensing Chicago: Use your five senses to uncover the past and discover that history is all around Chicago. Children can ride a high-wheel bicycle, hear the Great Chicago Fire, catch a fly ball at Comiskey Park, smell the Union Stock Yard, and dive into a giant Chicago-style hot dog!

Temporary Exhibits

  • Spies, Traitors, And Saboteurs: Explore nine major events in American history when the nation felt threatened by those within its borders. The exhibition illustrates the evolution of public opinion, the impact on citizens, the response by US law enforcement, counterintelligence, and homeland security, and the challenge of securing the nation without compromising the civil liberties upon which it was founded. The charged content invites visitors to consider how to strike the right balance between security and freedom in the twenty-first century.
  • Making Mainbocher: The First American Couturier: Chicago-born Mainbocher established a fashion house serving royalty, Hollywood, and the social elite. Featuring thirty garments, fashion illustrations, and photography, this exhibition explores the life and legacy of a remarkable man and his remarkable journey from his humble roots on Chicago’s West Side to the salons of Paris and New York as the first American couturier.

Chicago Historical Society

Founded in 1856 and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the state of Illinois in 1857, the Chicago Historical Society (CHS) is the city’s oldest cultural institution and home to millions of historical objects, images, and documents. Nationally recognized for its holdings, CHS is devoted to collecting, interpreting, and presenting the rich multicultural history of Chicago, as well as selected areas of American history. In 2006, following an extensive building renovation and rebranding initiative, CHS created a new public identity for itself as the Chicago History Museum (CHM), which operates as the building and institutional public presence under the auspices and legal oversight of CHS.

Know Before You Go

  • The Chicago History Museum is located at the south end of Lincoln Park at 1601 N. Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60614.
  • Museum hours are Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Tuesday from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm, and Sunday from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
  • The Museum is free to Illinois residents every Tuesday from 12:30 pm to 7:30 pm (excluding December 19 and 26), and on Commemorative Days: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents’ Day, March 4, and July 4.
  • Several audio experiences are available to enhance your visit. All audio tours are included with museum admission.
  • Download the Chicago History Museum brochure and map.
  • Public parking is located one block north of the Museum at Clark and LaSalle Streets. Enter on Stockton Drive. The museum offers validation for reduced parking fees. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards are accepted.
  • The museum has a store and gift shop, as well as the on-site North & Clark Cafe. Museum is not required to visit either establishment.

Many links on this site are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on a link and purchase the item, I may receive a small affiliate commission — it costs you nothing extra but helps me keep the lights on and the hosting for this site paid. All affiliate links on this site use "/aff/" in the URL to denote that it is an affiliate link. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” and in following the rules of the Amazon Associates Program Operating Agreement. Yes, that means I am also an Amazon Associate and earn a small commission from qualifying Amazon purchases referred from links on this site.