A couple weeks before leaving for Chicago, we were visiting friends in San Diego and got to talking about our plans while in the Windy City — and at that point, we had no plans other than the two Dead & Company Concerts at Wrigley Field. Thankfully they had been there before and knowing how much Carter likes science, recommended that we visit the Museum of Science And Industry and plan to spend the entire day there.
The whole day? Really? I wasn’t too sure about that, but when I pulled up the museum’s website to do some pre-vacation research, and saw just how many amazing things there are to do, I made sure we set aside an entire day. We wanted to do everything!
Visiting The Museum Of Science And Industry, Chicago
Our Chicago CityPASS included museum admission, a motion simulator ride, and entry to one timed-entry experience for each of us. For our timed-entry experience we chose the Fab Lab and were super excited to design our own 3D creature, watch it being printed on a 3D printer, and take it home as a souvenir! We also bought additional tickets for the Brick by Brick exhibit and the Robot Revolution exhibit because we are huge Lego lovers and Carter is interested in all things related to robots.
As much as this museum was something we all were excited about, the entire visit was structured around Carter whose favorite thing to do — other than explore the great outdoors — is science-related stuff. We even made plans to visit a Blaze Pizza, his favorite restaurant for dinner that night.
The Fab Lab was everything we had hoped it would be. The Brick by Brick, Lego exhibit was super fun, and we had a blast interacting with robots, not just controlling them.
The Toymaker 3000 was also a favorite! After purchasing their toy (a Graviton top) and entering their name into a computer, the kids were able to watch their toy being made, step-by-step along the robotic assembly line, and pick it up at the end to take it home as a souvenir with their name and the date etched in the plastic!
We had so much fun and while we spent the entire day exploring MSI, we could have spent an entire second day, checking out the movies and exhibits we didn’t have time for!
About The Museum Of Science And Industry, Chicago
With more than 2,000 exhibit items displayed in 75 major halls, the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere and one of the largest science museums in the world.
Designated a Chicago Landmark on November 1, 1995, the museum is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Since 1933, the 400,000 square foot, interactive, hands-on science museum has been bringing science to life the whole family and aims to inspire and motivate children to achieve their full potential in science, technology, medicine and engineering.
What I love is that the concept for the Museum of Science And Industry (MSI) was conceived on vacation nearly a century ago. Watching his child enthralled by an interactive museum display, MSI founder Julius Rosenwald resolved to share that experience with Chicago.
Here are a few fun facts about the Museum of Science And Industry:
- More than 180 million guests have been welcomed to the Museum of Science And Industry since 1933.
- The museum has more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space.
- Upgrade your admission and add on a movie experience inside Chicago’s only five-story, domed movie theater.
- The museum is home to more than 35,000 artifacts.
Exhibits And Experiences
The Museum of Science and Industry is enormous! Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you turn a corner and discover a room, gallery, wing, or exhibit that you haven’t yet seen. We knew that on the day we visited, it would be the only major activity of the day, but we weren’t expecting to be there from open to close — it’s the longest we have ever spent at one single museum and we still didn’t see everything!
We saw the Apollo 8 spacecraft, went inside a real United 727, explored the engine of the Empire State Express, the first machine to break the 100 mph, and checked out the Pioneer Zephyr, the first diesel-powered, streamlined, stainless-steel passenger train.
Throughout our day, we moved from exhibit to exhibit:
The Museum of Science And Industry is famous for it’s hands-on science experiences, and we loved every minute of the exhibits that let us touch, feel, control, watch, hear, and get inside, including:
- Science Storms: Investigate the science behind nature’s power as you control the dynamics of a 40-foot tornado, trigger an avalanche, unleash a tsunami, and more. This dynamic weather experience was incredible! From a wind tunnel experience to creating our own rainbows and making tornadoes, we had a blast!
- YOU! The Experience: See yourself in new and fascinating ways as you experiment with more than 50 interactive exhibits, including a 13-foot-tall, 3D heart beat you can make beat in time with yours, and a human-sized hamster wheel. While I loved seeing the kids run inside the giant hamster wheel, the most interesting part of this exhibit were the “slices” of human body and the specimens of a baby inside the mother’s womb.
- Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze: Navigate a giant mirror maze, then discover the mathematical patterns that abound in the neutral world. We raced each other through the maze to see who could find their way out first and Natalie won! The kids had so much fun that they then went through the maze again backward. This experience is free with museum admission, but requires a timed-ticket.
- U-505 Submarine: The world-famous U-505, a German submarine captured during World War II, is the centerpiece of an exhibit covering the Battle of the Atlantic, the U-505’s capture, and more. We were blown away the the sheer size of the submarine and how the exhibit was created.
- Genetics: Decoding Life & Baby Chick Hatchery: Learn about DNA, discover what makes each of us unique, and watch as baby chicks peck out of their shells. The baby chicks were su fluffy and fuzzy and cute — and we did actually get to see a chick break out of its shell!
- Farm Tech: As populations have grown, the farms feeding them have grown bigger and smarter. More and more, farmers are using cutting-edge methods to work more efficiently while reducing effects on the environment. The kids got a kick out of the poop-focused displays and even though they are growing up, they had fun climbing up inside the giant tractors.
Special Ticket Exhibits
Several of the Museum of Science And Industry’s special exhibits require an additional ticket (at an additional fee) with a specified entry time, including:
- The Fab Lab: Make and design a custom object in our state-of-the-art fabrication laboratory. The minute Carter heard what the “Fab Lab” was, he was determined to do it! We made reservations the day before our visit and spent one hour with Fab Lab staff leading us through the process of designing our own creature and printing it on a 3D printer — this was AWESOME and our favorite activity of the day!
- Flight Simulators: Take an exciting virtual trip on board an eight-passenger ride simulator. Carter and I skipped this experience for motion-sickness reasons, so Brian and Natalie did it alone and said the ride was bumpy and jerky.
- Brick By Brick: More than a dozen giant Lego-built structures are paired with hands-on building challenges to reinforce key engineering, construction, and architecture principles. As HUGE Lego fans (we have an entire bonus room dedicated to Legos at our house), we of course did the Lego experience. We enjoyed the giant Lego models as well as the construction challenges and games.
- Robot Revolution: Interact with a cutting-edge collection of robots from around the world. Learn from them, control them, and play with them. This exhibit was SO MUCH FUN! We played 21 with a robot card dealer (and won), played tic-tac-toe with another robot, drove robotic vehicles, controlled small robot people and a giant robot spider, and more.
- Toymaker 3000: An Adventure In Automation: Watch the entire process of manufacturing a toy on this modern assembly line. The speed and precision is quite a show in itself—not to mention the dancing and drawing the robots will do while you wait. The kids were able to follow along every step of the way, watching their toy being made, from parts to packaging.
- Coal Mine: Go underground, descend a mine shaft, take a ride on the coal mine train, and learn about the evolution of coal mining technology in this guided tour. We skipped this exhibit because we’ve been in real mines near our home in Northern California.
- U-505 On-Board Tour: The on-board tour allows you to go inside the historic submarine and explore the ship from fore to aft. We skipped this option because we ran out of time!
Our favorite more-traditional exhibits were:
- Art of The Bicycle: Examine science’s role in the design process as you view historic bicycles, juxtaposed with the high-tech bikes currently on the market. This exhibit isn’t huge, but it is absolutely gorgeous.
- The Great Train Story: Watch more than 20 trains on a cross-country journey race through realistic terrain and cityscapes in a 3,500 square foot model railroad. We had so much fun following the trains as they moved through the landscape, through tunnels, and across bridges.
- Ships Gallery: Explore a richly detailed series of dioramas and model ships as you sail through the maritime history of ship design and evolution. We were blown away by the incredibly detailed model ships of all sizes.
- Extreme Ice: Check out the photos and time-lapse videos of James Balog, a photographer whose work illustrates diminishing glaciers and reveals how climate change is dramatically altering the face of our planet. We almost skipped this gallery and I am so glad we didn’t!
Know Before You Go
- The Museum of Science and Industry is located in Jackson Park, in the Hyde Park neighborhood between Lake Michigan and The University of Chicago at 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
- Open daily from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm with extended hours on select dates. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
- The Chicago CityPASS includes museum admission, a motion simulator ride, and entry to one timed-entry experience.
- MSI offers 52 free days each year to Illinois residents who show valid proof of residency.
- Nursing moms can breastfeed their babies in any public area of the Museum, with or without a cover based on their preference. Additionally, MSI offers a special nursing space in the Idea Factory exhibit.
- Your own stroller and wheelchair is permitted inside the Museum, except in certain exhibits where posted. For the safety of our guests, wagons are not permitted.
- There are three dining options at MSI, including the Brain Food Court, the Museum Cafe, and Finnigan’s ice cream parlor. We chose the Brain Food Court for our lunch because there is a huge variety of options and we could all get exactly what we wanted. If you brought your own lunch, there are also designated eating areas with limited tables and chairs.