- Type: Museums
NileGuide Expert Says:
It may be a little further out of the way than other large Chicago museums, but it is worth the trek for the enjoyment of the whole family.
NileGuide Expert tip:
If traveling without a car, take the #6 bus, or the Metra.
Even if you don't plan on spending the day in Hyde Park, you'll likely pass through the neighborhood on your way to one of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. The massive Museum of Science and Industry is the granddaddy of interactive museums, with some 2,000 exhibits. Schedule at least 3 hours here; a comprehensive visit can take all day, especially if you catch an OMNIMAX movie.
While the museum is constantly adding new displays to cover the latest scientific breakthroughs, you shouldn't miss certain tried-and-true exhibits that have been here for years and epitomize the museum for Chicagoans. The U-505, a German submarine that was captured in 1944 and arrived at the museum 10 years later, brings home the claustrophobic reality of underwater naval life. The sub is displayed in a dramatic indoor arena with exhibits and newsreel footage that put the U-boat in historical context (a guided tour of the sub's interior costs $7 extra, but the exhibit is worth visiting even if you don't go inside). The full-scale Coal Mine, which dates back to 1934, incorporates modern mining techniques into the exhibit -- but the best part is the simulated trip down into a dark, mysterious mine. Get to these exhibits quickly after the museum opens because they attract amusement-park-length lines during the day.
Kids who love planes, trains, and automobiles shouldn't miss All Aboard the Silver Streak, a refurbished Burlington Pioneer Zephyr train with onboard interactive exhibits; the massive model-train exhibit that makes up The Great Train Story; or Take Flight, an aviation exhibit featuring a full-size 727 airplane that revs up its engines and replays the voice recordings from a San Francisco-Chicago flight periodically throughout the day. More low-tech -- but fun for kids -- are The Farm (where children can sit at the wheel of a giant combine) and the Chick Hatchery inside the exhibit Genetics: Decoding Life, where you can watch as tiny newborn chicks poke their way out of eggs. ToyMaker 3000 immerses minicapitalists in the goings-on of a virtual company and includes an entire automated toy-making assembly line. If you have really little ones (under age 5), head for the Idea Factory, which is filled with hands-on play equipment (admission is limited to a set number of kids, so pick up a free timed ticket in advance).
I hate to indulge in gender stereotypes, but girls (myself included) love Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, a lavishly decorated miniature palace filled with priceless treasures (yes, those are real diamonds and pearls in the chandeliers). The castle is hidden on the lower level. Also tucked away in an inconspicuous spot -- along the Blue stairwell between the Main Floor and the Balcony -- are the Human Body Slices, actual slivers of human cadavers that are guaranteed to impress teenagers in search of something truly gross.
A major addition to the museum is the Henry Crown Space Center, which documents the story of space exploration in copious detail, highlighted by a simulated space-shuttle experience through sight and sound at the center's five-story OMNIMAX Theater. The theater offers double features on the weekends; call for show times.
When you've worked up an appetite, you can visit the museum's large food court or the old-fashion ice-cream parlor; there's also an excellent gift shop.
Although it's quite a distance from the rest of Chicago's tourist attractions, the museum is easy enough to reach without a car; your best options are the no. 6 Jeffrey Express bus and the Metra Electric train from downtown (the no. 10 bus runs from downtown to the museum's front entrance during the summer).
- © Frommer's 2013
Ask a local about Museum of Science and IndustryLocals have answered 67 questions about Chicago.
Ask Chicago Locals about Museum of Science and Industry
- Very Highly Recommended 2010
- visit website
- tel: 800/468-6674 outside the Chicago area
- fax: +1 773 684 7141
- 5700 S Lake Shore Dr
- 57th St. and Lake Shore Dr
- Chicago, IL 60637
- Memorial Day-Labor Day Mon-Sat 9:30am-5:30pm, Sun 11am-5:30pm; early Sept-late May Mon-Sat 9:30am-4pm, Sun 11am-4pm
- No Sweat