Best Museums for Chicago’s Curious Kids

Chicago Children's Museum

Explore one or all of these amazing museums in Chicago with your young inquisitive minds

Chicago has some of the best children’s museums in the world where interactive play, with a focus on engaging youth development, is the modus operandi. We’ve rounded up the GOAT (greatest of all time) museums for kids, all with special family programming and events, that are fitting for various ages and interests. You can also try adding one of these fun kids’ activities in Chicago to your agenda and make a whole day of it. Get a delicious meal, and spend the day lost in knowledge.


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Museum of Illusions

Chicago’s newest museum will be an absolute delight for kids. They have a chance to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of illusions. You’ll find more than 80 visual and educational exhibits featuring holograms, stereograms, optical illusions, and immersive rooms designed to tease the senses and trick the mind. 

25 E. Washington St.
Loop
Online: moichicago.com

Shedd Aquarium

The Polar Play Zone is designed with littles in mind, which means kids have the run in the penguin play place, submarine, and touch tanks with real starfish and stingrays. Visit the Amazon Rising and Wild Reef exhibits, see an aquatic show with dolphins, ask questions during an animal chat, and watch a 4-D movie. Also, do not miss seeing the live diving and feeding at the Caribbean Reef.

1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Online: sheddaquarium.org

Field Museum of Natural History

The big thing to see these days is literally big: Maximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur that ever lived. And, the world’s most famous T. Rex, Sue, got the royal treatment with brand new digs on the 2nd floor. Volunteer docents will, at your request, lead you around the museum on a public tour. Also, in Stanley Field Hall there are discovery carts for hands-on learning and exploring. If you’re up for a stroll outside, the Rice Native Gardens are perfect for a peaceful fresh-air break. 

1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Online: fieldmuseum.org

Chicago History Museum

The history museum might not pop into your head right away when considering which museum to bring your kids to, but it’s definitely worth a look-see. Learn how blues music came to Chicago through southern black migrants, bring classroom studies into focus through a deeper look into Dr. King’s work within the Civil Rights movement, get a glimpse into what Chicago looked like during Lincoln’s era, and visit the Sensing Chicago permanent exhibit where kids can ride a high-wheel bicycle, play with baseballs at a recreation of Comiskey Park, and climb into a life-sized Chicago hot dog (with no mustard, of course). And of course, there are several family-friendly events and happenings throughout the year.

1601 N. Clark St.
Online: chicagohistory.org

The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn

Play-based activity is important for children’s development emotionally, physically, and mentally. The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn has designed activities and exhibits that engage children in social activity in response to that fact. Popular highlights include Water Adventure, Safe Haven Animal Shelter, Nanoscale: The Science of Small, The Moo Café, and Dream a Dream Theatre.

5100 Museum Dr.
Oaklawn
Online: cmoaklawn.org

Kohl Children’s Museum

Children eight and under will love exploring this museum with hands-on exhibits to keep them busy for hours. The love of learning is nurtured here through music, art, water play, and nature-focused exhibits. Shop in the Whole Foods Market, make sandwiches in the play café, take care of stuffed pets at the vet, and send hand-made cars down a chute at the SpotHero Car Garage. New activities and exhibits are featured on the regular, which means that there is always something fresh and fun at the museum.

2100 Patriot Blvd.
Glenview
Online: kohlchildrensmuseum.org

Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier

Play and learning are bridged together at this museum, where kids can: tackle the Cloud Buster, a 30-ton, 37-foot-tall steel dreamscape that celebrates adventure and risk-taking—qualities that are inherent to childhood—excavate dinosaur bones, explore the way water moves through pulleys and pipes, pretend to fight fires, and discover how our skyline full of buildings is created through architecture and engineering. 

700 E. Grand Ave.
Navy Pier
Online: chicagochildrensmuseum.org

Adler Planetarium

Since 1930, Chicagoans have been learning and exploring at this planetarium, which includes interactive permanent exhibits, the Doane Observatory, and highly-rated Sky Shows. Special programming exists for kids of all ages, including special nights out for teenagers.

1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Museum Campus
Online: adlerplanetarium.org

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

At Peggy Notebaert, children are connected to nature and science through the museum’s hands-on exhibits, family events, and education programming. Learn about the specimen and archival collections: birds, eggs, and nests; mammals; amphibians, and reptiles; insects and spiders; fossils, and more. The most popular exhibit is the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, where you can watch 40 species of these delicate creatures flutter around the 2,700-square-foot indoor greenhouse. Other fun events include interactions with turtles, live animal feedings, and storytimes.

2430 N. Cannon Dr.
Online: naturemuseum.org

DuPage Children’s Museum

DuPage Children’s Museum’s 20,000 square feet of play space will keep little kids and their imaginations busy for hours. There are designated spaces for babies and toddlers and older kids can run around and get their sillies out. Exhibits are situated throughout the space for extra entertainment and learning. Enjoy storytime, movement and music classes, and pop-up playtime.

301 N. Washington St.
Naperville
Online: dupagechildrens.org

Museum of Science & Industry

This museum has it all: flight and ride simulators, a submarine, a coal mine, a chick hatchery, a mirror maze, storms created by science, model ships and railroads, a fairy castle, farming equipment, pinball machines and classic metal toys, a whispering gallery, and a Pioneer Zephyr. Four films are shown in the large dome theater. This museum is massive—most people don’t see everything in one visit, so plan accordingly and wear your favorite walking shoes.

5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Online: msichicago.org

Exploritorium

This hidden-gem museum delights kids with hands-on exhibits about light, water, wind, and more. Come wearing your thinking cap—or just romp around. Attractions include a giant “Lite Brite” pegboard, musical instruments, and climbing tubes and tunnels that stretch two-and-a-half stories.

4701 Oakton St.
Skokie
Online: skokieparks.org

KidsWork Children’s Museum

Local parents and educators founded KidsWork because they wanted a safe and fun place for kids to play and learn. What they’ve found, is that the community as a whole benefits. Kids can roam around the museum’s two floors, discovering science, art, and movement exhibits. Highlights include the Pet Vet, Imagination Theater, Art Works, Tot Spot, and Light Exhibit.

11 S. White St.
Frankfort
Online: kidsworkchildrensmuseum.org

Bronzeville Children’s Museum

The first and only African American children’s museum in America, Bronzeville Children’s Museum’s exhibits and galleries highlight Black culture. Learn about famous politicians, artists, musicians, and athletes that lived in this neighborhood, take part in enriching S.T.E.M. activities, learn about prominent Black inventors and explore why healthy eating is important for families.

301 S. Stony Island Ave.
Bronzeville
Online: bronzevillechildrensmuseum.com

Wonder Works

Wonder Works is best for little ones, ages birth to eight years old. This children’s museum is a designated shoe-free play space, with things to climb, jump and run on. Art, performance, design, and building are the main objectives here and kids are encouraged to be creative and let their personalities shine. Over 600 special events are held every year, including a concert series, a celebration of African American History, and Dino Works. Kids here can meet other pals and brush up on their social skills and adults can hang out with new friends, too.

6445 W. North Ave.
Oak Park
Online: wonder-works.org

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