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Complete Guide to the Chicago Museum Campus

Welcome to Chicago’s Museum Campus: three amazing institutions in one place on the lake, with one bonus attraction in the Loop! The main museum campus is home to the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum, and the Adler Planetarium. On Michigan Avenue right next to Millennium Park is the Art Institute of Chicago.

Every one of these wonderful locations has many treasures to offer. Every single one of them is worth a visit! But if you only have so much museum time built into your vacation, I’ve created this guide to help you narrow down which of these amazing sites is the right fit for you.

The Shedd Aquarium

1200 S DuSable Lake Shore Drive

two travelers standing in front of a large fish tank at the Shedd Aquarium

For an up close and personal look at underwater worlds, check out the Shedd! The Shedd Aquarium is a massive, multi-level building packed with galleries of fish and tanks of dolphins and beluga whales. You can also see aquatic-adjacent animals like poisonous frogs and river otters. It's an amazing destination for all ages, and easily the most child-friendly site on the Campus.

two beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago

Animal Encounter shows happen multiple times a day and are included in the general admission price. Movies in the Shedd’s 4D theater are also shown throughout the day for a small additional charge. There are also several touch pools featuring starfish, lake sturgeon, and a seasonal stingray touch! Check the Shedd’s website for daily schedules!

Tickets to the Shedd must be reserved in advance, and start at $27 for children and $36 for adults. Prices might vary based on the date of your visit.

The Field Museum

1400 S DuSable Lake Shore Drive

A dinosaur skeleton, "Sue the T-Rex" at the Field Museum in Chicago

The Field is Chicago’s natural history museum. Among the highlights are a massive Ancient Egypt exhibit with a full-size tomb replica and a plethora of mummies, a newly-redesigned exhibit on Native American culture, and a walk through prehistoric times full of dinosaur bones, including the famous Sue the T-Rex! While a little less interactive than the Shedd, I still consider the Field a very child-friendly museum. There’s something for everyone.

All the exhibits at the Field are stunning, not just the ones they consider their flagships. Some of my personal favorites are the exhibits of the Ancient Americas and the Pacific Island cultures. There’s nearly always a special exhibition or two, full of limited-time artifacts on display. No matter the subject, these special exhibitions are always impeccably designed and unique to the museum. They’re available as an add-on to your ticket, and they’re usually worth the extra price if they're on a subject you're interested in!

Advance ticket purchases are not required, but I recommend it for easy entry! General admission starts at $21 for children and $28 for adults.

The Adler Planetarium

1300 S DuSable Lake Shore Drive

a piece of moon rock on display at the Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium is the smallest museum on the campus. You can see the entire thing in one visit with relative ease. The artifacts on display range from meteorite fragments, to relics of the early moon missions, to the massive telescopes on the lower level. The rest of the museum is very wordy: images of planets and space phenomena with accompanying informational signs. Because of this reading-heavy aspect, I recommend the Adler for older kids through adults.

Sky shows run at various times throughout the day, and involve an additional charge. But the coolest thing about the Adler is absolutely free: the view of the Chicago skyline from the grounds is unparalleled.

Advance ticket purchases are required and start at $8 for children and $17 for adults.

the Chicago Skyline viewed from the Adler Planetarium

The Art Institute of Chicago

111 S Michigan Avenue

Located off the main museum campus, head to Michigan Avenue if you want to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute is a truly exquisite museum with enough galleries to last a lifetime. Grab a map at the admission counters and pick the areas that appeal most to you. Many of the most famous pieces at the museum can be found in the Impressionist galleries or the Arts of the Americas exhibits, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep on the other areas! I personally recommend the Medieval and Renaissance Art wing with its adjacent Arms and Armor display, and the Thorne Miniature Rooms in the basement. Children are welcome at the Institute, but given the atmosphere of the place, I recommend the Art Institute for teens and adults.

Advance ticket purchases are not required, but I recommend it for ease of entry. Tickets start at $26 for children and students, and $32 for adults. Children 13 and under receive free admission.

Choose your Own Chicago Museum Campus Adventure!

I hope this museum guide helps you choose your destination(s) for your visit to the Chicago Museum Campus!

Wondering how a museum visit might fit into a weekend visit to Chicago? Check my my local-approved, 3-Day Itinerary for Chicago!

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