The Ultimate Guide to Chicago Museums

Chicago is home to some of the greatest museums and cultural institutions in the world. Ready to start exploring? Whatever your interest, there’s a place on this list guaranteed to open your mind and engage your senses.

The Big 10

Field Museum

1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-922-9410

chicago museums: field museum, maximo
Máximo the Titanosaur (Photo by Lucy Hewett.)

Housing over 40 million artifacts, the museum explores the past, present, and future of our planet.

Museum of Science and Industry

5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 773-684-1414

chicago museums: Museum of Science and Industry
“YOU! The Experience” (Photo by J.B. Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.)

As one of the largest science museums in the world, the Museum of Science and Industry inspires visitors of all ages through a hands-on scientific experience.

Shedd Aquarium

1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-939-2438

Home to 32,000 animals, The John G. Shedd Aquarium is a nonprofit organization committed to the conservation, protection, and welfare of animals. The Shedd is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and certified by American Humane.

Adler Planetarium

1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-922-7827

chicago museums: Adler Planetarium
Adler show Destination Solar System (Photo courtesy of the Adler Planetarium.)

The Adler Planetarium, America’s first planetarium, fosters a better understanding of our universe through space science and exploration.

Art Institute of Chicago

111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-443-3600

The world-renowned fine arts institution houses a permanent collection of 300,000 works, spanning across all mediums and eras.

DuSable Museum of African American History

740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, 773-947-0600

chicago museums: DuSable Museum of African American History
New exhibition, “Clearing a Path for Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the
Fighting Eighth in World War I,” curated by historian and guest curator
Harold (Hari) Jones. Pictured: Chicago 8th Infantry Company D (Photo courtesy of DuSable Museum of African American History.)

Dedicated to the preservation and study of African and African American history, the museum brings stories to life through the collection of art, history, and culture.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, 847-967-4800

chicago museums: Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center
The Survivor Stories Experience Holographic Theater lets you have a one-on-one conversation with a Holocaust survivor, hear their story, and ask questions. The three-dimensional, voice recognition technology, developed by USC Shoah Foundation’s New Dimensions in Testimony program, enables survivors to respond to individual questions. Pictured: Fritzie Fritzshall (Photo by Bob Kusel.)

Best represented by its founding principle, “Remember the Past, Transform the Future,” the suburban museum is committed to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust through interactive storytelling and exhibits that empower future generations to combat all acts of hatred, prejudice, and indifference.

Chicago History Museum

1601 N. Clark St., Chicago, 312-642-4600

Chicago History Museum connects visitors to the roots of Chicago’s history through educational initiatives, publications, exhibitions, and programming.

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago, 312-280-2660

chicago museums: Museum of Contemporary Art
Laurie Simmons, Brothers/Horizon, 1979. (Photo: © Laurie Simmons, courtesy of the artist and Salon 94.) Featured in MCA’s exhibition, Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera, Feb. 23 to May 5, 2019.

MCA highlights a provocative side of contemporary art and culture; connecting audiences of all ages with the works and ideas of distinct artists from around the world.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, 773-755-5100

Prominently known for its Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, the Chicago institution connects visitors of all ages to nature and science through interactive exhibits and programs.

Architecture & The Arts

Chicago Architecture Center

111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago, 312-922-3432

chicago museums: Chicago Architecture Center
The Chicago Model is a 3D printed model of the city of Chicago including over 4,000 buildings. Through an interactive multimedia experience, the large-scale model shares the city’s dynamic history and story. (Photo by James Steinkamp/CAC.)

Driven by design, the Chicago Architecture Center, formerly the Chicago Architecture Foundation, is a nonprofit cultural organization offering tours, exhibits, programs, and events that share the story of the city’s intricate architecture and history.

National Veterans Art Museum

4041 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 312-326-0270

chicago museums: National Veterans Art Museum
“The Things They Carried” exhibit (Photo courtesy of the National Veterans Art Museum.)

The National Veterans Art Museum features over 2,500 works of art created by veterans.

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th St., Chicago, 312-738-1503

Located in Pilsen, the heart of the city’s Mexican community, the free museum is an immersive experience of Mexican art and culture.

The Richard H. Driehaus Museum

40 E. Erie St., Chicago, 312-482-8933

The museum features works of art, architecture, and design from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with a focus on the Gilded Age.

Design Museum of Chicago

72 E. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60602, 312-894-6263

The nonprofit cultural institution offers free exhibitions around design that foster conversation.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Columbia College Chicago, 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-663-5554

Founded by Columbia College Chicago, the art museum is solely dedicated to the art of photography and exploring an endless range of ideas and concepts. The MoCP is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

Arts Club of Chicago

201 E. Ontario St., Chicago, 312-787-3997

For over 100 years, The Arts Club of Chicago has been a celebrated venue for the exhibitions and performances of emerging and renowned artists.

Chicago Cultural Center

78 E. Washington St., Chicago, 312-744-3316

A city landmark, The Chicago Cultural Center hosts a variety of free events ranging from music, dance, theater, film, tours, lectures, and art exhibitions that cater to all ages.

Hyde Park Art Center

5020 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago, 773-324-5520

The art center serves as a space for local artists to create and showcase their work.

Woman Made Gallery

2150 S. Canalport Ave., #4A-3, Chicago, 312-738-0400

The nonprofit organization celebrates female-identified artists through art exhibitions, professional development, and public programming.

Anne Loucks Gallery

309 Park Ave., Glencoe, 847-835-8500

Specializing in contemporary American painting, sculpture, and works on paper, the gallery showcases over 40 different artists and a variety of media.

Evanston Art Center

1717 Central St., Evanston, 847-475-5300

The art center connects the community to the arts through community-based events and workshops, gallery showings, and discussions.

The South Side Community Art Center

3831 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 773-373-1026

As the oldest African American art center in the country, the South Side Community Art Center preserves and amplifies the legacy of African American arts and culture; providing arts education and gallery space for emerging and acclaimed artists and scholars.

Smart Museum of Art

The University of Chicago, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago, 773-702-0200

University of Chicago’s own fine arts museum, housing a collection of over 15,000 objects.

Block Museum of Art

40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, 847-491-4000

Northwestern University’s art museum features a global exhibition program that spans across time periods and cultures.

The Renaissance Society

5811 S. Ellis Ave., Cobb Hall, Floor 4, Chicago, 773-702-8670

The free and public contemporary art museum, located at the University of Chicago, offers artists the creative freedom, space, and resources to develop their wildest ideas and dreams.

American Writers Museum

180 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 2, Chicago, 312-374-8790

The American Writers Museum is the only museum dedicated solely to American writers and their influence on our history, identity, and culture.

The Poetry Foundation

61 W. Superior St., Chicago, 312-787-7070

The Poetry Foundation is an independent literary organization dedicated to celebrating and amplifying the art of poetry.

Arts of Life

Chicago Studio: 2010 W. Carroll Ave., Chicago, 312-829-2787

North Shore Studio: 1963 Johns Drive, Glenview, 847-486-0808

chicago museums: Arts of Life
The latest exhibition “Winter Formal” at the Arts of Life Glenview gallery. (Photo courtesy of Arts of Life.)

The nonprofit serves as a person-centric artistic community that provides artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities the studio and gallery space to grow and create. Arts of Life has a Chicago and North Shore studio as well as featured works exhibited around the city.

The Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery

Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Floor 2, Chicago, 312-475-9620

A gallery devoted to sharing the life and work of Dr. Seuss.

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

756 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 312-243-9088

Focused on outsider and contemporary self-taught art, Intuit holds a massive collection of permanent and visiting works for visitor viewing.

Oliva Gallery

3816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 847-922-5736

The gallery features local artists, centered around the best of 20th century design in the form of fine art, lighting, home decor, and costume jewelry.

Halim Time & Glass Museum

1560 Oak Ave., Evanston, 224-714-5600

chicago museums: halim time and glass museum
“Woman with Daughter” by Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company (photo courtesy of Ward Henline.)

The Halim family’s robust clock collection turned into a permanent local museum, dedicated to historic timepieces and stained-glass artwork.


First Division Museum

1 S. 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, 630-260-8185

Located in Cantigny Park, a gift to the community by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the First Division Museum is a tribute to the ongoing history of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division.

The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum

99 Chicago Riverwalk, Chicago, 312-977-0227

The five-story museum celebrates the rich history of the Chicago River and its famous movable bridges. The museum is open May through October, furthering the mission of Friends of the Chicago River.

Chicago Maritime Museum

1200 W. 35th St., Suite 0E-5010, Chicago, 773-376-1982

chicago museums: Kellogg Fairbank, Chicago Maritime Museum, USS Wolverine
Young guests enjoy one of the many ship models at the museum, The USS Wolverine (photo courtesy of Ked Fairbank.)

The museum explores the impact of the region’s waterways on Chicago history.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum

230 S. LaSalle St., Floor 1, Chicago, 312-322-2400

The free museum examines the history of the United States dollar through interactive exhibits, film, and a daily presentation.

The National Public Housing Museum

625 N. Kingsbury St., Chicago, 773-245-1621

A one of a kind destination that shares the story of public housing throughout the United States.

Pritzker Military Museum & Library

104 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-374-9333

The nonpartisan museum and library holds a massive collection of military artifacts to honor and increase the public understanding of American military history.

Naval Air Station Glenview Museum

2040 Lehigh Ave., Glenview, 847-657-0000

In conjunction with the Glenview Hangar One Foundation, the museum shares the history of Naval Air Station Glenview through artifacts, initiatives, and community events.

The Walt Disney Birthplace

2156 N. Tripp Ave., Chicago, IL 60639

Just outside of Chicago, you’ll find the house built by Flora and Elias Disney, Walt and Roy Disney’s parents. The property is currently under restoration.

Gardens & Conservatories

Chicago Botanic Garden

1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, 847-835-5440

chicago museums: Chicago Botanic Garden
The Malott Japanese Garden turns from mostly green to bright pink in spring when the rhododendron bloom. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden.)

Located in Glencoe, the Chicago Botanic Garden is a green haven for scientists and visitors alike. With 27 gardens and four natural areas onsite, the gardens are open year-round and offer a variety of programs and classes.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

2391 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago, 312-742-7736

Held in a Victorian Era glass house, the Lincoln Park Conservatory hosts a tropical plant experience with four distinctive display houses; free to the public all year long.

Garfield Park Conservatory

300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago, 773-638-1766

Free and open to the public 365 days a year, the Garfield Park Conservatory connects visitors to the world’s diverse plant life through its gardens and greenhouses, exhibits and installations, and educational programming.

Cantigny Gardens

1 S. 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, 630-668-5161

Enjoy 29 acres of lush greenery and blooms, located in historic Cantigny Park.


Kohl Children’s Museum

2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview, 847-832-6600

chicago museums: Kohl Children’s Museum, Whole Foods
The Whole Foods Market exhibit is an ongoing favorite where kids run the grocery store. (Photo courtesy of Kohl Children’s Museum.)

Inspire young minds through the power of play and hands-on exhibits. Geared for children from birth through age 8.

Chicago Children’s Museum

Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312-527-1000

chicago museums: Chicago Children's Museum, Navy Pier, Zoom Room
The Zoom Room exhibit, running through April 21, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Children’s Museum.)

Located in Navy Pier, the museum offers three floors of engaging and interactive exhibits that stimulate young learners.

Bronzeville Children’s Museum

9301 S. Stony Island Ave., Chicago, 773-721-9301

As the one and only African American children’s museum in the country, the Bronzeville Children’s Museum offers a unique guided tour format through a variety of educational experiences, themes, and exhibits.

DuPage Children’s Museum

301 N. Washington St., Naperville, 630-637-8000

The DuPage Children’s Museum inspires creativity and learning through interactive exhibits for the whole family.


Museum of Broadcast Communications

360 N. State St., Chicago, 312-245-8200

The museum is dedicated to presenting the history and development of television and radio through programs, exhibits, and screenings of educational and entertainment content.

U.S. Pizza Museum

Roosevelt Collection, 1146 S. Delano Court West, Chicago

A museum solely dedicated to the history and evolution of pizza; the collection can be viewed virtually as well as at select pop-up dates.

The International Museum of Surgical Science

1524 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, 312-642-6502

Through the integration of art and artifacts, the museum is dedicated to sharing the history of surgery.

Fire Museum of Greater Chicago

5218 S. Western Ave., Chicago, 877-225-7491

Housed in Engine 123’s old firehouse, the museum preserves the history of Chicago’s area fire departments and firefighters. The museum is open on the fourth Saturday of the month, excluding Decembers.

Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation

2120 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-808-1286

chicago museums: Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, The American Folk Blues Festival
The American Folk Blues Festival (AFBF) poster is one of many which will be on display for a special exhibit in the Blues Heaven Foundation Gallery this spring, April 27 – May 11. (Photo courtesy of Janine Judge.)

Blues musician Willie Dixon founded the Blues Heaven Foundation as a way to continue the legacy of blues. Housed in the famed Chess Records building, the foundation’s home welcomes visitors for guided tours, gallery showings, concerts, and music programming.

The Button Museum

3407 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, 773-645-3359

The world’s only pin-back button museum explores the countless ways people use buttons to express themselves. The Button Museum is housed within the Busy Beaver Button Company.

The Chicago Sports Museum

Water Tower Place, Level 7, 835 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 312-202-0500

A sports fanatic’s dream, the Chicago Sports Museum is a conglomeration of virtual experiences and game-winning artifacts and memorabilia.

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