Once upon a time, Chicago's Museum Campus was actually a group of separate attractions divided by the lanes of Lake Shore Drive, making it a challenge to reach the museums’ parking lots. In 1998, all of the interfering lanes were moved, and the four main parts of the Museum Campus – the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Soldier Field – were joined together by green open areas, making them easily accessible both individually and as a group. Here’s a quick overview of each to help you plan your visit.
Field Museum of Natural History
A longtime favorite, the Field Museum joined the area in 1921, thanks largely to sponsor Marshall Field. It offers an impressive collection of over twenty million natural, biological, anthropological, and historical specimens. It also plays hosts to popular temporary and touring temporary exhibits. Dinosaur lovers won’t want to miss Sue and Maximo, two museum favorites. Sue is the largest, best preserved, and most complete fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. A newer addition and even more awe-inspiring, Maximo is a Titanosaur, a fossil of the largest dinosaur ever known to have lived. Other perennial favorites include the Evolving Planet, Underground Adventure, and Inside Ancient Egypt – where you can actually see what’s inside mummies.
Thanks to benefactor John G. Shedd, the incredibly popular Shedd Aquarium remains a major draw for Chicago’s residents and visitors and is ranked among the foremost aquariums in the US. The flagship is the gorgeous Caribbean Reef, a 90,000-gallon circular tank featuring sharks, stingrays, eels, a sea turtle, and a broad assortment of multicolored tropical fish. You can watch as a diver feed the fish by hand while questions via underwater microphone. The Oceanarium is equally remarkable, recreating the serene Pacific Northwest rain forest and offering soaring windows that overlook lovely Lake Michigan to help set the scene. Special attractions at the aquarium include private personalized tours, Shedd After Hours, and a variety of seasonal programs.
Created in 1930 by philanthropist Max Adler, the country’s very first planetarium remains one of its best. Featuring two large planetarium theaters, this masterpiece manages to both educate and remind visitors of the sheer magnificence of the universe beyond our Earth. The Doane Observatory here houses a huge aperture telescope with a 20-inch mirror gathering 5,000 times as much light as the eye. It’s the largest telescope open to the public in the area and is available for free viewing after museum hours on certain dates when the weather allows.
As most of the Museum Campus’ parking is situated beneath this stadium's vast spaceship shape, we’ve included it on our list. The water wall of the Veteran's Memorial to honor American soldiers is well worth walking by. The stadium is also the home of the Chicago Bears football team and RAM Racing's Soldier Field 10 Mile race.
If you’re planning to visit one of more of these attractions during your stay in Chicago, Hotel Essex Chicago offers the best new downtown accommodations available – situated mere minutes from the Museum Campus. Experience the many attractions of the Windy City with us!