As someone who has grown up in Chicagoland, I have been lucky enough to visit these impressive museums numerous times. I have some great photos of me in pigtails standing in front of the gorgeous marble buildings with friends, excited to explore everything these resources had to offer. But here’s the thing…taking a trip to a museum is totally different once you are a parent with little ones. So instead of going around to some of the most famous museums, I highly recommend that you tap into the best museum in Chicago for kids: The Museum of Science and Industry.
*all photos are from the MSI website…we were too busy having fun to take pictures!*
My Tips for a Successful MSI Experience
- Arrive EARLY. The museum is open daily from 9:30-4:00. You want to be there when it opens to take advantage of the adjoining parking garage, especially in the winter. That way, you don’t need to carry your coats all around with you. Simply leave them in the car and you’re good to go!
- Do your research. Ask around and look on the website to figure out which exhibits are appropriate for certain ages. The last time we visited the MSI, there was a Disney exhibit going on. Many families upgraded to attend this exhibit, but were bummed to find out that their kids weren’t interested in the slightest about the history of Walt Disney. If you are confused about an exhibit, ask one of the friendly MSI employees hanging out in the line for tickets or at the ticket counter. They told us to save our money and we are incredibly grateful.
- Bring an umbrella stroller. Most likely one of your children will get tired since there is a TON of walking, so bringing a small stroller is a great way to keep everyone happy. You can also use it for storage and just about everywhere in the museum is stroller friendly, so no need to panic about stairs or being separated from your belongings.
- Have a game plan. The MSI is huge, so it is best to focus on 3-4 different exhibits that you really want to see and look at them on the map before you set out for the day. Also pay attention to the different color stairways and elevators—they are key for not getting lost.
- Eat lunch at an “off” time. We ate a late lunch since we had some snacks on the museum benches—I highly recommend that you do the same so that you can snag a table in the restaurant.
- Talk to the employees—they are incredibly helpful! I got turned around and was trying to find my hubby and son at a certain exhibit. After asking directions, a guide took me where I wanted to go and even told me about a “show and tell” exhibit that they were setting up so that my kids could be up front and center for learning.
- Bring an extra change of clothing for The Idea Factory. There is lots of water play and if your kids are anything like mine, they will get soaked. And a wet kid in a museum is no good.
- Play “I Spy.” One of my favorite things to do with my boys when they get antsy (waiting in line, walking far, etc.) is to play “I Spy.” Thankfully I have background knowledge on the MSI so I could look for certain fun things, but you can really play this game anywhere.
- Avoid the dark and scary places with the young ones—or at least prepare them for it. One of my favorite exhibits at the MSI is the “Science of Storms.” Unfortunately, the dark room with the booming noises was not a favorite of my toddlers, so we hardly spent any time in it. Learn from my mistake and talk with your little ones about what you are going to see to try to calm their fears and turn them into excitement.
- Be sure to visit the trains! There is such a spectacular train display that spans a massive room. Try to stake claim to some of the step stools for your shorter kiddos.
- Practice taking a ride on the airplane by visiting the plane exhibit. Kids can know what it is like to sit on a plane and get ready to travel somewhere more exotic than Chicago.
I also found a great page on the MSI website for those who are first timers or haven’t been to MSI in a while.
To buy tickets, check out this page (and remember to use your local Chicago library to try to get a free museum pass if available, if you aren’t already one of the free admissions like teachers and young children).
Interested in other major Chicago attractions? Simply check out this popular page about Adventures in Chicago.
Hope you have a great time at the MSI!
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