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- The Masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago
- 1. Thorne Miniature Rooms
- 2. The contemporary and modern art exhibits
- 3. The Marc Chagall windows
- 4. Create your own custom tour, and map
- 5. Take a selfie with the famous lions
- 6. The museum's art workshops
- 7. The Elizabeth Morse Touch gallery
- Taking a baby to the Art Institute?
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most famous art museums in the world. It’s also one of Chicago’s most popular attractions. Now, it offers free admission to kids age 13 and under. That savings is just one reason to visit (or revisit!) this Chicago landmark.
The Masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the premiere art museums in the world. It houses one of the largest and most extensive collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and more.
It’s also home to some of my favorite iconic American paintings, including Grant Woods’ “American Gothic,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” Andy Warhol’s “Liz #3” and Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath.”
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My kids, however, look at these masterpieces and give an unimpressed shrug (hey, I’m trying). Fortunately, there are many other exhibits and activities at the Art Institute of Chicago that they do get excited to see and do.
As a lifelong Chicago, I have been to this museum many times. And each time, I love it. Here’s something else I love – kids ages 13 and under are now free (and starting in 2017, Chicago residents ages 18 and under are free). The price had been $14 per kid, so that’s a significant savings.
If you’re going to bring the kids to the Art Institute of Chicago, here are some of the things I’d recommend. They’re things my kids, who are ages 11 and 13, enjoy:
1. Thorne Miniature Rooms
The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms are little dollhouse rooms. Peek inside to see tiny rooms that are meticulously decorated with European and American interiors from the 13th Century to the 1930s.
We play this little game where we take turns looking into the rooms and finding a unique item. Then the next person looking in has to find it.
2. The contemporary and modern art exhibits
Contemporary and modern art is eye-catching and thought provoking. My tweens are drawn to the pop art style and unusual sculptures. They sgtare and think “What in the actual heck?” (their words).
If you’ve ever seen the movie “L.A. Story,” with Steve Martin and Sarah Jessica Parker, there’s a hilarious scene where Steve Martin stands in a gallery and rambles on and on about what he’s seeing in a modern art painting. Then they cut to the painting, and it’s just a giant red rectangle. I’m not gonna lie – we’ve had a few of those moments in the contemporary art area. But we laugh and have fun with it.
TravelingMom Warning: There is a bit of female frontal nudity around this part of the museum (as well as other parts of the museum). But remember, it’s art!
If your kids really like this area, head over to the Museum of Contemporary Art a few miles north, down Michigan Avenue. It’s not affiliated with the Art Institute, but it’s also an excellent museum.
3. The Marc Chagall windows
If you’ve seen the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” you’ll recognize Marc Chagall’s “America Windows” as one of many Art Institute scenes featured in the movie. A deep blue tone with colorful stories in them, they’re one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.
4. Create your own custom tour, and map
JourneyMaker is a super cool online program where you pick out the art pieces you want to see, and it creates a photo-filled color map and guide for your family to follow once you’re in the museum. Starting in 2017 , JourneyMaker will be available in Spanish, Chinese and Polish.
5. Take a selfie with the famous lions
Since teens love taking photos of themselves, they’ll want to pose by the iconic Art Institute Lions. This photo op ranks up there with the Bean at Millennium Park and the Wrigley Field marquee as Chicago’s best photo ops. The century-old bronze (but green-colored) lions are along the steps on the museum’s Michigan Avenue entrance. Don’t be surprised if they’re dressed up sometimes. The lions are known to wear holiday wreaths, Chicago Cubs hats or Chicago Bears helmets.
6. The museum’s art workshops
These art workshops aren’t just a box of markers and a stack of paper. There is paint, multimedia, carving, woodblock prints and more, and the programs are led by experienced teachers. Sign up in advance online. Some programs are exclusively for tweens, or preschoolers.
7. The Elizabeth Morse Touch gallery
Designed for the visually impaired, this is also popular with young children, The gallery is filled with items you can touch. It’s next to the Ryan Learning Center, which also is a good family-friendly area with drop-in programs.
Taking a baby to the Art Institute?
Then you definitely want to read this TravelingMom story. It is packed with useful information and tips.