The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois is like an old family friend. One we are always happy to see, with a new story to share with us each time we visit. Founded in 1893, The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, housing over 26 million specimens and artifacts, including Sue, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. A popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, the museum is constantly evolving with its traveling exhibits bringing in new fans throughout the year.
What You Need to Know About The Field Museum in Chicago
When visiting Chicago, many families will find themselves heading to Museum Campus to explore one (or more) of Chicago’s child-friendly museums. The campus consists of the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and – our family favorite – The Field Museum. We have explored the museum no less than six times, and it still feels like we haven’t seen everything, leaving plenty of opportunities to discover and learn something new with each visit.
Parking, Admission, Coat Check
The Field Museum shares a parking garage with the other two museums and the Chicago Bears football team. Parking rates vary depending on special events, but typically the cost is $19 and above. There is also a paid parking lot on the east side of the museum. More information can be found on the museum’s website. Limited street parking is available in front of the Adler Planetarium, but it is very difficult to find an available space.
There are various options when it comes to admission. There’s the Basic Admission, which covers museum entrance fees and nothing else. There’s a Discovery Pass which includes admission to one ticketed exhibition. If you want to see everything, you’ll want the All-Access Pass which includes all of the ticketed exhibits and a 3D movie. I would recommend knowing what you want before you arrive to avoid any confusion. Annual memberships are also available. Pricing can be found on the website.
If you want to check a stroller, large bag, or a coat, there is a charge. There are no lockers available.
Upon entering, it’s hard to miss Sue the dinosaur as she is in the main attraction of the grand foyer. The museum is spread over three floors, and I would recommend grabbing a map and making a game plan before you head out. We usually pick three or four areas to focus on because we find it exhausting to try and see everything in one day.
The museum has a large Native American collection, which includes an actual Pawnee Earth Lodge. There is usually a docent inside the lodge explaining the artifacts and the life and legends of the Pawnee Indians. Adjacent to this is Ancient Americas, where you can learn about Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Aztec Indians. Our children enjoy learning about the masks, the pottery, and the artwork of these ancient people.
Another area the kids enjoy is the Grainger Hall of Gems which is exactly as it sounds, a room full of sparkly, glittery jewels. There are rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and many other stones, both in their natural and polished states. Everything in the room is spectacular and a nice complement to the Hall of Jades across the way.
Most kids enjoy the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit where visitors walk through the re-creation of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s tomb. There are floor to ceiling hieroglyphs, mummies, and an Egyptian marketplace where kids enjoy exploring the games, ceramics, and artifacts from Ancient Egypt. My kids want to visit this every time, and I don’t blame them, I find it fascinating.
The Crown Family PlayLab is the perfect area for younger children to play and learn about science through creative play. The lab is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. We highly recommend the PlayLab for visitors. Children can dress up as forest creatures and put on a play, pretend they are grinding corn in a Native American pueblo, dig for “fossils”, or play instruments and make their own music. Kids of all ages will enjoy this experience.
We never make it to every area of the museum, but some of our other favorites include: the Underground Adventure, the Maori Meeting House, Africa, The Tsavo Lions, and the Nature Walk. As I said before, the museum is huge, so pace yourself and pick your favorites. Doing so will guarantee a successful visit.
The museum is large, and many children (and adults) will get hungry while exploring. There are two restaurants at The Field Museum, the Field Bistro and the Explorer Cafe. Both offer a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches, as well as a kids’ menu. Something many people don’t know is that you can bring your own snacks and sack lunch to the Field Museum. There are designated dining areas in the Siragusa Center as well as vending machines if you would prefer to do that with your family.
* The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas.
* Visitors can leave the museum and come back later in the day as long as they have a ticket and get their hand stamped (unfortunately this does not apply to parking).
*Museum discounts are available for Illinois residents, active military personnel, and Illinois teachers, see the website for more information.
With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why our family enjoys visiting The Field Museum. There is such a variety of exhibits that every time feels like an unique experience. The museum is enormous, exciting, and educational, which in my book, makes it one of the best for families in Chicago.