There are plenty of reasons to visit Chi-Town. Sports, architecture, food, art, beer, shopping — Chicago has it all. But we had our eye on Chicago for the same reason we have our eye on nearly any city in this chapter of our lives — science, space, and engineering.
And when it comes to science, space, and engineering — Chicago delivered! We spent a few beautiful, fall days in the city and it dazzled us start to finish. If you’re looking for a weekend trip for a budding engineer or space enthusiast in your family, look no further. Read on for 4 Reasons to Take Your Science-Loving Kiddo to Chicago.
1. First things first – ASTC Passport
If you don’t have a membership to an ASTC museum – stop what you’re doing right now and make this the first wonderful thing you do for your family in 2020. Seriously. CLICK HERE FOR ASTC PASSPORT DETAILS.
I feel like I sing its praises every chance I get — every family should know about it! The ASTC Passport is worth every penny. The ASTC is the Association of Science-Technology Centers and if you’ve got a membership to one of the ASTC museums on this list you get benefits (like free admission!) to museums all over the country. As of January 1, 2020 we’ve used our Amazeum (Northwest Arkansas museum) membership to get free admission to more than a dozen museums in 7 different states! It has easily saved us hundreds of dollars and hours of waiting in line — check it out.
2. Museum of Science and Industry
Truth be told, this is the reason we went to Chicago in the first place. Largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere AND home to the Apollo 8(!) — Museum of Science and Industry was a top destination for us.
The MSI was WHOA. It was originally built to house some giant exhibits for the World’s Fair in 1893, and the size of the halls will take your breath away. The BASEMENT is big enough to house a full-size, WWII German U-boat, restored for on-board tours.
We were door-busters to maximize our time, and took advantage of some special tours and experiences including the U-505 Sub, an underground coal mine, mirror maze, the ToyMaker3000 where Colt designed and produced his own custom toy via robotic automation, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum (highly recommend! It’s called the WOW! Tour).
And! Of course! We visited the Apollo 8 command module — piloted by Jim Lovell, one of Colt’s favorites.
We were so into the MSI we pushed back our flight on our last day in the city so we could stay longer and go back for a second day. And since we got in for free with our ASTC membership — we had that flexibility!
3. Adler Planetarium
Initially, I underestimated this place. Colt is more into space travel and engineering than in astronomy — but Adler Planetarium was incredible and delivered on all of the above.
Since 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, museums everywhere have had special exhibits on the topic — so it’s been a fun year to have a kiddo so interested in space travel! But it also means many of these exhibits aren’t permanent at the museums we’ve visited so be sure and do your homework before you visit.
Adler had an exhibit called Mission Moon that was heavy on Jim Lovell storytelling so we were all about it.
He could spend hours sitting at simulators and replicas of mission control. The more realistic the better. (Note to self: GOTTA get to Houston soon.)
After we explored every inch of Adler, we ventured outside to discover THE spot to have photos taken in Chicago. Adler is on a little strip of land that juts out into Lake Michigan so the edge of the property has the city skyline as a backdrop. We were careful not to interrupt the wedding party taking photos just beside us.
The Field Museum of Natural History is just down the street from Adler Planetarium so it’s easy to visit both in the same day.
It blew my mind to learn the Field Museum has been around more than 120 years, and today hosts exhibits from animals to world cultures to sciences to — our primary destination — Ancient Egypt. Colt studied Egypt at school a few years ago and has been interested ever since. We’ve visited Egyptian exhibits at the Smithsonian in DC, The Museum of Natural History in NYC and we found an incredible one in the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.
During this quick weekend trip, Colt wanted to prioritize the Museum of Science and Industry so, admittedly, we barely scratched the surface of the Field Museum with a quick hour-ish in the Egyptian exhibit. There’s SO MUCH more to explore inside those walls — I hope we get back soon to do just that.
Are you ready to plan a science weekend in Chicago yet?
Whether your kiddos are into space travel or engineering or dinosaurs or chemistry or astronomy or meteorology — or any other science under the sun! — get yourself an ASTC Passport and put Chicago on your list.