Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History holds special meaning to me. Located on the city’s Museum Campus off Lake Shore Drive, the Field Museum is where I completed my college internship almost ten years ago. Spending every day in the museum for a summer obviously allowed me to have a familiarity with it that I wouldn’t have had I only gone a handful of times. Exploring the ins and outs of the museum’s unseen passageways was a highlight of the summer.
It has been at least four years since I’ve been to the Field Museum. D had the day off work on Monday so we took advantage of the museum’s February offer of free basic admission for Illinois’ residents and took the kids to explore my old “stomping grounds.” Although some of the exhibits have changed over the years, many of them have remained the same.
The sheer size of the Field Museum makes it difficult to see everything in one day- especially if you go with small children. In addition to the exhibits that are included in the admission fee there are special and ticketed exhibits that are available at an extra cost. Although these exhibits are wonderful and worth the extra cost, there is plenty to see and do under the general admission for the more budget savvy guest. Below you will find a few of our favorite exhibits.
SUE the T. rex
Make sure to visit the giant fossil of the tyrannosaurus rex named Sue in Stanley Field Hall, the museum’s main entrance hall. After admiring the size of this well-preserved skeleton, make sure to go up the stairs to the balcony to see Sue’s real skull, which is too heavy to fit on the rest of the bones.
Around the corner from the 600 pound skull of Sue, is the Evolving Planet exhibit. Wander through the history of Earth from the very beginning before creatures inhabited the planet, through the dinosaur era and the ice age and up to today. Particularly interesting was the information about several mass extinctions that has taken place throughout Earth’s history and how the last mass extinction is happening right now.
DNA Discovery Center
Also on the top floor is the DNA Discovery Center, an exhibit that gives patrons a chance to view what goes on in a real DNA laboratory. Step by step diagrams are on display to explain the process of isolating and analyzing life’s most basic molecules. Fun fact: The Pritzker Lab is where I did my internship.
The Ancient Americas
Once you’re done at the Discovery Center, make sure to head back down to the main floor to visit the Ancient Americas exhibit. Here you will travel through the history of the Americas- North and South. You’ll learn about groups like the Aztecs in Mexico and the Incas in Peru. This exhibit is great for kids because they can imagine living in ancient times while exploring a replica of a pueblo. There is even an Oregon Trail-type computer game that gives kids the opportunity to herd llamas and hunt deer.
Then travel north to the Pacific Northwest and learn about the Native American tribes of that area. Make sure to visit the Pawnee Earth Lodge, a hands-on exhibit great for kids to explore life in a Native American tribe while parents watch on “beds” lined with buffalo skins. A museum worker is on hand to answer questions from curious young minds.
About the Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum is located at 1400 S Lake Shore Dr in Chicago. It joins the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium on Museum Campus.
There is plenty of parking but at $22/day, you’re better off taking public transpiration. Museum Campus is an easy walk east from the Roosevelt stop on the ‘L’ Train.
I recommend getting there right at opening to beat the crowds- as they can get overwhelming- and staying until lunch. A café is on the basement floor in case you’re not done exploring the museum and would like to break for lunch. Or pack a picnic lunch to eat in one of the picnic areas on the basement floor.
Despite the size of the museum, there are only two elevators. Although they are large, they don’t account for the amount of families with strollers. I suggest bringing a baby carrier, if possible, or you could be spending a lot of time waiting for the elevator. If you must bring one, limit your stroller to a small umbrella stroller that is easily folded and carry it up the stairs.
Have you been to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago?
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