The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is one of the coolest museums of all time. Its massive facility houses a full-sized airplane, train, and submarine, all of which you can enter, among many other things. Your family will easily fill a day there. What Museum of Science and Industry tips do you need to know to plan it?
What Museum of Science and Industry Tips Do You Need to Plan Your Day?
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Museum of Science and Industry Tips and Tricks
The museum is located at 5700 South Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
2. Parking and Transportation
How Much is Parking at Museum of Science and Industry?
There is an underground parking structure attached to the Museum of Science and Industry entrance at the northwest corner of East 57th Street and South Cornell Avenue. Parking is $22 for non-members and individual members, $14 for people with a dual membership, and free for family memberships.
Pro tip: Have your membership card ready when you enter the garage. You have to scan it.
Note: The parking charges are per car. One family cannot arrive in two cars and park both for free.
Note: The garage closes at 7:00 p.m. It may seem like a smart idea to visit other parts of Chicago after the museum with your car in the free lot. It won’t work.
Note: The garage can fill up. Arrive early.
You can reach the museum through CTA bus numbers two, six, and ten. By train, the Metra Electric Line and South Shore Line stop at the 57th Street exit, which is two blocks from the museum.
3. How Much is Museum of Science and Industry?
The tickets for this Chicago science museum are reasonable even if you pay full price, but there are ways to save.
Online Direct Purchase
As of the time of this writing, standard admission to the museum is $21.95 per adult and $12.95 per child ages three through eleven. Kids two and under are free.
Pro tip: Buy your tickets ahead of time to skip a long line upon entry.
Bonus pro tip: Check for Chicago science museum discount tickets and sales before purchasing your tickets.
Consider a Museum of Science and Industry Membership
Are you going to go a couple of times? Is your family interested in the extras? If so, a membership may make sense for you. You get some solid perks, plus some fluff, like free coffee. As of the time of this writing, your most affordable options are:
Individual Chicago Science Museum Membership
Individual membership admits one member and one guest. It currently costs $95 per year and includes:
A. Four discounts to special exhibits
B. Four discounted passes to the Marvel exhibit
C. Four Giant Dome Theater tickets
D. 10% off Museum of Science and Industry prices on food and merchandise
Dual membership admits two members and one guest. It currently costs $145 per year and includes:
A. Six discounts to special exhibits
B. Six discounted passes to the Marvel exhibit
C. Six Giant Dome Theater tickets
D. $8 parking
E. 50% off admission to other local museums (but not the other major Chicago ones)
F. Free admission to other museums in the Association of Science and Technology Centers
G. 10% off food and merchandise
Family membership admits two adults, kids under age 18 who reside in the member household, and one guest. It costs $195 per year and includes:
A. Unlimited discounts to special exhibits
B. Unlimited discounted passes to the Marvel exhibit
C. Ten Giant Dome Theater tickets
D. Free parking
E. 50% off admission to other local museums (not the other major Chicago museums)
F. Free admission to other museums in the Association of Science and Technology Centers
G. 10% off food and merchandise
Visiting multiple tourist attractions? You may be able to save with CITYPASS. You can add extra experiences when making your reservation, so you aren’t just stuck with basic admission if you go this route.
Pro tip: You need to make a Museum of Science and Industry reservation to enter separate from the purchase you make with CITYPASS.
Go Chicago Card
Go Chicago admits passholders to multiple tourist attractions. If you planned to visit more than one place, this may be your best bet.
Museum of Science and Industry Groupon
Periodically, you can find a deal on Groupon.
Free Chicago Science and Industry Museum Admission for Select Professions
Active duty military personnel, veterans, Chicago police, Chicago firefighters, and Illinois teachers get in free. Don’t forget your ID.
Kids Museum Passport
The Kids Museum Passport program through the Chicago Public Library provides free admission for some family members.
Free Admission for Members of ASTC Institutions
Members of institutions associated with the Association of Science and Technology Centers get free admission.
Check for Group Museum of Science and Industry Discounts
As of the time of this writing, only individual Chicago Museum of Science and Industry tickets are available. At some point, group registration will return. Check the policy at the time of your visit.
Free Museum of Science and Industry Days
The museum offers free admission to Illinois residents several times per year. With free stuff comes massive crowds. Think sea of humanity crowds.
Pro tip: Avoid these days like the plague. The savings isn’t worth your sanity.
The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. through 5:30 p.m. most Tuesdays through Sundays. Hours vary during seasons and on holidays. Check the current schedule at the time of your visit.
5. How Long Does it Take to Go Through the Museum of Science and Industry?
The museum is over 400,000 square feet. This will not be a quick in and out. Plan to be there all day.
Pro tip: Arrive early. The crowds are lowest in the morning. Enjoy the exhibits without throwing elbows for the first couple of hours.
6. There Are A Lot of Stairs
If you want to get around quickly, the stairs are your best bet. There are elevators, but they are few and far between. Mentally prepare yourself to wait longer than you would expect if you need to use one.
7. Make a Plan
This museum is a beast. If you haven’t been there, you don’t appreciate how large it actually feels. What’s the best way to see Museum of Science and Industry?
The answer will be different for everyone. Look at the Museum of Science and Industry map before you arrive and know your priorities. With that said, arrive early, eat at an off time, and save exhibits and shows with timed entry for the afternoon. If you want to visit the Idea Factory, I would head there first, followed by Science Storms.
8. Everything Isn’t for Kids
The vast majority of the museum is family friendly. However, some of these Chicago science museum exhibits contain information you may not be excited to share with your kids yet. Examples include war, death, and internal organs. Peruse the Chicago science museum map ahead of time to determine if you want to skip specific sections.
9. You Can Come and Go
You can leave the museum and re-enter on the same day. Eating elsewhere is worth considering. There are plenty of restaurants near Museum of Science and Industry.
10. Outside Food is Allowed
You can bring your own food, and you may want to. The museum’s food is seriously lacking in quality and is bananas overpriced.
11. The Food is Bad
The museum has food. That is the extent of the positive things I have to say. It costs more than your kids’ braces and is low quality. Even with a membership discount, the price is hard to swallow. Pun intended.
Note: If you have a serious food allergy, the museum asks that you contact staff TWO WEEKS in advance. There is no allergen-free kitchen.
Pro tip: The museum can make gluten free pizza, but it will not be prepared in a gluten free environment.
Bonus pro tip: Eat at an off time. The food service locations are crowded during normal lunch hours.
12. What Can You See at the Museum of Science and Industry?
Permanent Exhibits Included with Your Museum Entry
The museum has been opened since 1933. Some of these exhibits have been here almost as long.
Art of the Bicycle
Art of the Bicycle has a ton of bikes to see, a lot of which would barely work today. At a minimum, your kids will enjoy comparing these to their own.
Circus has clearly been around for a long, long time. Things get a little weird. There are some intricate miniature scenes with moving pieces that may interest kids for a few minutes.
Museum of Science and Industry Fairy Castle
This giant dollhouse minus the dolls has been at the museum since the 1940s. There is a lot of complex detail. It is definitely worth a quick stop.
This section has a large video playing on a screen shaped like the Earth to teach you about the planet’s weather and climate. By the time you reach this section, you will probably be tired. It is a great place to sit down for a few minutes and decompress. Your kids will like the unique screen. It is a screen, after all.
Eye Spy is a small,
odd cute section where you can look for objects in detailed displays.
Farm Tech features large farming equipment, some interactive areas, and toilet references, so your kids should be all set.
Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery
This section features baby chicks hatching in incubators since the 1950s. All the time. Always hatching. 8,000 per year. There are some other things to see and touch, but the chicks are the highlight of this section.
If you’re wondering where they put all these chicks, a lot of them are taken to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s not a happy ending for the chicks. The snakes, on the other hand, are thrilled. Decide how you feel about this before visiting.
Great Train Story
Great Train Story is a huge section with model trains running through cities and mountains. Kids love chasing the trains around, which is great, except that it requires you to run too so you don’t lose them. There is also a large train with a creepy wax conductor to view.
Henry Crown Space Center
The space section is fun for all, featuring real space capsules and several interactive elements. You can enter a mock International Space Station to conduct space business, which would probably not end as well in real life.
Idea Factory is a children’s museum of sorts. It is only available to kids ages ten and under and their families.
Pro tip: If you want to visit, go here first. It is a much better experience when it isn’t crowded. A timed entry may also be required.
Note: Idea Factory is currently closed due to COVID-19.
No Time Like the Future
This section is mainly just a lot of photos and information about things that may come in the future. It raises some interesting questions, but I don’t think it will interest most young children.
Numbers in Nature: A Museum of Science and Industry Mirror Maze
This section features a maze of mirrors that is fun for kids to explore. You generally can’t see anyone else while you are in there. It will make you feel disoriented and possibly like it’s time to go on a diet. Most people don’t want to see themselves from that many angles at once. Putting that aside, it is a must stop.
Pro tip: The exhibit is free, but requires you to reserve a time. Go to this exhibit early to get your ticket. The slots go fast.
Pioneer Zephyr features a large train from the 1930s in which you can climb. This is one of the first things you see upon entering the museum. It starts the day off with a bang.
This display features a lot of cars, some older than others.
Science Storms is an awesome section about natural phenomena like sunlight, atoms in motion, and tsunamis. This may not sound exciting, but it features tons of things with which to play and interact. Your kids can probably get through the whole exhibit without realizing they are really just talking the weather.
This is easily my kids’ favorite section, and one to which we have to return several times throughout the day to see the if the Museum of Science and Industry pendulum has knocked down more pegs yet.
Pro tip: Visit this one early. It is popular. The lines to touch buttons can get long. Some people, mainly adults, seem to be under the impression that once it is their turn, they can play with said button indefinitely regardless of the line behind them. Save yourself some frustration and arrive early.
YOU! The Experience
This Museum of Science and Industry human body exhibit is about health. This sounds fun, and there are some things with which to interact, but some of the content is fairly graphic. If you’re grossed out by the inside of your body, this may not be for you.
Ships Gallery features a bunch of model ships, as well as a portion of a ship on which to climb.
Museum of Science and Industry Swiss Jolly Ball
Swiss Jolly Ball is basically pinball meets Switzerland. It will provide endless entertainment for young children.
Pro tip: This section is easy to miss. In fact, if you’re not looking for it, you will probably miss it. You can find it on the lower level in Room C-101B.
Take Flight is an exhibit in an actual Boeing 727 that you can see from lower levels. They have essentially sawed off some portions of the plane (just the one wing now), so you can enter the interior and also see the mechanics of the plane.
This exhibit demonstrates the manufacturing process for toys on an assembly line, all the way to the packaging. The work is done by robots, which probably doesn’t bode well for the future of jobs in the United States.
Pro tip: Your can buy a toy and watch the machine engrave it. If you don’t want to make said purchase, distract your children in this area.
Note: ToyMaker 3000 is currently closed due to COVID-19.
This Chicago Museum of Science and Industry submarine is an actual German ship from World War II spanning the length of a city block. You can climb inside to explore it. Tight quarters.
Pro tip: If you want to take a deeper dive into this topic, there is a tour that costs $18 per adult and $14 per child ages three though eleven. I would not recommend doing this with kids as it simulates the war.
Heads up: The museum can get a little dark in some places, and this is one of them. The submarine itself is awe-inspiring, but there is no shortage of information about soldiers not having their best respective days in the surrounding exhbiit. If this will upset your kids, you may want to avoid this area or be on high alert.
We Can Beat the Pandemic. Together.
This exhibit talks about past pandemics and the efficacy of vaccines. This may be interesting to adults, but I don’t think it’s going to grab the attention of your five year old.
Museum of Science and Industry Whispering Gallery
The Whispering Gallery lets two people stand across the room and whisper to each other with some magical acoustics. This exhibit is best enjoyed when no one else is in the room to screw it up for you.
Museum of Science and Industry Yesterday’s Main Street
Yesterday’s Main Street is a walk down a cobblestone street in the early 1900s. It has several store fronts and a small movie theater to enter.
Pro tip: Visit Finnigan’s, the Museum of Science and Industry ice cream parlor, for a treat.
Permanent Exhibits with an Extra Cost
You can easily entertain yourself all day without paying for the extra exhibits, but make yourself aware of the options in case they are of interest to you.
Chicago Museum of Science and Industry Coal Mine
This Chicago science museum coal mine exhibit takes you underground to an actual coal mine that was relocated to the museum from southern Illinois. It teaches you about the work they do, which will in turn make you grateful that you don’t have to do it.
Note: This exhibit is currently closed due to COVID-19. It comes with an extra charge when it is open.
Museum of Science and Industry Flight Simulators
If you want to feel nauseous, there are motion simulators. You can board an aircraft or spaceship for your ride to Vomit City. You must be less than 245 pounds and at least 48″ tall to ride the airplane. The spaceship is more family friendly, with the only requirement being that you must be at least 42″ tall to ride without an adult.
Cost: The airplane costs $16 for two people and the spaceship costs $6 per person.
Pro tip: Buy ONE ticket for two people for the airplane.
Bonus pro tip: The museum features a Halloween ride during its Halloween celebration.
Future Energy Chicago
This is a forty five minute experience that allows guests to
take a nap work in a simulation lab to learn about energy and build greener homes. There is also an Energy Garden in which to transform energy by doing things like riding a bike.
Cost: The cost is $12 per adult and $9 per child ages three through eleven for non-members, and $11 per adult and $8 per child for members.
Museum of Science and Industry Giant Dome Theater
The Giant Dome Theater has a screen from floor to ceiling that spans five stories. The movies offered rotate throughout the day and change periodically over time. Frankly, the movies are short and not that interesting. The experience is cool, but it may not be worth the added cost to you.
Cost: It costs $12 for adults and $9 for children ages three through eleven. Members get free and discounted tickets.
Museum of Science and Industry Virtual Reality Transporter
VR Transporter is a virtual reality experience with fancy goggles. It is recommended for ages thirteen and up, but younger kids who are at least 42″ can ride. The shows vary, so check the schedule at the time of your visit.
Cost: The VR Transporter costs $10 for non-members and $9 for members.
Wanger Family Fab Lab
The Fab Lab is a workshop that lets you create things like 3D printed objects. Check the schedule for available sessions if this interests you. Kids must be at least ten to participate, and kids between the ages of ten and twelve must be accompanied by a paid adult.
Cost: The lab costs $12 per adult and $9 per child ages ten to eleven. Members get free and discounted tickets.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum rotates temporary exhibits that generally come at an extra cost.
You don’t need to pay for extra exhibits because there is so much to do, but it is worth checking to make sure something isn’t of particular interest to your family before you rule it out. I still remember the Titanic exhibit the museum featured in 2000, the same year I wore a knockoff Heart of the Ocean necklace to prom.
13. Special Museum of Science and Industry Events
The museum offers periodic special events. Check the schedule at the time of your visit to ensure you don’t miss something that interests you.
14. There is a Baby Care Center
The term “baby care center” may be generous, but there is a private area for mothers to nurse in Idea Factory.
15. You Can Check Your Coat
Don’t want to carry your kids’ coats around all day? Me neither. A coat check is available.
Pro tip: Members can check coats for free.
Note: Coat check is currently suspended due to COVID-19.
16. Low-Sensory Early Exploration
During normal times, the museum offers early admission on specified dates for guests to explore the museum in a more sensory friendly environment. Check the schedule at the time of your visit.
Note: This program is temporarily suspended due to COVID-19.
17. COVID-19 Precautions
COVID-19 precautions and restrictions are ever changing, but as the time of this writing, the following policies are in place:
Do You Need to Book in Advance to Visit Museum of Science and Industry Chicago?
You need a reservation to enter the museum. This applies to everyone, including members. Don’t just show up at the door.
Note: If you arrive late, they can turn you away. Rescheduling is better.
Masks Recommended for Some Guests
Masks are currently recommended for unvaccinated guests and guests under age twelve. However, that can change at any minute, so check the current policy when you visit.
Physical Distancing Encouraged
Guests are asked to remain six feet apart.
Final Thoughts – Museum of Science and Industry Tips
This museum is truly amazing and worth a visit. Plan to arrive early, stay the whole day, and set your expectations nice and low if you plan to dine on property.
Incorporate the Museum of Science and Industry tips that work for you and make memories. You will not regret it.