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Should I Visit the Field Museum with Kids?

field museum skeleton

This Chicago museum has a lot to offer, but it isn’t the best option in the city with kids. That would be the Museum of Science and Industry. If I have time for multiple attractions, should I visit the Field Museum with kids?

Should I Visit the Field Museum with Kids? Things to Consider

1. What is the Field Museum?

2. Where is Field Museum?

3. Parking is Easy

4. How Long Do You Need?

5. What is There to See?

6. There is a Free Play Area for Little Kids

7. There Are 3-D Movies at an Extra Charge

8. There Are a Couple of Dining Options

9. There Are Ways to Save


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Should I Visit the Field Museum with Kids?

1. What is the Field Museum in Chicago?

The Field Museum is dedicated to natural history. There are exhibits featuring various indigenous people, extinct animals, and dinosaur bones. Some of it will be of interest to kids, but a lot of it will not.

field museum Chicago bug exhibit

2. Where is the Field Museum Located?

The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Dusable Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago. It is on the water near the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. It is a beautiful place to walk on a nice day. The museum itself is indoors, so you can comfortably visit year-round.

Pro tip: Strollers are allowed throughout the museum.

field museum building

3. Parking is Easy

There are several places to park near the museum including the Soldier Field garage, East Museum lot, and Adler Planetarium lot. Prices vary, but you will win if you arrive early.

The earliest birds will be able to find street parking, and the Adler lot is discounted in the morning ($12 before 9:30 a.m. as of the time of this writing).

If you don’t want to hunt for a spot, SpotHero is always an option.

totem pole

4. How Much Time Should I Spend at the Field Museum?

The Field Museum is not an all-day affair. While the building itself is large (1.2 million square feet), a lot of the exhibits will be a quick walkthrough with kids. If you want to see everything and watch a movie, half of a day will likely be sufficient. Stacking this museum with the Shedd Aquarium is a great option.

Pro tip: Arrive early. The museum’s crowds build throughout the day.


5. What Exhibits Are at the Field Museum?

The Field Museum has a lot of exhibits. There are a few things that will be interesting to children, like dinosaur bones and giant bugs. There are also lots and lots and lots of rocks and clay pots.

In addition to the exhibits listed below, the lobby features several dinosaur skeletons. There are some things to see in the basement, with the highlight being the man-eating lions.

There are free exhibits that are available year round, and some temporary exhibits that require a special ticket at an additional charge.

Pro tip: Check out the map before your visit.

Free exhibits (most of which are named after a rich person) include:

Abbott Hall of Conservation

The Abbott Hall of Conservation section focuses on preserving natural resources. There are videos of scientists talking about their work. This is as interesting to kids as paint drying.


The Africa section is heavy on African culture and history. A lot of the information will be over the heads of young kids, but the walk through the exhibit is unique. Kids will find something to examine.

Chicago’s Legacy Hula

Chicago’s Legacy Hula features Hawaiian culture. Even if your kid isn’t into dancing, there is a beach scene he or she will likely find entertaining.

Cyrus Tang Hall of China

The Hall of China has artwork, statues, historical pieces, and a weird video of a shadow puppet performance. Some of this may interest kids, but there are a whole bunch of artifacts in this section.

DNA Discovery Center

At the DNA Discovery Center, you can watch actual scientists do their jobs through glass, the same way you watch the lady make the fudge in every touristy town you have ever visited.

Elizabeth Hubert Malott Hall of Jades

This section has a bunch of jades from China. The end.

Grainger Hall of Gems

The Hall of Gems has over 600 gems. Again, the end.

Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet

If you only visit one exhibit at the museum, this should be it. Here, you will find dinosaur bones, including the most popular at the museum, Sue the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Do not miss this section.

Inside Ancient Egypt

Inside Ancient Egypt is another section worth a visit with kids. This three-story section features replicas of a tomb and an ancient marketplace, as well as a 4,000-year-old royal boat. Mummies abound, and they aren’t all former adults.

Note: This section may be scary for young kids. It is not well-lit and covers some dark topics (i.e. dead kids). There is a screen that shows a picture of a child’s skeleton with his toys. My nine-year-old was sufficiently freaked out by the time we exited.

Looking at Ourselves

Looking at Ourselves features sculptures that explore the concept of race.

Maori Meeting House

The Maori Meeting House is a sacred structure from New Zealand built in the 1800s. You can step into the structure after removing your shoes.

McDonald’s Fossil Preparation Lab

McDonald’s Fossil Preparation Lab is another area where you can watch scientists work from behind glass.

Native Truths

Native Truths teaches you about Native American history with a lot of artifacts.

Nature Walks

Nature Walks has a lot of stuffed animals behind glass. It feels a little icky if I’m being honest, but it will be a hit with kids. The windows have both currently living and extinct species.

Pawnee Earth Lodge

The Pawnee Earth Lodge is a full-sized replica of an Earth Lodge utilized by Pawnee people that you can enter.

Plants of the World

The Plants of the World section is a lot of plants behind glass. You can breeze right past this one with kids.

Regenstein Halls of the Pacific

The Halls of the Pacific section features artifacts from the Pacific Islands.

Robert R. McCormick Halls of the Ancient Americas

The Halls of the Ancient Americas features tools and other artifacts that teach us about human ingenuity.

Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds

The Hall of Birds is like Nature Walks, except with birds.

The Machine Inside

The Machine Inside is probably the most interactive exhibit for kids in the museum. There are lots of places to wave your hands and jump around. The area covers biomechanics, teaching kids how animals move. You should not skip this one.

Underground Adventure

Underground Adventure is another must-do with kids. There, you shrink to the size of a bug and walk through an exhibit with animatronic bugs that want to eat you.

Pro tip: This area is best enjoyed alone. Go here first.

What is an Animal?

This section features life-sized sea creatures.

field museum mummies

6. There is a Free Play Area for Little Kids

The Crown Family PlayLab is a play area for kids ages two through six. It offers programs featuring music, art, and dinosaurs. You can drop in or register for a program.

Pro tip: The PlayLab is not open all day. Be sure to check the hours.

crocodile skeleton

7. There Are 3-D Movies at an Extra Charge

You can purchase tickets to a 3-D movie. Check the offerings at the time of your visit.


8. There Are a Couple of Dining Options

There are a couple of dining options at the museum, but you can do better elsewhere. The museum allows you to come and go. Visit a restaurant near the Field Museum for a better experience.

Pro tip: Outside food is allowed. You’re not stuck with museum food.

The on-property options are:

Explorer Cafe

The Explorer Cafe is open for lunch. It has pizza, sandwiches, chicken tenders, and salads. Gluten-free buns are available.

Field Bistro

The Field Bistro is a quick service that is open for breakfast and lunch. In addition to a full bar, it serves things like burgers, salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and tacos. Gluten-free buns are available.

field museum Chicago elephants

9. There Are Ways to Save

If your child is two or under, he or she can visit for free. The rest of you can’t. The museum isn’t cheap, but there are ways to save. Don’t pay full price.

Some Dates Offer Free Admission and Discounts for Residents

On certain dates, all Illinois residents are free. On others, Chicago residents get discounts.

Pro tip: If you can afford to pay, avoid the free days. They are more crowded.

Visit During the Week

Ticket prices vary by the day. If you can avoid the weekend, you’ll save money. You will also have a more pleasant experience. Weekends are more crowded.

There Are Passes with Access to Multiple Attractions

If you are visiting multiple tourist attractions, do the math to see if CityPASS or Go City makes sense for you.

Consider a Membership

Visiting more than once? A membership that comes with perks (like restaurant and gift shop savings) might be worth it.

Teachers, Active Duty Military, and Veterans Get Free Admission

Teachers, active duty military, and veterans get into the museum for free.

Kids Museum Passport Holders Get in Free

Chicago Public Libraries offer Kids Museum Passports that give free admission to the museum, as well as the Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and the Art Institute.

Book a Hotel Package

A hotel package through a partner hotel is unlikely to be your best option. Using points for a free stay or booking a stay independently will likely be a better deal. However, if you’re coming to Chicago mainly to visit the museum and want to make things as easy as possible, check out the museum’s partner hotels.


Periodically, you can find a deal on Groupon.

Free Admission for Members of ASTC Institutions

Members of institutions associated with the Association of Science and Technology Centers get free admission.

dinosaur skeleton

Final Thoughts – Should I Visit the Field Museum with Kids?

Should I visit the Field Museum with kids? Sure, if you have more than one day downtown. The dinosaur bones are cool and there are some great ways to save money on admission.

If you only have one day, the Field Museum should not be your priority. Over half of the exhibits at the Field Museum will be of no interest to kids. Head over to the Museum of Science and Industry instead. It has so much more to offer.

Visit Chicago. You will not regret it.

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