THE MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY: I seriously debated whether or not I should go to this museum, since I’d already scienced-myself-out on Friday, and the Museum of Science and Industry is much further from my hotel than the rest of the museums. However, I was extremely glad I did end up going and I spent the whole day there. No wonder they call it one of the “7 Wonders of Chicago!” It was probably the most impressive sciencey museum I’ve ever been to!
To call it “The Museum of Science and Industry” is a huge understatement and pretty misleading—instead, if they had more space on their building, they should’ve called it “The Museum of Science, Industry, Transportation, History, Models, and Everything Else on Earth except for Fine Arts.” This museum literally had it all. So here are some of my favorite exhibits:
1) The German U-Boat: Deep under the ground, the museum had a huge exhibit on the Navy in World War II (see—more history-ey than sciencey), which included a real German U-Boat captured by the Allies in World War Two. Tickets to tour the U-Boat were an extra $8 but it was totally worth it. Our tour guide was very informative, and it was great to learn more about the history of the Hunter-Killer Groups that fought in World War II. I toured a WWII submarine when I went to Pearl Harbor in 2006, but this exhibit was much, much more interesting and well designed.
2) The Farm Exhibit: Having lived in a rural area most of my life, you would think I wouldn’t appreciate a farm industry exhibit designed for city-slickers, but this was actually quite cool. They had freshly hatched chicks and exhibits on cows, pigs, soy, corn and much more. They replaced the metal panels on a combine with clear glass in the corn exhibit so you could see how it worked inside, which was very cool as well.
The Chicago part of the train model, as seen from above
3) The Train Exhibit: The Museum of Science and Industry has the coolest model train set I have ever—and probably will ever—see. It shows the train trip from Seattle to Chicago and is larger than a commercial 727 jet plane—not joking. I know this because the model train set is underneath the plane exhibit. Each city has all of its proper skyscrapers and city highlights with farm towns between the two. Even cooler—every five minutes or so, the lights dim in the area and the little tiny street lights light up on the model as if it were night-time. So cool! I sat there like a kid for 30 minutes watching it and looking at all the amazing detail.
The Seattle part of the train model
4) The Coal Mine Exhibit: By the time I’d seen several exhibits at the museum, I was convinced that the museum went a mile underground. The U-Boat exhibit is at least 3, maybe 4 stories underground. The Coal Mine starts on the ground floor and then they take you into a fake mine-elevator and go underground even further into a fake coalmine. From there, you take a little train around to different “parts of the mine” to see various different methods of mining. I learned so much! For example, did you know that the most common method of mining requires a $16 million dollar machine that can only be used once? That’s a lot of money for a disposable item—but I’m sure they are making so much more off the coal that $16 million is a drop in the bucket.
5) The Christmas Tree Exhibit: This exhibit was only up for a day after I left, but if you go to Chicago at Christmas time, this is an excellent one. The main hall of the museum had about 50-100 Christmas Trees each decorated for a different country. So beautiful.
These were just a few of the exhibits that I enjoyed—they also have a real toy factor where kids can make their own toys, a 60-foot long model to scale of the White House, a plane exhibit, a chemistry exhibit, part of the BodyWorlds exhibit, an exhibit of cars from the Model T to present-day, models of all the major skyscrapers in the U.S.—made out of Legos, an Omnimax Theater (I saw the Human Body show—very cool except for the part where they popped a zit… in close up… on an Imax-sized screen. Terrifying. Absolutely Terrifying), a life-sized model of a street 100 years ago with stores that you can go into, and so much more. I was there all day, and yet I was only able to see a fraction of the museum!
Bottom Line: One of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to. Appropriate and fun for all ages and not just for science people! 5/5 stars.
MILLENNIUM PARK: Millennium Park was my last stop in Chicago and well worth the time. If you like public art, jelly beans or shiny things, this is the park for you! Millennium has a great collection of public works—the most famous of which is “Cloud Gate” – a giant shiny bean that offers a unique perspective of the city. Another plus—free ice skating!
Bottom Line: Fun, free and located conveniently downtown. Don’t miss it! 4/5 stars.
On the whole, I really enjoyed my trip to Chicago and hope to go there again soon. Next time, I’ll make a point of visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the John Hancock building, a Chicago Architectural Society tour and the Museum of Mexican Art. There is so much to do in Chicago and I just didn’t have enough time. Can’t wait!