A Little Time and a Keyboard: Our Day at the Museum of Science and Industry {Chicago}

Our Day at the Museum of Science and Industry {Chicago}

Monday, August 11, 2014

**Disclosure: I won our tickets through a contest. No compensation was received. All opinions are 100% my own.

We had been holding some tickets that I won for the Museum of Science and Industry for quite some time. The plan was to use them over the summer.However, the days just flew by. So, about mid-July, we panicked and realized we had to use our tickets. Can't pass up this treasure! We finally were able to go last weekend and it turned out to be the perfect weekend. We went on a Sunday thinking we would be fighting the crowds. We were wrong--most of the time we were at the museum it seemed to be relatively empty. Cool! No problem seeing the exhibits!

The Museum of Science and Industry has several ticket options. A general admission ticket allows you to see a lot. However, there are additional exhibits that you can add on to your ticket. Price will depend on the number of additional exhibits you would like to see. The museum is also part of the Chicago City Pass--which is a good value for those visiting multiple attractions in the city. We ended up selecting three additional exhibits {the National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers exhibit, the Ominax Flight of the Butterflies and the Coal Mine}.

The first exhibit we explored was the Science of Storms. The different stations throughout the exhibit were highly interactive which gives visitors plenty of hands-on experiences. My daughter was thrilled to walk through the vortex. I have to say that my favorite part was probably the avalanche--I really love how they displayed one! Of course, a trip to the wind tunnel was a must!

Another highlight for us was the visiting National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers exhibit. Throughout the exhibit, "explorers" are introduced to various habitats and methods scientists use to capture data, study climate, organisms, etc. and examples of how scientists live and survive in certain regions. I have a background in Environmental Science-Geology, so it was pretty neat to go through this exhibit with my daughter. However, you really did not need a scientific background to enjoy it. We completed a scavenger hunt during our time walking through the exhibit. My daughter loves scavenger hunts, so she was on cloud nine!

The Coal Mine was one of our favorite exhibits. During your visit, you actually descend down into the coal mine, ride a work train, learn about mining safety and witness real equipment in action. I was pretty impressed by how much our guide knew about mining. I learned a lot during this experience.

The best picture of the U-boat I could get--it was huge!
After the coal mine, we visited the U-boat exhibit and watched the Flight of the butterflies. You can add on a tour inside the U-boat. We did not add on the tour but found it impressive to see the submarine on display inside of the museum. The Flight of the Butterflies was shown in the Omnimax theater which is essentially a dome theater. Besides the movie, you also learn a bit about how the Omnimax works. The Flight of the Butterflies tells the story of the monarch migration. While a bit drawn out, the story of how their migration path was discovered was interesting.

Other highlights included the chick hatchery where you can see baby chicks hatch, the whispering gallery where may daughter and husband where able to tell "secrets" and the Henry Crown Space Center with the Apollo 8 Spacecraft. So much to see!

The museum also has an old time Chicago street scene where you can peek into 1910 Chicago businesses from back in the day. If you are looking to trim an exhibit, I would consider trimming this one because I have seen the concept executed better at other institutions.

To me, some of the exhibits seemed too compact--especially the Transportation Gallery. Don't get me wrong--seeing all of the planes, the train engine and more were pretty cool! Walking onto a 727 hanging in the gallery was neat. However, I would have liked the exhibit to be a bit more spaced out to take a better look at the planes. I found them a little too layered.

A few helpful hints:
  • Be prepared to walk, so wear appropriate shoes (yes, we saw quite a few people in shoes they barely could walk in.)
  • The Coal Mine does get pretty loud and some of the younger children on our tour had a difficult time with it. It also in not accessible with strollers or wheelchairs.
  • There are demonstrations throughout various galleries. Be sure to check out schedules before exploring so that you don't miss ones that really tickle your fancy.
  • You will be assigned times for the special exhibits so plan accordingly.
  • Be prepared to be hands-on! The best way to enjoy the museum and learn from the museum is to interact!
  • There are several souvenir shops throughout the museum as well as several spots where staff will take photos for you. These photos are available for purchase.
  • Be prepared to spend most of the day at the museum.
  • Don't forget to check around the corner or even in the stairwells for exhibits. We found a pretty cool early machine exhibit in one stairwell.
  • There is a cafeteria in the basement of the museum as well as an ice cream shop. The food is a bit pricey, so I recommend taking in all of your options before making your selections.
Overall reflections:

We easily spent an entire day at the Museum of Science and Industry. We found making a brief plan of attack by looking at the map made it easier to hit the exhibits that tickled our fancy. The exhibits were truly engaging and there was something of interest to everyone. The Coal Mine was our collective favorite exhibit so I am sure that we will not soon forget our days riding the work train to mine coal! We all took a few nuggets of knowledge from this fun experience--an all around great day!

The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 South Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago.

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