We’re not going to do it. We’re not going to talk about the cold weather. It’s January. It’s Chicago. We all know it’s cold. We do know this is right about the time cabin fever starts to take hold, so how about checking out a few of those museums on your parenting bucket list. From butterflies and bugs to LEGOs and gnomes, we’re letting you in on some of our favorite museum exhibits and experiences.

photo: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

Butterfly Haven
Who doesn’t love butterflies? Experience 40 species of exotic high-flying butterflies and several bird species from the southern hemisphere floating amongst pools of water, flowers and tropical trees in a 2,700 square-foot greenhouse. Take in their beauty as new butterflies are released daily at 2 p.m.

Hours: Ongoing; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $9/adults; $6/ages 3-12; free for ages 2 & under
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park
Online: naturemuseum.org

Birds of Paradise
Journey to the exotic world of New Guinea with Birds of Paradise: Amazing Avian Evolution, a temporary exhibition featuring the extravagant plumage, crazy courtship dances and bizarre behaviors of extraordinary birds.

Hours: Thru Jun. 17; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $9/adults; $6/ages 3-12; free for ages 2 & under
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Dr., Lincoln Park
Online: naturemuseum.org

photo: Build It! at Kohl Children’s Museum

Build It!
Pretend your a giant kids for a day and play in a larger than life collection of building blocks that encourages children to explore their creativity while learning about architecture, science and storytelling. Once inside, you’ll find various stations that introduce activities and challenges that prompt visitors to engineer their own adventures and solutions.

Hours: Thru Mar. 4; Mon., 9:30 a.m.-noon; Tues.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission; $12/person, free for infants 12 months & under
Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview

Race: Are We So Different
Race is the first national exhibition to dive into the concept of race from the biological, cultural and historical points of view and offers an unprecedented look at race and racism in the U.S. It points out the obvious . . that people are different . . . and these differences have been a source of community, strength and personal identity, as well as a basis for discrimination and oppression at times driven by misinformation and fear. While some of this exhibition is difficult for young children because it requires the ability to read, there are opportunities within to start a family dialogue and to learn more about our nation’s history side-by-side with your child.

Hours: Thru Jun. 15; Mon., 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tues., 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sun., noon-5 p.m.
Cost: $16/adults, free for ages 12 & under; $2 discount for Chicago residents
Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park
Online: chicagohistory.org

Morton Arboretum Gnomephoto: Gnome hunting at Morton Arboretum

Gnome Hunting
Gnomes are invading Morton Arboretum for a game of hide-and-seek in the Children’s Garden. Can you find them all? You have all winter to give it a go!

Hours: Daily thru Mar. 31, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Hunt is free with general admission; $14/adults, $9/ages 2-17 (discounts available on Wednesdays)
Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte. 53, Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

photo: Shedd Aquarium

Behind the Scenes Tour
Take a peek at Shedd from the perspective of their animal care staff during a 50-minute guided behind-the-scenes tour. Participants will see how preventive care and innovative water-quality practices keep the animals healthy, go behind the galleries to view the aquarium from a new angle, see where nutritious meals are prepared for over 32,000 animals and witness the Aquarium at work.

Hours: Daily; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Cost: $55.95/ages 12 & older, $46.95/ages 10-11, $20/members; includes tour, express entry and admission to all exhibits and a ticket to the next available aquatic presentation
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: sheddaquarium.org

photo: Washed Ashore at Shedd Aquarium

Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea
A 500-lb sea lion pup, a 13-foot eel and a 150 lb. Sea Jelly. See those and more in Shedd’s special exhibition featuring larger-than-life sculptures of aquatic animals, created entirely from plastic beach trash. The exhibit was created to illustrate how plastic pollution has become one of the gravest threats to both ocean and freshwater animals and help the public become a part of the solution.

Hours: Thru Sept.; Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Included in general admission; $39.95/adults; $29.95/ages 3-11
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: sheddaquarium.org

Michael’s Museum
Indulge your inner child by taking a peak at this permanent exhibit that fosters the art of collecting and features nearly 100 collections of tiny objects, including miniatures, trinkets, artifacts and curiosities. It’ll engage your kid’s cognitive, physical, linguistic and social and emotional development as they utilize magnifiers to gain new perspective, sort, organize, ask questions and share stories of their very own.

Hours: Ongoing; Mon.-Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $14.95/person
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Online: chicagochildrensmuseum.org

photo: Brick by Brick at MSI

Brick by Brick
MSI’s temporary exhibit, Brick by Brick, is a must a visit if you have LEGO-lovers in your family. The exhibit features a collection of more than a dozen incredible LEGO-built structures, all constructed by LEGO Certified Professional and Chicago native, Adam Reed Tucker, including a 60-foot-long Golden Gate Bridge; the Hoover Dam, made with 42,000 bricks; and a 12-foot-tall Burj Khalifa.

Hours: Thru Apr. 1; 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Not included in general admission; general admission plus one experience, $30/adults; $20/ages 3-11; discounts available online
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park
Online: msichicago.org

photo: Underground Adventures at The Field Museum

Underground Adventures
When you’re paying a visit to everyone’s favorite T.Rex, Sue, be sure to pop into the Underground Adventure where you’ll get a bug’s-eye view of the world. You’ll magically shrink to 1/100th of your actual size, smaller than a penny, to explore an immersive environment of worm tunnels and soil chambers. Kids will learn that soil is home to an incredible diversity of living things and that not a single plant or animal could survive without it.

Hours: Daily; 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Not included in general admission, covered in Discovery Pass; $32/adults; $23/ages 3-11
Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: fieldmuseum.org

photo: Heart & Seoul: Growing Up Korean

Heart & Seoul: Growing Up in Korea
Take a trip to Korea, but leave the passport at home with this new temporary exhibit that brings modern-day South Korea to Chicago. Designed with input from five real-life South Korean kids, visitors can explore Korean food in the restaurant, perform with K-Pop stars in the music studio, explore an ancient martial art in the Taekwondo Studio, see what school and home life are like for their Korean peers and celebrate universal themes like diversity, tradition, and the global community.

Hours: Thru May 6; Mon.-Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.;Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $14.95/person; free for children under 1
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Online: chicagochildrensmuseum.org

Trains at Morton Arboretum
Marvel at a world of tiny enchantment and watch on as an intricate mini model railroad winds through a magnificent scenery. This two-level interactive display of tree collections from around the world is specially designed for the kiddos because it’s meant to be viewed from just two feet off the ground.


Hours: Daily thru Feb. 19; Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Free with general admission; $14/adults, $9/ages 2-17
Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Route 53, Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

Before you head out on your museum adventure, be sure to check out our list of free and discounted museum days.

What’s your favorite Chicago museum exhibit? We’d love to hear in the Comments below!

— Maria Chambers