The new year is in full swing, and boy is it off to a good start! From a new bluesy museum to temporary intrigues just passing through and a record-breaking coaster waiting for your screams of terrified delight, we’ll keep you looped in on all the must-knows in Chicago for 2019. Read on for our favorite exhibits, installations, activities and more to hit the scene this year.

photo: Nature Cat

NEW EXHIBITS AND MUSEUMS

Nature Cat
Kohl Children’s Museum’s newest exhibit, Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond features 4 distinct interactive learning areas modeled after episodes that encourage kids to learn about their natural environment and incorporate each TV character. Nature Cat is one of the most popular children’s shows, reaching over 10 million households each month, voiced by several SNL cast members. 

Jul. 30, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020
Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview
Online: kohlchildrensmuseum.org

photo: Bixbee Imagination Station

Bixbee Imagination Station
The Bixbee Imagination Station is an experiential popup and retail shop featuring an immersive, interactive experience for kids and the kid in you. It delights with several rooms inspired by Bixbee product design themes, each providing Instagrammable backdrops with engaging activities that boost creativity while providing moments of awareness and self-expression.

Jun. 15-Sept. 22
North Avenue Collection, 915 W. North Ave., Lincoln Park
Online: bixbeeimaginationstation.com

Imagine the Moon at Adler Planetarium
Alder Planetarium kicked off the new year with a brand new sky show, Imagine the Moon, which takes a closer look at humanity’s relationship with Earth’s nearest neighbor.

Showing now
Adler Planetarium,
Online: adlerplanetarium.org

Chicago Merchandise Martphoto: Art on theMart

Art on theMart
Merchandise Mart’s Art on theMart is the world’s largest digital art projection, appearing on the Mart’s nearly three-acre exterior facade.

Running March-December
Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, River North
Online: artonthemart.com

Wired to Wear at Museum of Science and Industry
Wired to Wear showcases how technology is transforming clothes to enhance our lives. From making us healthier, stronger and safer to helping us see in the dark, express emotions or even soar through the air, you’ll see the merging of technology and the human body on display.

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Now open through May 2020
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park
Online: msichicago.org

New Home for SUE at The Field Museum
SUE, the world’s biggest, best-preserved, and most complete T. rex, is back on display and better than ever. The world’s most famous dino is also now up to date with the latest scientific research and is in a new interactive, 5,100-square-foot private suite that shows what SUE’s world was like. A narrated light show highlights specific bones on SUE’s skeleton, revealing everything from healed broken ribs to a jaw infection that might have ultimately killed the dinosaur.

Now on display
The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: fieldmuseum.org

photo: Chicago Children’s Museum’s Sound Playground

Sound Playground at Chicago Children’s Museum
Chicago Children’s Museum’s newest exhibit, Sound Playground, invites visitors to experience and experiment with the physical and imaginary auditory world. Open as of May 4, kids and their favorite adults can explore the interactive nature of sound, and all the surprising ways it can be created.

Museum-goers can play with musical sound makers and one-of-a-kind interactive sonic sculptures including the String Thing, Airophone and Merry Marimba. The experience will also include a Foley installation, the art of surprising sound makers that help communicate the connection between storytelling and sound effects, resulting in endless play possibilities and narrative building.

Open as of May 4
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier
Online: chicagochildrensmuseum.org

Chicago Blues Museum
As the proud birthplace of the modern blues, Chicago opened the city’s new Chicago Blues Museum that celebrates pioneering artists and generations of musicians that influenced the blues scene and continue to carry on its traditions. Located near Millennium Park, the new museum contains numerous interactive displays, tributes to local legends and Chicago blues memorabilia, as well as a performance lounge and restaurant.

Open as of Apr. 8
Millennium Park, Grant Park
Online: chicagobluesexperience.com

photo: The Field Museum via Mike O’Neill © Te Papa 2016

Fantastic Bug Encounters at The Field Museum
Don’t get too creeped out, but all around us, bugs, such as insects and spiders have built an amazing world that we rarely notice. They can camouflage themselves as flowers, communicate with flashing lights, and even perform “brain surgery” to turn their prey into zombies. This summer, the Field Museum is giving visitors a peek into this hidden world with the new exhibition Fantastic Bug Encounters!, opening June 28. In this hands-on experience, visitors will discover how bugs’ incredible adaptations are changing the world through interactives, larger-than-life models and a bug zoo where visitors will be able to see (and even hold) live bugs from all over the planet.

Open as of Jun. 28, closes Apr. 19, 2020
The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
Online: fieldmuseum.org

Hamilton: The Exhibition
Thanks to the success of the wildly popular musical Hamilton, Chicago has a new attraction. Northerly Island welcomed Hamilton: The Exhibition, an interactive, one-of-a-kind exhibition that provides a historical journey into the creation of our country through the lens of one of the Founding Fathers of our country.

Open as of Apr. 6
Northerly Island, Near Southside
Online: hamiltonexhibition.com

photo: Morton Arboretum’s Trolls

Trolls at Morton Arboretum
Something special has emerged from the woods, meadows and vast open spaces at The Morton Arboretum’s grounds. . . unusual creatures, each made of reclaimed wood and measuring 15- to 20-feet-tall. Danish artist Thomas Dambo and crews of woodworkers and volunteers constructed the mammoth mythical creatures of Troll Hunt, which are trying to make sense of the human world and make us think about our impacts on the planet

Open through 2019
Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Rte. 53, Lisle
Online: mortonarb.org

Frida Kahlo Exhibit
The Cleve Carney Art Gallery has announced an exhibition in the works centered on Frida Kahlo, who is considered one of the greatest artists of her time. The 26-piece collection will feature work spanning Kahlo’s career with a series of photographs detailing the artist’s life and interactive video presentations. Leading up to the exhibition, the gallery will host a series of Frida-inspired events that are family friendly—so be on the lookout for those announcements.

Running Jun. 2020-Aug. 2020
Cleve Carney Art Gallery at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn
Online: clevecarneygallery.org

photo: Altitude Trampoline Park

PLAYSPACES AND KID-LOVED ACTIVITIES

Altitude Trampoline Park
Altitude Trampoline Park, a cutting-edge trampoline playspace and activity center has moved into West Fulton Market, making it Chicago’s first-and-only trampoline park. Altitude Chicago will feature state-of-the-art trampoline entertainment as well as a variety of activities such as Wipe-Out, Basketball, Dodgeball, Rock Wall, Foam Pit, Trapeze, Kids Court for toddlers and a parent lounge for adults. Keep them top-of-mind for birthday parties, corporate team outings, school events, social groups, sports teams or just plain jumping around!

Open now
Altitude Chicago, 404 N. Armour St., West Fulton Market
Online: altitudechicago.com

Lucky Strike Social
Lucky Strike Entertainment debuted its latest creation, Lucky Strike Social at Wrigleyville, with sweet views of Wrigley Field. This 30,000-square-foot social space brings together chef-driven food and craft beverages with eight Lucky Strike Lanes, over 100 electronic gaming systems including the exclusive Daytona Championship USA Motion SDLX, a first in the world of its kind, ping pong and pool tables, air hockey, board games, a very addictive basketball Connect Four and more. Tip: If you have a chance to visit during the day when school is in session, you have very little competition to play the games.

Open now
1027 W. Addison St., Lakeview
Online: luckystrikesocial.com

Maxx Force Roller Coaster at Six Flags
Oh boy! Six Flags just got a whole lot more exciting with the unveiling of the fastest launch roller coaster in North America, reaching speeds of 78 miles per hour in under two seconds. This incredible record-breaker features the fastest inversion and tallest double inversion of any other coaster in the world.

Open now
Six Flags Great America, 1 Great America Pkwy, Gurnee
Online: sixflags.com/greatamerica

photo: Jon L. via YELP

HOTELS

The Hoxton Hotel
Located in the booming Fulton Market District, the branch of London-based Hoxton hotels will open its doors under developer Shapack Partners. The new hotel designed to echo the building’s industrial past will stand 11 stories tall with 182 rooms, two levels of office space, ground-floor retail and a luxurious rooftop terrace. In addition, Boka Restaurant Group will open both a restaurant and bar in the hotel.

Opening Spring 2019
200 N. Green St., West Loop
Online: thehoxton.com

Hyatt House Hotel/Hyatt Place
The old Cook County Hospital is undergoing a transformation into a dual branded Hyatt Hotel that will operate as the first hotel in Fulton Market district to cater to extended-stay corporate travelers. The 14-story, 167,000-square foot, 200-room development will include an indoor pool, fitness center, bar/lounge and a green roof.

Opening Summer 2019
105 N. May St., West Loop
Online: skender.com

photo: JoJo’s Milk Bar

RESTAURANTS

Offshore
The nation’s largest rooftop, Offshore has opened at Chicago’s Navy Pier. This stunning, chic 36,000-square-foot, all-seasons and all-weather venue offers Chicagoans a full-service luminous bar and world-class kitchen, terraces, seven cozy fire pits, an entertainment and gaming area, and multiple large social gathering spaces. Now through Labor Day, guest can experience Navy Pier’s fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday evenings with Offshore’s unobstructed and unparalleled views.

Open now
1000 E. Grand Ave., Streeterville
Online: drinkoffshore.com

JoJo’s Milk Bar
Open as of February 28 in River North, JoJo’s Milk Bar brings Chicago a nostalgic take on creative desserts and a reimagined and elevated take on classic diner fare. Along with deliciously whimsical desserts, you’ll find tongue-and-cheek decor including a lifesize Lite Brite wall, Got Milk mural and more.

Open now
23 W. Hubbard, River North
Online: jojosmilkbar.com

Time Out Market Chicago
Fulton Market District has quickly become a go-to foodie destination and now they’re about to welcome their first food hall. The three-story structure will include 16 food counters, three bars, a demo kitchen, event and retail space and a rooftop deck.

Opening in 2019
916 W. Fulton Market, West Loop
Online: timeoutmarket.com/chicago

photo: SX Sky Bar

SX Sky Bar
SX Sky Bar, the new bi-level restaurant, lounge and nightclub, is now open in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. Operated by the adjacent, newly reimagined Hotel Essex, SX Sky Bar provides a fresh destination for dining, imbibing and dancing. The culinary program at is led by Chef de Cuisine Christopher Suzuki, who brings Californian and Asians flavors to a curated menu of sushi and shareable plates—which pair with a thoughtful selection of seasonal craft cocktails.

Open now
808 N. Michigan Ave., South Loop
Online: sxskybar.com

City Hall
This lively, come-as-you-are gathering spot pays homage to the Windy City with delicious, approachable drinks and tasty, elevated bar food from lauded chef Michael Taus. The venue is comprised of three distinct spaces—bar and restaurant, enclosed patio and event space—within a freestanding, beautifully renovated brick and timber building with soaring, 40-foot-high ceilings, designed to celebrate the architectural ethos of the vibrant neighborhood.

Open now
838 W. Kinzie St., West Loop
Online: thecityhall.com

Roebuck Pizza
From the masterminds behind DryHop Brewers and Corridor Brewery & Provisions, Roebuck Pizza will serve wild-fermented pizzas made in a wood-burning oven. The drink program will specialize in light and bright pizza-pairing cocktails and house-brewed lagers.

Opening in September
3159 N. Broadway, Lakeview

—Maria Chambers