Summer is in full swing, and boy is it a good one! We do know this is right about the time summer boredom 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 trolls, 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

Closing Soon! Race: Are We So Different
This one closes soon, but it’s so good, we wanted to give it one more mention. 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 Jul. 15; Mon., 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Tues., 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat., 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sun., noon-4 p.m.
Cost: $19/adults, free for ages 18 & under if IL residents, free for ages 12 & under if non-Illinois residents; $2 discount for Chicago residents
Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., Lincoln Park

photo: Troll Takeover via Maria Chambers

Troll Takeover at Morton Arboretum
Something special is emerging 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. These guardians of the forest are trying to make sense of the human world and make us think about our impacts on the planet.

Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission; $15/adults, $10/ages 2-17 (discounts on Wednesdays)
The Morton Arboretum, 4100 IL Route 53, Lisle

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: Fri.-Sun; 11 a.m., 1 p.m. & 3 p.m.
Cost: $55.95/ages 12 & older, $46.95/ages 7-11, $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

Model Railroad Garden
Experience the delightful sights and sounds of miniature trains traversing high and low tunnels, across bridges and around buildings at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Model Railroad Garden. The exhibit features 18 garden-scale trains on 1,600 feet of track with vignettes of tiny people and animals that give it a storybook feel.

Hours: Thru Oct. 21; Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: $8/adults; $6/ages 3-12; free for ages 2 & under
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe

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.; Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Cost: Included in general admission; $39.95/adults; $29.95/ages 3-11; 50% discount for Chicago residents
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus

Animal Secrets at Kohl Children’s Museum
Where does a chipmunk sleep? What does an eagle feed its young? How do mother bats find their babies in a cave? In Animal Secrets, families will learn the answers to these questions and more as they explore the hidden habitat and secret lives of forest animals. Children will discover nature from an animal’s point of view in naturalistic environments, including a stream, woodland, meadow and cave.

Hours: Thru Aug. 26
Cost: $12; free for infants 12 months & under
Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview

photo: The Science Behind Pixar via Michael Malyszko

The Science Behind Pixar
We all have a favorite Pixar movie. Whether it be Toy Story, Inside Out or A Bug’s Life, Museum of Science and Industry is giving you a unique look at the Pixar process of creating these instantly classic films. The Science Behind Pixar is an interactive exhibition showcasing the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts used by the artists and computer scientists who help imbed these beloved characters into our hearts. During your visit, you’ll visit eight sections, each focusing on a different step of filmmaking: Modeling, Rigging, Surfaces, Sets and Cameras, Animation, Simulation, Lighting, and Rendering.

Hours: Thru Jan. 6, 2019; Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Cost: Museum entry plus $14/adults, $11/kids
Museum Science + Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., Hyde Park

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; free for 12 mos. & under
Chicago Children’s Museum, 700 E. Grand Ave., Navy Pier

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

Butterflies and Blooms
Fill your summer days with butterflies and blooms at Chicago Botanic Garden’s temporary exhibit where visitors can immerse themselves in a habitat filled with hundreds of winged beauties and pretty petals. You’ll find species native to South America, Asia, North America and Africa, as well as those native to Illinois.


Hours: Thru. Sept. 3; Daily 9 a.m.5 p.m.
Cost: $8/adults; $6/ages 3-12; free for ages 2 & under
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe

Before you head out on your museum adventure, be sure to check out our list of free and discounted museum days and Bank of American customers receive free admission to select museums the first weekend of the month in 2018.

— Maria Chambers

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