We love Chicago not only for its deep-dish pizza, sports teams, charming neighborhoods and lake views but also for its world-class museums—namely, The Field Museum. Where else can your kids see gems and diamonds from around the world, human and animal mummies, animal dioramas, and SUE, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever discovered? As a treat, Field Museum is treating IL residents to free basic admission the entire month of February! Read on to hear about the exhibits you’ll see and programs that inspire curiosity about our world, past and present.
1. Fantastic Bug Encounters!
Don’t get too creeped out, but all around us, bugs 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. Fantastic Bug Encounters gives visitors a peek into this hidden world now through Apr. 19, 2020. Discover how bugs’ incredible adaptations are changing the world through interactives, larger-than-life models and a bug zoo where visitors will see (and even hold) live bugs from all over the planet. More details.
2. 3D Movies
The Museum offers three ticketed movies (for an extra fee): Waking the T.rex 3D: The Story of SUE; Egypt 3D: Secrets of the Mummies; and Titanosaur 3D: The Secrets of Máximo. Kids love these movies for the jump-out-of-your-seat visual effects and parents love them for the educational content (and the opportunity they provide to rest their legs). More details.
photo: Maximo via Maria Chambers
3. Oldies But Goodies: Sue and Máximo
SUE, the famous T-Rex that formerly could be seen in the Field Museum’s Stanley Field Hall, now resides in Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet in her own exclusive home. New updates to the 90-percent-complete dinosaur include knowing where Sue’s gastralia fit in, which resembles a second set of ribs which likely helped the T-Rex breathe. In SUE’s former place, stands Máximo, the museum’s newest tenant. Spanish for “maximum” or “most,” the name is a nod to the Titanosaur’s enormous size and Argentinian homeland. At 122 feet from head to tail, he’s longer than two accordion CTA buses end-to-end and his head peeks over the museum’s 2nd-floor balcony (perfect for Máximo selfies). More details on Sue and More details on Máximo.
photo: Underground Adventure
4. Underground Adventure
Kids travel underground and shrink to 1/100th of their size to get a bugs-eye view of the world below in this mind-boggling exhibit. This adventure teaches kids how important soil and its underground bugs are to creating a healthy environment. More details.
5. The Crown Family PlayLab
The Crown Family PlayLab was created with the knowledge that kids are natural scientists, always observing and testing the world around them. The PlayLab encourages kids to go wherever their innate curiosity takes them to discover the wonders of nature and learn about diverse cultures using creative play. They can dress up as an animal and star in their own nature play, explore a pueblo home to see how families lived in a different time and place, examine insects, play an African drum or dance to a Latin beat. The opportunities for self-expression are endless. More details.
The Field Museum offers an almost infinite amount of programs for educators, adults and families. Here are a few designed with little ones in mind.
photo: Dozin’ with the Dinos
6. Dozin’ with the Dinos
This is one of the best, well-thought-out museum programs because it allows for kids and caregivers to sleepover at the museum and experience exhibits as an insider. Imagine walking around in your pajamas and snapping photographs, with a background of dinosaurs, and then waking up before the museum opens to the public. This is an unforgettable experience for kids ages 6-12. More details.
7. Poetry Pop-Up
Most kids have never even seen a real typewriter, but poet-in-residence Eric Elshtain is about to change that. He’ll pick a different spot to set up shop with his desk and typewriter, inviting poets young and old to create alongside him. More details.
8. Sensory Saturdays
The Field Museum understands that some kiddos may have specific sensory processing needs in order to have a great museum experience. For that very reason, they open the doors to the Crown Family PlayLap one hour early, 9 a.m.-10 a.m. on certain Saturdays, so families can enjoy a crowd-free space. There are tactile opportunities and sensory tools to help ensure an enjoyable experience for all. More details.
9. Discovery Squad
Daily, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., kids can get a sneak peek of the museum’s vast collection that is not on display. They’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, hold objects (animal teeth, bird specimens, fossils and more) and get an inside look at what makes the museum so special. More details.
10. Public Tours
Now, this is a real treat — kids can view the exhibits with an in-the-know tour guide and ask questions about whatever pops in their heads. The schedule changes monthly, so refer to their online schedule or stop by the information desk on the Main Level for a full list of tours. More details.
photo: Meet a Scientist
11. Meet a Scientist
Another great free program, included with basic admission, is the Meet a Scientist opportunity on Fridays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Kids can hold and see real artifacts from the museum collection and learn from real scientists about their research. This is just another example of how great this museum is and how they stay true to their ethos of inspiring curiosity and learning. More details.
12. Dino Camp
Preschoolers (ages 3-4), with a caregiver, can experience two mornings this summer digging for dinosaur bones, playing educational games and completing art projects in the Crown Family PlayLab. The camp runs from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and basic admission to the museum is included for the rest of the day in the camp fee. This camp is a wonderful opportunity for preschoolers to learn and become engaged in natural sciences and history. More details.
13. Birthday Parties
Does your kid’s curiosity sometimes surprise even you? Is he more interested in exoskeletons than X-box? If you’re searching for the perfect venue to celebrate your little explorer’s birthday where she can step into a bug’s shoes, party with dinosaurs and have a science-themed scavenger hunt, look no further. More details.
14. Free Admission Days
The Field Museum makes a visit possible for every family through Free Admission Days and Museums for All programming, which makes general admission free or discounted for Illinois residents. As part of the Museums for All initiative, they also offer $3/person admission every day for up to six people to all families who qualify for state food assistance. More details.
The Field Museum
1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Museum Campus
— Wendy Altschuler