Best museums in Chicago that are worth your time

Chicago offers many museums to explore. Many famous museums in Chicago are located along Michigan Avenue, including the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

The city of Chicago is a cultural hub, so it’s no surprise it has a huge variet of museums. Among them is the Field Museum, which is considered one of the best museums in Chicago for artifacts. Writers can also visit the American Writers Museum to see how the craft has helped shape the nation.

You’ll also find establishments that tell the history of African Americans, as well as Native Americans — and, even better, many of the city’s best institutions are free.Discover Chcagio’s best museums and the city’s rich culture with the guide below.

Best history museums in Chicago

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1. Take a 2-hour guided tour at the Field Museum of Natural History

The Field Museum offers over 30 million specimens, so it's advisable to take a guided tour. The exhibits include a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton and artifacts from Egypt.

Best time to visit:

Sunday afternoons can get busy, so weekday visits are recommended.

Address and opening hours:

V98M+G6 Chicago, Illinois, USA. Open Monday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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2. Explore the evolution of the skyscraper in Chicago

Chicago is home to some of the world's earliest skyscrapers, and the designs have changed significantly over the years. This tour takes 90 minutes and starts with the growth of the Chicago River.

Best time to visit:

A dry day is best for this tour.

Address and opening hours:

111 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, USA. Open Monday-Sunday from 3:00 PM.

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3. See how writing shaped American culture in the American Writers Museum

Writing is integral to American culture. This ticket allows you to explore a range of writers, including Dr. Seuss, Poe, and Prince. The museum also has interactive timelines, videos, and a word waterfall to keep your brain engaged. You'll also get a chance to write your own story on a vintage typewriter.

Best time to visit:

It is best to plan your trip on a weekday. The museum closes at 3:00 PM on Sundays.

Address and opening hours:

V9PG+62 Chicago, Illinois, USA. Open Thursday-Monday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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4. Take the Art Deco skyscrapers walking tour

The Roaring '20s were a time of economic prosperity all across the USA. The decade also saw the increased popularity of the Art Deco style. This walking tour covers the origin of this style of architecture, and its popular motifs.

Best time to go:

Sunday walks can be great as you will have the most flexibility.

Address and opening hours:

30 North LaSalle, 30 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60602, USA. Check availability to see starting times.

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5. Explore the dark history of Chicago's ghosts and gangsters

With the help of a historian, you can learn about the dark history of Chicago's Loop. The tour covers the empire of Al Capone and other notable gangsters in the city. As part of the visit, you will see the Congress Hotel and other gangster hangouts.

Best time to go:

Most people like to take this tour in the afternoon.

Address and opening hours:

71 E Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, USA. Check availability to see starting times.

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6. Travel back in time at the Medieval Torture Museum

 If you're feeling brave, you should book tickets to this museum. This is the first exclusive medieval torture museum in North America, and it features more than 100 unique torture implements and devices. For an extra thrill, you can join the Ghost Hunting Experience.

Best time to go:

As one of the most famous museums in Chicago, it easily gets crowded on weekends. Going on a weekday is recommended.

Address and opening hours:

177 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601, United States. Open Monday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-9:00 PM.

7. Learn about African American history at DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center

This is listed as one of the most famous museums in Chicago and the entire North American region. It is the oldest independent African American museum. In the museum, you will learn about the history and culture of Americans of African descent. Exhibits, children's events, and concerts are some of the programs you can expect to find in the museum.

Best time to go:

You can visit the museum for free on Wednesdays.

Address and opening hours:

740 E 56th Pl, Chicago, IL 60637, United States. Open Wednesday-Sunday, 11:00 AM-4:00 PM.

Best art museums in Chicago

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8. Experience 5000 years of art collections at the Art Institute of Chicago

If historical masterpieces fascinate you, you should join this expedited entry tour. The Art Institute of Chicago houses art collections that span hundreds of years. These pieces are obtained from all parts of the world, including Egypt, Europe, and the USA.

Best time to go:

The Art Institute of Chicago is closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day. Since this is a skip-the-line ticket, you don't need to worry about crowds.

Address and opening hours:

111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603, USA. Open Thursday-Monday from 2:00 PM.

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9. See amazing street art in the Guided Street Art Tour

Chicago artists are famous for graffiti and other forms of street art. In this tour, you will learn about the living canvas decorating different Chicago neighborhoods. The guide will also talk about the artists.

Best time to go:

It is advisable to book the tour when the weather is dry.

Address and opening hours:

1649 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA. Check availability for starting times.

10. Explore Native American cultures at the National Museum of Mexican Art

The National Museum of Mexican Art is among the best museums in Chicago. It covers Native American cultures and features recreations of pieces that were left behind by indigenous tribes in present-day Mexico.

Best time to go:

Check schedules of exhibitions and activities to determine the best time to visit.

Address and opening hours:

1852 W 19th St, Chicago, IL 60608, United States. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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11. Check the art marketplace at the Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is a landmark building that houses rotating art exhibits in galleries. These pieces are available in a wide range of art forms, including photographs, videos, and sculptures. In the cultural center, there is a free-to-explore marketplace known as Buddy.

Best time to go:

The cultural center is closed on most holidays, including Christmas and New Year's Day. Consider visiting in the winter as it will be easier to move around the museum.

Address and opening hours:

78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602, United States. Open daily from 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

12. Expand your knowledge of art at the Smart Museum of Art

This museum supports academic and artistic study. Many people visit the place to get inspiration for new ideas and conversations. The best part about this museum is that it is free and open to all.

Best time to go:

The best time to visit the museum is in the early morning.

Address and opening hours:

5550 S Greenwood Ave, Chicago, IL 60637, United States. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

Alternative museums in Chicago

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13. Discover architectural landmarks in the Golden Age walking tour

The Golden Age walking tour will expose you to the architectural landmarks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The tour covers Michigan Avenue and State Street. You will learn about the city's museums, skyscrapers, and concert halls.

Best time to go:

This tour involves a lot of walking, so you may want to buy tickets for a cool day.

Address and opening hours:

111 E Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601, USA. Check availability to see starting times.

14. Follow the evolution of photography at the Museum of Contemporary Photography

This is one of the famous museums in Chicago. It was founded in 1976 and is a great resource for people who want to learn about the history of photography. The museum has established itself as a place where artists come to test out new ideas.

Best time to go:

January and February are the best months to go to the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Address and opening hours

600 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60605, United States. Open Monday-Sunday from 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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15. Connect to the universe at the Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium, one of the best museums in Chicago, has been running since 1930. It is a great place to immerse yourself in astronomy and astrophysics. The Adler Planetarium is especially good to visit if you have kids. It can ignite an interest in astronomy and could inspire them to pursue careers in this sector. The museum hosts sky shows and digital series.

Best time to go:

To reserve the best sky shows, you should book a weekday ticket and arrive when they open at 9 AM.

Address and opening hours

1300 S DuSable Lk Shr Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, United States. Open Wednesday-Monday from 9:00 AM-4:00 PM.

FAQs

What are the must-visit museums in Chicago?

Some of the best museums in Chicago are the Field Museum, American Writers Museum, and Medieval Torture Museum.

Are there any free museums in Chicago?

Yes, some free Chicago museums are the National Museum of Mexican Art, the National Veterans Art Museum, the Chicago Cultural Center, and the Smart Museum of Art.

Are there any museums in Chicago that are suitable for children and families?

Yes, there are many museums that suit families and kids. One of these is the Adler Planetarium, a museum that is dedicated to astronomy.

For which museums in Chicago are guided tours recommended?

If you are planning to visit the Field Museum, you should consider booking a guided tour.

Are there any museum passes or discount cards available for visiting multiple museums in Chicago?

Yes, you can get discounts when you purchase Field Museum tickets.