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Hidden Gems of Museum Campus

September 24, 2019

It’s no secret that the South end of Grant park holds one of Chicago’s finest cultural treasures. Museum campus is 57 acres of pedestrian-friendly parkland with greenery, flowers, and plenty of walking and jogging paths, but the reason you’ll want to walk there is to see one of the fantastic museums. The Campus hosts the Adler Planetarium, the first of its kind in the US, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. There’s also Soldier Field nearby, where you can catch a Bears game, a big name band, or just take a tour of the great stadium.

Any day of the year you can guarantee that there will be an excellent exhibit, some fascinating fish, and a whole array of astronomy to occupy you, but we want to introduce you to the locals’ side of the Campus. As well as their regular and temporary exhibits, the museums on the Campus often hold fun events which tie an evening out into their core theme of education and cultural enrichment.

The Field museum hosts Fossils and Flicks which, as the name suggests, combines outdoor movies with a fun science spin. Each event combines a family movie with a short science film to give a new, and informed, perspective on everything from insects (A Bug’s Life) to intergalactic travel (Men in Black). There are activities for kids as well, like a hands-on Dino Dig and displays of specimens. There is also something for grown-ups, notably their custom brewed beer and handmade pizza. To top it all off, the event is free!

Adler Planetarium is the oldest planetarium in the USA, having first opened its doors to visitors and their eyes to the universe in May 1930. Every third Thursday, the Adler turns into an entertainment venue for the Adler After Dark events series. The $25 fee includes full museum access, live entertainment, special lectures, and the best view of the Chicago skyline in the whole city. Events are never the same twice, they range from Rocketoberfest, which combines beer, pretzels and literal rocket science to “A Night in the Afrofuture” which combined live performance, lectures, and screening to investigate the Chicago roots of Afrofuturism.

The Shedd Aquarium offers something to start your day, as well as a great way to spend your evening. Twice a month, before the aquarium opens its doors, it hosts an outdoor yoga class. After you finish with your downward dogs and sun salutations, you can enjoy a behind the scenes sneak peek at how the aquarium is run, or meet one of their animals! If that isn’t enough aquarium for you, you can return on Wednesday evening for live jazz performances at their “Jazzin at the Shed” series. If your music taste is more spinning than the saxophone, the Shedd also offers a variety of DJ’s and bands. The Shedd After Hours lineup varies from local DJ’s, 70’s nights, and house party beats, to short talks and animal encounters. Either way, you can enjoy a cocktail, a clownfish, and a concert all at the same time and, if you are a Chicago resident, there’s a reduced entry fee!

Of course, if you just want to visit the exhibits, many of the museums all offer free admission for Illinois residents on certain days . There are also free fireworks on Wednesday and Saturday all summer that you can enjoy from anywhere in the park, but the view from the Planetarium is unrivaled.

Wherever your visit to the campus takes you, be sure to check out the amazing architecture and landscaping. The campus itself is one of the city’s great treasures and it’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have this within walking distance.