Let’s Go: Visit the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago

To say that my family likes museums is an understatement. From the IMA to the Eiteljorg to the Children’s Museum, we have been regular visitors to Indy’s numerous cultural hotspots since our boys were in diapers.

So when the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago reached out to Indy’s Child to cover their massive museum, I called dibs.

And when I say this museum is massive, I do mean massive. With over 400,000 square feet of exhibit space, MSI is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. When it first opened its doors in 1933, MSI was the first interactive museum in North America. Eighty-three years and 180 million visitors later, it is home to a mind-boggling number of hands-on exhibits that bring science to life for children and adults of all ages.


With a museum of this size, it is essential to go in with a game plan. A great place to start is the Plan Your Visit section of MSI’s website. There you can select the day you plan to visit, the number of hours you will have, the ages of your children and the subject areas that interest you. The site will then connect you with the exhibits that are best suited to your family and will help you determine which ticket package makes the most sense for your family.

With the help of our 11 and 14-year-olds, we mapped out our visit. We had 6 hours to spend at the museum, and a LOT that we wanted to see. We came, we saw, we conquered…and we came away with this list of 5 “must sees” for all ages:

U-505 Submarine

Do. Not. Miss. This. After all, it is your one and only chance to see a German submarine (yes, an actual submarine) in the United States. In this dramatic exhibit, you will learn about U-boat technology, find out what life was like on a sub, and uncover the dramatic story of U-505’s capture by a U.S. Navy Task Group during World War II. The history is impressive, but the site of the submarine (measuring the length of a city block and weighing three times more than the Statue of Liberty) will take your breath away.

U505 Submarine @ The Museum of Science+Industry Chicago
U505 Submarine @ The Museum of Science+Industry Chicago

Kids of all ages will love the interactive exhibits surrounding the submarine where they can take a peek into a periscope, test out typical sub sleeping quarters and attempt to steer their own submarine to safety.

U-505 is included with general admission. An additional timed-ticket is required to tour the interior of the submarine.

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Brick by Brick

Museum1 Science Industry Chicago _ Indy's Child

This temporary exhibit features some of the world’s greatest wonders –from the Pyramids to the St. Louis Arch to the Golden Gate Bridge – re-imagined entirely out of LEGO bricks. LEGO® Certified Professional and Chicago native Adam Reed Tucker is the mastermind behind these impressive creations. There’s no glue, no support rods – just LEGO bricks (and a whole lot of patience, we are guessing).

Kids and adults have plenty of opportunities to get in on the building fun. Take part in the 15-minute design challenge, attempt to assemble a block structure that can withstand a simulated earthquake (much harder than it sounds), race a LEGO car of your own design, and see your LEGO creations come to life on a giant TV monitor as you build.

An additional timed-ticket is required for this exhibit, on display through February.

Museum1 Science Industry Chicago _ Indy's ChildScience Storms
Get up close and personal with Mother Nature in Science Storms, a 2-story interactive exhibit that explores seven natural phenomena: lightning, fire, tornados, avalanches, tsunamis, sunlight and atoms in motion. We ended up spending the most time exploring this exhibit. In the end, we couldn’t agree which was cooler: controlling a 40-foot tornado or anxiously awaiting the indoor lightning strike. We definitely walked away with a greater respect for the natural forces that surround us. Science Storms is included in the cost of general admission.
You! The Experience

If you have ever wanted to run on a human-sized hamster wheel, see your heartbeat come to life on a 13

-foot-tall, animated 3-D heart, or play a game of virtual basketball, then this is the exhibit for you. There are also nearly 30 authentic human specimens and body slices located throughout the 15,000-square-foot exhibit space. They may elicit an initial “ew” from the kiddos, but they offer a fascinating glimpse into what makes us tick. You! The Experience is included in the cost of general admission.
Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze
Ok. This is where things got real. After an initial intro video that delves into the mathematical patterns that surround us in nature, we stepped into one of our favorite immersive displays at MSI: The Mirror Maze.
Museum Science Industry Chicago _ Indy's Child
We’ve been through a few of these before, but this one, made up of 1,800 square feet of triangles that repeat in a dizzying array of mirrors, will blow your mind. Once you find your way through (and it might take a while!), there are more opportunities for hands-on fun in the exhibit’s final gallery. Numbers in Nature is included in the cost of general admission, but does require a free, timed-ticket to keep the maze from becoming overcrowded. We suggest heading to the ticket kiosk outside the exhibit’s entrance when you arrive at MSI so that you can select the time of day that works for you.
MORE INFO: The Museum of Science and Industry is located at 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL. Regular hours are 9:30am-4pm daily. Extended hours (until 5:30 p.m. each day) are available during peak periods throughout the year. Museum Entry pricing is $18 for adults and $11 for children ages 3-11. Ticket packages are also available to add on special exhibits, like Brick by Brick. Visit their website to learn more and purchase tickets. A special thanks to the Museum of Science and Industry for allowing Indy’s Child to use select photos from their library in this post. 

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