If youâ€™re planning to fly into Chicago for a quick weekend trip or for a couple of days on business, there are plenty of educational attractions you can visit during your stay. On top of the more well-known destinations, there are also many tourist attractions that are quite low-key but still well worth a visit. Whether youâ€™re keen to learn about nature, art, history, or money, thereâ€™s a museum or exhibit you can add to your itinerary. Read on for five top spots you can visit when you want to fuel your brain.
1. Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank
Within Chicagoâ€™s Federal Reserve Bank lies the Money Museum, an attraction thatâ€™s visited by close to 40,000 people every year. The museum provides educational information thatâ€™s suited to both adults and children, including a screening of a short film about money and its history. In addition, kids can participate in a scavenger hunt and receive a â€œBe Money Smartâ€ comic book to take home with them. Tourists can also have a bit of fun creating a bill with their own face on it, and then email it to family and friends. Visitors can also get a picture taken next to a suitcase containing a $1 million â€” sadly not a souvenir that can be taken home!
The museumâ€™s tour guides are on hand to explain the evolution of currency in the United States, as well as show guests how to differentiate between real and counterfeit notes. On leaving the facility, travelers can also pick up a bag of what the Money Museum labels â€œFed Shreds.â€ These bags contain $300-worth of shredded, uncirculated money that doesnâ€™t have a whole lot of monetary value but still makes for a fun souvenir.
2. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
For nature lovers, planning a trip to Chicago on Flights.com, family-friendly Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a must. The venue is open year-round and is an ideal spot to learn about butterflies. One of the most popular attractions within the museum is the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, where tourists can enter an enclosure that houses more than 1,000 insects and over 80 different butterfly species.
The display also features a short video about the flying creatures. In addition, the Nature Museum contains a number of interactive displays, and holds a variety of workshops. The outside of the building is also a work of art in itself. A great example of green technology, it boasts solar panels, water conservation systems, rooftop gardens, and a large prairie.
3. National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
Travelers interested in military history and/or art should pay a visit to the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, one of the most compelling yet least publicized art collections in the city. The museum is the only one of its kind in the United States thatâ€™s specifically dedicated to exhibiting work by Vietnam veterans. Artwork by Iraq War vets has recently been added, as well. The gallery features a particularly memorable exhibit that is made up of thousands of dog tags to represent the nearly 60,000 service men and women who died in the Vietnam War.
The museum also showcases a number of found-metal sculptures, plus installations, and photographs created by artists that served in the Iraq War. This not-for-profit facility receives no funding from the U.S. government and stays open due to contributions from a small number of artists that send their work out to other exhibitions or perform art restoration.
4. Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the cityâ€™s most popular attractions and a massive venue that owns over 300,000 artworks and artefacts from around the world. Pieces stem from each era, from antiquity to today, and include paintings, prints, photographs, decorative arts, armor, and even fragments of local buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The venue, which was founded in 1879, receives around 1.5 million visitors from all over the world every year. At the Art Institute, tourists can wander nearly 1 million square feet of space, with artworks housed within eight separate buildings. On top of the museumâ€™s huge permanent collection, it also features 30 special exhibitions and hundreds of events, performances, talks, and lectures each year.
5. Shedd Aquarium
Travelers looking to learn about life under the sea can head to the 75-year-old Shedd Aquarium. The venue gives visitors a look at a variety of underwater creatures including stingrays, eels, and turtles from the Caribbean; frogs, snakes, and piranhas from the Amazon; and a variety of shark species. There is even an Australian lungfish that is more than 100 years old, and believed to be the longest-living fish in an aquarium anywhere in the world. In addition, the facility also features an otter habitat, a tide-pool, a coral reef display, and a Polar Play Zone for younger children.