The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) offers countless exhibits and experiences to entertain your brain. With so much to see and do, it can be difficult to know where to start. But a trip to the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere can be simple for guests, if they know in advance which exhibits will appeal to the various members of their group. MSI’s website, msichicago.org, also features a visit-planning tool that can assist with this task! Find descriptions of some favorites below.
Science Storms—Discover the extraordinary science behind some of nature’s most powerful and compelling phenomena—tornadoes, lightning, fire, tsunamis, sunlight, avalanches and atoms in motion. Control a 40-foot tornado to manipulate its air flow. Trigger an avalanche using a 20-foot avalanche disk to understand granular dynamics. Create a tsunami in a 30-foot wave tank to study the power and motion of waves, and much more! Great for the whole family. Focuses on the fields of chemistry, physics, energy, environment, geology and technology.
U-505 Submarine—This National Historic Landmark has been at the Museum since 1954; it’s the only German U-boat captured during World War II and one of only five U-boats left in the world. Now the sub is part of a 35,000-square-foot interactive exhibit. You’ll be immersed in the story of the submarine’s capture and technology through more than 200 artifacts, archival footage, veteran testimony, recreated events, interactive challenges and an optional on-board tour. Great for older kids and adults. Focuses on technology, social studies and history.
Transportation Gallery—Explore all the most fascinating aspects of how humankind has flown, soared, chugged and sped throughout the years. Climb aboard the engine of the Empire State Express 999, the first machine to break the 100 mph barrier; or simply gaze in awe of the many historic aircraft that fly above you, including a British Spitfire and German Stuka, used in World War II. Great for the whole family. Focuses on aviation, history, social studies and technology.
Pioneer Zephyr—Step back in time with the Pioneer Zephyr, America’s first diesel-electric, streamlined, stainless steel passenger train. On May 26, 1934, the Pioneer Zephyr left Denver and arrived in Chicago 13 hours and five minutes later to open “A Century of Progress” World’s Fair. That non-stop trip changed the course of railroading and land transportation. Great for adults and older kids. Focuses on industry, social studies, history, technology and geography.
Take Flight—This historic 727 airplane stars in a reimagined exhibit exploring modern aviation and the science of flight. See a section of the plane as it looked on its first flights in 1964; observe the mechanical, electronic and hydraulic systems; and learn the science behind side effects of flying. Perfect for the whole family. Focuses on technology, physics, industry and history.
Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze—Discover the mathematical patterns that surround us every day in the natural world—from the nested spirals of a sunflower’s seeds to the layout of the Universe. The centerpiece of this exhibit is an elaborate mirror maze in which you can lose yourself in a seemingly infinite repeating pattern! Other activities let you discover the hidden patterns in music, design, architecture, nature and even your own body. Compose music using symmetry, discover how your body conforms to the golden ratio, and use fractal branching to create computer-generated graphics. Great for older kids and adults. Focuses on mathematics and the natural world.
Coal Mine—The Museum’s first exhibit takes you on a 30-minute tour of of a true-to-life Illinois coal mine. "Descend" into a mineshaft, take a ride on the rails and learn the evolution of technology used in coal mining. Perfect for the whole family. Focuses on geology, industry and technology.
YOU! The Experience—Learn how to optimize personal health and well-being through interactive experiences that are compelling and fun. Work with a virtual coach to learn some hip-hop moves; play Mindball, a game in which you win by controlling your brainwaves; examine real human embryos and specimens that showcase the complexity of the human body; and make the Giant Heart come alive with your pulse. You’ll see “YOU” in new and fascinating ways! Great for the whole family. Focuses on the areas of biology, anatomy, health, environment and technology.
Genetics: Decoding Life and the Baby Chick Hatchery—Experience genetics in action. Learn about cloning, modification, development and genetic mutation while observing cloned mice, genetically modified frogs, baby chicks, zebra fish embryos and genetically mutated fruit flies. And yes, even the older kids will enjoy seeing the baby chicks peck out of the shells in the Baby Chick Hatchery, where fertile chicken eggs are placed in the display on the day they are due to hatch. Perfect for the whole family. Focuses on biology, health, social studies and technology.
Wanger Family Fab Lab—Dream up, design and make almost anything you can imagine using cutting-edge software equipment in this small-scale workshop for computer-based innovation, design and fabrication. Workshops (additional ticket required) invite you to create your own sticker, keychain or even a 3D creature! Great for older kids and adults. Focuses on technology, engineering and innovation.
Giant Dome Theater—Enjoy an amazing giant-screen experience on Chicago’s only wrap-around, five-story domed screen. MSI offers at least two films at any given time that will take you on a trip into the deepest oceans, over the tallest mountains, into space, across borders and cultures—and much more. Perfect for the whole family. Films focus on a variety of areas relating to science.
Black Creativity—This annual celebration spotlights the rich contributions and achievements of African Americans in the arts, scientific and creative fields. Experiences include the Juried Art Exhibition, Innovation Studio and a range of education programs for students and Museum guests. Perfect for the whole family. Focuses on creativity, innovation, engineering and design.
The Great Train Story—Learn about the wonders of modern rail operation. This amazing display features more than 20 trains racing along 1,400 feet of track on a cross-country trip between Chicago and Seattle. Play a game of "eye spy" as you marvel at realistic terrain and 500 scale structures, including a 14-foot replica of the Willis Tower. Perfect for all ages. Focuses on industry, social studies and geography.
Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle—This miniature castle, created by silent film star Colleen Moore in the 1930s, measures 9 square feet and features amazing miniature treasures gathered from around the world. See real books the size of thumbnails; works of art including a painting by Walt Disney himself; lavish chandeliers adorned with jewels; and the tiniest Bible ever to be written, dating back to 1840. Perfect for younger kids and adults. Focuses on social studies, creativity and imagination.
Fast Forward … Inventing the Future—Discover where the future will take us! Experiment with real-life technology and prototypes from cutting-edge innovators from around the world. Learn about the possibilities of farming in skyscrapers. Explore the efforts to make traveling to outer space available to the everyday consumer. Discover how to play an electronic instrument in minutes, seemingly just by moving blocks on a table. Great for older kids and adults. Great for those interested in the areas of agriculture, chemistry, energy, environment and technology.
Future Energy Chicago—Take a fresh look at our energy choices in this unique, multi-player simulation challenge. You’ll join a team and work together to create tomorrow’s “greener” neighborhood, home, car, transportation system and power generation system. Along the way, you’ll earn points for your “energy tank.” The “Energy Garden” experience that precedes the team simulation allows you to learn more about what energy is, how it can be converted and the global energy challenges we face today. Great for older kids. Focuses on energy, environment, geology, industry and technology.
Henry Crown Space Center—Take an expansive look at space and the United States space program over the decade and into the future. The Henry Crown Space Center features two revolutionary spacecrafts currently on loan to the Museum from the National Air and Space Museum: The Apollo 8 Command Module and the Aurora 7 Mercury Space Capsule. Other important artifacts documenting space travel are on display, and guests can even power a Mars Rover, test a rocket’s thrust or take in a video that documents man’s first journey to the moon. Great for older kids and adults. Focuses on space and technology.
Idea Factory—Children up to age 10 will enjoy this learn-through-play exhibit. Infants and toddlers have their own individual spaces where little hands can crank, build and create using water, color and geometric shapes to learn about science. Restrooms and changing areas are provided. Perfect for younger kids. Focuses on simple science and engineering skills and imagination.
Earth Revealed—See the Earth as a living system! This 6-foot in diameter, solid carbon fiber globe is suspended among computers and video projectors, loaded with data sets from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which transform the sphere into an animated, revolving globe. In near real time, view the Earth’s atmosphere, the flow of our ocean currents, changing temperatures and storm formation, and learn about the geophysical forces that shape the planet. Great for adults and older kids. Focuses on the environment, social studies, space and geography.
The Art of the Bicycle—See some of the Museum’s most fascinating—and rarely exhibited—historic bicycles, juxtaposed with the coolest, fastest and most high-tech bikes currently on the market. Over 200 years, the bicycle has come a long way! Great for adults and older kids. Focuses on innovation, history and technology.
ToyMaker 3000—Check out the Museum’s technological wonder, ToyMaker 3000, to learn about automated manufacturing and robotics. Witness the handiwork of 12 robots as they assemble 300 colorful “gravitron” toy tops in an hour. Guests can purchase their own gravitron and see it made before their eyes—with their name engraved on it! Great for kids of all ages. Focuses on industry, engineering, robotics and technology.
Yesterday’s Main Street—See what Chicago would have looked like in 1910! As your stroll along the cobblestone and brick streets of the exhibit, you’ll encounter old-fashioned storefronts and businesses—like a dental office, department store or the very first Walgreen’s store. As you peer through the windows, you can see some of the technologies that were common. Great for the whole family. Focuses on social studies, history and technology.
Farm Tech—Discover the role science and technology play in growing and processing the world’s most essential product—food! Highlights of the exhibit challenge you to: out-milk each other using new robotic milking technology; learn how farmers turn poop into power; take your turn on a tractor and combine; and see how GPS plays an important role in today’s farms. Perfect for younger kids. Focuses on agriculture, industry and technology.