The stately, 12-sided building may be historic (it was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere), but thanks to cutting-edge technology, the attractions here will hold the attention of even the most jaded video game addict.
Since 2011, the most technologically advanced digital projection center in the world has wowed visitors at the Grainger Sky Theater, taking them on an astral journey to see nebula, supernova, and sky views. This is the one spot you absolutely can’t miss at Adler. The theater takes 3D films to new levels—there are times you’ll actually feel like you’re floating, it’s so immersive. Two other 3D theaters on site, Delfiniti Space Theater and Samuel C. Johnson Family Star Theater, also play movies throughout the day.
The planetarium’s exhibition galleries feature a variety of displays and interactive activities. If you’re going to see only one exhibit, check out Shoot for the Moon, an interactive lunar exploration station. (It also showcases the personal collection of astronaut Jim Lovell, captain of the infamous Apollo 13 mission, who now lives in the Chicago suburbs.) If you’ve got little ones in tow, your first stop should be Planet Explorers, a series of immersive play stations where kids can experience a simulated rocket launch and crawl through the caves and tunnels of a mysterious “Planet X.”
Café Galileo’s serves soups and sandwiches and has gorgeous views of the lakefront and skyline. On the third Thursday evening of the month, the museum stays open until 10pm for Adler After Dark, and visitors 21 and older can listen to music, sip cocktails, and view dramatic close-ups of the moon, the planets, and distant galaxies through a closed-circuit monitor connected to the planetarium’s Doane Observatory telescope.
Allow 2 hours, more if you want to see more than one show.