The Art Institute gets a lot of love when it comes to Chicago Museums, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the Field Museum of Natural History. The museum, which was named for one of Chicago’s most famous early residents and the museum’s first major donor, Marshall Field, is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, filling 9 acres with 25 million artifacts and specimens, and there’s a surprise around every corner—beginning with one of Chicago’s most famous residents: Sue, the biggest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil in the world. Don’t expect to see it all in one visit. Instead, hit the highlights, such as the dioramas of the man-eating Lions of Tsavo, two cats that killed an estimated 35 people in Kenya. In Underground Adventure, you’ll see the world through the eyes of a bug, as your surroundings—worms, crayfish, spiders—dwarf you, measuring in at 100 times their normal size. Peer into an ancient tomb, filled with more than 20 mummies, in Inside Ancient Egypt, and visit the many science labs throughout the museum, such as the DNA Discovery Center, where scientists are hard at work studying DNA, and the Fossil Preparation Laboratory, where preparators toil away, readying the latest fossil findings for further research. If you’re here with kids 7 or younger, take a detour to the Crown Family Playlab, where they can dress up like animals, pound on drums, and uncover fossils (Thurs–Mon 10am–4pm). Every Friday from 10am to noon, scientists are on hand at the east entrance of Stanley Field Hall to chat with kids about their careers.
Too much to choose from? The museum offers a highlights tour daily at 11am and at 2pm Monday through Friday and 1pm Saturday. And before you visit, be sure and visit the Field Museum’s website for behind-the-scenes info. The museum recently began producing apps that take you on a historical adventure, guiding you through the latest exhibits. For a snack break, head to The Field Bistro and Explorer Café, which offer globally influenced sandwiches, soups, salads, and burgers.