A visit to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History inspires awe and endless wonder. One of the largest museums of its kind, it houses more than 20 million objects – from rare plants to Egyptian mummies, to Sue – the largest T. Rex ever unearthed. Two million visitors from around the world visit the museum each year.
The Field Museum has a storied and interesting history. It was founded after the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair that celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. That event – which showcased artifacts and biological specimens from around the world, became a defining moment in Chicago’s history and evolution as a center of learning. In order to preserve the fair’s exhibitions for future generations, the establishment of a museum was proposed. The following year, in 1894, department store mogul Charles Field became the founding donor of the Columbian Museum of Chicago. It was renamed the Field Museum of Natural History in 1905, both to honor Field and to reflect the museum’s focus on history and the natural sciences.
The Field Museum houses extensive scientific specimen and artifact collections, which include a full range of existing biodiversity. Fossils (dinosaur fans will love it here!), gems, meteorites, plants and other exhibits highlight the scientific, while cultural artifacts and anthropological collections educate about rich traditions and everyday life around the globe. The Field Museum Library houses more than 275,000 books, journals, and photo archives on everything from archaeology to evolutionary biology. Floor plans and maps are available online, so you can plan your route through the museum beforehand.
The museum hosts many traveling shows and often partners with other research, conservation and educational institutions on special programming and exhibits. They also host free “field days,” where kids can participate in activities like bird watching, local habitat restoration and lab activities with scientists.
Shop at the Field Museum
The Field Museum gift shop is an attraction in itself. With apparel, books, toys and items from many countries, kids of all ages will find something to love. Sue, the T. Rex, has her own line of toys and gear, and rotating exhibitions typically have their own line of products as well. For those traveling in or out of O’Hare International Airport, the Field Museum has two smaller gift shops in Terminals 1 and 3.
Dine at the Field Museum
The museum has two on-site restaurants. The Explorer Cafe is a family-friendly, casual affair. You’ll find plenty of kid-friendly choices with some salads and interesting sandwiches for the adults. The Field Bistro has a more grownup feel, with an open kitchen and a more international menu. Both eateries show a focus on locally-grown or produced products in support of the museum’s focus on sustainability.
Hours and Admission
The Field Museum is open every day except Christmas. Last admission is at 4 p.m.
All access passes, which include admission to special exhibits and a 3D movie theater, are priced at $36 for adults, $31 for students (with a valid student ID) and seniors, and $25 for children ages three to 11.
The museum also has Free Admission days, when Illinois residents can visit for no charge. On these days, residents can purchase tickets to special exhibits and movies at a discounted rate. In addition, the Field Museum takes part in the Museums For All initiative, a program that allows anyone receiving state food assistance to visit the museum for just $3 on any day. Just show your EBT or WIC card at the ticket counter.
The Field Museum is located at 1400 South Lake Shore Drive and is easily accessible by car, bike or public transit. The museum website has detailed directions from all arrival points, and links to bus and Metra Rail stops and schedules.
Field Museum of Natural History
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605
By Davina van Buren