We were lucky enough to visit the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, IL and it is now one of our favorite places! There is SO much to see and do and learn about that you will want to spend an entire day there! It opened in 1930 and was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere open to the public. Today it has amazing exhibits, camps, and hands on activities for everyone of any age!
When I say we had an adventure through space and time I mean it. One of the shows we were able to see took us into the “future” on a tour of the planets in our solar system! We also were able to visit the past when we sat in and learned about the very first planetarium ever made! So…those count as time travel right?
Chicago is one of may favorite cities as it has everything you could want to do and is great for families. That being said we live in Indy and occasionally go for weekend trips to the Chicago and visit one of these places…the Adler Planetarium is now the kids favorite so we are looking into a membership.
There is parking on the street nearby with meters much like most places around but not really a parking lot. We are used to walking and actually like it so it doesn’t bother us much. Right out front are some very interesting statues representing the Chinese Zodiac.
They look a little out of place if you don’t know what they are we immediately tried to figure out our signs…I’m the year of the Sheep (or Goat depending).
As soon as you walk in you are immediately in awe of everything to do with space and you sort of want to go everywhere all at once. Well..after you pay that is. We found a sort of kid zone first which was awesome. They had nothing but hands on learning and we spent a bit of time there…one of the coolest rooms was in here as well.
At Home in Space showed how astronauts lived in space…including using the bathroom which my son said was crazy…and hilarious at the same time. My favorite part was this room that made it seem like you were in space! It was super quiet…eerily so and dark. Very dark. All you could see were little lights all over like stars. It was creepy and beautiful all at the same time. Made me wish I decided to be an astronaut so I could see it for real.
After lots of running around, learning about what you would eat and where you would sleep in space and playing with everything possible we moved on to an outside the ship in space area. There was a bubble the kids could crawl under a table to pop up to see how small robots moved around on the moon. They pretended to be under attack by aliens in the bubble but you know…fun!
We saw two shows while we were there and they were amazing. Both of them made me feel tiny and my kids both were in awe and might have fully understood how big the universe really is…but they loved the show!
The first one we saw gave everyone a penny…and used it during the presentation but I won’t spoil that for you. The person talking for this one did a wonderful job of adding a bit of humor to it and keeping it entertaining the whole time.
I believe it was Cosmic Wonder and it covered things like how a star is born, dark matter, black holes and our place in the universe…which is teeny tiny…so fascinating! Our favorite was Destination Solar System though. By far the best show for families of any age really!
When you walk to the IMAX room (the big dome style screens and surround sound) you time travel to the year 2096 where touring the planets is easy and fun! Our guide was fabulous and the robot assistant whose voice you hear was perfect with his sarcastic humor which amused adults.
The kids not only enjoyed the pictures but the guide was super fun and interactive with the crowd. She asked if anyone traveled to space before and my Diva (5 at the time) said she did and when asked how she traveled she said by rainbow. The guide loved it and ran with it, saying of course you did! Everyone in 2096 travels by rainbow!
Again, I won’t spoil the show that they both are must sees in my opinion. Next time we go we will do Destination Solar System again and a new one…cause you have to try new things.
Afterwards we walked over to the nearby exhibit for the moon landing and Apollo 13. The kids loved pretending to be on the moon but they also had fun trying to figure out which set of switches to turn on together to “land” successfully without using all of the power. It was quite the challenge and we HAD to stay until they figured it out…and no I’m not telling you how to do it.
Another amazing area had giant versions of the planets hanging from the ceiling and spinning around. Each had information and something interactive about them but alas Pluto is a planet no longer…we bought a memorial magnet at the gift shop. Revolve in Peace Pluto…
The gallery was full of information and you could even touch a piece of a meteor! Our Solar System is a must visit area when you go…well all of it is really but if we lived there we would be there every two weeks learning about a new planet for our homeschool studies…ok maybe every week.
The telescope area was really cool and now we want a telescope. Research must be done though and money for one because we want a really good one but don’t have a lot of money for one…yet. We are planning on studying the planets and solar system further when spring comes as it is a bit cold for any of us to be outside most of the time…and I am a big baby in the cold…
You can look through a 22 foot long antique (as in made in 1675) telescope! Adler is the only place this is possible! There was a section to look through different lenses to see how light bends in different ways and see the first ever observation-based map of our galaxy created by William Morgan and is colleagues in 1951!
One of the coolest things we experiences, besides the shows, was Atwood Sphere. We stepped backward in time to 1913 and saw the night sky of Chicago in the oldest planetarium. It is 17 ft in diameter and 692 holes drilled through the sides to let light in and to show us the positions of the stars!
See our adventure for yourself! Have a look at all the pictures we took…though really you will want to see all this for yourself!
The positions have not changed since 1913 but you don’t see them all or much of them any more. Unfortunately being a city means seeing lights which can make looking at stars tricky. If you live or are away from city lights though and not a lot of pollution I imagine the sky is beautiful still.
A guide goes with you into the sphere…yes INTO the sphere. You sit on a bench though I think only about 6 people can fit comfortably in there. The guide pushes a button and you slowly…really slowly move into the sphere and then it closes and you are in complete darkness…for about 3 seconds.
Then the sphere lights up with hundreds of tiny lights that show various shapes…otherwise known as constellations. Then they talk to you about the Atwood Sphere and the constellations and answering any questions you might have. We were the only ones in there so my kids had tons of questions…some even about the stars.
There was so much to see and do there that we spent the entire day and still had some to see…though we got there around lunch time due to driving. Next time we are staying in a hotel so we get from open to close! There is a cafeteria and the food is pretty well priced and tasty. You could also bring your own lunch if you wanted and there are lockers there too! No carrying coats for us…cause you are in Chicago so you do need them.
I really don’t think I can describe or explain any of this well enough to do it justice. The Adler Planetarium is by far one of our favorite places to visit and learn and I only wish we lived closer to go more often.
However, we do plan to take mini trips to visit…for educational purposes…Take a look at a video of our trip (which does better than me explaining but still not as good as visiting yourself)
If you are looking for something to do in or near Chicago or looking for a great vacation attraction add the Adler Planetarium to your list! You can even get a CityPass and visit it and another place during your stay!
Show us your space exploration adventure! @MyGeeklings @AdlerPlanet