An adventure through history at the Field Museum Chicago

Location:1400 S Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60605
Hours:9am-5pm every day of the year, except Christmas Day
Cost:Basic Admission: Adult: $18 | Child (ages 3-11): $13
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The Field Museum in Chicago was not the first place I thought of when I wanted to take my kids to a museum or somewhere fun. Well that all changed after our weekend adventure to Chicago last month. There is WAY more things to see and do there for kids than I ever imagined and we had such a great time. I’m just glad we live close enough to visit again soon!

The Field Museum has so many different exhibits and things to do I am not sure you can do it all in one day. We spent about 5 hours there and didn’t get to see everything which just means we will start with those areas next time! They didn’t have lockers which was unfortunate but of course we had our stroller to hold our lunch box. We ate on the way to save some time but they do have a nice area for families who bring their lunches and also a bistro inside. Parking was not too expensive and fairly close by and you could even pay at a vending type machine by the parking garage which was convenient. fieldmusuem (3) copyThe first thing you notice when you walk in besides the ginormous (and gorgeous) ceiling is the elephants and Sue. Sue is the largest, most complete and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. She (or he since they don’t actually know) is named after Sue Hendrickson who found the fossils in South Dakoda in 1990. Can you imagine discovering an entire (or nearly so) T-Rex!!! I think I found a nickel in my yard once and a ball but it sure makes me want to dig more…you know just in case.

Once you have marveled at Sue (justifiably so by the way) and are able to move on you have your pick of exhibits. I would HIGHLY recommend the walk through time in the Evolving Planet exhibit. Trust me when I say that this one is worth seeing. It felt like we were covering the entire museum but we didn’t. They did an amazing job with this exhibit. You felt like you were traveling through time in a sense and there was just so much to see, read, do and be amazed by that it was a wonder we didn’t spend our whole trip there. You start 4.5 billion years ago in the Precambrian age when life first appeared. Meteorites and erupting volcanoes may sound more sci-fi or something for the movies but they were more common way back then. You also won’t want to miss the oldest known fossil, it is of a Eukaryote and it is a Field Museum exclusive. It contains evidence of the first cell with a nucleus! Next up are the Cambrian and Ordovician periods with familiar creatures like sponges, jellyfish and mollusks. You can even see life through the eyes of a Trilobite before moving on the Great Coal Forest in the Carboniferous Period. At this point the world is inhabited by plants and fish with feet that evolved from fins. Don’t pass up the Tully Monster which is exclusive to Illinois. I won’t give anything away but it is an unusual sea creature that you will want to learn more about.fieldmusuem (44) copy In the Permian Period there is the super continent known as Pangea which is your next stop along the tour and will show what happens when continents collide!

Halfway through is the Mesozoic Era which is where the Dinosaurs are. This was what my son could not wait to see! He loves Dinosaurs and it is a tie between them and wild animals for 3 years now. He is 5…so it has been going on awhile. He (and the rest of us) were not disappointed with this exhibit. We carefully looked at and learned something about each dinosaur there including the rare Rapetosaurus krausei. It is the only one of its kind on exhibit in the world! When we finally talked him into moving on we were walking through the Mesozoic Marine Life and Fossil Lake Finds exhibit. Sounds fancy I know but it had ancient ocean life in what feels like a giant aquarium. Enormous crocodiles, tiny insects, giant armored fish and a 20 ft mosasaur are just a few things you will see there before heading to the Hominid Gallery. I am not going to lie this exhibit was fascinating and creepy at the same time. I mean an upright person looking monkey being on display? Yeah…creepy but still fascinating too. There were skeletons and a model of one the earliest known (at 3.2 million) species of Hominid. Both of my kids did ok with the skeletons in case you were wondering. They didn’t know (or need to know) they were real just yet and when my son told his sister they were like the movie ones I let him go with it. He knew the dinosaur ones were real but I think his innocent brain couldn’t or didn’t want to figure out that humans could be bones too. I was ok with that for another year or too.

Here is a gallery of some of the things we saw at the Field Museum in Chicago.

The last area is the Quaternary Period exhibit which is also known as the Ice Age. Mammoths, Mastodons, tar pits and what can cause an ice age are just a few things you will find in there. Did you know we are currently IN an ice age? Yeah…you learn a lot from museums and this one even helps you learn what you can do to help change the world now. Every little bit helps and if everyone just did a little a whole lot could happen. Don’t forget the wall of species…not sure what it was actually called but it had a TON of pictures of various creatures in the world. We spent a little bit of time finding animals and identifying ones we may not have seen before.

I wanted to see the Hall of Jades and the Hall of Gems exhibits but my kids thought it was pretty neat. Jade is probably my favorite but some of the things they made in the Gems displays were amazing! Worth a quick look for sure though you might leave wanting a new necklace. We traveling Through the Pacific with a brief stop at the DNA Discovery Center. That was more for my husband and I than the kids since DNA is sort of advanced for them right now. Something to keep in mind for when they are older though.fieldmusuem (105) copy

Another fun exhibit to see was the Plants of the World. I did NOT realize there were so many weird looking plants! I was amazed and if I could would be trying to grow some of them right now. Too bad some of the more interesting ones are not easily grown here in Indiana. Still really neat to see how plants help make medicines and various teas. The kids were amused for a little bit but their favorite thing was the miniature displays. Those were brilliantly done but that could be just me loving tiny displays and dioramas.

Next up for us was World of Birds. This exhibit was educational, interactive, interesting and a tad creepy. Taxidermied animals always creep me out a bit though and there were a TON of species of birds in there. I am not sure what was going on in one of them though. I saw a mouse in a tree with chunks missing…strange and a bit gory.

We walked through the World of Mammals and Lions of Tsavo then Africa before heading downstairs for a snack. The Field Museum has a great picnic area with tables and vending machines. We brought our stuff inside to save money but it was nice to sit a bit and rest our feet. Then I discovered they had those old wax figure machines. Oh. My. God. I used to LOVE those things as a kid! I would get them every place we went until I couldn’t find them and started collecting the smooshed pennies. My kids each picked a dinosaur (which they had all the main ones) and left the museum with their very own wax mold of a dinosaur. I may have been more excited than them about that one.

One of the last exhibits we went through was Inside Ancient Egypt. I LOVE Egypt and have since I was little. Mystery, pyramids, ancient advanced technology? Who wouldn’t admire that culture! This exhibit did not disappoint me either and was designed for all ages. They even had a scale “game” of sorts that the kids played with. My favorite thing ever were the miniature displays of life in ancient Egypt complete with mummification! My kids seemed to really enjoy the mummys and the miniature displays the best. Second to the scale “game” of course!

We were all pretty tired by this time and the museum wasn’t open for very much longer so we decided to head to the Store.

The store there is HUGE and has a TON of things for kids and adults. One of the things we do is purchase key chains from places we visit including states. My son picked a floating SUE key chain and my Diva picked one with a mirror…go figure. My husband and I try to get the kind with the spinning middle which we did in this case too. I also grabbed a couple post cards for everyone’s memory books. These are like scrapbooks but with pictures and tickets, postcards, wrist badges and other types of memorabilia but no fluff or pretty papered edges or backgrounds. I have a hard enough time not being two years behind on them the way I do them now.

Anyway, they had neat book mark sized post cards and my kids each picked one. Then it was time to move on to the fun part…souvenirs! I know…key chains and post cards are souvenirs but I mean the fun types like stuffed animals or science kits that are only sold in the store at the museum (or where ever we are). The Diva chose flamingo wings. Yep…and she even tweet-tweeted all around the store while her brother tried to narrow down his choices.  In this case it was a very tough decision for the Gentleman. He wanted a dinosaur, a jellyfish, a digging set, wings and even a volcano kit but he eventually decided on two poison frog plush friends. Boy loves his animals.fieldmusuem (245) copy

We ended up not seeing a ton of exhibits that we marked for next time. Ancient Americas, Northwest Coast and Arctic Peoples, North America Indians, What is an Animal, Animal Biology, Reptiles and Amphibians, Bird Habitats, Tibet, the Abbott Hall of Conservation Restoring Earth. They even have a play area just for kids! It is called Crown Family PlayLab and is designed for kids ages 2-6 years old. This area has real artifacts and even specimens to examine which is awesome! Now unfortunately we didn’t discover this area until it was almost closing time so we have something to look forward to (and spend half our visit in) next time we go. Kids can dress up and pretend to be animals, explore a pueblo home to see how families lived in different times and places, examine insects in amber, play an African drum or dance to a Latin beat, discover hidden objects inside various drawers and things, play in a dinosaur’s nest, or even uncover a dinosaur bone. Now if that doesn’t sound fun to you then you need to release your inner child. Also, you will want your kids to experience this area of the museum. I cannot believe we didn’t get to see this!

While we didn’t get to explore every exhibit we had a very full day. Our next trip will cover everything we missed and probably a revisit of some of our favorites. The Underground Adventure will be on our list as well even though it is an extra cost. I think it will be worth it for the kids…and myself to see and experience. There is entirely too much to see and do to cover in one post but I hope I gave you at least a hint of what is waiting for you on your adventure to the Field Museum in Chicago. fieldmuseumreview2

“Outings are so much more fun when we can savor them through the children’s eyes.”
~ Lawana Blackwell

Author: sandyz