My Favorite Museums in Chicago

When you think of museums, a few ideas probably come to mind.  Boring.  Old.  A school field trip that got you out of going to class.  Long.  Although I enjoy museums and make a point to visit many when I live or travel somewhere, I have also experienced museum burnout and I can’t take being indoors staring at another oil painting.  However, when I arrived in Chicago, I found this wasn’t the case at all.  Instead I found myself discovering new museums, each with characteristics that completely fascinated me.  From history to architecture to textiles, Chicago has it all when it comes to museums and I wasn’t disappointed with any displays.  Here are a few of my favorites I discovered while living in this mid-west city:

The Field Museum

SUE from The Field Museum

Tibetan Buddhist Temple Bell at The Field Museum

When I first read that The Field Museum was a natural history museum, I didn’t think to put it at the top of my list, until I saw a special exhibition for Cyrus Tang Hall of China.  Immediately my attention was drawn to signs featuring a Chinese Opera Mask and I knew I had to visit.  Entering the museum, SUE, the giant Tyrannosaurus Rex greeted me along with a pair of elephants.   Making my way to my desired exhibit, I found artifacts that delight from all over China and the Pacific including a Tibetan Buddhist temple bell that was cast in 1762, weighs nearly 200 pounds and is decorated with chrysanthemums, dragons, and a poem written in Chinese and Tibetan.  But it’s not just Asia that resides in The Field Museum.  There are also plenty of artifacts from Africa and America as well exhibits for various plant and animal species.  What I come to love about this museum is that there is a priority for preserving everything from the environment to historical artifacts that tell stories about the world.  Whether it’s a dinosaur or a Maori artifact, everything is important and significant to the Field Museum.

The Driehaus Museum

The Driehaus Museum

Stained Glass Ceiling at The Driehaus Museum

Originally known as the Samuel M. Nickerson House, The Driehaus Museum features stately architecture and lavish interior design from the Gilded Age.  Designed by Edward J. Burling, just about every kind of ornate décor, architecture, and detail can be found in the rooms of this house.  Decorative tiles, carved wooden furniture, and stained glass decorate every inch of ceiling, floor, and wall in this home and fine art and statues are no stranger to its interior.  In the Smoking Room, panels of walnut feature carvings that reflect Chinese and Japanese influence along with Moorish-style blue tiles.  A window with stained glass on the upper border, long gold curtains and a stained glass lamp give the room its ornate feel.  This intricate and lavish style is what follows me in every room and continually gives me something to look for as my eye darts along wooden pianos and vintage furniture.  I’m also happy a display of Art Nouveau jewelry is upstairs that takes me from America to Germany to Great Britain.  The museum is already a feast for the eyes and having an elaborate jewelry display is a delightful and decadent dessert.

Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

Left: Arms and Armor room. Upper Right Hand Corner: Japanese Fans. Lower Right Hand Corner: African Beadwork.

Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago

Left: Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses (Georgia O’Keefe). Upper Right-Hand Corner: A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (Georges Seurat). Lower Left-Hand Corner: Nighthawks (Edward Hopper).

Although there are many museums with famous works of art like the Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago is no second-rate museum in comparison.  The Art Institute of Chicago’s most famous painting may be A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, there are plenty of other artists I was thrilled to find.  Monet, Degas, and one of my favorite artists, Cezanne, can all be found in the Impressionist section as well as contemporaries like Georgia O’Keefe.  I carefully map out everything I want to see including Islamic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Art, but it seems as though there are more distractions as I pass by Indian, Native American, and African art.  The Arms and Armor section is small but not to be missed as I discover displays of traditional armor from all over Europe.  Once I’ve finally made my way to Nighthawks by Edward Hopper I find there is even more to experience in the contemporary art section when I find American Gothic by Grant Wood and The Weaver by Diego Rivera.

Jane Addams Hull House Museum

Jane Addams Hull House

Sewing and Labor Unions Display at the Jane Addams Hull House

Originally I knew very little about the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum other than a suggestion from my dad and I was excited that it was free.  However, I discovered a kindred spirit in Jane Addams as I walked through this residence built in 1856 that was originally owned by Charles Hull and inhabited by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr.  The Hull-House became known as a place of change and progress as Addams and Starr started the settlement as a place for art and literary education for the impoverished neighborhood.  Eventually the Hull-House grew beyond either woman’s expectations as it became a cultural center that provided a place and opportunity for those doing research and work to improve urban living.  As I learn more about Addams and others advocating for policy reform and change on everything from workers’ rights, appreciation for artists, labor unions, immigration, and child labor, it’s enlightening to learn more about their work, but it’s also disheartening to realize these are still issues that linger today throughout the world.  My recent advocacy in sustainability and ethical practices in fashion, travel, and other aspects of life is what connects me to Addams and makes me realize that change is possible.  There is still a lot of work to be done, but if Addams and Starr can both provide the groundwork for activists of government programs and start-up unemployment benefits, food and drug safety regulation, and housing standards, then it is still possible to influence the changes that need to happen for the better of the environment and its people in the 21st century.

As you can see, there is just about everything when it comes to museums in Chicago.  If you’re looking for classic art from around the world, historical artifacts or a place that will take you to a completely different place and time, Chicago will not disappoint you.  Chicago’s museums have provided me more than unique displays of artifacts, they’ve given me a direction and path to continue my advocacy and activism for the causes that matter to me.

Hours and Locations

The Field Museum: 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Open Daily 9am-5pm (closed Christmas).

The Driehaus Museum: 40 East Erie Street, Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-5pm (closed Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Eve).

Art Institute of Chicago: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Open Daily 10:30am-5pm and Thursday until 8pm.

Jane Addams Hull-House Museum: 800 S. Halstead St., Tuesday-Friday 10am-4pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm (closed Martin Luther King Day, Easter, Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend, Labor Day Weekend, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break).

Have you visited museums in Chicago?  Which ones are your favorites?

This post is a part of Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Budget Travelers SandboxPhoto Friday hosted by Pierced Wanderings, the Weekly Postcard hosted by Travel Notes & BeyondFly Away Friday hosted by Time Travel Blonde and Life in Wanderlust, and City Tripping hosted by  Wander Mum and Mummy Travels.

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26 Comments

  1. hena tayeb

    cool museums.. the Field Museum is always my fav

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I loved the Field Museum more than I thought I would, and I’m so glad I took the opportunity to pay a visit!

  2. Valerie Price

    These museums look so interesting! I would love to spend a day checking out all of them!

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  3. Agatha

    These days museums are pulling all the stops to make themselves attractive to the public – over here, we have had free days, carnivals, movies at the museum, and even interactive tech sessions!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Cool! Sounds like you’ve gotten great opportunities to experience free things and learn. Although the Jane Addams Hull-House is the only free one on this list, I’m finding there are plenty of other free ones throughout Chicago!

  4. budgettraveltalk

    I’m not a Museum Person but I would have enjoyed the Field Museum – especially the Tibetan bell.

  5. Tara

    The Field Museum sounds great….if I ever get back to Chicago, I’ll be sure to check it out!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Hi Tara! I highly recommend it and hope you get the opportunity to visit Chicago.

  6. InsideJourneys

    I’ve only been to the Art Institute. Next time I’m in Chicago, I’ll definitely check out The Field Museum. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Eileen g

    This is a great list. I’ve only been to the Art institute where I wanted to see American Gothic.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Hi Eileen! What did you think of the Art Institute? I hope you can make a return visit and see more of Chicago’s museums!

  8. Rachel Heller

    I’d love to visit the Driehaus Museum and the Art Institute. Nighthawks is one of my favorite paintings ever!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      The great thing about the Art Institute is that it has several famous paintings and artwork, not just one. I hope you get the chance to visit the Driehaus Museum and Art Institute one day!

  9. Pierced Wonderings

    One of my very favorite things to do when I’ in a new city is check out the museums. Thanks for sharing such a great lit with us at Photo Friday!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks Jennifer. I’m glad you enjoyed learning about Chicago’s museums and I’m always happy to be a part of Photo Friday!

  10. galanda23

    This is one of my favorite museums too, Brooke. I love visiting museums and unless I am in town for only a day, I’ll make sure to visit at least a museum in each place. You learn so much from visiting them. You took some great pictures at the Field Museum.

    • brooklyntvlasich

      So glad you love the Field Museum too! I always make a point of finding one museum to visit wherever I go, I find I learn so much and can be immersed in many opportunities.

  11. Kana

    Oh wow so awesome! When I was in Chicago, I only went to the Art Institute and spend HOURS there. I’ll have to visit these next time! Thanks for sharing and joining Fly Away Friday! xo

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Chicago has some amazing museums and I’m sure there are some I didn’t visit. I spent hours in the Art Institute as well! 🙂

  12. ttbchloe

    I love this! There are soo many cool and amazing museums in Chicago! I absolutely love all the art, history, nature and science that city has to offer. Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday and can’t wait to see your next post!

    • brooklyntvlasich

      Thanks Chloe! I love Chicago and would go back to revisit. I’m sure there’s so much I missed.

  13. MummyTravels

    I’m sure museums are getting better and better these days – it all seemed to be dull dusty things in glass cases when I was a kid but now everything is so much more interactive and thought out. I know my daughter would love the Field museum especially. #citytripping

    • brooklyntvlasich

      I agree. Museums are definitely thinking more about how they engage visitors and get them encourage with the materials! I was thrilled to see so much involvement in Chicago.

  14. WanderMum

    I was so impressed with the museums in Chicago! The Field Museum and Art Institute definitely stand out. I also enjoyed the Nature Museum with its butterfly house and my daughter enjoyed the Children’s Museum. Thanks for linking #citytripping

    • brooklyntvlasich

      The Nature Museum sounds like fun! If I make it back to Chicago, I’ll be certain to check it out.

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