A Comprehensive Guide to Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History

Entrance to the Field Museum

TripSavvy / Cory Giguere

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Field Museum

Address
1400 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Phone +1 312-922-9410

The Field Museum of Natural History is not just one of the top attractions in Chicago, but it's one of the highest-rated natural history museums in the world. The museum has a whopping collection of over 24 million specimens, showing off biological, anthropological, natural, and historical items from all over the world. Some items date back to the first human civilizations thousands of years ago, while others are much, much older.

Located on the lakefront in an area known as Museum Campus, the Field Museum is right next door to other Chicago favorites like the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. The museum is perhaps best known for its dinosaur exhibits, including two particularly impressive specimens, but that's just a small part of what you can see here. Other permanent and temporary exhibitions dive into ancient cultures, animal biology, and the importance of conservation, promising an interactive and educational day for visitors of all ages.

Tips for Visiting

The Field Museum is one of Chicago's most popular museums, so you'll want to plan out your visit to avoid the biggest crowds and make sure you see everything you want. The museum is least busy when it first opens, so consider getting an early start if you want to walk in without worrying about lines. The most popular exhibit is "Inside Ancient Egypt," so start there if you arrive in the morning.

The museum's total exhibit space is nearly half a million square feet, so know going into your visit that seeing everything in one day isn't realistic. If it's your first time, read over all of the permanent and temporary exhibitions and choose the ones that are most interesting to you, prioritizing those before exploring the rest. A few exhibits are ticketed events that you have to pay for in addition to the basic admission price, so consider whether or not you want to see those before you get to the ticket window.

You could easily spend days exploring all there is to see in the Field Museum, but you should plan to spend about three hours there. If you have young kids who get antsy walking around a museum, the PlayLab is an interactive area designed specifically to energize museum-fatigued children.

Buying Tickets

The tickets are broken down into three categories depending on which exhibits you want to see.

  • Basic Admission: The least expensive option which allows entry into the general admission exhibits.
  • Discovery Pass: The Discovery Pass includes general admission exhibits as well as entry into either a 3D movie or one of the three special exhibitions.
  • All-Access Pass: If you want to see everything, the All-Access Pass includes general admission exhibits, a 3D movie, and entry into all three of the special exhibitions.

Ticket prices for adults range from $18 to $40 depending on which ticket type you choose and where you live (there's a discount on tickets for Illinois and Chicago residents). Children, students, and visitors aged 65 years and older also get discounts, regardless if they are Illinois or out-of-state residents.

What to See

If you don't prioritize what you want to see before you get to the museum, you might miss out on something incredible that you didn't know was there. If you're going with your family or a group, make sure each person chooses their top exhibit so you can make sure to start with those. If you have more time and energy after that, there's plenty more to explore.

General Admission Exhibits

No matter which ticket you buy, the general admission tickets are open to all museum visitors.

  • Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet: Learn about over 4 billion years of natural history, showing the evolution from the earliest single-celled organisms to the diverse life that we have on Earth today. The star of this exhibit is undoubtedly Sue, one of the largest and the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex specimens in the world and named after the explorer who made the discovery.
  • Máximo the Titanosaur: The word "titanosaur" gives an idea of what you're going to see: the biggest dinosaur ever discovered. It's a cast of a fossil found in the Patagonia region of Argentina, meaning these aren't the actual bones. But it gives the most visually impressive display of one of the planet's most massive creatures.
  • Inside Ancient Egypt: Ancient Egyptian exhibits usually focus on the dead—meaning mummies. And while you'll definitely learn a lot about the entire mummification process in this enlightening room, you'll also get a look at daily life for Ancient Egyptians by stepping into a recreated Egyptian market and reading hieroglyphics.
  • Grainger Hall of Gems: Diamonds are everyone's best friend in the Hall of Gems. This exhibition is older than the museum itself, dating back to when Tiffany's lent some of their most precious jewels to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Today, it has over 600 different gemstones, ranging from rare diamonds, rubies, 600-year-old Chinese jade, and the largest topaz on public display in the world.
  • PlayLab: This mecca for hands-on exploration inspires young ones to go a little deeper when it comes to science and anthropology. Best for children ages 2–6, they can explore a Pueblo home, wear an Illinois-specific animal costume, test out their paleontology chops by digging for dinosaur bones, and test out wooden instruments. The PlayLab also has special days reserved for children with special needs, staffed with educators that understand how to meet the needs of each individual.

Special Exhibits

In order to see one of the special exhibits, you'll either need to purchase the Discovery Pass or the All-Acess Pass. The latter allows entry into as many of the special exhibits as you like, while the Discover Pass is good for entry into any one of your choosing.

  • Titanosaur 3D: The Story of Máximo: If seeing the life-size display of Máximo leaves you wanting for more of this massive sauropod, go back 100 million years with this 3D movie that shows the entire life of a dinosaur like Max. Seeing the skeleton is one thing, but seeing how Máximo was born, what he ate, and where he lived adds so much more to the story and is a must-see for dinosaur fans.
  • Underground Adventure: This exhibit is dirt—literally. Visitors are shrunk down in this immersive experience to experience life underneath the soil from the perspective of an ant. Learn about burrowing animals, ant colonies, root systems, and more in one of the world's most diverse, interesting, and underrated ecosystems.
  • Cyrus Tang Hall of China: Take a look back through the history of China, which dates back thousands of years and covers numerous diverse cultures. The oldest artifacts on display date back to the Neolithic Period, helping to tell the story of one of the world's oldest civilizations.
  • Apsáalooke Women and Warriors: The Apsáalooke people, or Crow, are one of the Indigenous tribes of the U.S. Northern Plains. This exhibit, curated by an Apsáalooke member, shows the culture that's been passed down generations, from traditional beading artistry to powerful battle tools.

Money Saving Tips

  • Discounts for tickets at the Field Museum are included with the purchase of a Go Chicago Card or the Chicago CityPASS. If you're planning to visit several attractions around Chi-Town, using either one of these cards could save a lot of money.
  • Save money on parking by using public transit to get to the Field Museum. The Museum Campus stop on Chicago's metro system—called the L—is within easy walking distance to the Field Museum and the other nearby attractions.
  • Another option for getting to the museum is to use Divvy Bike. You can pick up a bike at one of the stations all around time and ride it directly to Museum Campus (there's a Divvy Bike station conveniently located right in front of the museum entrance).
  • There is a restaurant in the museum featuring locally sourced food if you get hungry, although the menu is pricey. To save some money, visitors are also allowed to bring their own water bottles and snacks into the museum, just make sure you eat at one of the designated tables on the ground floor.
  • If you're an Illinois resident, there are Free Museum Days scheduled throughout the year, sometimes as often as once a week.
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A Comprehensive Guide to Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History