Chicago Children’s Museum

Chicago Childrens Museum

Chicago Children’s Museum: A Must-Visit Destination for Families

Established in 1982 by The Junior League of Chicago, the Chicago Children’s Museum has become a cornerstone of creative learning and exploration for children. Located at the Navy Pier
in Chicago, Illinois, the museum engages over 650,000 visitors annually, making it a must-visit destination for families. Its commitment to offering diverse, interactive exhibits ensures that all children, regardless of their learning style or interests, find something to captivate their imagination.

The museum is not just about play; it’s a repository of learning opportunities designed to spark experimentation and creativity in young minds. From its rich history to a wide array of educational programs and resources, the Chicago Children’s Museum stands out as a nonprofit organization dedicated to accessible, family-oriented learning. Planning a visit to this landmark offers a unique chance to combine fun with educational enrichment in one of Chicago’s most iconic settings.

The Rich History of the Chicago Children’s Museum

The journey of the Chicago Children’s Museum began in 1982 when the Junior League of Chicago established it in response to cuts in arts programming for children. Its first home was within the walls of the Chicago Cultural Center, where it was initially named Express-Ways Children’s Museum. This name later evolved to the Chicago Children’s Museum we know today. Over the years, the museum has welcomed over 11 million visitors, serving as a beacon of learning and imagination for children and their families.

  • Location Transitions and Expansion:
    1. Chicago Cultural Center (1982): Starting in two hallways of the Chicago Public Library.
    2. Lincoln Park Facility: Expanded to 7,000 sq ft to accommodate growing visitor numbers.
    3. North Pier: Increased to 21,000 sq ft, continuing to offer traveling exhibits.
    4. Navy Pier (1995-Present): A significant leap to 57,000 sq ft of exhibition space, under a 99-year lease for a dollar a year.

Chicago Childrens Museum

The museum’s mission, “Where play and learning connect,” has been the guiding principle behind its innovative and inclusive exhibits. From allowing children to climb on a Schooner to experiencing movement with kid-sized wheelchairs and crutches, the museum has been a pioneer in offering unique play experiences. It has also been a leader in promoting diversity, equity, access, and inclusion, participating in initiatives like Museums For All. This commitment has not only made the Chicago Children’s Museum a joyful place of gathering but also a place where memories are made, and learning is seamlessly integrated with play.

Exhibits that Spark Imagination

At the Chicago Children’s Museum, the array of exhibits is designed to spark imagination and encourage learning through play. The museum is a treasure trove of interactive and engaging exhibits tailored to captivate young minds and cater to a wide range of interests and age groups.

  • Interactive Exhibits for Varied Interests:
    • Tinkering Lab: A DIY maker-space where children can use real tools and materials.
    • WaterWays: An exhibit that makes a splash, teaching about the movement and properties of water.
    • Art Studio: Offers creative outlets from painting to sculpting, including special sessions like Daring Self Portraits and Painting Studio for all ages.
  • Experiences Tailored for Young Children:
    • Treehouse Trails: A nature-inspired exploration space.
    • Kids Town: A miniature city designed for the youngest visitors.
    • Pritzker Playspace: Hosts changing activities, from Lights and Shadows to Enchanted Forest, encouraging sensory play.

The museum also offers seasonal and temporary exhibits like Circusville, allowing children to immerse themselves in the circus world, and the Dinosaur Expedition, where they can dig for bones. These varied exhibits ensure that the Chicago Children’s Museum remains a dynamic space for families, offering new and exciting experiences with each visit.

Chicago Childrens Museum

Educational Programs and Events

The Chicago Children’s Museum enriches the lives of its young visitors through a spectrum of educational programs and events designed to foster learning and creativity. These offerings are meticulously crafted to cater to various interests, ensuring an inclusive and enriching experience for all attendees.

  • Diverse Educational Offerings:
    • Story Hours and Art Workshops: Engage children in storytelling sessions that spark imagination and creativity, alongside art workshops where they can express themselves through various mediums.
    • Science Demonstrations: Interactive sessions that make learning about scientific principles fun and engaging.
    • Special Programs: Includes unique events such as “Play Soccer with Chicago Fire FC,” allowing children to experience sports in an interactive setting.
  • Accessibility and Inclusion:
    • The museum provides resources and sessions with professional educators to ensure programs are accessible to all children.
    • Special hours, such as “Play for All” and “Spring Break Play Days,” are dedicated to offering tailored experiences for children with diverse needs.
  • Comprehensive Program Schedule:
    • Rotating Calendar: Ensures fresh and engaging content with programs available in various locations throughout the museum.
    • Workshops Availability: Art Studio, Pritzker Playspace, and Tinkering Lab workshops are accessible multiple days a week, encouraging regular participation.
    • Field Trips and Group Visits: Designed to accommodate different groups with a focus on educational enrichment, including discounts for certain Chicago zip codes.

This structured approach to educational programming at the Chicago Children’s Museum not only enhances the museum experience but also plays a crucial role in the developmental journey of its young visitors.

Amenities for a Hassle-Free Visit

Visiting the Chicago Children’s Museum is made effortless and enjoyable, thanks to a host of amenities aimed at ensuring a hassle-free experience for all families. From accessibility features to convenient services, the museum has thought of everything to make your visit as smooth as possible.

Accessibility and Inclusion:

  • Wheelchair and stroller accessibility throughout the museum.
  • Therapeutic play guides and assistive devices for visitors with special needs.
  • Sensory-friendly hours and programs for children with autism and other special needs.
  • Resources such as noise-cancelling headphones, wheelchairs, and visual schedules are readily available.
  • Service animals are welcome, and personal care attendants for guests with severe disabilities are admitted at no extra cost.

Convenience Features:

  • Navy Pier parking garages offer 1,500 indoor spaces, with discounted rates available with validation.
  • Lost and found services can be contacted at (312) 464-7678 for any misplaced items.
  • On-site café and museum store for snacks, meals, and souvenirs. Note that outside food and drinks are restricted, except for baby bottles and formula.

Family-Friendly Amenities:

  • Nursing chairs and a dedicated nursing room for mothers.
  • Plentiful changing tables and private family bathrooms ensure comfort for all ages.
  • The museum provides a relaxed atmosphere with safety measures like timed-entry tickets and enhanced cleaning procedures, making it a secure environment for family fun.

Planning Your Visit

When planning your visit to the Chicago Children’s Museum, located at the iconic Navy Pier, 700 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, it’s essential to keep a few key points in mind to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here’s a concise guide:

  • Hours of Operation:
    • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday: 10 am – 2 pm
    • Friday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm
    • Note: Special holiday hours may apply; check the museum’s official website for the most current information.
  • Admission Details:
    • General Admission: $21 for adults and children (1 year and older)
    • Free Admission: Children under 1 year, veterans, and active military
    • Discounted Admission: $3 per person (up to 6 people) for families with EBT or WIC card
    • Membership Options: Offers benefits such as free admission, discounts, and exclusive events with various options for unlimited annual admission
  • Contact and Additional Information:
    • Email:
    • Phone: (312) 527-1000
    • Website
    • Advance ticket purchases and member reservations are encouraged to ensure entry, with final admissions accepted no later than 60 minutes before closing.

For a seamless visit, arriving early is recommended, especially during weekends or holidays, to avoid crowds and make the most of the museum’s offerings.

Through exploration, interaction, and play, the Chicago Children’s Museum has established itself as a significant venue for not only entertainment but educational enrichment in the lives of young minds. The variety of interactive exhibits, educational programs, and dedicated amenities described herein emphasizes the museum’s commitment to immersive learning experiences. Highlighting its rich history and commitment to inclusion and accessibility, the museum proves itself to be a pivotal space where play and learning coalesce, offering a myriad of opportunities for children to explore, grow, and learn in a dynamic environment.

As we reflect on the significance and contributions of the Chicago Children’s Museum to the community, it’s clear that its impact extends well beyond its walls, shaping the future learning journey of its visitors. The museum not only stands as a testament to the importance of accessible, hands-on education but also as a reminder of the joy and discovery that comes with experiential learning. For families looking to fuse fun with educational opportunities, a visit to the museum promises a valuable and memorable experience, reinforcing the museum’s role as a must-visit destination in Chicago.


What is the ideal age range for children to enjoy the Chicago Children’s Museum? The Chicago Children’s Museum is designed to be an excellent play environment for children between the ages of 4 and 8. The exhibits are crafted to provide a valuable, fun, and unique experience for kids within this age range each time they visit.

How much time should families allocate for a visit to the Chicago Children’s Museum? Visits to the Chicago Children’s Museum, especially for field trips and group visits, are typically scheduled for 2 hours. This duration allows visitors to explore and engage with the exhibits fully.

Are adults allowed to visit the Chicago Children’s Museum with their children? Yes, the Chicago Children’s Museum welcomes everyone, including adults. The museum is committed to providing a comfortable and accessible space for all visitors, regardless of ability, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It is a family-friendly destination that encourages individuals of all ages to explore and learn together.

Does the Chicago History Museum cater to children? Absolutely, children are welcome at the Chicago History Museum. Admission is free for non-Illinois resident children aged 12 and under. Non-Illinois resident children aged 13–18 are eligible for student pricing. The museum is dedicated to connecting people with the rich history of Chicago and fostering connections among its visitors.

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