At this point, I’ve been to quite a few places, and a good few museums as well. But for me, the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is still my favorite, and one place I’m always excited to go back and see every time I come back to my old hometown. This visit was no different.
For visitors to Chicago, the MSI is kind of out of the way. It’s located down in Hyde Park, a good bit of travel away from downtown. But totally worth it. Not only is the museum chock full of interesting things, the building itself is full of history. Built for the World’s Fair in 1893, it was the only building made with permanent walls and a foundation. Therefore, it is the only surviving building. And it’s spectacular. The directions on the website are easy to follow, and during peak season there is an easy bus right from the center of downtown. Once you get to the museum, it’s time to start exploring.
My favorite exhibit is the storms exhibit on the first floor. It’s a newer exhibit, and really interactive and fun.
Here you can see a tornado simulator, an avalanche simulator, weather balloons, a Tesla coil, and all sorts of other things. It is also home to one of my very favorite tables in the museum: the Reaction Table.
The reaction table is an interactive surface showing the periodic table. Using pucks, you can select different elements and see what happens when you mix them. Some of them as non reactive, and sometimes you’ll find a random text bubble explaining what you’ve made. The best times are when you make something that is actually useful, and you get a short video of what it’s used for. Mixing gallium and arsenic produced Gallium Arsenide, which is used to make solar cells. This is as close as I will ever be to becoming a chemical engineer, and I love it.
Next up after the weather exhibit, we checked out ‘You! the experience.’ This is another relatively new exhibit, that is super fun for kids.
It takes detailed looks at the different systems in the body, and also analyzes you as you interact with it. My favorite station is the sort of sadistic electrical shock table. At this table, you put your hand on a metal surface and push a button. It tells you that you may receive an electrical shock if you press the button, but that it happens at random. Not sure what the fact that I pushed the button until I got shocked says about me, but it didn’t actually hurt (thank goodness) just a strong tingling sensation.
At this exhibit you can run in a giant hamster wheel, make a list of goals, and learn about yourself, and how the body works. But in such a more interesting way than other human body exhibits I’ve been to, where you mostly just walk around looking at stuff.
Next up was the Baby Chicks! Baby Chicks are always one of my favorite things, and on this trip my love of baby chicks was totally legitimized. Turns out it’s not just me- baby chicks are, and have always been, the most popular exhibit at the MSI. Basically, it’s an incubator full of eggs that are going to hatch at some point throughout that day. On this trip, we didn’t dedicate enough time to actually see a chick go from shaking egg to chick, because that takes FOREVER. Trust me, once I made my friend stay until an egg hatched, we were there for about an hour and a half, and the egg had already had a pretty significant hole in it when we got there.
I named him Nugget.
Now, my favorite table in the museum is the Reactable, located in the Fast Forward exhibit of new and exciting technologies.
The Reactable is an electronic musical instrument. It’s basically a table, with many different pucks representing different sounds and instruments. The pucks interact with each other, and you change the tempo, volume, and frequency of the sounds by twisting the blocks, and moving them closer or further apart. It’s loads of fun to experiment with, as long as it is not surrounded by a group of annoying children. (This is how I know I’m really getting old.)
These are a few of my favorite things to see at the museum. There are tons of other exhibits to look at including, an Omnimax theater, a farming exhibit, a really detailed (and kind of amazing) fairy castle, a coal mine that you can actually go down in and see how coal is mined, a huge model of Chicago and Seattle, with trains that run between them, planes, trains, automobiles, and a submarine.
Not just any submarine- the U505 was a German submarine, captured in World War II. Now, it lives in the museum, and you can walk through it, after going through the exhibit detailing the locating and capture of it. Getting a submarine into a museum is not an easy feat- as you can imagine. I love the photos of the process.
Anyway. If you’re going to Chicago, take the time to go down to the MSI. It’s worth the trip. And plan to spend the better part of the entire day there. (Get there early!) Lots to see, and it’s all worth it. There are also always temporary exhibits. I’ve seen the Harry Potter exhibit, Dr Seuss, and this trip it was Robots. They’re always fun exhibits that add so much to the experience. Also, on this trip, for the first time I took the Wow! Tour- a one hour behind the scenes tour of the museum. Well worth it, if just for the Miracle Berry taste test. But you also get a lot of information about the museum, and its exhibits.
This is me losing a game of tic-tac-toe to a robot:
And then check out the awesome museum store that is stocked with all sorts of things to inspire kids to experiment with science. Because, shopping. Also, the cafeteria at the museum is surprisingly good. And reasonably priced. (for Chicago)