Some of my favorite childhood memories are from trips to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. My father would take my siblings and me when we had a day off school or during Christmas break. Most fun was buying the astronaut food in the gift shop and eating it on the way home (the ice cream was my favorite). I recently learned that the museum offers free admission on certain days (special exhibits, like a tour of the U-505 submarine, are not free; additional fees are required), and that there are a number of train-related exhibits. Lucia loves trains, this mom loves free stuff, so we were off to the museum!
There is something at the Museum of Science and Industry for just about every age level and every interest. High on our list were trains and other things that could be interesting to an almost-two-year-old. Our family’s favorites were:
The Great Train Story. The concept of the exhibit is to follow the trains as they travel between Chicago and Seattle, crossing diverse landscapes and encountering different industries along the way. The exhibit takes up a large portion of space on the museum’s main level and it is complete with scale model cityscapes of both Chicago and Seattle. I remember loving this exhibit when I was a kid and Lucia loved it just as much!
The Idea Factory. It’s like a separate, hands-on, children-only museum within the Museum. Children under 10 years of age are welcome and encouraged to explore and interact with the exhibit. The big draw for Lucia was The Water Spectacle. Yes, the children will get wet but there are smocks available to keep the wee ones dry.
All Aboard the Silver Streak: Pioneer Zephyr. This exhibit was the main reason we decided to take Lucia to the museum at such a young age. I mentioned before how much she loves trains, and this exhibit allows visitors to board an actual train, the Pioneer Zephyr. It is a guided tour and simulated train ride from Denver to Chicago (amazingly, the “ride” takes only 20 minutes!). Visitors are able to sit in one of the train cars among “passengers” that are part of a talking mural. Then it’s on to the observation car where projectors cast realistic images of the 1934 countryside onto the windows of the train car as the Zephyr approaches Chicago, its final destination. It was fun and informative and made me wish I had a time machine so that I could travel to the bygone eras.
A visit to the Museum of Science and Industry is a must for any family traveling to Chicago – and even for families that live in or near the city. Since I’m always looking to take the budget route, I suggest going on one of the days of free admission and packing a lunch. There is a food court inside the museum but it can be costly, especially for a family with children. I also recommend taking public transportation to save a few more bucks. Even on free admission days, parking in the museum lot is $18. Don’t let the prices deter you, though. Go and enjoy!