American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
A Windy City Weekend: Stepping Back in Time
This week, I’m spotlighting Chicago, one of my favorite U.S. destinations, in a six-part series, filled with tips on what to see, do, and eat while you’re in town. If you’ve never traveled there before – or you simply need a refresher course – please check out my first two posts, which will help you prepare for a weekend getaway and explore the city’s artistic splendor.
In the third part of this weeklong series, I’m focusing on one of Chicago’s landmark destinations – The Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312/922-9410, daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., $13-34 adults, $9-18 children 3-11, $11-31 seniors and students), one of the foremost natural history museums in the world. Any trip to Chicago simply must include a visit to the Field Museum, especially if you’re traveling with children. Founded in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago, later named after benefactor Marshall Field, and eventually featured in films as varied as She’s Having a Baby (1988) and The Relic (1997), the Field Museum houses a wealth of intriguing exhibits in a truly gorgeous edifice.
As with the Art Institute, you could easily spend days exploring the varied natural and cultural exhibits of the Field Museum – a virtual step back in time. To get the most from your visit, I’d recommend spending at least a day there. You can even split your visit in half and take a midday lunch break at the on-site Corner Bakery Cafe (312/588-1040, daily 8 a.m.-5 p.m., $5-8), which prepares a wide range of delicious salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and desserts.
After purchasing your admission ticket – the price of which depends on the exhibits you choose to see (and whether you’ve arrived on a free admission day) – use the handy map to navigate a time-saving route through the areas that interest you most. Whenever I’m pressed for time, I usually try to visit Sue, the largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in existence; the impressive man-eating lions of Tsavo; the mummies of ancient Egypt; the Hall of Gems; and the clothing, masks, and other artifacts in the Americas section. But, of course, there’s so much more to explore, including the temporary exhibit, “Real Pirates: The Untold Story of the Whydah from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship,” running through October 25.
Of course, if you’d rather see live animals, head to the nearby John G. Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312/939-2438, daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m., $25 adults, $18 children 3-11), where you’ll spy sea otters, penguins, beluga whales, and other fascinating marine creatures. Afterward, trek north to the Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark St., 312/742-2000, daily, hours vary seasonally), one of the country’s oldest zoos – where it’s absolutely free to gaze at the bears, lions, primates, and other landlocked animals.
For something a little different, try the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum (1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., 312/922-7827, daily, hours vary seasonally, $8-25 adults, $5-21 children 3-14), situated on the same Museum Campus that contains the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. Besides featuring exhibits on space exploration, the planetarium also presents several cosmic shows, including one based on Sesame Street. If you have time, head south to the Museum of Science and Industry (E. 57th St. and S. Lake Shore Dr., 773/684-1414, daily, hours vary seasonally, $13-33 adults, $12-32 seniors, $9-24 children 3-11), which offers many free admission days throughout the year. There, you’ll find a number of permanent exhibits, as well as special features like the current “Harry Potter: The Exhibition,” a first-hand look inside the young wizard’s magical world.
Visiting Chicago’s incredible museums can be an expensive enterprise. If you’re watching your budget and planning to visit several museums during your trip, consider purchasing the CityPass ($69 adults, $59 children 3-11), which saves more than 45 percent of the combined general admission fees for the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Museum of Science and Industry, and John Hancock Observatory. You should also contemplate using CTA buses and trains in lieu of paying steep parking fees at the Museum Campus and Lincoln Park Zoo.
But however you decide to explore the museums of Chicago, I hope you enjoy the experience!
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.