With more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit space and over 35,000 artifacts, Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has a rich history focused on educational programs that serve and advance science.
Known as the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, MSI also offers a Welcome to Science Initiative to create learning experiences inside and outside the classroom.
The museum's original building was from the 1893s World’s Columbian Exposition. In addition, MSI touts that more than 190 million guests have attended since 1933, with nearly one million guests annually.
In 2019, more than 300,000 children in school groups visited the museum. Therefore, making MSI the top field trip destination among Chicago area cultural institutions for the 11th consecutive year.
The Museum of Science and Industry's Historic Beginnings
Inspired by interactive science displays in Munich, Germany, museum founder Julius Rosenwald hoped to create a similar interactive museum in the United States.
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Rosenwald set out to house the museum’s collections in Chicago’s Palace of Fine Arts.
The structure served as the temporary home of the Field Museum of Natural History until 1920 before it opened to the public during the city’s Century of Progress Exposition in 1934.
The museum showcases major exhibits on mining, automobiles, telecommunications, aviation, space travel, agriculture, medicine, and aeronautics.
It has a 3,000-square foot model railroad and an actual World War II German U-505 submarine.
The Museum of Science and Industry prides itself on technological, scientific advancements, which include student and teacher e-learning centers with video conferencing and an 800-seat auditorium with two small theater spaces for films.
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The museum also contains 13 Learning Lab areas for educational programs.
Many of the exhibits are interactive. Here are some tips to help plan your MSI visit:
Special Discoveries at the Museum of Science and Industry
Public programming includes facilitated exhibitions, special access tours, hands-on laboratory experiences, lectures, and unique overnight events.
The museum’s permanent exhibits include a U-505 Submarine, YOU! The Experience, Science Storms, the Coal Mine, the Baby Chick Hatchery, The Great Train Story, Numbers in Nature: a Mirror Maze, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, and the Pioneer Zephyr.
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The museum provides science teacher education courses to over 1,000 educators annually.
MSI has special youth development programs, hands-on learning lab programs, and science clubs designed to inspire teens to choose science careers.
Giant Dome Theater
This state-of-the-art laser projection system is the first of its kind in Chicago, with only two in the world. The Dome is a five-story wraparound giant screen that seats 260 visitors.
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The theater can be rented in concurrence with the Henry Crown Space Center. Check the museum’s website for details.
Centerpiece Tours & Experiences
There are many ways to explore MSI, with over 14 acres of exhibits and displays. Tours are daily.
U-505 Onboard Tour
Visitors can board this authentic German U-505 craft that braised the Atlantic waters before its capture in 1944.
This National Historic Landmark remains the world’s only Type IX-C submarine left. With millions of guests since its opening in 1954, this interactive walk-through history departs every 15 minutes.
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This tour is 25 minutes long and appropriate for all ages.
Visitors can descend a mineshaft and learn about coal mining on this guided tour of the museum’s first interactive experience, which opened in 1933.
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Guests are led into the shaft, along the rails, through true-to-life coal mine walls. Kids can learn about real mining methods and machinery through the years.
Visitors can step on the hoist and ride down into an experience with an atmosphere so real, you might want to get paid! This exhibit has been a guest favorite since its inception.
Pro Tip: Reserve your tickets online. With reduced daily capacity, all guests, including museum members, are encouraged to book their tickets in advance as some high-demand dates and exhibits may sell out.
Interactive Flight Simulator
This Flight and Motion Simulator is one where you control the action. Guests can choose from an F-4 Phantom, an A-10 Thunderbolt II, an F-15 Eagle, or a P-51 Mustang.
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You can pilot or gunner as you roll your simulator in 360-degree barrel rolls. Training time is included before your mission. The cost is $16 per ride and is good for two people.
Purchase only one ticket per two riders. This ride is approximately 6 minutes long.
Dissect an Eye at MSI
In this experience, visitors can dissect a cow eyeball to explore how our own vision works in this hands-on laboratory exercise.
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This experience requires the use of a scalpel, so guests must be 16 or older to participate or be accompanied by a chaperone at least 18 years old.
VR Transporter Ride
The VR Transporter combines state-of-the-art VR goggles with exciting motion and 4D effects to immerse guests in an adventure of their choosing.
- Apollo 11 & Beyond: This virtual experience is a massive Saturn V rocket that blast off to feel human’s first steps on the moon.
- Spacewalk-Danger in Orbit: Spacewalk is an exciting zero-G extravehicular activity around the International Space Station.
- Dive in Prehistoric Seas: This experience takes visitors back in time to glimpse incredible marine life from inside a submersible ocean carrier.
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Pro Tip: Experts say to plan for 2-3 hours minimum for a visit with up to 4-5 hours for a truly in-depth museum experience.
The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Open until 5:30 p.m. on select days.) Convenient indoor parking is connected to the museum’s Entry Hall.
Cost to the museum is $21.95 for adults and $12.95 for children ages 3-11. This cost includes access to most permanent exhibits, including Science Storms and Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze, as well as select temporary exhibitions.
Other museum amenities include shops and restaurants throughout the building.