Chicago Field Museum tips

We love natural history museums and have visited versions of them all over the country. The Chicago Field Museum is in our top five! We loved this cavernous, elegant museum situated on the Museum Campus by Lake Michigan and Shedd Aquarium. Here’s what we recommend seeing and doing, plus tips to plan your visit:


What not to miss:

If you have older kids or teens, the top two or three exhibits may be the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit, the Mastodons and Mammoths exhibit (extra ticket required), and the Evolving Planet exhibit. We also really loved the Ancient Americas exhibit. The Egypt exhibit hall starts at the main level, but staircases lead both upstairs to get a view of a tomb from the top and downstairs, where to bulk of the artifacts can be found. The best place to enter is on the main level, to get the full experience of walking through the tomb first.

Note: There are mummified remains on display, including the remains of children and infants (and cats and birds). These artifacts were amazing, but I did give my kids a heads-up.

The Evolving Planet exhibit is the primarily exhibit with dinosaur fossils, so this area will appeal to all ages, but the actual exhibit goes even deeper, which is why I recommend it for older children. It chronicles multiple ‘extinction events’ throughout history, starting billions of years ago, and is fascinating in its scope of time.

For younger kids, the multiple halls of mammals, which takes up the entire left side of the main floor, will be popular, as well as the North American Indians section and the Pawnee Earth Lodge. We were lucky enough to step into the Earth Lodge while a museum docent was on duty, and she explained all the artifacts inside, many of which kids can touch and play with. The temporary Underground Adventure (extra ticket required) is lots of fun too; after being ‘shrunk’ to 1/2 inch size, kids can walk through a soil landscape and see ‘life-size’ bugs, worms, roots, and other life in the soil. Think Honey I Shrunk the Kids.


Everyone will want to see ‘Sue’ the T-Rex that has been making its way slowly across the country. We saw it about seven years ago in Portland, Oregon. It was fun to see again. There’s enough to see and do to spend at least 3-4 hours in the Field Museum, and possibly more. You can re-enter with you ticket if you want to take a break in the day and return. A few tips:

Check the Field Museum website’s calendar before arriving:

The Field Museum offers a number of free days, which may or may not work in your favor. During our visit, it was a free day of residents of Illinois. Since we are not residents of the state, a free day only means a crowded day for us, without the benefits. Normally, I would avoid free days that do not apply to us. However, the day we visited also happened to be a game day for the Chicago Bears, played directly adjacent to the museum. This worked in our favor, as long as we timed our bus ride to avoid the fans pouring into the stadium. The Field Museum was almost empty when we arrived at opening, and stayed light on crowds all morning, until the game ended at 3 pm.

Decide what ticket option is best for you:

The basic entry price gets you into all the regular permanent exhibits. To access the ones noted as ‘ticket required’ or to view one of the 3-4 3D movies showing, you’ll need to upgrade to either an All Access Pass (gets you into everything) or a modified all access, which allows you to chose a few extra items to do. If you plan to be in Chicago long enough to visit at least two other attractions participating in the Chicago CityPass, I recommend getting this pass before your trip or at your first stop. The Chicago CityPass is $96 for adults and $69 for kids, and gives you an all access pass to the Field Museum, plus entrance to Shedd Aquarium next door and the SkyDeck at Willis (Sears) Tower, as well as several other attractions.

Dining options in the museum:

There are two dining services in the museum. We ate at the Field Bistro, which serves healthy options like soup, salads, and sandwiches, as well as some samples like hot dogs and burgers. Downstairs, an even more casual option has more ‘kid’ foods, like chicken fingers. We were told there are food trucks at the lower level as well, though we did not see them during our trip.

Outside the museum, families can find several hot dog carts, one of which is located between the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium.

Tip: Find more things to do with kids in this guide to 25 top things to do in Chicago!

Hours and admission:

As described above, there are several admission levels. Basic admission is $18 for adults and $13 for kids. The Discovery Pass is the middle level, and is $25 and $18. The All Access is $31 for adults and $21 for kids. Hours are listed here.

Getting there:

The Field Museum is located on the Museum Campus, just south of downtown. It’s an easy metra bus ride on the 146 from Magnificent Mile or State Street (it took us about 15 minutes on a single line from State Street in the River North district). As noted above, it can be busier if there’s an event at Soldier Field. You can also drive, but prepare to pay for parking.