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Every summer we head back to Wisconsin to spend time at the family cottage in the north woods of Harshaw, WI as well as for visiting family and friends in Appleton, Manitowoc, and Milwaukee.  Over the years we have flown in and out via Chicago due to cheaper fares but never really played there. So, this summer we intentionally made a 4 night trip to Chicago as our son has wanted to visit Fermilab and UL as well as see the Shedd Aquarium and Willis Tower.  So for this roadschooling adventure, we took my mom and my 8-year-old nephew along with us.  


I know our itinerary was not typical but we were staying in Naperville instead of Chicago as we originally had a guided tour scheduled for Fermilab and wanted to be near the place we were going to be spending a full day at.  However, we found out the tour dates changed and we no longer had a guided tour. We were still going to be visiting Fermilab but we had more flexibility on when. In addition to being closer to Fermilab and Morton Arboretum, we knew Naperville had a direct train route to Union Station.  Sadly, that got canceled due to a freight train accident that canceled several early morning routes and delayed others by up to 3 hours. Thus we drove into Chicago for 2 days and played out in the suburbs the other full day. We stopped at UL on our way back to Milwaukee so it was not an out of the way trip for us.


The following is what we did:

  • Fermilab (1st floor, 2nd floor, and 15th floor are open to the public and free, guided tours on select days monthly have age requirements, and have trails as well as bison on their greater grounds)
  • Willis Tower Sky Deck
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum (free & next door to Willis)
  • Shoreline Water Taxi (this company offers an architecture tour as well as water taxi service from Union Station/Willis Tower to Navy Pier and from Navy Pier to Shedd Aquarium)
  • Navy Pier (free to walk and has a fun splash pad)
  • The Adler Planetarium (a member of ASTC and offers reciprocity, and they have a nice beach behind them)
  • Shedd Aquarium (sadly no longer had reciprocity for Houston Zoo)
  • Morton Arboretum (has reciprocity with select gardens)
  • Lederman Science Center (small, free museum on the grounds of Fermilab as well as hold summer programs for teachers and middle & high school students)
  • Underwriters Laboratory / UL (corporate headquarters, stopped for a photo and was able to enter the lobby and my son visited with staff, they hold public events and tours periodically throughout the year.


And here was our list of alternatives:

  • The Field Museum (After the hecticness of Shedd we went to Adler and the beach behind it and opted to not do the Field Museum but all 3 are near each other and share parking lots,  The Field does have ASTC reciprocity)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College  (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (by Lincoln Park Zoo which is free)
  • International Museum of Surgical Science (south of Lincoln Park Zoo)
  • SciTech Hands-On Museum (a suburb of Chicago, close to Naperville, and reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Garfield Park Conservatory (free, west of downtown Chicago)
  • DuPage Children’s Museum (in Naperville)
  • First Division Museum at Cantigny (in Wheaton)
  • Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum (located on the second floor of the Michael and Kay Birck Hall on Benedictine University)


Hopefully, these lists will inspire you to explore the Chicago area.  I know there is, even more, to see and do in Chicago. Go explore!