6 of Chicago's Best Interactive Museums to Explore with Kids
What do optical illusions, immersive art, ooey-gooey slime and global flavors of ice cream have in common? Answer: You'll find them all represented in Chicago's interactive (and sometimes unconventional) museums. These six spots throughout the Windy City combine hands-on fun with education, and several feature rotating exhibits to keep you coming back for more. Tuck these ideas into your back pocket for dreary days when the kids (and you) need an imaginative escape.
Head to the bottom of the Willis Tower to taste, listen and jump your way through Color Factory with joy. This exuberant art museum provides an in-depth look at color and how it impacts our perception of everything around us. Each room is a unique concept designed by a different artist or partner, with plenty of Chicago-specific details and of course, interactive photo ops. A few rooms change out seasonally, too.
Museum of Illusions
Everything may not be as it seems in this museum by Millennium Park, but your family will have a ton of fun exploring mind-bending illusions and learning the mechanics behind what makes them so fascinating. Enter the human kaleidoscope, pass through the vortex tunnel and climb the walls in the rotated room. Bonus: Your friends won't believe some of your pictures (no need to reveal the museum's tricks!).
The Museum of Illusions also has a Kansas City, Missouri location, plus a Mall of America location is expected to open soon.
Museum of Ice Cream
The prospect of unlimited ice cream may sound entirely too good to be true under many circumstances—but it's no gimmick at Museum of Ice Cream. When you're here, you can indulge in as much of the cool treat as you desire, taste a Chicago ice cream hot dog (yes, it's a thing), play carnival games and minigolf, and, cherry on top: slide into a giant pool of colored sprinkles. If your sweet tooth hasn't been satisfied by the end of your visit, swing by the onsite cafe for more ice cream, milkshakes and cocktails (for the grown-ups).
Even if you've already visited WNDR Museum, you certainly won't have the same experience twice. This West Loop spot where art meets technology is constantly evolving with thought-provoking new exhibits. Any given week you might be dancing on an LED dance floor, taking in an augmented reality mural or interacting with artwork via text message. Don't miss the infinity mirror room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, a mainstay of the museum.
Related: Top Things to Do in Chicago
Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum has dwelled in the heart of Lincoln Park for a long time, but each visit brings a new slice of Chicago history to light. While you're there, get a 360-degree view of the Chicago fire, slide into a life-size Chicago hot dog, jump on the "L" and view decades of negatives from the Chicago Sun-Times, one of the largest newspaper photograph collections in an American museum.
If getting slimed, Nickelodeon style, sounds like your idea of a good time, Sloomoo Institute can make it happen. Kids and kids-at-heart reap the calming benefits of playing with the glue-based goop—plus have a chance to handle slime with different textures, navigate a slime-filled obstacle course and create a take-home souvenir at the end of the journey.
Most of these museums recommend reservations, and ticket prices range from about $22 to $60 per person; some offer discounts for families, at certain times of day and for special events. Chicago History Museum is $19 for adults and free for kids 18 and under who are Illinois residents (free for non-resident children 12 and under; $17 for older non-resident kids).