A Visitor’s Guide to The Field Museum – Chicago

The Field Museum is located at Chicago’s Museum Campus. It was incorporated in 1893 as the Columbian Museum of Chicago with its purpose the “accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science, and history.” In 1905, the Museum’s name was changed to Field Museum of Natural History to honor the Museum’s first major benefactor, Marshall Field, and to better reflect its focus on the natural sciences.

See 100,000-year-old rocks in one room and $100,000 jewels in the next. Stare down a 40 foot dinosaur one minute and then have a giant bug 40 times your size staring down at you. With ever-changing exhibits that capture every detail and permanent displays that seem fresher with each visit, the Field Museum will squash all your ideas of a stuffy, old-fashioned museum.

SUE THE DINOSAUR

Just after you pass the colossal Roman pillars guarding the entrance and glide into the grand hallway with its vaulted ceilings…far off in the distance you’ll see the Field Museum’s most noticeable inhabitant. It’s Sue and standing 13 feet tall and 42 feet long, she’s the largest assembled Tyrannosaurus Rex in existence.

After you’ve finished examining Sue from top to bottom, head upstairs and learn why the discovery of Sue has left scientists searching for answers about Sue’s life 67 million years ago.

TIP: There are volunteers stationed throughout Field Museum waiting to teach you more about Sue and much more. Find a volunteer and ask how Sue ended up at the Field Museum. The story lends itself to be as interesting as the great dinosaur herself.

ROCKS OF AGES

After Sue has taken a small bite out of your day, wander around upstairs through the Earth Sciences exhibit. There you can pour over literally tons of crystals, minerals and meteorites in this massive display of Earth’s beginnings.

PLANTS OF THE WORLD

And then pop in next door at Plants of the World where you will get lost in a jungle of forest life. I bet you won’t be able to guess which plants are real. (Here’s a clue: none of them). But try not to stand around too long in Plants of the World or you’re liable to get stuck in the weeds.

YOU’LL BE DAZZLED

Before you head back to the main floor there are two exhibits you should see. First is the Hall of Jades, which showcases the many shapes and colors of China’s most treasured stone. Then across the way is the Hall of Gems, where you will see over 50 varieties of precious jewels sparkling in all their brilliance.

TIP: Remember to periodically check your watch. There’s a Museum Highlights Tour that runs at 11am and 2pm daily. These free hour-long tours are run by Field Museum volunteers and cover what they consider to be the best spots in the museum. Each tour is as different and entertaining as the guide that leads it.

SEE NATURE WALK and SKIP THE ZOO

For another amazing dose of virtual reality, head straight over to Nature Walk and come face to face with over 500 of the world’s wildest mammals, birds and sea creatures. The environments of these “stuffed animals” have been reproduced so convincingly, at some points I was thankful there was a window separating me from some of these beasts. Nature Walk is mind-boggling in size and scope and should not be missed.

INSIDE ANCIENT EGYPT – A ROYAL EXHIBIT

For your next stop head towards the pyramid and go “Inside Ancient Egypt”. There you can traverse the catacombs once used by Egyptian Kings and Queens and see the many mummies and tombs that have outlasted them. But also take note of how equal time is given to examine the labor-intensive lives of the servants.

UNDERGROUND ADVENTURE

Since you will exit “Inside Ancient Egypt” on the ground floor, go see the Underground Adventure next. If you didn’t buy a ticket to see Underground Adventure, here’s what you’re missing…you’ll miss getting shrunk down to the size of an ant and navigating your way through the dirt encountering creepy critters at every turn. As a junior scientist, you will be conducting experiments, identifying many different kinds of species, and seeing how they all exist just below your feet. This exhibit has it all; it’s completely hands-on, totally educational and there’s an eerie surprise around every corner. Underground Adventure is definitely worth the extra cost.

EVOLVING PLANET

Four years in the making, this new permanent exhibit highlights 4 billion years of life on earth, emphasizing the basics of evolution. Experience the fascinating story of evolution with nearly 1,300 fossils, as well as animated videos, interactive displays and re-created seascapes and landscapes. It opened to the public on Friday, March 10, 2006. Learn more about Evolving Planet at the Field Museum.

TIP: When you first buy your tickets for Underground Adventure you have to set up a time to stop by (it helps cut down on crowds). Try to schedule your visit for the afternoon. One of the curators told me that’s when the museum is most empty.

Whether you came to see dinosaurs, bugs or mummies, you will leave the Field Museum more educated and enlightened about every aspect of Earth’s creatures and cultures. Come and see the future of history for yourself.

THE MUST-SEE LIST

These attractions should not be missed on your visit to the Field Museum:

  • Sue the Dinosaur
  • Underground Adventure
  • Nature Walk
  • Inside Egypt

Hey kids…search the museum during your visit to see if you can discover…

  1. Sue’s real skull and then find out why it’s not connected to her body
  2. 4 different types of Tools for Feeding that animals use in What is an Animal? exhibit
  3. Chicago’s sports teams represented as animals in Nature Walk (Blackhawks, Bulls, Bears, Cubs… the White Sox should be on your feet!)
  4. 5 minerals that we use every day in the Earth Sciences exhibit

TIP: DO’s & DON’T’s about admission and parking before you head out:

  • DO your homework when it comes to admission. The Field Museum offers Discount Days on selected Mondays and Tuesdays throughout most of the year.
  • DON’T visit when the Chicago Bears are playing at Soldier Field; there’s no museum parking available and overall it will be a very crowded day
  • DO consider using the new East Entrance parking lot. It’s ideal for Stroller and Handicap accessibility. There aren’t many spots, so arrive early if you want one.
  • DON’T forget to check the hours of your parking garage. Some close as early as 5pm.
  • DO the math when it comes to public transportation. It costs $3.50 per adult for a round trip bus ticket ($4 with a transfer) or $13 to park all day on the Museum Campus.
  • DO try to grab lunch before 11:30am or after 1pm to cut down on crowding.

The Field Museum

1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605-2496

Phone: (312) 922-9410

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