Chicago is home to one of the best-ranked museums in the world. Did you know that the city also has some incredibly unique museums as well? If you are taking a trip to Chicago or looking for fun things to do, check out this list of 16 of the most unique and often overlooked museums in Chicago.
1. Art on theMart
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza | River North
Wednesday – Sunday | Approximately 15 minutes after sundown
While Art on theMart is not a traditional museum, the permanent public art space does exhibit works of site-specific art pieces by world-renowned artists. The largest permanent digital art projection in the world is located in the heart of downtown along the Chicago River on the famous Merchandise Mart facade. It displays local and international works and is free and accessible to all. The projects are visible ten months out of the year and run for two hours a night, with expanded nightly viewing seven nights a week from May to September. Check out the fall programming for Art on theMart here.
2. Museum of Contemporary Photography
600 South Michigan Ave. | South Loop
Monday – Saturday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sundays
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCP ) is a college art museum located at Columbia College Chicago. The museum dedicated to photography is an international hub for artists and diverse communities. The museums boast groundbreaking exhibitions and programming that push the conversation of artistic, cultural, and political roles of photography in our world today. Admission to the museum is free. For current and future exhibitions at the MOCP, visit the website.
3. Vanderpoel Art Museum
9625 S Longwood Dr. | Beverly
Sunday – Saturday | 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Saturday & Sunday
The Vanderpoel Art Museum is a hidden gem located inside the Chicago Park District Ridge Park Fieldhouse in the Beverly neighborhood. The museum is home to hundreds of various works of art and offers classes throughout the year to students of all ages. Admission to the Vanderpoel Art Museum is free, for more details about this museum, visit the website here.
4. Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank
230 S LaSalle St. | The Loop
Monday – Friday | 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except on Bank holidays
Ever watch a movie and think to yourself, “I wonder if that is really a million dollars in that suitcase.” See what a million dollars really looks like at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Museum. Explore real historical currency and artifacts through interactive exhibits, games, and more. This museum is free and is a great experience for kids of all ages.
5. The Center for Intuitive and Outside Art
756 N Milwaukee Ave. | River West
Tuesday – Saturday | 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Thursdays until 7:00 p.m., and Sundays (and Monday school holidays) noon – 5:00 p.m.
Visit a Chicago museum that celebrates Outside Art, all day every day. The Center for Intuitive and Outside Art is one of the premier museums in the world dedicated to presenting self-taught art, defined as the work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art. This art includes art brut, non-traditional folk art, self-taught art, and visionary art. Admission to the museum is $5 and free for members and visitors under the age of 18.
6. Museum of Broadcast Communications
360 North State St. | River North
Tuesday – Sunday | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.
If you are a fan of radio and television, then you will love The Museum of Broadcast Communications. The museum, conveniently located off of State Street in down Chicago, is home to iconic Chicago television archives such as Bozo, Svengoolie, and Garfield Goose. The museum’s mission is to preserve, collect, and maintain a historic and contemporary radio and television archive. The content is available for education, as information, and entertainment of the public. Admission to the museum is $18 discounted tickets for senior citizens (65+), students, educators, and military with ID are $14. Children under 12 are free with each paid admission.
7. Depaul Art Museum
935 W Fullerton Ave. | Lincoln Park
Wednesday – Sunday | 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday – Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
DePaul Art Museum (DPAM) is a world-class museum located in the heart of Lincoln Park on DePaul University’s campus. The museum has a permanent collection of more than 3,500 objects with a focus on international modern and contemporary art. The museum is free and will reopen this fall for exhibitions on Thursday, September 12th. Learn more about the opening reception by visiting the website.
8. Chicago Children’s Museum
700 E Grand Ave.| Streeterville
Monday – Sunday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m., Friday – Sunday until 7:00 p.m.
The Chicago Children’s Museum is intentionally designed for experimentation, creativity, and learning for all children. Housed in Navy Pier, the museum provides an environment for children to both play and learn. Exhibits at this museum include a Tinkering Lab, Art Studio, and a Sound Playground. Admission to the museum of free for a member or $14.95 for adults and children. However, the museum has multiple ways for you to play for less. Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum.org for tickets and for more ways to save on admission to this museum.
9. U.S Pizza Museum
1146 S Delano Ct W. | South Loop
Monday – Sunday | 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Saturday – Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Founded by Kendall Bruns, the U.S. Pizza Museum was established in 2016 as a way to enjoy the rich history of pizza. The mission of this museum has continued for this museum through recent developments in the world of pizza by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting pizza-related items. Admission is free to visit, with online registration. For more details and to register, visit U.S. Pizza Museum.com.
10. wndr Museum
1130 West Monroe St.| West Loop
Wednesday – Sunday | 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., 10:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m Saturday and Sundays
The wndr Museum invites guests to tap into their creativity and imagination through art. Home to Chicago’s first-ever Infinity Mirror Room by iconic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, wndr places works from Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, and Alex Israel in conversation with thought-provoking, innovative technologies, and stunning interactive installations. This September, the museum will celebrate its first birthday. A Hero’s Journey Through wndr is a celebration of the museum’s untraditional experience of playing, learning, and celebrating local and national art. For more details, and to purchase tickets to the wndr museum, visit the website here.
11. Busy Beaver Button Museum
3407 W. Armitage Ave.| Logan Square
Monday – Friday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Buttons have long been associated with social commentary. These buttons, from politics to art reflect the views and culture of people during a certain period. Based in the office of Busy Beaver Co, a Chicago-based custom button manufacturer, The Busy Beaver Button Museum boasts a collection of 30,000 pins in different shapes and sizes. The prominent collection dates back to 1896—every year since the pinback’s patent. Check out the museum that is helping to preserve history through button collecting. The free museum is free and open to the public. For more details on this museum, visit Busy Beaver.net.
12. Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
800 S. Halsted St. | UIC
Tuesday – Friday & Sunday | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is a museum that is rich and full of Chicago history. The museum began as a settlement home for immigrants and the working class. Today, its permeant collections include 5,500 artifacts relating to the vibrant work of the Hull-House Settlement and the surrounding neighborhood. It is a museum that offers a variety of vibrant programs and community partnerships that make connections between the work of Hull-House residents and important contemporary social issues. For visits to the museum during regular hours, the suggested donation is $5 per person. Admission for UIC faculty, staff, and students are free of charge.
13. Chicago Sports Museum
835 North Michigan Ave. | Water Tower Place
Monday – Thursday |11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.,
Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Chicago Sports Museum is a sports fanatics’ dream come true and a top attraction for families. Chicago’s sports teams are represented through a mix of artifacts, memorable, and interactive exhibitions. Test your athletic skills at Measure Up, observe the largest collection of Chicago Cubs World Series in the city, in the Fan Zone and more at the Chicago Sports Museum. Tickets to the Chicago Sports Museum are $10 general admission for adults, $6 for seniors and children ages 4-11, and free for children under 3. Museum admission is complimentary for guests who dine at Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch, Be sure to visit the website at Chicago Sports Museum, for private event closings, admission, parking, and other details involving this museum.
14. American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor | The Loop
Tuesday – Saturday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The American Writers Museum is the first museum of its kind that is fully committed to engaging the public in celebrating American writers. The museums include rotating and permeant exhibitions that focus on the diversity of literature—past, present, and future. Tickets to the museum are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free for children ages 12 and under. For more information, visit www.americanwritersmuseum.org.
15. International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. | Streeterville
Monday – Friday | 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
From medical artifacts to apparatus and instruments, the International Museum of Surgical Science is home to over 7,000 medical artifacts spanning centuries of extensive medical history. The museum is perfectly located near Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and includes a research library, public exhibitions, and guided tours. Tickets to the museum start at $17 for adults, however, rates vary for seniors, students, and children. For more information, visit the museum website here.
16. Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
1155 E 58th Ave. | Woodlawn
Tuesday – Sunday | 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday till 8:00 p.m.
The Oriental Institute is a renowned museum that explores the earliest forms of human civilization. The museum houses some 350,000 artifacts, excavated mainly by Oriental Institute archaeologists, and a comprehensive archive that documents fieldwork and other research that focuses on the ancient Middle East. Visit this museum, located on the South Side for a glimpse into the beginning of our lives as humans. Admission to the museum is free. However, a $5-$10 donation is suggested. Learn more about the Oriental Institute by visiting oi100.uchicago.edu.