16 of the Most Unique Chicago Museums to Visit

Chicago is home to one of the best-ranked museums in the world. Did you know that the city also 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

Wednesday – Sunday | Approximately 15 minutes after sundown

222 Merchandise Mart Plaza | River North

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

Monday – Saturday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., 12:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sundays

600 South Michigan Ave.| South Loop

Image | Museum of Contemporary Photography

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

Sunday – Saturday | 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Saturday & Sunday

9625 S Longwood Dr. | Beverly

Vanderpoel Art Gallery | Courtesy of Open House Chicago

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

Monday – Friday | 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except on Bank holidays

230 S LaSalle St. | The Loop

Image | Federal Reserve Bank

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

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.

756 N Milwaukee Ave. | River West

Image | The Center for Intuitive and Outside Art

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

Tuesday – Sunday | 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m.

360 North State St. | River North

Image | Museum of Broadcast Communications

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

Wednesday – Sunday | 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Friday – Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

935 W Fullerton Ave. | Lincoln Park

Image | DePaul Art Museum

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

Monday – Sunday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursdays until 8:00 p.m., Friday – Sunday until 7:00 p.m.

700 E Grand Ave.| Streeterville

Image | Chicago Children’s Museum

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

Monday – Sunday | 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m., Saturday – Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

1146 S Delano Ct W. | South Loop

Image | U.S. Pizza Museum

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 for this museum has continued for this museum through recent developments in the world of pizza by collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting pizza-related items. The admission is free to visit, with online registration. For more details and to register, visit U.S. Pizza Museum.com.

10. wndr Museum

Wednesday – Sunday | 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., 10:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m Saturday and Sundays

1130 West Monroe St.| West Loop

wndr Museum | Natalie Stanichuk (Page One PR)

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

Monday – Friday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

3407 W. Armitage Ave.| Logan Square

Image | Busy Beaver Co.

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

Tuesday – Friday & Sunday | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

800 S. Halsted Street (M/C 051) | UIC

Image | Jane Addams Hull-House

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

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.

835 North Michigan Ave. | Water Tower Place

Image | Chicago Sports Museum

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

Tuesday – Saturday | 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

180 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor| The Loop

Image | American Writers Museum

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

Monday – Friday | 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday & Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

1524 N. Lake Shore Drive | Streeterville

Image | International Museum of Surgical Science

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

Tuesday – Sunday| 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday till 8:00 p.m.

1155 E 58th Ave. | Woodlawn

Image | Oriental Institute

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.

Want to experience these unique museums for yourself while saving a few dollars? Check out the list of local museums National Museum Day and receive free admission to any of the participating museums on September 21st.

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