The Chicago Academy of Sciences created a library and collection of flora and fauna specimens that burnt in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, just 14 years after its inception. By 1894, the academy had regrouped and rebuilt its collection in Lincoln Park, where it stood for more than 100 years. In 1999, the academy turned it into the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, a family-friendly museum filled with exhibits that let visitors explore the flora, fauna, and ecology of the Great Lakes region.
The 6.35-acre campus hosts more than 15,000 plants, 13,000 birds, and 22,000 amphibians and reptiles in its specimen collections. As visitors walk through, popular attractions include the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven, where visitors can stand in a swirl of 1,000 exotic butterflies, and Mysteries of the Marsh and the Istock Family Look-in Lab, which feature dozens of living creatures, such as turtles, snakes, and giant bugs. The Rainforest Adventure area allows families to encounter live animals and participate in interactive activities.
In addition to educating the public, the museum is a local leader in wildlife conservation. It's nestled in acres of restored prairie, where visitors can spot migratory birds and other native critters and plants. Outdoor exhibits include 17,000 square feet of green roofs, a restored-prairie nature trail, and a rooftop birdwalk.