Across two floors and 6,700 square feet, KidsWork Children's Museum's prompts hands-on play with scores of new exhibits. A table-top interactive computer, or SMART table, stimulates kids' brains with interactive puzzles and games. A weekly music class on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. invite kids to make some noise with instruments made from recycled materials. Interlocking wooden builder boards encourage open-ended play; there's also a floor piano, an interactive ATM, and story time at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. The museum welcomes field-trip groups and birthday parties to explore its innards as well as special-needs families, members, and walk-in visitors.
While large groups are welcome, each child is celebrated through hands-on play. Just look at the gigantic, three-dimensional Pinscreen exhibit, a jumbo version of the classic toy that uses sliding pins to create a 3-D impression of whatever you press into them—in this case, your entire body. Along with the Lincoln-Way North Key Club, the Frankfort Fire Department helped construct the three walls by painstakingly inserting nearly 200,000 pins by hand. Their effort resulted in one of the museum's most popular interactive displays. More than that, it reflects the sense of community, curiosity, and creativity that the museum strives to engender in its patrons.
After health, the most important thing parents want for their children is a good education, and that means learning inside the classroom and out. But if learning becomes simply memorizing facts in a textbook, it quickly turns into a chore, leading kids to lives of mindless entertainment and ignoring the last 12 mystery ingredients on junk-food labels.
To combat this, The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn introduces children to the arts, sciences, and industry with a series of engaging exhibits that uphold the standards set by the Illinois State Board of Education. These exhibits occupy every inch of their two-story facility, giving kids hands-on experience with concepts such as cause and effect, gravity, and motion. Painting and dress-up theaters cultivate healthy imaginations, and the infant tummy-time zone allows even the tiniest guests to flex their neck muscles and reach stuffed-animal friends. In addition to daily visitors, The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn welcomes school field trips and family birthday parties.
Today, millions of people live and thrive among the streets and skyscrapers of Chicago, but at one time the bustling metropolis had only one resident—namely, the city's apocryphal, somewhat legendary founder, Jean Baptist Point DuSable. A Haitian of French and African descent, DuSable was the first of Chicago's great African Americans, a company that includes the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington. In one of the DuSable Museum's standing exhibits, the Thomas Miller mosaics, portraits of DuSable and Washington peer out along with eight of the founding members of the museum—a constellation of lodestars reminding visitors to maintain Chicago's diverse heritage.
While the mosaics incorporate the museum's own story, other exhibits examine African American achievements of all kinds. Red, White, Blue & Black, for instance, examines the contributions of black men and women in the armed forces, while voices from the past sing out in Spread the Word! The Evolution of Gospel, a survey of Chicago-based gospel greats such as Mahalia Jackson and Thomas Dorsey. In A Slow Walk to Greatness: The Harold Washington Story, visitors explore the nuances of the momentous campaign through memorabilia and more than 150 mayoral artifacts. An animatronic likeness of Mayor Washington himself even steps in to relay stories and first-hand accounts made possible by animatronic robots' ability to travel through time. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts musical performance, film festivals, and book signings that introduce members to more aspects of African American history, including the scholars who continue to uncover it.
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 two-story Extreme Green House offers a hands-on look at the materials and technologies that surround us.
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.
When entrepreneur Harold Pierce opened the first Harold’s Chicken Shack on Chicago’s South Side in 1950, his chefs fried chicken as it was ordered, filling customers' empty hands with baskets of fresh, piping-hot chicken in 12–15 minutes. Today, the chain of 62 restaurants peppered across the Midwest and Southwest continues the old tradition of rewarding patience with astonishingly delicious chicken. The long-standing shop specializes in a simple order—breaded chicken fried in a rich mix of vegetable oil and beef tallow for a home-cooked flavor. Chefs prep the chicken Chicago style by pouring a dash of sauce over the basket, which soaks into the white bread and crinkle fries that come with every order. Marked with the famed emblem of a cook chasing a chicken with a hatchet, the restaurant has saturated the city’s consciousness, earning a mention in Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, an appearance in Kanye West’s music video Through the Wire, and its own chicken hologram projected over the skyline. Serious Eats sums up citywide sentiment for the chain: "When the words 'fried chicken' are uttered in Chicago, it’s a fair bet that the name Harold’s Chicken Shack will usually follow."
Founded in 1982 with the mission of spreading an understanding of war's impact on the lives of soldiers, the National Veterans Art Museum showcases more than 2,000 works of art created by more than 255 veterans. The museum's oeuvre, which comprises paintings, photography, sculpture, and music, focuses on Vietnam but includes artwork inspired by all of America's wars. In addition to keep a permanent collection, the museum hosts rotating temporary exhibits that honor and remember veterans and keep the subject matter fresh. Visitors and members enjoy an active social calendar, stocked with events that feature live music and plays performed entirely with the NATO phonetic alphabet.