Field trips in Chicago: 15 educational field trip spots that make Chicago great
This rich collection of Chicago field trips can introduce kids to art, astronomy, insects or rockets. Online school students can gain hands-on experience at these diverse destinations. All these spots are in the city of Chicago except for the dairy plant tour, located on Ice Cream Drive in North Aurora. Ample downloadable resources for teachers, parents and group leaders make connections with classroom learning:
Top 15 Field Trip Spots in Chicago, IL
Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.): Families enjoy three theaters, activity carts, explorer tool belts for self-guided activities, and the Planet Explorers gallery -- great for preschoolers. Resources like gallery exploration cards help teachers, chaperones and other group leaders build on school lessons for students up to grade 12. Try the multilingual Big Bird's Adventure guides or kinesthetic learning activities like human sundials, hand clocks and fizzy lifting rockets.
Chicago Children's Museum (at Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave.): Families can make the most of free events and the open playgroup for babies and toddlers. Field trip guides help teachers, parents and group leaders integrate museum visits with classroom learning. Programs include Paint with Science, Goo and You, The Bubble that Ate Chicago or the Inventing Lab. Don't miss Wonder Kid activities like box ecology, glove gardens and recycle rockets.
Chicago Children's Theatre (at the Ruth Page Center for Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., next to Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile): Since opening in 2005, this group has reached more than 180,000 young people and families with plays like Harold and the Purple Crayon. Another show explores the life of a young African-American orphan befriended by jazz musicians during the Depression. Summer camp workshops dive into acting, story creation, movement and craftwork.
Chicago Cultural Center - Millennium Park (77 E. Randolph St., in the Loop): Free downtown tours introduce you to local history, architecture, the Chicago River and the Lakefront. For-fee tours include travel by trolley, bus, bike or boat. Get ready for your visit with the Chicago for Kids audio tour. You can find another visitor center in the historic Chicago Water Works near the Magnificent Mile.
Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark St., at the south end of Lincoln Park): Prep for your visit with Great Chicago Stories and online learning resources, or use an audio tour created by local teenagers. History a la Cart programs delve into themes like skyscrapers or neighborhoods. Pre-K and kindergarten kids play with the Pioneer Locomotive, while older students explore the exhibit on Chicago: Crossroads of America.
Chicago Opera Theater (70 E Lake St., Suite 815): This group brings the opera to the young people of Chicago through residencies in elementary schools, high school apprenticeships and the young artists program. Check out the education blog posts from interns and teaching artists. Prepare for a performance with videos and podcasts full of behind-the-scene sneak peeks.
The Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.): Come meet the largest, most complete tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Activities include soil adventures, youth design team or TakeTheField, which lets teens meet scientists and researchers. Resources and activity sheets help you get the most out of exhibits such as Bird Habitat Hall, Messages from the Wilderness or Traveling the Pacific.
John G. Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore Dr. on Chicago's Museum Campus): K-12 field trips can expand your curriculum with programs on animal behavior, habitats, adaptations, ecosystems, anatomy and water chemistry; for example, one K-2 learning lab focuses on animals in action.
Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark St.): Families with children aged 5-12 can join Evening Encounters for nature hikes and stories. Zoo educators lead tours with hands-on investigations, and inquiry-based zoo explorers programs -- like predator/prey -- target grades K-5. A leader's guide offers specific tips for successful zoo field trips.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (220 E. Chicago Ave., downtown): Young people find inspiration in painting, sculpture, photography, theater, dance, video, film, or writing and drawing workshops. Teaching artists lead MCA school programs, and tours support Illinois learning standards. Families enjoy stroller tours and summer studios such as Seeing City Sounds, where participants build collaborative artwork.
Museum of Science and Industry (57th St. and Lake Shore Dr.): Jump into 14 acres of exhibits, daily live science experiences and hands-on labs. Online learning resources include free downloadable worksheets and tips on linking the experience to your classroom curriculum. Choose from science storms, simple machines, submarines and more.
Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.): Chicago's lakefront playground and the Midwest's #1 tourist and leisure destination, historic Navy Pier attracts more than 8.6 million visitors a year. You can explore 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens and attractions, including the family pavilion and a 15-story tall Ferris wheel. Take a boat ride on Lake Michigan or marvel at the acrobats in Cirque Shanghai.
Oberweis Dairy (951 Ice Cream Dr., Sweet One, North Aurora): Young people can find out where food comes from when they visit this producer of milk, ice cream, eggs and cheese cake. Plant tours show kids over the age of 8 how the dairy works, with a video full of behind-the-scenes action. And for a sensory learning experience, everyone gets to try the ice cream.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.): Children's and family programs include nature collages and discovery backpacks for adventures on themes like water and weather. Early childhood classes range from Camo Critters to Outdoor Spanish, with nature stroller tours for the littlest ones. Groups of all ages learn from activities like Bugs Alive and Pizza to Plant.
The Skydeck (233 S. Wacker Dr., in the West Loop): Interactive exhibits abound at the skydeck in Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Activities include scavenger hunts, downloadable quizzes like I Spy on High or the Skydeck Kids Club, featuring knee-high attractions for the little ones. Those who love heights can brave the ledge, a glass balcony extending 4 feet outside the 103rd floor of the skyscraper.
Bookmark these places to discover, and be sure to check for free day or evening admission. Chicago's many field trip spots offer an extra learning boost with a good dose of fun for school classes, families, and kids from home schools or online schools.