By Amy Bocchetta
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Open every day except the first Friday in May, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day
Admission: Adults , $9
Students and Seniors age 60+, $7
Children ages 3-12, $6
Children under 3 are free
On Thursdays, admission is free for Illinois residents
Nestled in the expanse of green that is our beloved Lincoln Park, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum strives to create a connection between people and nature. Geared towards families, this hands-on museum offers a wide range of fun, interactive exhibits and educational programming for children and adults of all ages. This is one of our family’s favorite museums – there is always something to delight both my kids, ages 2 and 10.
It’s enviable Lincoln Park location – with the lake nearby, just across a bridge, and the Lincoln Park Zoo just next door – offers numerous surrounding paved trails and bike racks. Your best bet is to rollerblade, bus, bike, train or hike. The museum welcomes visitors to drop off rollerblades at the coat check and there are more than enough spots at racks to lock your bike up at the entrance. Area parking can be pricey and hard to find, so go green and make it a car-free day.
As a Chicago native, I appreciate the Notebaert Nature Museum’s focus on Illinois flora and fauna. The Birds of Chicago exhibit Learn displays 115 specimens of area birds, dating back to the early 1900s. The Mysteries of the Marsh exhibit showcases the endangered species found in Illinois wetlands, including Blanding’s turtles, water scorpions, stick bugs, and black widow spiders. The River Works exhibit examines Chicago’s waterways and explains how they support plants, animals, and humans. Volunteers offer regular animal “meet and greets” – giving kids a chance to get up close and personal with a turtle, frog, or a giant cockroach. Every exhibit has some sort of hands-on element, and the River Works is guaranteed to keep your kids occupied as they are invited to get their hands wet and build options for a fast-flowing, urban river.
Judy Istock Butterfly Haven
Step into the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven and you’ll find yourself in a magical wonderland: 75 species of exotic butterflies and birds flitter and fly around, sometimes stopping to perch on a flower a leaf, or even a human! The 2,700 square-foot greenhouse with its tropical trees and flowers and the sun shining in through its windowpaned ceiling will transport your entire family to Hawaii. My toddler daughter is ecstatic every time we pop in for a visit to this lovely haven.
Fun Family Programming
The Nature Museum prides itself on its extensive educational programming. Workshops on everything from building worm composting bins to constructing a shelter out of organic materials are part of an exciting menu of family activities. Join up on hike through the wilds of Lincoln Park in search of creatures or search for urban animal habitats. Visit naturemuseum.org to register for family programs and see what’s on the menu for free museum activities the day of your visit.