The MSI is the largest science museum in the Western hemisphere and a place to completely geek out. Highlights include a WWII German U-boat nestled in an underground display, the life-size shaft of a coal mine, and the "Science Storms" exhibit with a mock tornado and tsunami. The museum's main building served as the Palace of Fine Arts at the landmark 1893 World’s Expo, which was set in the surrounding Jackson Park. Here are some of the museum's best bits, level by level.
Level 1 holds the U-boat, which is incredibly impressive. It's given the Hollywood treatment with blue spotlights moving over it and dramatic music swelling in the background. An interactive kiosk lets you try to break codes. There's plenty more to see around the sub, but the highlight is going on board and touring the cramped quarters. The Space Center with rockets and the Apollo 8 lunar module, the 'fairy castle' dollhouse and the Farm Tech exhibit with huge tractors to climb are other Level 1 highlights.
Level 2 rolls out lots of trains. Science Storms lets you conjure a mock tornado and simulate a tsunami rolling toward you. Or submerge into the realistic shaft of a coal mine (temporarily closed).
Level 3 hangs cool old German dive bombers and English Spitfires from the ceiling. "You! The Experience" has a giant 3D heart to walk through and the infamous body slices (cadavers displayed in half-inch-thick pieces) that have been scaring kids for decades.
Tickets and other practicalities
Tickets include access to most permanent exhibits and selected temporary exhibitions, and should be booked online in advance. There are ramps and elevators allowing for wheelchair access throughout the museum.
Top tips for visiting the museum
- In summer and during popular exhibits lines can be long.
- The museum is vast, so get a map at the desk and make a plan of attack to see your top exhibits.
- Little kids (aged 10 and under) get stoked for the hands-on Idea Factory on Level 1; big kids get stoked for the flight simulators on Level 3.