Chicago is full of galleries, museums, libraries, and cultural centers; for locals and tourists alike, deciding where to visit can be an overwhelming choice. For those in the know, these five museums best exemplify why Chicago is famous as a hub of art and culture.
The Art Institute of Chicago
For those familiar with the Windy City, the Art Institute of Chicago needs no introduction. Founded in 1879, this landmark building (located in Grant Park) is one of the largest repositories of art and artifacts in the modern world, housing a permanent collection of over 300,000 works from every era of human history. It is one of Chicago’s oldest and most celebrated institutions, and it draws over a million-and-a-half visitors every year. For locals and tourists alike, the Art Institute is one of Chicago’s must-see attractions.
The American Writers Museum
The American Writers Museum is more than just a library or a collection of books by celebrated authors; it is a living, breathing, multimedia celebration of the works by this nation’s writers, musicians, poets, and storytellers from all periods of our history. It informs, reveals, and challenges guests—even inspiring them to do a bit of writing themselves on a variety of working old-fashioned typewriters. If you love the written word, give this humble museum a visit. It will not disappoint.
The Federal Reserve Money Museum
One of Downtown Chicago’s stranger attractions, the Money Museum has a variety of interactive exhibits that tell the story of money and its emergence in the United States, from colonial days to present. Famous for its gigantic cube of $1,000,000 in one dollar bills (and for the bags of shredded cash that it offers for sale to guests), the Money Museum is a definite must-see for all lovers of American history.
The Chicago Cultural Center
Right across the street from Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center is one of the most visited attractions in Downtown Chicago. Famous for its two legendary stained-glass domes, the Center is also home to seven or eight rotating exhibits, along with never-ending free musical, dance, and theatre events (including a variety of lectures and films) year-round. Whether you’re looking for a nice date spot or a place to unwind from the stresses of city life, the Cultural Center is one of Chicago’s best places to spend an afternoon.
The Chicago Design Museum
Originally a pop-up museum that hosted a variety of exhibitions in venues around Chicago in 2012 and 2013, the Chicago Design Museum finally crowd-funded its way into a permanent location. Now, it is one of The Loop’s most popular hangouts for lovers of all things beautiful and well-designed. With one single exhibition that rotates out every few months or so, the Chicago Design Museum is consistently one of the most pleasing spaces in Downtown to spend a few free hours.