Museum Campus offers new exhibits for your staycation

| July 3, 2014 | Comments (0)

Night skyChicagoan’s view summer as a reward for surviving winter. Most people I talk to want to stay in town this year and enjoy our beautiful city. Recently the Shedd Aquarium sent a press release reminding me of a great way to enjoy Chicago at a discounted price. Two companies offer discounted multi-attraction packages that let your family enjoy a staycation as if you have a membership at each attraction:  CityPASS or GoChicago Card.

A great place to use your CityPass or GoChicagoCard is Chicago’s world-famous museum campus. All three museums have wonderful new attractions that will make your upcoming staycation a memorable event. Some of these require an additional ticket above the CityPass or GoChicagoCard, but once you save money with the ticket packages, you’ll have a little extra money to splurge.

Adler Planetarium

Destination Solar System
In Destination Solar System, audiences tour the Solar System in the state-of-the-art technology of the Grainger Sky Theater. The experience starts before you enter. There are futuristic ads by sponsors Commonwealth Edison and BMO Harris Bank. The gate attendants punch your ticket as if you’re boarding a plane.

When we arrived in the theater, our tour guide Jesse was talking to people about where they were from and giving them information about the space tour. It took us a minute to realize that Jesse worked in 2096 taking space tourist to the “hottest hot spots and the coldest, stormiest and most spectacular sights in the Solar System.”

Jesse works with Max, a highly intelligent, fully integrated onboard computer. It’s Jesse’s first official tour, but Max is very experienced. Between the two of them they are ready to take space explorers on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. As we moved though the Solar System we learned interesting details and saw cool images. This is truly a family show. Jesse keeps the younger kids entertained while the older family members learn interesting facts from Max.

The Adler Planetarium’s newest show is visually amazing. The stunning graphics make you feel like you are looking outside a spaceship’s window as you zoom by Saturn or the Sun. Several times we heard the crowd oooohhhh and aaahhhh as we moved from planet to planet. There’s always a moment when you’re looking at Earth from outer space when you’re in awe of our planet. Destination Solar System puts you in awe of our solar system, while making you feel grateful to call Earth home.

Night Sky Live!
There’s a moment as Night Sky Live! begins when the announcer tells people that they should feel free to close their eyes or look at the ground if they get dizzy. When the stars start moving, you feel like you’re the one in motion. The announcer said, “Remember, you’re sitting in a seat.”

This show focuses on the summer night sky. The announcer showed us how to find constellations beginning astronomers seek like the Big Dipper and formations unique to this season. I have to admit that every time he said zodiacal to describe the zodiac constellations it took a minute for me to adjust.

What’s great about this show is it changes every season. You can go back time and time again to learn something new. What stuck with us was trivia the announcer slipped in near the show’s end. Author J.K. Rowling used many constellation names in her Harry Potter books. For example, Sirius is the dog star. When Sirius Black changed shapes in the Harry Potter series, he became a dog. Our daughters perked up as soon as they heard that. You can bet they repeated that in summer camp.

For more information about the Adler Planetarium or to purchase tickets, visit

Field Museum 

The Machine Inside:  Biomechanics
How’s this for a description that will entice your kids? “Imagine if your jaws could crush over 8,000 pounds in one bite, your ears could act as air conditioners, and your legs could leap the length of a football field in a single bound. The Machine Inside: Biomechanics investigates how every living thing—including humans—is a machine built from the inside out to survive, move, and discover. Explore how plants and animals stay in one piece despite the crushing forces of gravity, the pressure of water and wind, and the attacks of predators. Using surprising tactics, creatures endure the planet’s extreme temperatures, find food against fierce competition, and – without metal, motors or electricity – circulate their own life-sustaining fluids.  Feel for yourself how hard a giraffe’s heart works to pump blood up to its head.  Try to “fly” and study the many different ways creatures jump, gallop, slither, and swim. And see technological breakthroughs – like Velcro, wind turbines, and chainsaws – that were inspired by nature’s ingenuity. Discover how evolution is Earth’s greatest innovator, only at The Field Museum.”  There’s even a microsite you can explore in both Spanish and English.

Tiny Giants 3D
Another fun-to-explore exhibit is Tiny Giants 3D, which reveals the great courage and skill that our planet’s smallest creatures need to survival. Featuring groundbreaking cinematography and cutting edge 3D, visitors interact with the exhibit as they experience what life is like when they are under one foot tall in North America’s mysterious Wild Wood.

Visitors will “meet a plucky young chipmunk who is forced to grow up fast when he is alone for the first time in this enchanting forest. Facing experienced rivals and huge predators, follow our chipmunk hero as he races against the clock to gather enough acorns before the winter frost sets in. And see how our tiny giant’s ingenious ‘superpowers’ not only keep him alive, but also help him become master of his universe.” BBC Earth Productions and Giant Screen Films present Tiny Giants 3D. 3D Theater sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP.

For more information about the Field Museum or to purchase tickets, visit

Shedd Aquarium

Jellies, sponsored by Walgreen’s, is my favorite exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium. Here’s how the Shedd Aquarium’s website describes the exhibit, “Jellies have staying power. They’ve survived — and thrived — in the Earth’s oceans for more than 500 million years. And a dazzling array of diverse species have extended their stay at Shedd’s special exhibit, Jellies. Immerse yourself in the mesmerizing world of jellies, where simple bell-shaped forms are the result of complex biological processes, and delicate frills harbor tiny venomous harpoons that paralyze prey. Even though they don’t have blood, bones, or brains, jellies aren’t as simple as they look! See for yourself: Jellies — 95% water, 100% amazing.”

I could have spent the day staring at the Jellies. The way they move is mesmerizing. The colors change as the Jellies shift shapes, moving in their tanks with an amazingly graceful motion. As with all special exhibits, you leave through the gift shop. I didn’t buy anything, but my family bought a Jellies t-shirt and socks for me. I wear them with happy memories of these amazing creatures.

Stingray Touch
Kids love to touch things, so how cool is it for them to be able to touch stingrays? Stingray Touch is the Shedd’s first outdoor exhibit. Interpreters help guests understand stingrays as individual creatures and as part of the larger underwater ecosystem.

Visitors can put their hands in the water to feel the silk-smooth backs of cownose rays and see the graceful glide of the yellow rays. These are designed as a hands-on, kid-friendly experience, but it’s really a treat for the whole family. Once you touch these fish, you’ll be even more interested in how the Shedd cares for stingrays living at the museum and how you can help protect them in the wild.

For more information about the Shedd Aquarium or to purchase tickets, visit


Shari writes about life with twins at Two Times the Fun. Image courtesy of the Adler Planetariums.

Disclosure:  I did receive media passes to experience the Adler Planetarium shows.

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Category: Shari's Corner

About Shari: Shari is a mom, wife, marketing communications professional, gardener, Chicago Blackhawks fan, college sports fan, traveler, quilter, community volunteer, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, Siberian Husky owner, Girl Scout troop leader and book lover. You can find Shari blogging about life with twins at Two Times the Fun and tweeting @slcs48n1. View author profile.

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