Tips for Visiting the Field Museum + The New Spinosaurus

Museums and Zoos

There’s a new dino in town at the Field Museum: Spinosaurus, the dinosaur world’s biggest hunter, who now paddles through the air above the main hall’s admission lines. With crocodile-like jaws, a tall row of spines, and a long tail, the dinosaur cast is an epic way to start a visit to the museum.

Spinosaurus skeleton cast hanging high in the Field Museum's main hall.

The museum invited us to check out the new dinosaur when it was raised into place on June 2. We were excited to not just see this new exhibit featuring a dinosaur (joining SUE the T. rex and Máximo the titanosaur, as well as plenty of others), but also to check out the Field Museum as a whole.

Spinosaurus at the Field Museum

You can’t miss this new dinosaur skeleton cast: it hangs above the entrance lines to get into the museum!

“The thing about the Spinosaurus is that it’s just awesome,” said Field Museum Exhibition Developer Ben Miller, who met me to talk about the new dinosaur. “It’s the biggest meat-eating dinosaur that we know about. It’s got this crocodile head, it’s got these big, gnarly claws, it’s got the fin on its back. So that’s why we decided to put it right at the front of the museum.”

The cast is of a fossil discovered in Morocco and was developed in collaboration with a group of Italian scientists. It’s the only place outside of Japan where you can find a Spinosaurus cast or fossil on permanent display.

“It seems like in the last ten years, Spinosaurus became every kid’s favorite dinosaur,” said Miller. “We’re really excited to be able to say, yes, here’s where you can see a Spinosaurus: It’s right here in Chicago.”

Dino Fest at the Field Museum

On June 10, 2023, the museum’s Dino Fest will celebrate the new addition with trivia games, a book fair, and other kid-friendly activities. Dinosaur curator Jingmai O’Connor and paleoartist Ted Rechlin will be there to talk about the cast, the Spinosaurus, and who would win in a battle between Spinosaurus and T. rex.

Visiting the Field Museum with Kids

When I asked Miller for recommendations on visiting the museum with kids, his top tip was: “Don’t try to see all the Field Museum in one day.” The Museum is huge, with miles of exhibits to walk located over its three floors. Having one or two exhibits on your must-see list will help you plan where you want to spend the bulk of your time while still leaving room for exploration and discovery.

The ground floor of the museum is a great home base for families. It has the Crown Family PlayLab, with stroller parking, family restrooms, and a nursing room, as well as spots for enjoying lunch or a snack.

Crown Family PlayLab

The Crown Family PlayLab is for kids from ages 2 to 6 and is included with basic admission. It’s open from 10am to 3:30pm daily, so keep those times in mind when planning out your day.

The PlayLab is definitely an oasis for visiting families. Hands-on exhibits and activities include an art lab, a music studio (with a closed door so the sound doesn’t fill the entire lab), a model pueblo where kids can harvest and process play corn, a dinosaur area, and much more.

The PlayLab’s toys, activities, and hands-on exhibits include so many materials to touch and handle, as well as opportunity for large-body play. The open sightlines within a closed space are a welcome relief for kids and caregivers alike, giving kids plenty of room to roam and explore in one area.

Areas including a play tent and a reading corner with giant bean-bags are awesome spots for a bit of a sensory reprieve, too.

Other Kid-Friendly Exhibits

The Field Museum has plenty of kid-friendly features throughout the museum, especially for kids who are able to read and engage with interactive displays. You can certainly follow your children’s interests and enjoy pretty much anything within the museum; my kids love space and geology, so they wanted to check out the meteorites and minerals on display.

The Evolving Planet exhibit is home to a slew of dinosaurs, including SUE the T. rex. If your kids want to go straight to the dinosaurs, you can enter closer to the Fossil Lab rather than starting at the Evolving Planet exhibit entrance.

The Nature Walk on the museum’s main level is delightful for animal-loving kids, with animal specimens posed creatively in recreations of their natural habitats. A boardwalk throughout the exhibit makes it feel even more immersive.

Recommended Ages (and Field Museum vs. MSI)

I’ve always heard that in terms of Chicago’s science-oriented museums, the Field Museum is better for older kids, and that the younger crowd should check out the Museum of Science and Industry instead. I’d never taken the kids to the Field Museum before, so I was interested to see if that assessment held up.

My five-year-old and seven-year-old had plenty to do at the Field Museum, and they would happily go back any day of the week! I do think that being able to read and navigate the interactive display screens was pretty key to keeping them engaged with the general exhibits. Younger children would probably go through exhibits more quickly and gravitate to touch-and-feel and hands-on opportunities.

The Family PlayLab definitely increases the Field Museum’s appeal for the six-and-under crowd. Families with young kids will probably spend quite a while in the PlayLab, which could be a little tricky for caregivers bringing a wider range of ages.

So which is better for families with young children? I really think it depends on your kids. The MSI is definitely more geared towards younger children overall, with a huge amount of hands-on, climb-up, and get-in opportunities. It’s also louder and more action-packed, which some kids will find exciting and others will find overwhelming. Kids who are especially interested in natural science topics like dinosaurs, animals, DNA, and geology could spend a long time immersed in the exhibits at the Field Museum.

Personally, our family loves both!

Food at The Field Museum

The Field Museum allows visitors to bring in outside food and water in closed containers. There are areas with picnic tables and vending machines on the ground level, near the sea mammal exhibits. Gardens right outside the Field Museum have areas for picnicking, too.

Picnic table near narwhal exhibit at the Field Museum.

If you’d like to buy lunch at the Field Museum, the Field Bistro on the main level has grab-and-go items, as well as a bar area. Most families will instead opt for the ground level’s Explorer Cafe, where there are two options for kids meals: a hot dog meal or a dino nuggets meal, both $10. You can check out the full menu on the website.

Child eating lunch at the Field Museum Explorer Cafe, with a big hot dog and French fries.

We all enjoyed our lunches, but with a bill of nearly $50 for the three of us, we definitely paid for convenience. If you have the time (and don’t mind some more walking) and would like to save a little cash on lunch out, you can also head outside the museum to find plenty of hot dog carts and food vendors on the Museum campus.

Pro tip: The Adler Planetarium’s Cosmic Cafe is open to the public, even without planetarium admission. It has slightly lower prices, more options (including vegetarian choices), and an unbeatable view of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. Hours are more limited, so check before you walk over.


Bathrooms abound throughout the museum. The Crown Family PlayLab on the ground floor has two family restrooms, which include both regular-sized and mini toilets, as well as a changing table and a padded bench. There’s also a nursing room and stroller parking in the same area.

Getting There

Coming downtown by train from the suburbs? The 130 Museum Campus CTA bus line stops at both Chicago Union Station and Ogilve Transportation Center. It runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, making getting to the museum campus and back really easy in the summer.

For parking, you’ll find several paid options on the Museum Campus, as well as via SpotHero. Be aware that traffic in this area is highly affected by events downtown and at Solider Field. (Thank you, Taylor Swift, for the most delightfully sequined traffic I have ever been stuck in.)


Basic adult admission for Illinois residents is $27; up to $40 for an all-access pass that includes a 3D movie and all three of the museum’s ticketed exhibitions. Out-of-state residents pay just a bit more ($30 to $43), while Chicago residents get a significant discount ($18 to $32).

Free days at the museum include free basic admission, as well as discounts for upgrades.

Options for discounts:

  • Families with valid EBT (Link) or WIC cards are eligible for $3-per-person Basic admission for up to six people. Tickets must be purchased in person and you have to show your EBT or WIC card.
  • Active military personnel receive free basic admission with military status ID. Tickets must be purchased in person.
  • Illinois K-12 teachers receive free basic admission with employee ID. Tickets must be purchased in person.
  • Members of the ASTC Travel Passport Program can receive reciprocal admission; check the website for details.
  • If you’d like to visit multiple Chicago destinations, the Field Museum is part of the Chicago CityPASS.

Field Museum Hours

The museum is open daily from 9:00am – 5:00pm; admission ends at 4:00pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, and hours sometimes vary. Check the website for holiday hours and schedule changes.

The Field Museum
1400 S Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60605

Past Exhibits at Field Museum

Head to the next page to read about past exhibits at Field Museum to get a taste of what they have had there in the past.

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