September Free Days at Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

Indoor ActivitiesPlaces to Go

On September 9–10, 16–17, 23–24, and September 30, 2020 Illinois residents can reserve a time to visit Museum of Science and Industry (MSI), and receive free tickets directly to your email for contactless admission. Starting September 10, MSI is also adjusting Thursday hours to 11:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. so you can enjoy the Museum later in the day.

photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Upon arrival, pick up a free stylus to engage with more than a dozen exciting exhibits, including:

Science Storms: Witness a 40-foot indoor tornado and a 20-foot Tesla Coil as it shoots off 1.5 million volts of lightning right above your head.

U-505 Submarine: Discover the epic story of the capture of the U-505, a World War II submarine alongside the sub itself. On your way to the exhibit visit U-505 Submarine: 75 Stories to see photographs and artifacts that detail the early history of the sub and lives of German and American sailors.

Giant Dome Theater: Enjoy the Museum’s recently renovated and capacity-controlled five-story wraparound domed theater to watch films about heroic dogs, an all-white Spirit Bear and the world’s most remote caves.

One of MSI’s most popular field trip programs is now open to the public. Learning Labs are facilitated, dynamic experiences that provide guests the opportunity to discover science as they use real tools and techniques. Usually reserved for school groups, Learning Labs are capacity controlled and can now be added to any visit Wednesday-Sunday:

  • Crime Lab: Explore forensic science and learn how to analyze evidence like fingerprints. 
  • Engineering Design: Building Bridges: Become a civil engineer and use the engineering design cycle as you design, build and test bridges. 

Museum of Science and Industry Free Days

Illinois Resident Free Days: September 9–10, 16–17, 23–24, 30, 2020

Advance ticket reservations are required, book tickets online at New visit procedures and safety details can be found at All guests ages 2 and older must wear a face covering.

Interested in more Chicago area museums? We put together a list of the best museums to visit with your family along with age recommendations for each!

Thinking about getting a museum membership? We analyzed each museum’s membership program and answered the question: Are museum and zoo memberships worth it?

You also might be interested in STEAM and STEM Classes for Kids.

Past Exhibit Reviews

Please note that the following information was written prior to 2020.

Best Exhibits at Museum of Science and Industry

While you are there, be sure to check out our favorites, all included in the basic museum entry ticket!

Science Storms

Located on the Main Floor, you won’t be able to miss this one!
This area is full of interactive exhibits, like changing the frequency and amplitude of waves and seeing the result of your choices on a water table, demonstrations and interactive enormous tornado, real, live man-made lightening on the ceiling, and more.

Genetics and the Baby Chick Hatchery

Located on the Main Level next to the Transportaion Gallery, where the planes are hanging from the ceiling.
An average of 15 chicks hatch every day at the museum this time of year.

ToyMaker 3000

Located next to Science Storms on the Main Level.
Pay a fee to customize your own spinning top and watch it being made. Each step in the process is labeled and it’s fascinating to see how the machines and robots work. Plus, you end up with a fun toy and souvenir!

Numbers in Nature: A Mirror Maze

Located next to ToyMaker 3000 on the Main Level.
Be sure to visit the kiosk next to the exhibit early… the mirror maze is included in Museum Entry, however you need a timed ticket.

Whispering Gallery

photo courtesy of Museum of Science and Industry

Located on the Main Floor behind both the Extreme Ice and Earth Revealed exhibits.
My kids thought this was really fascinating and spent a long time whispering to each other.

The Great Train Story

Located in the Transportation Gallery area on the Main Level.
Watch the trains travel around the city and countryside and have the opportunity to press buttons to raise and lower

Swiss Jolly Ball

Located on the Lower Level by the main eating area and next to the cafe.
Although this is the busiest seating area (there are other places to eat lunch if you brought one), it’s entertaining to watch the ball make it’s way around the found-object machine.

Interactive Screen

Located on the Lower Level by the Circus exhibit.
Strike different poses to catch falling colored particles.

The Science Behind Pixar: May 2018 – January 2019

This review originally published on May 22, 2018 and was written by Maggie McAllister.

The Science Behind Pixar opens this Saturday, May 26, 2018 at the Museum of Science and Industry and  includes more than 40 interactive displays, which focus on how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are used by the artists and computer scientists that help bring our favorite Pixar movies to life. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how Pixar movies are made!

My niece and I went to the preview day this morning and we both had so much fun. Even though she is only three and some of the concepts are a little too advanced for her, she had a blast using the displays to move, light and manipulate the Pixar characters.

Tour of The Science Behind Pixar

The exhibit is divided into two rooms, with each room focusing on of the steps of filmmaking: modeling, rigging, surfaces, sets and cameras, animation, simulation, lighting and rendering. When you enter the first room you are greeted with a short video that will explain the process prior to you entering the exhibit. The doors then open and Mike and Sulley from Monsters, Inc are there welcoming you.

Photo compliments of Museum of Science and Industry

Manipulate Jessie’s face from Toy Story by sliding knobs up and down on the computer screen. Is she surprised? Move her eyebrows up and down.  Sleepy? Close and open her eyes. This was one of my niece’s favorite stations. She loved being able to change the way Jessie’s face moved.

Pull levers on the modeling station to see how drawings are made into digital sculptures. By pulling and turning the levers you are able to see the drawings turn into the actual shape used in the movies.

Another favorite of ours was the surface exhibit. Here you are able to see how different colors and textures look on the hood of Lightening McQueen. You are able to choose a color for your car as well as add decals or even add some rust or sparkle to your creation.

Turn the animation wheel to see how scenes come together.  Turn the wheel slowly and see the scene frame by frame.  Spin the wheel faster to play the scene in real time.

Get a first hand experience with lighting by changing the color of the water for Dory. You can understand the challenges that come with trying to get the right coloring and movement for the ocean.

Each station within the exhibit came equipped with a phone you could queue up to get more detailed information about the activity and there were also videos throughout with Pixar members detailing what goes into making each movie. There are also opportunities to take your photo with some of your favorite Pixar characters, including Buzz Lightyear, Dory, Mike and Sulley, Edna Mode, and Wall-E.

This was a fun exhibit and although the concepts were geared towards older children, my niece who is three had a great time pushing buttons, pulling levers and creating her own Pixar masterpieces! I would highly recommend!

The exhibit opens May 24, 2018 and will run through January 6, 2019. It requires an additional timed-entry ticket: $14 for adults and seniors and $11 for children.

Extreme Ice: Opened in March 2017

This review originally published in March, 2017 and was written by Annie Tandy.

Extreme Ice, the newest exhibit at Museum of Science and Industry, shows how glaciers are melting around the world through beautiful photographs and time-lapse videography. The images featured in Extreme Ice were captured over a multi-year period by photographer James Balog. Balog and his team documented 24 glaciers from around the globe. Scenes depicted in the exhibit include the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland, the Columbia Glacier in Alaska, Grinnell Glacier in Montana’s Glacier National Park, Mount Everest in Nepal, and many more.

Birthday Canyon, Greenland Ice Sheet, Greenland, 28 June 2009, Adam LeWinter surveys Birthday Canyon
Black deposit in bottom of channel is cryoconite. Birthday Canyon is approximately 150 feet deep.

The beginning of the exhibit features a seven minute video about how climate change is causing dramatic glacier melt. There are several examples demonstrating how rapidly it is occurring around the world.

After the video you are free to walk around to view various videos and screens, one of which gives ideas as to what we can do to help the environment. Another has interactive maps, showcasing the potential impact of coastal flooding. You can also explore the equipment that the team used to document the glacier changes on another screen. Guests are welcome to touch a 7-foot ice wall, which stays frozen in the center of the room.

Extreme Ice opened March 23, 2017 and runs through early 2019. It is included in Museum Entry ($18 for adults and $11 for kids 3-11). Buy tickets online in advance at We would recommend this exhibit for those who are interested in climate change or would like to see breathtaking photographs of landscapes around the world.

We went to the museum yesterday, during spring break, and waited in the will call line for about 40 minutes. Although the line was not fun, the museum surprisingly did not feel crowded.

Brick by Brick: March 2016 – March 2017

This review originally published March 2016 and was written by Annie Tandy.

Brick by Brick, the new exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, is not only a collection of extremely impressive LEGO structures built by Adam Reed Tucker from Arlington Heights, but it is full of opportunities for kids (and adults!) to interact, build, explore and learn. Would little kids enjoy it? The answer is a resounding “YES!”

My daughter and I went to the opening day this afternoon and it was so much fun. On the car ride home I asked her what her favorite part was, and she said, “I don’t have a favorite part because the whole thing was awesome!” What a fun and interesting way to learn about engineering, architecture, and building principles.

Here is our tour of the exhibit:

There are huge models of famous and amazing structures throughout the exhibit, including the One World Trade Center, Burj Khalifa, Golden Gate Bridge, Ping An Finance Center, The Gateway Arch, International Space Station, Great Pyramid of Giza, American Eagle Roller Coaster, Palace of Fine Arts, Cinderella Castle in Disney World, Roman Colosseum, Hoover Dam, and Fallingwater.


Build and test structures to withstand earthquakes with foam wood blocks. You have a minute and a half to build and then the table shakes, simulating an earthquake. See if your structure survives!


Determine which feels sturdier and stronger: a beam made from a wood plank and an i-beam. It is a simple but great way to see how buildings are made.

Make a bridge from paper and find out what makes it strong enough to hold a bean bag.

Build with black foam blocks and press a button to test its strength in a wind tunnel. My daughter was a little short to reach inside the chamber, but still really enjoyed testing her building.

Find out how pulleys make it easier to lift things, including yourself!


The always popular LEGO building table…


You have the opportunity to build something and see what it looks like on the big screen. It was surprisingly fun to see our creation magnified!

There was also a design challenge where two kids have a friendly, staff-led competition to make the most imaginative, functional, and structurally sound creation.

Create a car and race it down the ramp. Which one wins? Does it survive the impact at the bottom?


This was one of the areas we spent a lot of time in: A room with LEGO DUPLO bases covering the walls! Your imagination is the limit. Very cool.


Check out visions of our architectural future from some of the world’s most innovative architects and try to build from your imagination with white LEGO bricks.

There were kids of all sizes enjoying the exhibit, along with adults! Clear and helpful instructions at each of the stations guided you through the activities and have great explanations of the concepts.

We highly recommend Brick by Brick!

The exhibit opened today and will run through March 2017. It requires an additional, timed-entry ticket ($9 for adults and $7 for kids ages 3-11), included in Explorer ticket packages.

Fun Fact: LEGO DUPLO bricks are eight times the size of original LEGO bricks, yet they both connect to each other. Did you know that they fit together? I never tried that and wished I had a long time ago!

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