Adler Planetarium was the last destination on Museum Campus in downtown Chicago that we had not visited, so we decided to bring my extended family downtown and check out the Planetarium. My three-year-old recently became fascinated with space, so we thought it was good timing. I’m glad we waited until now to take him, as he was able to appreciate more of the exhibits now than he would have previously. The planetarium is located at the very east end of museum campus, out on Lake Michigan. From the planetarium, the view looking back at the downtown Chicago sky line is unreal. We opted to park in the museum parking lot for $20 because we had a 6-week-old infant with us and it was freezing, but there are cheaper options further away if walking is not an issue.
We bought our tickets online thinking we could then skip the ticket line, but this was not the case. There was a special line for museum members, but then everyone else had to go through the main line. We went to the downstairs stroller line, and still had to wait for about 30 minutes to enter the museum. Part of the problem is that when buying tickets, each individual needs to choose the ticket type and planetarium show they want to see, as well as the show time they want to attend. There are many decisions, so a tip to not feel rushed/blindsided by all the choices, buy the tickets online beforehand at this website. With a three-year-old, we opted for the basic pass- with access to all of the exhibits and entrance into one planetarium show. This pass is $24.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids.
The first exhibit we checked out was all about the moon missions. There were areas where we could hear the actual audio between the spacecraft and Mission Control. We saw one of the actual space pods that brought the astronauts back to earth. Landon liked taking pictures with the moon backdrop, but ran through the rest of the exhibit pretty quickly.
The solar system exhibit is laid out in an open area that makes it easy to just browse the planets without having to go through a one-way exhibit. I thought Landon would like this exhibit because we’ve been learning about the planets, but it was definitely geared toward an older audience so he again, breezed right through. There was a spacecraft simulator that he loved driving.
There was an awesome kid’s exhibit on the main level. It started on earth and had the children harvest vegetables that were grown with sunlight from the sun! From there, it goes more into a space theme with a rocket launch, a moon vehicle that really drove, and remote control vehicles as well. Landon could have spent all day in there, we had to coax him away to watch the Planetarium show!
Going to a major museum with an infant is always risky- you never know when they are going to freak out, poop, need to be fed, etc. It is not worth it to venture out without a lot of help! Thankfully, Grandma and Grandpa were more than willing to hold and take care of Owen so we could chase Landon around.
That being said, Owen did great and I just had to pause to feed and change him every so often. He didn’t really like the planetarium show, so I had to stand up for the show and bounce him around. We chose a show about the Earth, Moon and Sun narrated by a coyote. It was geared more towards kids, although I think Landon would have enjoyed any of the shows. This one just fit best with our time frame.
It was back in the kid’s area for us after checking out the downstairs exhibits. There was a cool exhibit about the expanding universe with many interactive displays that were geared for grade school level and above. A telescope exhibit had some really cool old telescopes and reviewed the history of telescopes. There was a few “lab” rooms where Landon tried out building some thing, including a marble maze.
Grandpa took a turn with Owen in the kid’s area… and this is what happened. He helped him go down the slide, and posed him as an astronaut. Owen was just cool as a cucumber the whole time, and the astronaut pictures just cracked me up as I was taking them!
The coolest part of the kid’s area was the moon rover vehicle that kids could actually drive around. Landon played a lot with the other kids loading and unloading it, and then driving it around. He also liked wearing the astronaut backpack.
Overall, the planetarium is easily an attraction that can be seen and enjoyed in a half day or less. Because of our three-year-old and infant and the long ticket lines, we were there a little longer. Having seen many of the Chicago museums and sights, I don’t know if the planetarium would be on my top list of things to see. It is a fun place to visit, especially for space lovers, and perhaps I would have a different opinion if we had seen a more grown-up planetarium show, but I’m not sure it is completely worth the expensive entrance fee, and I would not recommend making it a part of a short sight-seeing visit to Chicago.