A (Free!) Day with the Dinosaurs at the Field Museum

IMG_3903For our next Chicago free museum day, I gave Landon a choice- science and vehicles (Museum of Science and Industry) or dinosaurs and mummies (Field Museum). He’s really into dinosaurs right now, so the obvious choice was the Field Museum. This museum is located on the aptly named “museum campus,” along with the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium, next to Soldier Field. Parking in the museum parking costs way more than I’m willing to pay, so I reserved a parking spot with Park Whiz. It was only a few blocks away, and saved me $20! On their website, I chose the hours we were going to be there, and then they sent me a mobile parking pass with a bar code. I chose to also print the pass out. The parking was easy to find, and they texted me to make sure that I had found my spot without any trouble! We had a little problem at the end of the day, because I was a few minutes late exiting the garage. I had to pay $8 more to leave the garage, but when I contacted their customer service line, I received an $8 credit the same day! I would recommend Park Whiz or another parking app for finding affordable parking in downtown Chicago. It is possible, people!

IMG_3906On our walk to the museum, we stopped to admire the view looking back to the Chicago skyline. I’m not a fan of cities- the traffic, the people, and the lack of nature really grates on me. But, from far away, Chicago looked beautiful during our visit!

 

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The museums in Chicago have the most awesome architecture! I love walking up to a museum inspired to learn just from the stately columns and grand architectural design. The main entrance is up some stairs from the sidewalk, with the stroller accessible entrance being on the east side of the building. Because it was free day, we were granted access to the museum’s main collection and had the choice to purchase tickets for special exhibitions or movies. I showed Illinois ID and we were on our way! Landon wanted to head straight to the dinosaur exhibit, so we headed up the elevator to the top floor. We ended up walking through the Traveling the Pacific exhibit because Landon saw lava and had to see what that was about! There were some neat boats, clothing, jewelry and home replicas showcasing what life was like on different Pacific Islands.

As we made our way toward the Evolving Planet exhibit, we found Sue’s head! For those who don’t know Sue, she is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Her head weighs 600 lbs, and is too heavy to be supported on her skeleton, which stands near the main entrance of the museum. She was found in the United States in the 1990s, by a woman named Sue! So, a replica of Sue’s head is on her original skeleton, and her head is upstairs near the entrance to the dinosaur exhibit. We learned that her skull had a crushed in section that was damaged after she died. Her teeth are SO LONG! Landon also had a great time playing paleontologist and matching up the bones with the dinosaur at this interactive touch screen near Sue’s skull. It was the perfect height and difficulty for little guys his age!

IMG_3916IMG_3920The Evolving Planet exhibit started out with the beginning of life on earth, on through to the dinosaurs, and then continued on to man and modern animals. Landon tends to breeze through the early years, as he is anxious to get to the dinosaur bones! I appreciated the flow of this exhibit, as every time there was a mass extinction or die off event, the lighting is red and it is clearly marked on the floor. It helped me establish that timeline of the history of the earth just a little better than before!

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IMG_3930Finally, we made it to the grand dinosaur hall. We stayed in here for a long time, as there were so many things to do and see. Landon watched every little animated movie they had in this room, mostly talking about the history surrounding the discovery and naming of different dinosaurs. There were so many different dinosaurs depicted, and some of them were posed in interesting ways- like carnivores attacking an herbivore, etc. There were things to touch, like the different styles of ceratopsian horns, and explore, like a model of a parasaurolophus horn. We could push air through the model and hear what this dinosaur may have sounded like! On the walls of the dinosaur room were giant murals of dinosaurs in the landscapes where they may have lived. These paintings, which depicted early dinosaurs all the way through to mammoths, bears, and modern reptiles, were commissioned for the museum in the 1920s, and artist Charles Knight spent four years creating the unique pieces for the Field Museum’s fossil hall. After watching a few films about the mass extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, and the evolution of life on earth since then, we headed down to the first floor to get a good look at Sue. We go through a ton of dinosaur library books at our house, and many of them mention Sue, so it was really cool to see her in real life!

IMG_3936After the dinosaur exhibit, we ate our packed lunch downstairs in the lunchroom area, and then Landon really wanted to go to the Underground Adventure exhibit, which costs extra and is ticketed. The idea of the exhibit is to show us what is going on underground by “shrinking” us down to tiny bug size, so that everything inside is huge and magnified. Landon went in the exhibit last year and thought it was fascinating. This time around, he was FREAKED out by the giant bugs, and especially the crunching and crackling noises that they piped in. He wanted out of there as soon as we went in. So, we walked through the cool, giant, animatronic bug part as fast as we could, and played in the more boring, informational part for a few minutes. It was not worth the money this time for us!

IMG_3939There is way more in this museum than a person can see in a day. Especially with two kiddos. Our parking was going to expire soon, so Landon picked one last area to explore- the Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit. Since we were on the bottom floor, we only saw half of the exhibit, but it was really neat! We learned how mummies were made, and saw all sorts of mummies, coffins, and sarcophagi- including animal mummies! We learned a little about life in ancient Egypt, including checking out a replica marketplace and boat. I wish we had had more time in this exhibit, and done it earlier in the day. By this point, Landon was tired, I was tired, Owen was tired, and we had to get going for our parking. Even so, this exhibit was COOL!

 

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All too soon, it was time to go. The Field museum was stroller accessible, but because it is older there was one elevator shaft and it was a trek back and forth from exhibits to the elevator on each floor. Some exhibits were set up in such a way as maneuvering the stroller was a little difficult- I can see it being a problem if the museum is really busy. But the museum is so big that visitors can spread out and it did not seem at all crowded when we visited on a weekday! We only checked out a few exhibits in our five-hour visit, so I would recommend planning a half to full day here to really get the most out of it. First timers should only need a general admission ticket, unless you are really interested in one of the special ticketed exhibitions. We brought our own lunch, and just made sure to eat it in the designated area on the bottom floor of the museum. Another area we did not explore was the Crown Family Play Lab. It is open 10am-3pm every day except Tuesday and Wednesday. We visited on a Wednesday, so it was closed, but it looks like a great place for kids of all ages to play and learn, and take a break from formal museum exhibits.

 

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