The Best Museums For Tourists & Locals In Illinois

Illinois has a long history of attracting some of the most influential artists, musicians, and thinkers from around the world. This cultural richness has resulted in a strong tradition of supporting the arts, which has in turn led to the creation of many of the world-renowned museums that you can find throughout Illinois today.

As well, the state’s government and citizens have a strong commitment to supporting the arts. Many of the museums in Illinois receive funding from the state, which allows them to continue to operate and provide access to art, history, and culture for all. Here are some of the main museums in the state, categorized by their focus:

Art Museums:

  • The Art Institute of Chicago: Renowned for its vast collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, alongside works spanning various cultures and periods.
  • Richard H. Driehaus Museum: Showcases decorative arts and architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, housed in a stunning Gilded Age mansion.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA Chicago): Features thought-provoking and innovative contemporary art exhibitions.

History Museums:

  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: Explores the life and legacy of the 16th US president, Abraham Lincoln, through artifacts, exhibits, and interactive experiences.
  • Chicago History Museum: Delves into the rich history of Chicago, showcasing its diverse communities, cultural movements, and iconic moments.
  • Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center: Shares the stories of survivors and the impact of the Holocaust, raising awareness and promoting tolerance.

Science Museums:

  • Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Engages visitors in exploring the natural world through interactive exhibits, dioramas, and live animals.
  • Museum of Science and Industry: Houses various exhibits covering physics, technology, space exploration, and more, offering hands-on learning experiences.
  • Discovery Center Museum: Geared towards children, with interactive exhibits that spark curiosity and encourage exploration in science and technology.

Specialized Museums:

  • National Museum of Mexican Art: Showcases Mexican and Mexican-American art, history, and culture.
  • DuSable Black History Museum & Education Center: Explores the history and culture of African Americans, celebrating their contributions and achievements.
  • Illinois Railway Museum: Features a collection of historic locomotives and railroad cars, offering train rides and exhibits on railroad history.