The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the finest museums in the world. In fact, TripAdvisor awarded it the #1 museum in the world for 2014. While showcasing beautiful works of art, the Art Institute of Chicago does an exceptional job of making its collections family-friendly. I especially appreciated the free admission for children under 14, which encourages families to visit even if they are not able to stay all day because of little ones needs.
I have visited the Art Institute of Chicago several times, but on our recent trip I was excited to take my children to see the amazing impressionist works. The Art Institute of Chicago has a large collection of works by Renior, Monet, Seurat, and others. This section of the museum will be busy at any time of day, but we started there first thing in the morning and the crowds were very manageable, even on Thanksgiving weekend.
Tips for Visiting the Art Institute of Chicago with Children
1. Artist’s Studio at the Ryan Education Center
The best way I have found to get my children excited about art is to let them try it out themselves. Stop in at the artist’s studio in the Ryan Education Center to work on an art project you can take home. The Art Institute of Chicago offers many workshops for families with children. Check out the schedule here.
2. Audio Guides
Audio guides are available for $7 and may be a good choice for your family. The Lions Trail Family Guide is specifically designed for children ages 5 to 10.
3. Visit the Basement
Leave time to visit the basement. My kids enjoyed the paperweight exhibit and the Thorne minature room as much as anything they saw in the museum. The 68 miniature rooms are decorated in different European and American styles. We loved looking at these miniatures of life from the different eras.
4. Gift Shop
The Art Institute of Chicago has a wonderful gift shop. At the end of your visit, consider letting each child buy a postcard of their favorite piece of art to remember the visit. I found several great gifts for kids in the gift shop as well.
5. Tips for families with young children
Leave backpacks and backpack-style child carriers at home, or plan to check them in the checkroom for $1 per item. Food, drink and toys are not permitted in the galleries. Strollers are welcome and the museum is stroller-friendly, but special exhibitions may have stroller restrictions due to space limitation. If your child wants to do a pencil sketch while you tour, please check with the security officer in the gallery you are visiting.
If you are in a hurry, check out the 1-hour highlights tour on the back of the guide book available at the information desk.
When our legs got tired, we sat on comfortable benches in front of the Marc Chagall windows and enjoyed studying the windows while we rested.
The Art Institute of Chicago offers three different dining choices, and the Museum Cafe has a wonderful kids menu and family-friendly dining. There are many restaurants on Michigan Avenue just across the street from the museum. On a warm day, a picnic in Millenium Park after visiting the Art Institute of Chicago would be fun for kids.
Good to Know
Where: 111 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois
- Open daily 10:30–5:00
- Thursday until 8:00
- The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
- $23 adults
- $17 senior (65+)
- $17 students (both high school and college students)
- Free for children under 14
How Long: 2-4 hours
Parking Tips: Valet parking is available for $25 at the Modern entrance on Monroe Avenue. The Millenium parking garage just across the street from the Modern entrance was easy parking for us when we visited.
Amenities: three restaurants, gift shop, coat check, limited number of free strollers
Disclosure: I was given a free pass for my family to visit the Art Institute of Chicago so I could review it for Tips for Family Trips readers. All opinions are my own.