We were driven along the Lake Shore to the South Side of Chicago where we spent the next day (6 hours!) at the amazing Museum of Science and Industry.

Museum front lawn and entrance

I have to say, it is the best one I have ever visited, full of fabulous displays, interactive experiences and beautifully curated. It is a must see. The museum building has a rich history dating back to 1893 when it was built for the Chicago Worlds Fair. Its 14 acres and stunning! One of the most impressive elements is how accessible and knowledgeable the guides and scientists are.

Our first stop was the “MythBusters” exhibit. The kids are big fans of the show.
We enjoyed many interactive displays including: one where you test out which leaves you more soaked, running or walking through the rain, which the kids volunteered for, a card flicking booth, and a station where we could make the videos go backward or forward in very slow motion.

Here is a video (click image to watch) of me attempting to pull the table cloth off the table without spilling everything I did pretty well, no? We discovered the secret to making this work…but I don’t want to ruin it for you.

There was also a Live “MythBusters” show where a lucky volunteer from the audience tried to dodge a paintball. Well, lets just say its a good thing she had on a helmet!

Then it was onto the “Science Storms” exhibit. All about the science of storms. We learned about tsunami waves, lightening, thunder, tornadoes. The video displays in this section were incredible. I was mesmerized by the video of an avalanche. I’d never seen anything quite like it. Another display allowed you to program and view what happens when different types of tsunami waves crash against a shoreline.

this one showed us lightening right above our heads!

Standing inside the simulated tornado

There are scientists in lab coats walking through the museum doing on the fly style experiments and engaging visitors. One scientist brought us into lab and told us about liquid nitrogen and let us experiment with it. Malcolm put on heavy protective mitts and made ice cream using the liquid nitrogen which looks like smoke. We even got to eat it and no surprise, it was pretty good.

Pulling frozen balloons out of liquid nitrogen

Making Ice Cream

We viewed what looks like the worlds largest train set at an exhibit called “The Great Train Story”. It lays out the train journey between Chicago and Seattle, and tells a great story in between. Great for kids and train lovers alike. One of the best parts was finding the hidden unexpected gems that the designers incorporate into each scene. They obviously have a sense of humor.

the trains you see are moving through the city

Then out of the city into the mountains and plains

Do you notice anything funny in this scene?

How about this one?

Or this?

The “U-505 Submarine” was next. The German U boat 505 is the only German submarine that was captured during World War II and brought to the U.S. Intact. It was donated to the Chicago Science Museum and, to house it, the museum had to dig a huge hole in the middle of the front lawn, create an enormous underground room and have the U Boat lowered into it. It is, far longer than I ever would have imagined. We had a tour inside the cramped quarters where 39 men would spend 100 days, never showering, with only one uniform to wear the whole time, sleeping in shifts because there was only room for 30 narrow bunks. During the tour, we heard the sound effects of a torpedo being launched and the sounds of it actually hitting one of our merchant boats. It was gut wrenching. We heard the music (from French cabarets) that the German soldiers listened to, and the guide dramatically recounted the events of the day the U Boat was captured by the American Navy. They had been tracked for a long time and they knew it and tried to evade. One day they surfaced and the American boat was very close so the Germans had to submerge, fast, and to a very dangerous depth. They had a limited time they could stay so deep and, eventually, they were forced to resurface and that’s when they were captured. It made for an instructive, exciting and, ultimately very moving experience. All of us agreed that being in a submarine would be our least favorite form of military duty. I think the award-winning German film, Das Bot, gives a great sense of what it must have been like…enough to drive some men totally mad. I thought of President Jimmy Carter who served in a nuclear submarine. There are photo displays with a wealth of information as well as a memorial.

One of the many displays surrounding the ship that tell the story

much longer than I imagined. Can you tell from the photo?

a must see!

After emerging from the submarine, we were more than happy to go outside into the sun to visit the “Smart Home”, a totally green, modular home. We are all relatively knowledgeable about environmental matters but all of us learned something. This is a great place to learn about the latest in green technology. They even send you home with pamphlets that contain additional information about everything in the home.

Inside the home. This is the Dining Area

View of Smart Home from outside

Called a Green Grid Roof, these modules come pre planted ready to install

Wind power

On the way out: Chickens being hatched in the “Genetics & Baby Chicken Hatchery” exhibit, and a single strand of hair from Abraham Lincoln!

A quick word of advice for those of you who may visit the museum in the future. The museum is huge. If you do visit with your family check out the museum website, try to plan what you will do in advance, and know that you wont be able to see everything. We will definitely be back.

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  1. among other things, you are mighty handy with a iPhone camera

  2. Hello, Jane. You are a time traveler. By that I mean you look decades younger. May I recommend that on your next visit to Chicago you visit the museum about women’s history that is maintained by the following organization? Please copy the following and paste it into your web browser to see its website.

    Keep on truckin’.

    Fondly, Cindy Trells

  3. I have absolutely loved reading your Chicago blogs! So much detail and information! Thank you! Looks like I need to head back to Chicago this summer to go explore more! What was your favorite thing that you did? What was your grandkids’ favorite thing? Also, what was your favorite restaurant?

  4. I had the nitrogen ice cream also, made by the same guy ;)) thank you for all the photos. My son went away to college there in 2001 and only comes back to Miami for a week once a year. I just went for the first time this past Mach and have enjoyed relieving my experience with you!! my kind of town too!! so much culture! xox

  5. Hope you got to the Art Institute of Chicago. Their permanent collection of African-American Art is superb. And for movie rats like my self, what a surprise to be staring face to face with the hideous visage of Dorian Gray as rendered by Albright. I had no idea the painting was actually a real painting instead of a movie prop! One of my fav art museums.

    • April, I have heard so much about that museum and it will be for the next trip, for sure!!

  6. Thank you for being so gracious to the members of our DaVita Dietitian Council and including our picture on your blog. It was a pleasure to enjoy the boat ride with you!

  7. Hi Jane, I work at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Sorry I missed the chance to see you during your visit to the Museum. But wanted to let you know how much I loved your movie “Peace, Love and Misunderstanding” that I caught last week.

  8. Entirely off-topic, but I was wondering what your thoughts were on the way NBC handles personnel issues regarding their on-air female talent? It seems very misogynistic to me—discard the older model for one with a “fresher” appearance and/or personality. Or is that just the nature of the beast when you are a woman in the media industry?

    • Peter, I couldn’t agree more which is why Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan and I co-founded The women’s Media Center. Thanks

  9. Gentle Jane I read with great pleasure the report of the trip to Chicago.
    Definitely want to go and visit this beautiful city.
    I’ll be in New York on July 21 with my family (the first American holiday of my daughters) but I do not deny that Chicago has wowed me. It will be for a second time in the USA. Thanks for sharing your blog through and enthusiasm that shines.
    With very admiration.

  10. Hi Mrs Fonda I just wanted to say it was a pleasure meeting you in iCream Cafe 🙂 I was the emplyee who recognized you as soon as you came in. I asked you has anyone ever told you that you look like Jane Fonda? You winked at me and whispered “I am” That absolutely made my day! Thank you for stopping in and I hope you cand your family enjoyed everything. Come back again 🙂

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