Christmas Around the World at Chicago’s Museum of Science & Industry

 In Chicago, IL

Museum of Science & Industry: 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60637

SaI picture 2Imagine walking into a forest of pine trees completely decorated from top to bottom and inspired by the many ethnic neighborhoods in Chicago.  Well, you can experience just that with your family during the holiday season at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago!  The tradition has been going strong for over 70 years and runs from the end of November to early January each year.

For our visit to the museum, we were joined by members of the Driscoll family who hail from a nearby Chicago suburb.  We were able to get a lesson with Jeff Buonomo, the Manager of Temporary Exhibitions & Events, about the history of the Christmas Around the World tree exhibit.  It was a little lesson in geography as well!  My friend and fellow mom, Katie, brought 3 of her kids for this stroll through the museum’s collection of 50+ trees, where we found a couple that represent the Driscoll’s family roots: Ireland and Germany.  The trees were decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods (there are about 70 different neighborhoods in Chicago!) and each one is as different as the country it represents.  You might get some inspiration for making ornaments for your own tree!

SaI picture 1After we checked out the trees, we explored other areas within the museum.  The Museum of Science and Industry is huge! You can easily spend a full day exploring all of the different exhibits throughout the expansive building.  We only had time for a few stops so we started with The Great Train Story.  Over 20 trains simultaneously run on 1400 feet of track.  The exhibit depicts the railroad journey that ran from Chicago to Seattle.  A particularly fun part about the exhibit is that there are spots along the route that have some hands on activities for guests where they can help build a tunnel, lower a bridge and more!  Take the time to really LOOK at the details on display.  You can play a good game of eye spy to keep the kids engaged.  This exhibit might just inspire your family to take your own family vacation by rail.

The Science Storms area was fascinating!  The exhibit highlights different types of natural occurrences such as lightning, tornados and fire.  This exhibit takes up two floors and there are over 50 experiments for kids to try.  You will know you are in the right area when you see the 40 foot tornado which takes over the center of the room.  To get the kids excited about exploring this area, try some of the activities that are hosted on the museum website.  There are how-to instructions for each experiment that are pretty simple to follow using products that are easy to find around the house.

The last stop we made at the museum was a visit to the baby chicks in the hatchery.  Watch this video to see the chicks in action!  The hatchery is a very popular exhibit so it’s wise to prepare the kids that they will have to take turns to see the chicks and a little patience may be required.  We got a great tip from our partners at CityPASS: the best time to see the chicks hatch is in the afternoon.

Of course there are many other exhibits available as well as behind the scenes tours and activities.  Before your visit, use the planning guide to help maximize your experience.  You probably won’t be able to see everything, but at least you can target what’s most interesting for your family.  Whether you you are in Chicago for the holidays or any other time of year, a trip to the Museum of Science & Industry is well worth the visit.

Some Additional Tips & Fun Facts:

  • The Museum of Science & Industry is 14 acres large.
  • The CityPASS gives you a free entrance to one special experience if availability allows. Experiences may include Omnimax, U-505 on-board tour, Wow tour, Coal Mine – subject to availability.
  • MSI is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Active military personnel, Chicago firefighters, Chicago police officers and Illinois teachers (pre-K through 12th grade) can receive free Museum Entry for themselves by showing a current I.D. when purchasing tickets.
  • The Omnimax theater is 5 stories high!
  • At The Great Train Exhibit, the material that gives the waterfalls their white color is also used for haunted house cobwebs.
  • A team of 40 people helped create The Great Train Exhibit.
  • Every day, fertilized eggs are placed in an incubator in the Genetics area.
  • Some hotels offer packages to MSI

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