Chicago might be famous for the likes of Wrigley Field and the Skydeck, but it offers students much more than mere tourist spots. Students seeking cultural and intellectual cultivation will find no lack of activities in the Windy City. These activities are educational and, importantly, very fun.
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Have A Field Day
Most museums only provide left or right brain experiences. They drown meaningful content in either unruly blocks of text or high-energy quirkiness. The Field Museum, however, manages to be enlightening and fun. Few Chicago locations ignite curiosity and promote discovery like the Field.
The Field Museum offers a plethora of unique experiences: Shrink to one-thousandth of your size to discover the secret ecosystem of insects, explore a three-story replica of an Egyptian tomb to learn the process of mummification and witness the full evolutionary journey of dinosaurs form single-celled organisms to extension.
Most importantly, meet the largest and most complete T-Rex ever discovered: Sue. Not only is Sue famous for having over 90% of her bones intact, but also she towers over visitors at 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip. Between her imposing stature and celebrity status, Sue is counted as one of Chicago’s best photo spots.
Reach for the Stars
Walk through the cosmos itself at the Adler Planetarium. It does not matter if you are a science buff or you think “Milky Way” only refers to a candy bar. The over 60,000 square feet of exhibitions and high-tech facilities offers something for everyone.
Ever wonder what happened to Pluto? Discover the award winning “What Is a Planet” exhibit to look at artifacts and see how perceptions of planets have changed through the years. Afterward, take a small step into the “Mission Moon” exhibit to immerse yourself in one of mankind’s largest leaps. Through the eyes of unsung hero Captain Jim Lovell, visitors will rediscover the Space Race in all new ways.
Do movies like Star Wars and The Martian get you exited about space? Do you need advice on how to craft your own light saber? Consider visiting an Adler Reel Science event. Scientists screen a movie, discuss the science portrayed and take questions from the audience.
If all you want to do is appreciate the night sky, visit the Historic Atwood Sphere to see what a Chicago Skyline looked like 100 years ago, before light pollution. Follow that up with a trip to Telescope on the Terrace to safely view the actual sun and other cosmic wonders. Either way, a day with Adler is a day in the stars.
Shedd Your Worries
The moment you walk into the Shedd Aquarium, you see a giant tank in the middle of the common area. It is a 360-degree display, so you can view every crevice. Inside, all matter of sea life glides past shimmering coral. Colorful fish share the space with large sea turtles and miniature sharks. Perhaps the strangest sight is the scuba diver in the middle feeding the fish. The diver pops out of the tank and gleefully converses with you about the life inside the tank. Around now you realize the Shedd Aquarium is not just an aquarium. It’s one of the biggest and best in the country.
Few aquariums have the variety of the Shedd. The “Waters of the World” exhibit showcases fish from 77 habitats. “Waters of the World” covers every environment to the Great Lakes to deep-sea caves. Students are sure to view local waterways in new light while discovering new life they never knew.
At the Shedd Aquarium students get to see and occasionally even touch all matters of beautiful aquatic life. Visitors can befriend a penguin, pet a stingray or become animal trainers for a day. Students will have the opportunity to get more close and personal with animals than ever thought possible.
Use a Lifeline
Have you ever wished that a book would come to life? One Chicago theater does just that. The Lifeline Theatre specializes adapting literature for the stage. They have done everything from Jayne Eyre to Lord of the Rings to even Arnie the Doughnut.
Ever year Lifeline does six plays: three based of novels and three based off children’s books. Both kinds of shows are guaranteed to wow students. The main stage productions ignite a passion for literature among readers and nonreaders alike, and Lifeline’s kid’s shows reach into the child inside every audience member, regardless of age. Lifeline even offers student matinees, so students do not have to break the bank to enjoy literature and theater.
The advantage Lifeline has over other theaters like Broadway in Chicago is its size. The theatre is smaller than what many students are used to, so the shows feel much more personal and intimate. Audience members truly feel like they’re part of the play’s world. Lifeline loses no quality due to its size. The Jeff Awards, a tony-like committee celebrating the best in Chicago theatre, has given Lifeline theater 53 awards and a special citation for 25 years of quality theatrical contributions.
Don’t Forget It. It’s Chinatown
For students seeking a new cultural experience, Chicago’s Chinatown is a must. Few neighborhoods in Chicago rival Chinatown’s rich atmosphere. Students will discover art, food and culture they never thought possible in one of the most thriving Chinatowns in the US.
At the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, students can not only learn about Asian culture but also interact directly with it. The institute offers a variety of activities ranging from calligraphy to dumpling making. It’s the best way to immerse yourself in Chinese culture without getting jet lag.
Students can take what they’ve learned at the cultural institute and view the multiple examples of Chinatown public art with a new eye. For example, Chicago’s Chinatown has one of the three dragon walls located outside Bai Hai Park in Beijing. The nine large dragons and over 500 smaller dragons will bring you good fortune for your trip. Another majestic piece of public art is the Chinatown Mural. In the mural, over 100,000 pieces of brightly painted glass come together to tell the story of Chinese immigrating to the United States.
After expanding their horizons, students will find many opportunities to relax in Chicago Chinatown. They can walk alongside the river at Ping Tom Memorial Park, or better yet kayak down to get the full experience. Students can also go to Chinatown Square mall to purchase anything from a spa day to imported candy. They can even take a picture in front of the beautiful bronze zodiac stature that corresponds with their birth year.