We recently spent the day at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. What a great place to learn about nature, the animals, and have fun at the same time! If you’re planning a visit soon (you should!) here is our family friendly guide (along with tons of tips) to enjoy your visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.
Related: Check out what else you can do in Chicago with kids.
Top Things to do at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum:
Check out their new and always changing exhibits
On our particular visit they had Dragons Alive! which featured reptiles like Big Mama, the black throated monitor lizard. Not only can you see reptiles and lizards, but also have a daily talk to learn more about them as well as certain activities like a dino dig, puppet theater, and a catapult station. (Second floor)
Immerse yourself in a world of butterflies!
The Judy Istock Butterfly Haven is the place to be if you want to be surrounded by over 1000 butterflies. Once you exit you’ll see various stages of the butterflies as well as an opportunity to learn more about them. (Second floor)
Learn how to be green
Ever wondered what it would be like to live in a “green” house. Learn a few tips to stay environmentally conscious.
Play with water
Once the kids see this water play area, they won’t want to leave. At RiverWorks, kids can learn about all about rivers including how locks work and float boats down the “river.” Although smocks are available, my kids still get wet no matter what. I’d save this activity for last. (First floor)
See creatures from a marsh
Did you know that Chicago was built on a former marsh? At “Mysteries of the Marsh” curious little minds can see all the animals that call the marsh their home. They have aquariums with reptiles, snakes, fish, turtles as well as the cutest baby turtles.
Play time for younger kids
At Hands-on Habitat, kids ages 7 and under can play while having fun. They have a cute little treehouse with slide. There is also a beaver lodge and a cave with swinging ropes to explore. Have fun on the fishing boat, or read a story or two.
It seems that every week they host fantastic events. On our particular visit, it was Cold-Blooded weekend featuring more dragons as well as other reptiles.
Go out and explore
Take it to the 3rd level where you’ll find the Micole Birdwalk to observe birds and other wildlife. Kids can learn about different bird calls. The fun continues outside the Museum on the main level with a nearly a 1/3 mile trail. With prairie grass and a pond, it is truly an urban oasis.
Tips to enjoy Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum:
- Check out the program schedule before your visit. I love that there are free programs throughout the day (included with admission.) There’s a storytime, Critter Connections (see one of their critters up close and learn about it), animal feedings, and a butterfly release.
- Start at the second floor and make your way down. The butterfly greenhouse and temporary exhibits are located up top. The first floor has the water play area and I’d recommend doing last.
- If it’s nice out, make sure to go to third level to access the outdoor Micole Birdwalk. When you take the elevator, check out the cool artwork on the ceiling.
- Go on a free day! Every Thursday, the museum has a free donation day for Illinois residents.
- Get a membership! The museum is part of the ASTC membership program which grants you FREE admission and/or discounts to over 300 museums and other centers around the world. And yes, our travel-lovin’ family definitely takes advantage of this. The membership is only $60 for a family which is definitely well worth it. You can apply the admission paid towards a membership. After crunching the numbers, we thought that this was such a great value. For instance, for our family of 5 admission regularly costs $36. For an extra $24, we could visit other museums around the nation for free including the Burpee Museum or the Discovery Center in Rockford. They also have a few Milwaukee museums too. So basically, if we visit one other museum for free, we basically got our money’s worth. Killer deal!
- Bring food. They have a small cafe on-site. Enjoy your snack or lunch at the tables in the lobby or at Nature’s Lunchbox (cafeteria style seating). Or do as my family, and pack a lunch and snacks! We enjoyed eating our snacks outside on the 3rd level while we sat on the benches and people watched.
- Bathrooms are located on each level including all gender restrooms.
- Nursing rooms. There are no dedicated rooms but if you need a space to nurse, feel free to ask any of the staff. There is also a sitting area attached to the woman’s bathroom that may be another option.
- Pair your visit to the Nature Museum with a side trip to Lincoln Park Zoo. It’s a short walk. I’d totally recommend it especially if you’re already paying for parking!
Location: 2430 N Cannon Dr, Chicago, IL
Hours:Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-5pm. Open every day except the first Friday in May, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Cost: Adults $9, students and seniors $7, children (ages 3-12) $6, children under 3 free.
Parking: Parking in the city is always a challenge. If you’re lucky, you can find free parking on Cannon and Stockton Drive. A flat-rate lot maintained by the Chicago Park District is located at 2431 N. Cannon Drive. Another option is to park at Lincoln Park Zoo which gives you the perfect excuse to check out the free zoo.
Crowded: We visited on a Sunday afternoon and it was not crowded.
What to expect: A three-level small nature museum with live animals, a children’s area, a butterfly conservatory, and great changing exhibits.