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Exploring Art at the Art Institute of Chicago with Your Family

Art Institute of Chicago

If you’re looking for a fun and educational experience for your next family outing, look no further than the Art Institute of Chicago. With its extensive collection of artwork spanning hundreds of years and various cultures, there is something to captivate every member of your family.

From paintings to sculptures to interactive exhibits, the Art Institute offers a unique opportunity to explore and appreciate the world of art in one of the most renowned cultural institutions in the United States. Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or new to the art scene, the Art Institute of Chicago is a must-visit destination for an enriching day with your loved ones.

Getting to the Art Institute of Chicago

Public Transportation

Getting to the Art Institute of Chicago is easy and convenient thanks to the city’s excellent public transportation system. You can take the subway, bus, or train to reach the museum. The closest subway station is the Adams/Wabash station, which is served by multiple lines. If you prefer taking the bus, there are several bus routes that stop near the museum. For those coming from outside the city, the Metra train stations are just a short walk away.

Driving and Parking

If you prefer to drive, there are parking options available near the museum. The Art Institute of Chicago has its own parking garage, located at 111 S. Michigan Avenue. However, please note that parking can be quite expensive in downtown Chicago. Additionally, street parking is limited and often requires a permit. It is recommended to check for alternative parking options or use public transportation if possible.


For those who enjoy biking, the museum is bike-friendly. There are bike racks available near the entrance where you can securely lock your bike. Chicago also has a bike-sharing program, so you can rent a bike for the day and explore the city on two wheels. Just be sure to bring a lock with you to secure the rental bike while you visit the museum.


The Art Institute of Chicago is committed to providing a welcoming and accessible experience for all visitors. The museum is fully accessible for individuals with disabilities, with ramps, elevators, and accessible restrooms available throughout the building. Wheelchairs are available for rent at the coat check area on a first-come, first-served basis. Additionally, the museum offers special programs and services for visitors with disabilities, including sensory-friendly materials and hands-on interactive exhibits.

Planning Your Visit

Art Institute of Chicago

Admission and Tickets

To visit the Art Institute of Chicago, you will need to purchase a ticket. The museum offers different admission options, including general admission and special exhibition tickets. General admission allows you to explore the permanent collections, while special exhibition tickets grant access to the temporary exhibits. It is recommended to purchase your tickets in advance online to avoid long lines at the ticket counter.

Hours of Operation

The museum is open to the public from 10 AM to 5 PM every day, except for Thursdays when it stays open until 8 PM. However, please note that the museum may have different hours of operation on holidays and special occasions. It is always a good idea to check the museum’s website or call ahead to confirm the hours before your visit.

Guided Tours

If you want to enhance your museum experience, consider joining a guided tour. The Art Institute of Chicago offers a variety of guided tours led by knowledgeable docents. These tours provide a deeper insight into the artwork and the history of the museum. There are different tours available for different interests, including tours focused on specific collections or themes. Check the museum’s website for the tour schedule and booking information.

Audio Guides

If you prefer exploring at your own pace, you can opt for an audio guide. The museum offers audio guides that provide commentary on selected artworks. The audio guides are available in multiple languages and can be rented at the entrance. They are an excellent way to learn more about the art while enjoying a self-guided tour.

Visiting with Children

The Art Institute of Chicago offers a range of family-friendly amenities and activities to make your visit enjoyable for everyone. Children of all ages are welcome to explore the museum, and there are plenty of activities and interactive exhibits specifically designed for younger visitors. The museum also provides strollers and baby-changing facilities to make it easier for families with young children. Keep an eye out for family-friendly events and workshops happening during your visit.

Exploring the Museum

Permanent Collections

The Art Institute of Chicago is renowned for its extensive collection of artwork from around the world. The permanent collections feature a wide range of pieces, including paintings, sculptures, prints, and decorative arts. From famous masterpieces to lesser-known gems, there is something for everyone to appreciate. Take your time to explore the galleries and discover the diverse range of artistic styles and periods represented in the museum’s collection.

Special Exhibitions

In addition to the permanent collections, the Art Institute of Chicago also hosts special exhibitions throughout the year. These temporary exhibits showcase unique artwork from different artists and periods. The museum often collaborates with other institutions to bring these special exhibitions to Chicago. Be sure to check the museum’s website or inquire at the information desk to find out about the current and upcoming special exhibitions.

Interactive Displays

For a more hands-on experience, be sure to visit the interactive displays scattered throughout the museum. These displays allow you to engage with the art in a different way, providing interactive experiences, multimedia installations, and virtual reality exhibits. They offer a unique opportunity to learn about the art while having fun and getting involved.

Sculpture Garden

If you enjoy outdoor spaces, don’t miss the Sculpture Garden at the Art Institute of Chicago. Located just south of the museum, this beautiful garden showcases a collection of stunning sculptures in a serene environment. It is the perfect place to take a break, relax, and enjoy the art in a natural setting. The Sculpture Garden is open during museum hours and is accessible to all visitors.

Photography Policies

Photography is generally allowed in the Art Institute of Chicago for personal, non-commercial use. However, please note that some temporary exhibitions or loaned artworks may have specific restrictions on photography. Flash photography and tripods are not permitted inside the galleries to ensure the preservation of the artwork and the comfort of other visitors. Be sure to respect the photography policies while capturing memories of your visit.

Family-Friendly Activities

Ryan Education Center

The Ryan Education Center is a dedicated space within the museum where families can engage in hands-on activities and interactive experiences. It offers a range of programs designed for children and their families, including art-making workshops, storytelling sessions, and special events. Check the museum’s website or inquire at the information desk for the current schedule of family programs at the Ryan Education Center.

Gallery Adventures are self-guided tours specifically designed for families with children. These tours provide a fun and interactive way to explore the museum’s collections together. Each tour is themed with activities and prompts that encourage children to observe, ask questions, and make connections with the artwork. Pick up a Gallery Adventure guide at the information desk and embark on a creative journey through the museum.

Art-making Workshops

Get hands-on with art by participating in one of the museum’s art-making workshops. These workshops are led by professional artists and educators who provide guidance and inspiration for creating your own artwork. All materials are provided, and participants of all ages and skill levels are welcome to join. Whether you are a seasoned artist or just starting out, the art-making workshops are a great way to explore your creativity and take home a unique souvenir.

Family Events

The Art Institute of Chicago organizes regular family events that offer a wide range of activities for all ages. From art activities to performances and storytelling, there is always something exciting happening at the museum. Check the museum’s website or inquire at the information desk for the schedule of upcoming family events. These events are a fantastic opportunity to bond with your family over art and have a memorable experience together.

Children’s Books

The museum’s gift shop offers a selection of children’s books that can allow young visitors to further engage with the artwork and learn about famous artists and art history. These books are a great way to continue the art experience at home and encourage a love of art in children. From beautifully illustrated picture books to informative guides, there is a wide range of children’s books available that cater to different age groups and interests.

Dining Options

Museum Cafeteria

When you need a break from exploring, the museum’s cafeteria offers a convenient option for a quick meal or snack. The cafeteria provides a variety of freshly prepared food and beverages, including sandwiches, salads, soups, and desserts. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available. It is a great place to recharge and enjoy a meal before continuing your museum adventure.

Fine Dining Restaurants

For those looking for a more upscale dining experience, the Art Institute of Chicago is home to two fine dining restaurants. These restaurants offer a sophisticated atmosphere and a menu featuring seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. Whether you are looking for a romantic dinner or a special celebration, these restaurants provide a memorable dining experience surrounded by art.

Picnic Areas

If you prefer to bring your own food or enjoy a picnic in the open air, there are designated picnic areas near the museum. These areas provide a peaceful and scenic setting where you can enjoy your meal while taking in the beautiful surroundings. Bring a blanket and some snacks, and make it a leisurely picnic outing during your visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Art Institute Shop

A beautiful tree with low hanging branches shades a wide walkway with benches and park adjacent to the Art Institute of Chicago.
Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash


No visit to the Art Institute of Chicago is complete without taking home a souvenir to remember your experience. The museum’s shop offers a wide range of unique and artistic souvenirs, including prints, posters, postcards, and decorative items. You can find reproductions of famous artworks as well as exclusive merchandise inspired by the museum’s collection. The shop is a great place to find a special gift for yourself or a loved one.

Books and Catalogs

If you are interested in learning more about the artworks and artists featured in the Art Institute of Chicago, the museum’s shop has an excellent selection of books and catalogs. From comprehensive guides to in-depth examinations of specific collections or exhibitions, these books provide a wealth of knowledge and insight into the world of art. Browse through the shelves and find the perfect book to expand your understanding of the artwork you encountered during your visit.

Art Supplies

For aspiring artists or those who enjoy creative pursuits, the Art Institute of Chicago’s shop also offers a selection of art supplies. From high-quality paints and brushes to sketchbooks and drawing materials, you can find everything you need to unleash your creativity. Whether you’re a professional artist or just starting out, the art supplies available at the museum’s shop are sure to inspire and enhance your artistic endeavors.

Visitor Services

Coat Check

The Art Institute of Chicago provides a coat check service where you can securely store your belongings during your visit. This service is especially useful during the colder months when you may be wearing bulkier clothing. Coats, bags, and other personal items can be checked for a small fee, allowing you to explore the museum without any unnecessary burdens.

Stroller and Wheelchair Rentals

For families with young children or visitors with accessibility needs, the museum offers stroller and wheelchair rentals. Strollers are available for young children, allowing them to comfortably navigate the museum while you explore the artwork. Wheelchairs are also available for visitors with mobility limitations. These rentals can be obtained at the coat check area on a first-come, first-served basis.

Lost and Found

If you misplace an item during your visit, don’t worry. The Art Institute of Chicago has a dedicated lost and found service to help reunite visitors with their belongings. If you realize you have lost something, visit the information desk or contact the museum’s visitor services department to report the lost item and inquire about the lost and found procedures.


The museum provides clean and accessible restrooms for visitors throughout the building. There are restrooms on each floor, so you won’t have to go far to find one. Additionally, family-friendly restrooms equipped with changing tables are available to accommodate visitors with young children. If you need assistance locating the nearest restroom, the museum staff will be happy to help.

Group Visits and Field Trips

Group Discounts

If you are planning a visit with a large group of friends, family, or colleagues, the Art Institute of Chicago offers group discounts. These discounts apply to groups of ten or more people and provide a reduced admission rate. Group visits must be scheduled in advance to ensure availability and to take advantage of the discounted rate. Contact the museum’s group sales department for more information on pricing and booking options.

Educational Programs

The Art Institute of Chicago offers a variety of educational programs for school groups and field trips. These programs are designed to enhance students’ understanding and appreciation of art. Students can participate in guided tours, hands-on workshops, and interactive activities that engage them in a meaningful exploration of the museum’s collection. The museum’s education department can provide more information on the available programs and how to book a field trip for your school or organization.

Booking Information

To book a group visit or field trip, or for more information on group discounts and educational programs, contact the Art Institute of Chicago’s group sales department. They will assist you in planning your visit and ensuring a memorable experience for your group. Advanced booking is recommended to secure your desired date and time, especially during peak visitor seasons.


Is there an admission fee for children?

Children under 14 years old receive free general admission to the Art Institute of Chicago. However, special exhibition tickets may still require a fee for children, so it’s best to check the museum’s website or contact visitor services for specific details.

Are strollers allowed in the museum?

Strollers are allowed in the museum. However, for the comfort and safety of all visitors, the Art Institute of Chicago encourages the use of smaller umbrella-style strollers, as the gallery spaces can become crowded. Stroller rentals are also available if needed.

Can I take photographs?

Photography for personal, non-commercial use is generally permitted in the Art Institute of Chicago, except in areas with specific restrictions. Flash photography and tripods are not allowed to ensure the preservation of the artwork. It is always best to check for any specific photography policies for temporary exhibitions or loaned artworks.

Are there family-friendly restrooms?

Yes, the museum has family-friendly restrooms equipped with changing tables for visitors with young children. These restrooms provide a comfortable and convenient space for families to tend to their child’s needs.

What is the policy on outside food and drinks?

Outside food and drinks are not allowed inside the museum. However, the Art Institute of Chicago offers dining options, including a cafeteria and fine dining restaurants, as well as designated picnic areas where you can enjoy your own food.

Additional Tips

Purchasing Tickets Online

To save time and avoid long lines, it is recommended to purchase your tickets online in advance. The museum’s website offers an easy-to-use ticketing system where you can select the type of admission and the date of your visit. By purchasing tickets online, you can skip the ticket counter and head straight into the museum.

Arriving Early

To make the most of your visit and avoid large crowds, try to arrive early in the morning when the museum opens. This allows you to explore the galleries with more space and take your time to appreciate the artwork without feeling rushed.

Download the Museum App

Consider downloading the Art Institute of Chicago’s official app before your visit. The app provides useful information about the museum, including interactive maps, audio guides, exhibition schedules, and upcoming events. It can enhance your museum experience and provide a convenient way to navigate the galleries.

Stay Hydrated

Exploring the museum can be tiring, so it’s important to stay hydrated. The Art Institute of Chicago has water fountains available throughout the building where you can refill your water bottle. Remember to bring a reusable water bottle with you to stay hydrated and reduce plastic waste.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

With so much to see and explore, you’ll be doing a lot of walking during your visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes that will allow you to comfortably navigate the museum and enjoy your time without any discomfort.

With this comprehensive guide, you are ready to embark on a memorable art-filled journey at the Art Institute of Chicago. Whether you’re visiting with family, friends, or on your own, the museum offers something for everyone to appreciate and enjoy. Don’t forget to check the museum’s website for any updates or additional information before your visit. Have a wonderful time exploring the incredible art and experiencing the rich cultural heritage housed within the museum’s walls.

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