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Home » Features » Articles » Museum Spotlight: Adler Planetarium – Chicago, IL

Museum Spotlight: Adler Planetarium – Chicago, IL

by Ron Sparkman | @UpportunityU

One of the good things about lengthy layovers, other than the cheaper fares that come along with the “inconvenience” of multiple stops, is that it gives you time to explore cities you might otherwise not have the time or resources to explore. I had one such instance last fall.

dsc_1924On my way to Nepal last September, I choose a flight plan with 3, 10-hour+ layovers, the first of those being in Chicago. The original plan was to have around 12 hours in the Chicago area to check out the museum(s) before catching my international flight. But life sometimes gets in the way, so after my first flight was delayed, and I was plagued with baggage issues–a theme that would continue for the entirety of my trip-I found myself short on time. I made a quick change to my plans, so instead of visiting the world famous Field Museum–and meeting Sue–I instead made a mad dash to one of the most popular planetariums in the country, Adler Planetarium. And it would turn out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had yet!

Once you get to  Adler, something instantly sticks out to you: it is its own stand-alone planetarium instead of being a part of a bigger museum. And it’s…ahem…spacious. There’s plenty of reasons to spend an afternoon here for much more than just the shows available. First up was an update on New Horizons and our mission to Pluto and beyond. The hallway is full of eager space fans wanting to know all about the world’s favorite dwarf planet. At the time of my visit, New Horizons had only recently arrived so I’m sure this area has been further expanded. A perfect excuse to visit again with a bit more time on my hands.


Next up is their “Mission to the Moon” exhibit that gives a glimpse into the lives of the people that went to space, the lengthy list of people at NASA that it took to get them there, and even the brave families they left behind. The exhibit is a beautiful tribute to the sacrifice behind America’s greatest mission beyond our own Pale, Blue Dot. Some of the most important artifacts and photos on display are the most intimate ones. Snapshots of the families at home watching with a mix of worry and excitement as the men they cared for most journeyed our closest neighbor make it feel that much more real. A place very familiar, but completely alien. For those of that weren’t able to be there, there’s even an old T.V. set up that shows the whole affair on a loop. It was the first time I fully got to experience the event the way the rest of the world saw it. Low-definition or not, it is still astounding.  


I had to rush my way through many different areas just to get a feel for the place before rushing back to the airport, but my favorite part of  the experience overall was Destination Solar System. As an aspiring astrophysicist, anything that blows the minds of the general public with excellent visualizations of space is a win in my book. One area, Exploring Our Solar System, allows you to take a seat in the captain’s chair and go on a journey of our small part of the cosmos. Exploring Mars gives a look at our the next place humankind wants to visit. Like nearly all of the museums I’ve been to recently, Mars is a prominent focal point for space and science museums. We are all excited for that “next big step” for humanity and Adler is no different.


The planetary exhibit leads right to the restaurant area and a beautiful view of Chicago and Lake Michigan. It’s a perfect place to have lunch and people-watch. The views over the lake are beautiful and there’s a great spot to pop outside and get a look at one of America’s greatest cities.

Adler is easy to find, as it’s located in on the Museum Campus, right next  to the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium. I highly recommend taking the time to visit Adler and explore its rich history, and becoming a member or donating to help them continue their work is only a click away. We all need more space in our lives and this place is more than worth a visit…or 10.

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