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Five Great Spots for STEM Field Trips in Chicago

By Alex Bean on January 23, 2019


Field trips aren’t just for the Senior Class and the band kids anymore! We get tons of inquiries for private tours from science and engineering teachers. To help with your field trip planning, we’re highlighting the best spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Of course, we’re always happy to lead your charges on one of our student field trip tours like the Chicago Highlights Bus Tour.

#1. Museum of Science and Industry

Jackson Park Palace of Fine Arts Museum of Science and Industry
Don’t let the historic image fool ya, MSI is one of the most cutting-edge spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Image via Wikimedia.

The Museum of Science and Industry is the perfect starting point for STEM field trips in Chicago. MSI is stuffed to the gills with fascinating scientific displays and exhibits. My particular favorites are the coal mine, the Pioneer Zephyr, and the artificial storm creator. I bet your students will demand to see U-505, a German WWII submarine preserved after its 1944 capture. Also, don’t forget to tell your students that MSI is the only remaining structure from the famous 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

#2. Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium, on Museum Campus, is one of the best spots for STEM field trips in Chicago. Image via the Library of Congress.

The smallest of the institutions out on Museum Campus might just be the perfect one for STEM field trips in Chicago. Adler Planetarium is, in fact, the first planetarium in the country, founded all the way back in 1930. These days, the star (hehe) attraction is The Universe: A Walk Through Time and Space. This general admission exhibit will lead your students on a walk to the furthest stretches of astronomy. You may also want to consider all-access passes so you can see one of the planetarium shows.

#3. Argonne National Laboratory

The National Laboratories are a likely career goal for many a STEM student. So why not visit the oldest of them, Argonne National Laboratory, out in suburban Lemont? Argonne dates back to the Manhattan Project, carrying out experiments that led to Chicago Pile-1 and the dawn of the atomic age. Student visitors to Argonne engage in Learning Labs, which are “hands-on experiments designed to educate participants on the major challenges that Argonne scientists and engineers are currently researching.”

#4. Fermilab

Fermilab STEM field trips in Chicago
Fermilab, in the Chicago suburbs, is a fascinating destination for those interested in physics. Image via Wikimedia.

Chicago’s history of cutting-edge scientific research means we have two National Laboratories in the hinterlands. Fermilab, named after the Chicago-based physicist Enrico Fermi, is the Department of Energy’s particle accelerator. I won’t pretend to understand exactly what they’re doing out near Batavia. Your STEM students will enjoy visiting the spot where the “Top Quark” was discovered. Like Argonne, Fermilab offers Science Adventures for students, making this another great spot for STEM field trips in Chicago.

#5. McCormick Bridgehouse Museum and the Riverwalk

McCormick bridgehouse Museum Riverwalk
The Bridgehouse Museum, on the lefthand side of the photo, lets your students explore the natural and engineered aspects of our waterways. Image via Wikimedia.

The Field Museum of Natural History is justly a go-to spot for STEM field trips in Chicago, and you may have expected it to round out our list. I want to highlight a smaller institution for your visit: the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum and the adjacent Riverwalk. The Bridgehouse Museum, located in the famous Michigan Avenue Bridge, explores both the natural history and human engineering of the Chicago River. Before or after their museum visit, students can explore the Riverwalk, a beautiful new addition to Chicago’s space.

Any and all of these spots for STEM field trips in Chicago should leave students both entertained and enlightened. Such an experience can be just what budding, tech-savvy kids need to blossom into tomorrow’s great minds.

 – Alex Bean, Content Manager and Tour Guide


Chicago Detours offers guided walking and bus tours of architecture, history and culture to public and private groups. We are a passionate team of educators, historians, artists and storytellers, and are proud to be one of very few tour companies in Chicago that is rated five stars on both Google and TripAdvisor.


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