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Plan Your Visit to Adler Planetarium

February 23, 2024 By CityPASS

Our view of the night sky can be breathtaking when light pollution is low and our attention is focused. But even with a telescope, there are certain things in the universe that we cannot see with our own eyes. Thanks to the brilliant and curious minds before us, planetariums now exist so the public can better understand and continue to explore our mysterious universe.

Adler Planetarium of Chicago

The Adler Planetarium of Chicago was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere, opening its doors to the public on May 12th, 1930. But, over 90 years later, the Adler Planetarium remains on the cutting edge of innovation, incorporating interactive displays into 60,000 square feet of exhibitions while showing mind-blowing sky shows (produced in-house) that take you above and beyond the stars via stellar 30 minute space adventures. The planetarium sits at the edge of the beautiful Lake Michigan, and is in a prime location, neighboring other great Chicago attractions like the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum.

Adler Planetarium Exhibits

The Clark Family Welcome Gallery

Welcome to Adler Planetarium, where luminous architecture and interactive displays pull you into a world of wonder. This gallery is made up of 13,000 feet of aluminum tubing, 20,000 yards of fabric, and 125 LED lights capable of shining in sixteen million colors and over two billion lighting combinations. The video presentations and displays will dazzle you with fascinating facts about the universe.

Mission Moon Exhibit

Before the mid-20th century, astronomers and would-be astronauts could only dream of the day when humans could travel through space. After Yuri Gagarin accomplished that aboard the Vostok 1, the next dream was to get a human being on the moon. The Mission Moon exhibit takes you through America's first moon landing through Captain Lovell's eyes. Launch a rocket, rescue Apollo 13, and get a close look at the original Gemini 12 spacecraft in this interactive exhibit. Learn more about the challenges that came with an out-of-this-world mission and the technology that allowed it to be a success.

The Universe: A Walk through Space and Time

Beyond the timeline of humankind is the much longer timeline of the planet Earth. And beyond that is the ostensibly boundless timeline of space itself. In the exhibit The Universe: A Walk through Space and Time, you will walk through a cosmic, light-up tunnel and follow the life journey of the universe over 13.7 billion years, beginning with the Big Bang. The exhibit features various stations where you can change the overhead projections with a touch screen. See the solar system light years away, and send yourself an e-postcard from the far reaches of space in this exhibit perfect for all ages.

Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass

Though telescopes have given astronomers greater insight into the stars and universe above, they aren't old technology. In fact, until about 400 years ago, what we knew about the universe was based on what we saw with the naked eye and the questions that arose from observation. In this exhibit, you'll see many telescopes, one of which is a gigantic antique, 22 feet in length. Check out the Grand Orrery, a hand-crafted wood and brass model of the Solar system, and learn about how these models evolved after telescopes painted a more detailed picture of our universe.

Stargazer's Hub

Unravel the mystery behind tools of observation as you wander through Stargazers Hub. This exhibition offers a multisensory journey through time with a focus on historic objects. Head on over to the Cabinet of Curiosity to chat with our educators while looking at object replicas in a new way or peer through a field of lenses at the hands-on Observation Station. Examine rare astronomical objects and see some of the oldest known telescopes in existence. Snap a selfie at the wall of golden hexagon mirrors, find your footing at the extra large floor compass, and sit in row boat. Bring history to life—the tools of astronomy are yours to discover!

Chicago’s Night Sky

As long as people have walked the Earth, they’ve looked to the sky as a creative muse, a constant companion, and a gateway to the mysteries of our universe. This brand-new exhibition will help you connect you - and the city around you - to the wondrous human tradition of looking up.

Our Solar System

Place your hand on a Moon rock and find out why footprints last so long up there. Touch a piece of Mars and learn about the robotic rover that’s been investigating the surface of the red planet since 2012. And don’t forget to make your own (mini) crater right here on Earth with our Crater Maker! Our solar system is much more than a star and eight planets’ it is home to a set of diverse and amazing objects that we are only beginning to understand.

Adler Planetarium For Kids

The Adler Planetarium is great at accommodating the experience for people of all ages. While there are plenty of exhibits and shows that are perfect for the entire family, there are specific exhibits designed to give children an adventure of their very own.

Planet Explorers

For children ages 3-8, Planet Explorers provides a space playground and a remarkable adventure. You start off on Earth in what looks to be a backyard before learning about your mission into the unknown. Kids can take turns controlling the two-story rocket before exploring the Space Station and discovering how objects we know and are familiar with work differently in space. When the little ones get to Planet X, they can begin the search for life.

Community Design Labs

The Adler's Community Design Labs are flexible spaces for guests to play, come up with and test ideas, create art, and reflect. Each one of our Labs has its own unique theme: play, art, social science, and history.

One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure

Take a trip to the Moon with Sesame Street's very own Big Bird and Elmo in this entertaining sky show. Kids can learn about the Sun, the Moon, and the constellation of the Big Dipper. This sing along adventure is great for the little ones.

Adler Planetarium Shows

See their famous (and award-winning) sky shows under their iconic dome theaters. Beautiful. Mysterious. Cosmic. Adler sky shows give you a front row seat to observe our universe, like you never have before. Get to know Earth’s cosmic companion, search for a new ninth planet, take a fast-paced tour of the solar system, explore the night sky above Chicago, and so much more in the Adler's immersive sky shows. Check out the calendar on the Adler Planetarium website for full details on shows and other events.

Cosmic Cafe at Adler Planetarium

If you're hungry for more than knowledge, the Cosmic Cafe has plenty of food to satisfy your taste buds. Soups, sandwiches, paninis, salads, and desserts are available alongside a breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline. The cafe hours vary so please check the Adler website prior to your visit.

Adler At Night

Adler Wednesday hours, from 4–10pm, are the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and let curiosity be your guide! Visit after work, after school, or for date night at the Adler Planetarium. You’ll find hands-on, minds-on activities, experiences, and shows about the universe that will blow your mind!

Adler Planetarium Ticket Prices & Hours

The best deal comes with the purchase of CityPASS® tickets, which can save you on admission to Chicago's top attractions, many of which are located near the Adler Planetarium.

For a full list of hours, check out their website here.

Tips and Tricks for a Better Visit

If you want to avoid the biggest crowds, weekdays are the best time to visit the Adler Planetarium. Get there right when they open at 9am to have the best chance of reserving the sky shows you'd like to see. The Adler also has evening hours on Wednesdays from 4–10pm for those who may be unable to come during the day. Weather permitting, the new Doane Observatory telescope may also be open on those nights for nighttime observing.

Nearby Lodging

To get the most out of your stay in Chicago, we recommend finding lodging near Chicago's top attractions like Adler Planetarium. Use this map to find the right lodging for you:

Header image courtesy Adler Planetarium

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