7 Chicagoland Neighborhoods for Museum Lovers

The famous American illustrator Maira Kalman once said that, “a visit to a museum is a search for beauty, truth, and meaning in our lives. Go to museums as often as you can.”

If you’re looking to follow her advice, you’re in the right place! Chicagoland is one of the best places in the country for dedicated museum lovers, with incredible galleries, historical sites, and expansive collections around seemingly every corner. 

So, which neighborhoods should passionate museum fans seek out? Here are seven of the best Chicagoland neighborhoods for museum lovers to explore this spring and beyond: 

1.) South Loop

A bustling residential district located within the city’s central business district, the South Loop offers the best of Chicago living, with shopping, entertainment, nightlife, and culture all within reach. That includes easy access to some of the area’s most iconic museums. 

Spend a day museum-hopping around the sprawling and verdant Museum Campus, home to the Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. Get a crash course in Chicago history and architecture at the historic Glessner House or the Clarke House Museum, honoring one of the oldest buildings in Chicago. Just a short hop away are some of the other exciting downtown attractions for museum lovers, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Architecture Center. Head a bit south for the immersive and engaging Chinese-American Museum of Chicago. 

2.) Evanston

Located in Cook County, about 12 miles north of the Loop, Evanston is a prime destination for visitors and locals alike, boasting a lively downtown, a thriving arts scene, and plenty of must-see attractions. Art lovers should set aside plenty of time to visit the Block Museum of Art, conveniently located on the campus of Northwestern University. Elsewhere around Evanston, museum lovers flock to the amazing collections at the Halim Time & Glass Museum, the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, and the American Toby Jug Museum. Architecture and history lovers, meanwhile, should head for the Frances Willard House Museum and the Charles Gates Dawes House. 

3.) Hyde Park

The home of the University of Chicago, Hyde Park is a renowned and historic neighborhood best known for its many local attractions, beautiful architecture, and relaxed vibe. Incredible and diverse museums are dotted throughout the area, including the DuSable Museum of African American History and the world-famous Museum of Science and Industry. On the University of Chicago campus, thousands of visitors pass through the Smart Museum of Art and the Oriental Institute Museum each year. Hyde Park also puts you close to outdoor parks that celebrate the 1893 Columbian Exposition, as well as local gems like the Chicago African American Firefighters Museum. 

4.) Elmhurst

Elmhurst is a close-knit community and college town, filled with beautiful homes and a downtown that is unmatched in its area. The area also boasts plenty of stunning parks and greenspaces, as well as easy access to some of suburban Chicagoland’s best museums. Located in the heart of Elmhurst are the Elmhurst Art Museum and the Elmhurst History Museum, two of the area’s crown jewels. Just a short trip away, dedicated museum fans will find the stunning collection of the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, the open-air offerings of Yesterday’s Farm, and the historic charm of the Wilder Mansion and Wilder Park Conservatory

5.) Naperville

What started as a small, rural town has become an esteemed residential and commercial hub — complete with one-of-a-kind cultural attractions and museums. Located about 28 miles west of Chicago, Naperville is a thriving and bustling area with lots of things to see and do. Young children can get hands-on and creative at the DuPage Children’s Museum. Families should make it a point to step back in time at the central Naper Settlement, a large and popular local attraction. Art lovers will find something to enjoy at the Naperville Fine Art Center and Gallery. This area also puts you close to other unique local attractions, including the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum in nearby Lisle and the Illinois Aviation Museum in Bolingbrook.

6.) Near North

A collection of neighborhoods situated just north of the Loop, Chicago’s Near North reflects the city’s up-tempo pace of life and boasts some of the best in culture and entertainment. Throughout the Near North, passionate museum fans will find all sorts of astonishing and memorable attractions, including the Chicago History Museum, the International Museum of Surgical Science, the Chicago Sports Museum, the Chicago Children’s Museum, and the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Art lovers can get inspired at the Loyola University Museum of Art or the nearby Intuit Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, while architecture fans can explore legendary landmarks including the Charnley-Persky House Museum and the Richard H. Driehaus Museum. 

7.) Skokie

Once touted as the “The World’s Largest Village,” Skokie has remained a charming community offering plenty to see, do, and experience. Museum lovers will find plenty to recommend in Skokie, including the historic collection at the Skokie Heritage Museum and the stunning open-air gallery of the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. Most notably, Skokie is home to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, an incredible institution dedicated to “preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference.”

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