Top Five Public Museum Exhibits Driving Distance from Chicago

Itching to take a short road trip to witness the Fall colors in bloom, but need a destination? Head to one of CMB’s top five public museum exhibits for some Fall fun!

1. Civil War Museum

5400 1st Avenue Kenosha, Wisconsin 53140

Hours: T-Sat. 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sun. 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed Monday

General Admission $7 and Children under 15 free with adult


This non-traditional museum hosts the Fiery Trail exhibit that begins in the Pre-Civil War era to the Reconstruction period and tells the story of the opinions, actions, and sentiments of the common man in the Midwest states. Be aware that this exhibit is interactive and helps the visitor visualize the thoughts and feelings of the era. This exhibit drives the visitor to create an emotional connection with the past rather than experiencing the same facts and artifacts in glass cases.

The exhibit begins in a small town with a barber shop, saloon, and other essential establishments, read the newspapers to understand the general timeline and events leading up to the Battle of Fort Sumner and the beginning of the Civil War. Take a ride, aboard a train, to listen to the stories of a young soldier, a mother, and a freed slave. Visit the Civil War encampments and get to know a few of the officers and soldiers from the Midwest. See the hardships of life in the war on the front and at home. After the war, the Reconstruction period begins with a lonely widow to speak too and a boat ride back home. The soldiers who left and those who returned were never the same. It is an unforgettable experience about a country torn in two.

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Other Public Museums in the area:

Kenosha Public Museum

5500 1st Avenue Kenosha, Wisconsin 53140

Hours: T-Sat. 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sun. 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed Monday

Admission: Free

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

5608 Tenth Avenue Kenosha, Wisconsin 53140

Hours: T-Sun. 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed Monday

Admission: Free

2. Streets of Old Milwaukee and European Village – Milwaukee Public Museum

800 West Wells Street Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233

Hours: Everyday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Admission: Adults: $14.00, Seniors: $13.00, College Students and Teens (13-17) $11.00, Children (3-12) $10.00, and Under 3 free — extra for Planetarium and IMAX shows


Although, the brick covered streets of the 19th and early 20th century no longer exist, the Streets of Old Milwaukee will give you a tiny glimpse of what once was. The buildings include an old movie theater, optometrist, candy store, general store, and even a saloon! The perfection of the past is not as squeaky clean as the exhibit portrays, but it is always fun to potentially travel back in time. This exhibit is conveniently easier to visit than finding your own time machine!

If the Streets of Old Milwaukee take you back in time to the brick streets of yesteryear, then the streets of the European Village are the dirt roads! Peer into the mid to end of the 19th century homes of all the ethnic peoples of Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Europe. The houses are filled with the stereotypical paraphernalia of each; the Irish have thatched roofs and white pottery with green clovers for decoration, while the Scots wear kilts, and the Germans have beer steins on the dining room table. Although, the exhibit is the traditional artifacts in glass cases and steeped in cliches, these conventional concepts of museology make the exhibit ever more fun to peer into someone else’s home just for a minute and pretend to be the unannounced visitor at the door.

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Another great exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum is the Puelicher Butterfly Wing. Walk through the luxurious warm forest of butterflies and then take the kids to the interactive play spot where they can become butterflies too!






Other Public Museums Near Chicago:

Burpee Museum of Natural History

737 North Main Street Rockford, Illinois 61103

Hours: Everyday 10:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Admission: Adults: $10, Children (4-12): $9, Children under 4 free

Elgin Public Museum

225 Grand Boulevard Elgin, Illinois 60120

Hours: Saturday and Sunday 12:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M.

Admission: Adults: $2 Children under 12: $1

 3. Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum — Illinois State Museum

502 South Spring Street Springfield, Illinois 62706

Hours: ISM — M-Sat. 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sun. 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Play Museum — M-Sat. 9:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. and Sun. 1:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Admission: Free


Learn to be a museum professional at this kid centric exhibit! Excavate old bones, pack a jeep, crawl through a cave full of bats and frame expensive pieces of art all in one exhibit. This hands-on interactive can give your little one a chance to play history detective! Don’t miss out on all the fun.

4. Newcomers: The People of This Place — Grand Rapids Public Museum

272 Pearl Street Northwest Grand Rapids, Michigan 49504

Hours: Tues. 9:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M., W-Sat. 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Sun. 12:00 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Closed on Sunday until November 18th 2012, and Closed Monday

Admission: Adult: $8, Seniors $7, Children (3-18) $3, Children under 2 free — Carousel Ride, Planetarium, and Laser Light Show extra


This exhibit weaves the stories of all the different ethnic groups of Western Michigan. The exhibit features stories from over 70 families including those with Irish, Polish, Greek, Armenian, Indian, Jewish, African-American, Mexican and Pakistani heritages just to name a few. The artifacts and stories are arranged in sections called Leaving Home,  Making a Living, Building a Family, and Creating a Community. All the themes of life are involved from a career to marriage. Every section simultaneously creates one large story of all the ethnic groups of Western Michigan and not just one. The stories blend together in a historical and contemporary setting of emotional attachment to not only your heritage, but those included as part of the Western Michigan’s history.

This exhibit is geared towards the adults and teenagers, small children will like the train station and the young Mexican-American girl’s bedroom where touching and exploring the artifacts is permitted. Look for the popcorn cart owned by an Armenian carpenter who came over to the United States to avoid persecution from the Turks; everyone knew him and his cart! It became a beloved part of Western Michigan’s ethnic identity. Finally take a look at the tasty treats and food of all the ethnic groups in the section called A Tasty Stew. It is a remarkable exhibit that combines facts and stories into one cohesive history of Western Michigan.

Click on a picture to see it up close and read the description!

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5. The Furniture City — Grand Rapids Public Museum

Map of all the Furniture Companies in Grand Rapids

1876 World’s Fair Furniture

Grand Rapids was once the furniture capital of the United States and is still known internationally for its office furniture companies. After the 1876 World’s Fair in Philadelphia, Grand Rapids become synonymous for high end and long lasting furniture.  The city boasted over twelve competing furniture companies who were able to flourish due to the high volume of trees,  easy access to Lake Michigan, and many of the newly arrived immigrants looking for work.

Gone with the Wind

The exhibit highlights the history, the craftsmanship, and the ingenuity behind the Furniture City. Experience the evolution of Grand Rapids’s history in The Furniture Cityexhibit. The exhibit showcases the pieces from the 1876 World’s Fair, the Hollywood connection with furniture from Gone with the Wind and other Hollywood classics, and see a master craftsman at work in his shop. The end of the exhibit highlights chairs and theater seats from the United States that are part of mainstream America today. Begin with the early history and finish in contemporary American times. Who knew furniture has such a rich history!

So many furniture needed a guide like a modern day exposition show everyday!






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