We’ll start with an easy one for skyscraper fans—the recently renamed Sears Tower boasts an observatory complemented by four glass boxes extending 4 feet out and 1,353 feet up from the bottom of the building, once the world’s tallest.
3Museum of Science and Industry
Among its expansive exhibits, the museum features a working coal mine, a German submarine (U-505) captured during World War II, a 3,500-square-foot model railroad and a NASA spacecraft used on the Apollo 8 mission.Photo credit: Jeremy Atherton
4McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum
The five-story museum includes exhibits on the history of the Chicago River and the bridge. Visitors are also allowed to access the bridge’s gear room; during the spring and fall, bridge lifting visitors can see the bridge gears in operation as the leaves are raised and lowered. Sweet! Photo credit: Jeremy Atherton
5Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF)
The ArchiCenter is a free exhibition gallery operated by the foundation, which was established in 1966. In 2009, it opened a fascinating new exhibit, Chicago Model City, an intricate scale model of the downtown area.
6International Museum of Surgical Science
Located in the city’s exclusive Gold Coast neighborhood, the museum is operated by the International College of Surgeons and features exhibits dealing with various aspects of Eastern and Western medicine.
7Chicago Nerd Social Club
The club hosts events like a trip to the movies or a gaming night, a local museum, introductions to new technologies, and a comic book swap night. Only in Chicago. Photo credit: Jeff Smith
8Metallurgical Laboratory, University of Chicago
The Met Lab was part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project, created by the U.S. government to develop the atomic bomb. Henry Moore’s “Atomic Energy” sculpture graces the site of the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
9Ice Skating Rink, John Hancock Center
Although it won’t be open until January 2011, you’ll be able to glide on ice more than 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center. No word yet on whether the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks are planning a game there.
10Chicago Childrens Museum
An ideal way to spend an afternoon with kids in tow, the museum, located on the city’s overly touristy but bustling Navy Pier complex, offers 57,000??Ãsquare feet of education and entertainment.
11Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT)
IIT offers programs in engineering, science, architecture, industrial technology, information technology and design, and boasts a stunning modern campus designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.