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Big Trip 2011 - Day 9: Chicago Museums

Our last day in Chicago. There’s so much we know we won’t be able to do on this trip, but we managed to do a few things on our list today. We started off with another ‘L’ ride, this time south from the hotel to the Roosevelt station.

From there it was about a half mile walk to the Field Museum. On the way, we passed through the south end of Grant Park and wandered through another bit of public art: Agora by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz. It’s a group of about 100 ten-foot-tall rusty iron legs milling about. The boys both loved it. As we walked among the legs, Kathy pointed out that this must be what it’s like to be a little kid: the whole world is just a bunch of legs ascending up out of view.

The Field Museum was another hit. It feels like the canonical museum to me (though I grew up with the Smithsonian). Maybe it’s because it seems like the museum in Curious George. We didn’t have any hope of seeing everything, but we did take our time in a handful of exhibits: one on ancient Egypt, another on Pacific Island culture, geography, and geology, yet another on gems and minerals. There was also a very sad moment at lunchtime: for the first time on this trip, we ate at a McDonalds. I call it a sad moment only in the general loathing-of-McDonalds sense; we actually had a fine time and the boys loved their Happy Meals.

After the Field, we walked past the Shedd Aquarium to the Adler Planetarium. We got there just in time to make it to the monthly sky talk in the fancy digital planetarium (not the big main planetarium). It was a huge disappointment to me, just as every planetarium presentation I’ve seen has been for last few years (with the notable exception of the one Henry and I saw at the UW Astronomy Department). The presentation at the Adler was wandering and disjointed and the projected stars were fuzzy and dim. The whole point of a planetarium is the almost magical experience of having day turned to night and the ceiling ripped from the building to see the stars in all their splendor. A good planetarium really looks like the sky on a dark night in the country; this one looked like the projection it was. On the bright side, Charlie loved it, so it wasn’t a total waste. The rest of the museum at the Adler was pretty good, too. We could have spent another couple hours there if we weren’t all completely exhausted.

Oh, one other thing at the Adler Planetarium. We missed out on experiencing the Atwood Sphere. It’s the oldest planetarium in Chicago: a simple metal sphere with tiny holes poked in it to let light from outside shine through as stars. A small platform ascends up into the sphere on a sloped track, from which you can experience the stars first hand. For me, it was the coolest thing I saw all day and I was thoroughly disappointed that we didn’t have time to experience it. Maybe next time.

After a long and tiring day, we just had a quick dinner at Chipotle near the hotel. Again, we slept well.