Play Stations

Our kids’ world is about to get bigger. On October 20th, the new Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago opens in Glenview, adding 22,700 square feet, doubling the public space over its former Wilmette location. We checked out the Chicago area’s three most prominent museums for kids to see how they compared.

Kohl Children’s Museum of Greater Chicago (2100 Patriot Blvd., Glenview; 847-832-6600, www.kohlchildrensmuseum.org)

Founded in: 1985
Admission: $6.50 for adults and children; $5.50 for seniors and grandparents; children under 12 months free
Yearly membership: $90 per family
Parking: Free 200-car lot on site
Ages: Infant through 8
Square feet of exhibition space: 18,000
Number of permanent exhibits: 15
Number of rotating exhibits: 1, currently It’s Easy Being Green, demonstrating how the new museum was built by showcasing time-lapse photos
Accessibility: 3.5 miles from I-294, and Pace bus 423 travels Patriot Boulevard.
Where most of the kids flock: Music Makers. This carryover from the Wilmette location lets kids drum and play tambourine in a jam room, as well as pluck the strings of an oversize guitar to learn about vibrations.
Kids might get messy . . . working with clay, paint, and papier-mâché in the Adventures in Art area, which has art workshops twice daily. (Aprons provided.)
Expect tired tots after . . . they pedal on a stationary bike or use a pump to inflate a wind sock at Cooperation Station.
Onsite dining options: The 60-seat Kim & Scott’s Pretzel Bakery & Twisting Café sells salads and sundaes, plus creative sandwiches, like ham and Swiss cheese served on a Bavarian pretzel.
What’s on the way: A two-acre outdoor exhibit called Habitat Park, including an underground tunnel, a sculpture trail, and a protected courtyard for infants, is scheduled to open in May 2006.

Chicago Children’s Museum (Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Ave., 312-527-1000, www.chichildrensmuseum.org)

Founded in: 1982 as Expressways Children’s Museum
Admission: $7 for adults and children; $6 for seniors; children under 12 months free. Free Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.
Yearly membership: $65 per family of up to four members
Parking: Starts at $14 for up to one hour; $22 flat rate on Saturday and Sunday. (Discount offered to members.)
Ages: Infant through 12
Square feet of exhibition space: 34,000
Number of permanent exhibits: 10
Number of rotating exhibits: 2, currently Making America’s Music, where kids can sing and learn dance crazes, and Now You’re Talking, a bilingual exhibit focusing on how children acquire language.
Accessibility: Just east of Lake Shore Drive and about one mile from I-90/94. Five CTA buses stop there, and free westbound trolley service runs daily.
Where most of the kids flock: Dinosaur Expedition to unearth replicas of a Sucho-mimus tenerensis femur, claw, and skull.
Kids might get messy . . . using pulleys to lift and empty buckets of water in the Waterways exhibit. (Child-size raincoats are provided, as are free washing and drying services.)
Expect tired tots after . . . they crawl through Climbing Schooner, a three-stories-high rope chute.
On-site dining options: Navy Pier has tons, starting with Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., found at the pier’s front entrance.
What’s on the way: The museum is in negotiations to expand its Navy Pier space by 20,000 square feet.

DuPage Children’s Museum (301 N. Washington St., Naperville; 630-637-8000, www.dupagechildrensmuseum.org)

Founded in: 1987
Admission: $7, adults and children; $6 seniors; children under 12 months, free
Yearly membership: $59 for one child and one adult; $79 for two adults and up to six children in the household
Parking: Free 176-car lot on site
Ages: Infant through 10
Square feet of exhibition space: 23,000
Number of permanent exhibits: 10
Number of rotating exhibits: 1, currently My Home, My Place, a gathering of artist-designed sculptures, paintings and installations of items usually found in a house
Accessibility: The Naperville stop on Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe line is adjacent to the museum’s parking lot, which is two miles south of I-88 (the Ronald Reagan Tollway).
Where most of the kids flock: Bubble All Around You. Children are enveloped in a real bubble, formed when they lift a Hula-Hoop soaked in soapy water over their heads.
Kids might get messy . . . running through the AirWorks exhibit’s walk-in wind tunnel, which can put long hair in snarls. (Goggles provided.)
Expect tired tots after . . . they hammer, saw, and drill-using actual tools designed for kids-in the Moser Construction House, a shedlike structure built within the museum.
On-site dining options: No-frills vending machines on the lower level
What’s on the way: In September 2006, a new installation opens in the museum’s Creativity Connections Gallery where kids can see works of art and create their own.

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