These hidden gem Chicago museums are places to explore during holiday break

Chronicle Media

The Chicago Architecture Center is the leading organization devoted to celebrating and promoting Chicago as a center of architectural innovation.

The upcoming school break and holiday time allows many families the time and opportunity to explore Chicago and its many iconic museums. What may be lesser known are the number of smaller museums, rich in exhibits exploring their particular areas of specialty and expertise. Their topics are varied, and help to tell a wide look at the area. From architecture to immigrant history to Native American influences, they help explain what makes Chicago Chicago.

What follows is a sampling of these special places.

Chicago Architecture Center

111 E. Wacker Drive, Chicago

9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 pm. Sunday, closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1

$12 adults, $8 students, free for children under 5


The Chicago Architecture Center is the leading organization devoted to celebrating and promoting Chicago as a center of architectural innovation. It is known for its architectural boat and walking tours, and now houses the city’s newest museum. Started as the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the organization moved to new digs in August, changed its name and opened an exhibition area that houses a 4,250-building scale model of Chicago, an award-winning store and fun family events in its ArcelorMittal Design Studio. Since its debut in 2009, the Chicago Model has been an icon. It was enhanced and expanded this year. A film and light show illuminate the model with the story of Chicago’s early growth, its rebirth after the Great Chicago Fire and its ever-changing skyline

Glencoe Historical Society

375 Park Ave., Glencoe
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, or call for appointment

Free admission


On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I. President Woodrow Wilson put out the call to all Americans to make the world safe for democracy. Nineteen days later, on April 25, 1917, the Village of Glencoe answered that call. In a new exhibition, the Glencoe Historical Society is commemorating the centennial anniversary of the “war to end all wars” through programs, activities and an interactive exhibit to explain the extraordinary support a united Glencoe gave to the war effort both at home and abroad. Amazing stories of heroism and sacrifice by Glencoe residents are part of the historical society’s interactive exhibit.

Glessner House Museum

1800 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Tours at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Jan. 1

$15 adults, $12 senior citizens and students, $8 children 5-12 years old, free on Wednesday


The Glessner House was radical when it was built. Now a National Historic Landmark, it was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. Its departure from traditional Victorian architecture inspired a young Frank Lloyd Wright and helped redefine domestic architecture. The Glessner family lived in this house for 50 years, through the heyday and decline of the famed Prairie Avenue neighborhood. It remains an internationally known architectural treasure in Chicago. The museum is known for its guided tours, which are limited to 15 people per tour on a first-come, first-served, walk-in basis. All tours begin at the Visitors Center located inside the main Prairie Avenue entrance to the building. 

Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA)

820 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago

11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, closed Sunday and Dec. 24 and Dec. 25

Free for museum general admission

$9 adults, $6 senior citizens, free for students and on Tuesday for “Art and Faith of the Creche”


This is a special time of year to visit the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA). Its perennial favorites — “Art & Faith of the Crèche: The Collection of James and Emilia Govan” and “The Art of the Season: David Lee Csicsko” — are on display through Jan. 12. The exhibits tell the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus through the eyes of many artists. See how artists across the globe depict the Nativity with clothes, architecture and figures from their native lands.  

The Glessner House, a National Historic Landmark, was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887.

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian

3001 Central St., Evanston

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday

$5 adults, $3 senior citizens, students, children 3-17 years old



The Mitchell Museum of the American Indian is one of only a handful of museums across the country that focuses exclusively on the art, history and culture of Native American and First Nation peoples. Native American heritage is all around Illinois. Although the state no longer has reservations, more than 40,000 American Indian peoples representing more than 150 tribes live in the Chicagoland area. An exhibit, “Heritage Markers: Local Native American History and Cultures on display until 2022, uses local heritage markers, contemporary Native organizations, street signs and town names as touchstones to discuss the local Native history. The museum also presents an exhibit showcasing Indigenous-owned businesses, tribal co-ops and enterprises. Another exhibit explores the artistry and expertise of weavers who create unique baskets, bags, rugs, blankets and clothing.

National Hellenic Museum

333 S. Halsted St., Chicago

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; closed Monday and Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31, Jan. 1

$10 adults, $8 senior citizens and students, $7 children 3-12 years old, free for children under 3


The National Hellenic Museum’s mission is to share the legacy of Hellenism and to preserve the stories and honor the contributions to the United States of Greek immigrants and Americans of Greek heritage. The museum’s core exhibit has been refreshed to include more objects, photographs and personal stories that reflect the Greek American experience. In tracing the path of Greek immigration to America, “Reaching for the American Dream: The Greek Story in America” encompasses thousands of unique experiences that portray the successes and hardships that contribute to the American mosaic.

Visitors to the National Museum of Mexican Art can immerse themselves into the richness of Mexican art and culture.

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th St., Chicago

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Free admission


Visitors to the National Museum of Mexican Art can immerse themselves into the richness of Mexican art and culture. Located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood in the heart of the city’s Mexican community, the museum boasts 10,000 seminal pieces of art from ancient Mexico to the present, showcasing 3,000 years of creativity from both sides of the border. The museum is committed to creating exhibitions that present a vibrant and diverse picture of Mexico and its history, as well as of Mexican communities in the United States.

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