Travel: A Day Trip to Chicago & The Science Behind Pixar

Guys. We’re home from a quick day trip to Chicago and it was just THE BEST.

A few months ago I saw an ad for The Science Behind Pixar, a new exhibit at Museum of Science and Industry. Our family loves art, especially drawing. My son spends hours and hours in our playroom making stop motion videos. I try not to worry too much about the screen time because he’s being creative and honestly, his videos are SO GOOD.

Anyway, when I saw this Pixar exhibit I knew we needed to make a trip to Chicago. Today was the day. The kids each invited a friend, we packed a few snacks, and hit the road.

Usually we drive to Michigan City and take the train into Chicago, but because Museum of Science and Industry is just outside of Chicago (i.e., not in the busy city), we decided to drive. We had a few toll issues, but mostly the drive was a breeze. The underground parking at the museum is awesome. You drive in, park, and walk right into the museum. Super easy. No need to protect yourself from rain, wind or snow.

Now for the good stuff. The museum is amazing. Truly spectacular. I’m not sure the last time I was there but I don’t remember it being so grand and shiny and big. And friendly. I don’t know how museums can feel friendly, but MSI does. Perhaps it’s all the fun Pixar stuff right now or the insanely easy parking situation. Or maybe it was because I felt like I had swung the best deal of all time (more on that later).

The Pixar exhibit was equally amazing. You start in Gallery 1 and watch a short intro video. After that, you’re free to explore the rest of the exhibit. Everything is colorful, hands-on, engaging and fun. It wasn’t too busy, so the kids were free to try pretty much anything they wanted.

We spent about an hour in each gallery (there are two total), with a break in between for lunch at the museum food court. The kids were pretty done at that point, so we breezed through a few museum exhibits, checked out the gift shop, and headed back to the car.

Here’s what the whole day cost us. (This is for two adults and four children, all under 12.)

  • General admission – $0*
  • Pixar tickets – $72
  • Parking – $22
  • Lunch at the museum – $60
  • Starbucks stop – $6
  • Tank of gas – $50

Total – $210, 0r $35 per person

* We are members of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, which allows us free general admission to 300+ museums nationwide through ASTC’s Travel Passport Program. The Museum of Science and Industry is a participating museum, so our general admission was free. You can learn more about the program on GRPM’s website here. If you aren’t local, check the membership section of your local science and industry museum for more information.


  • Buy your tickets in advance, either online or by phone. If you’re taking advantage of the ASTC Travel Passport Program and want to buy tickets for a special exhibit, you’ll have to call. If you try to order online, they’ll ask you to buy your general admission tickets first, which you don’t need to do. There’s no way past that, so you need to call. We bought our tickets over the phone and they were emailed to us immediately. I printed them, but you can also present them digitally.
  • The Brain Food Court at MSI is wonderful and reasonably priced. It also features food from local farms, scratch-made soups, pizza, burgers, and pasta. We all ate well for about $10 per person. (If you’re drinking water, ask for a cup at checkout. You do not need to buy bottled water.)
  • Check the museum hours before you go. For the most part, they are open daily from 9:30 – 4:00, but that does vary. I was surprised by their early closing, and am glad I knew about it ahead of time so I could pace our visit.
  • There is a Pixar gift shop at the end of Gallery 2, but as far as I could tell the merchandise wasn’t exclusive to MSI or specific to the exhibit. It’s possible I missed it as I wrangled four kids with four different budgets, but everything seemed to be regular Pixar merchandise. I managed to herd the kids out of there without a purchase, reminding them that the bigger museum gift shop would have a better selection of cool museum stuff. (Naturally we went home with super exclusive slime and a bouncy ball. Sigh.)
  • Khan Academy has some pretty cool content right now – Pixar in a Box. We watched the overview video before we left and it was the same video we saw at the exhibit. There’s a ton of additional videos and lessons we’ll definitely be checking out.

Finally, last but most certainly not least, President Obama’s home is only a couple of miles from the museum. We plugged the address into our phone and found it easily. Once you’re near his street, the cement barricades and large signs make it clear which house is his. We parked the car and jumped out to take a look and snap a few pictures. It’s a worthwhile stop and hopefully a memorable moment for the kids.

Friends, plan this trip. Get on it. It’s worth it, I promise.

(And quickly! The Science Behind Pixar exhibit ends January 6, 2019.)

For more pictures, check out our Instagram page at @wildandpreciousfamily.

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