PHOTO: McCormick Bridgehouse and River Museum. (photo courtesy of McCormick Bridgehouse and River Museum)
Chicago boasts many world-class museums.
From the acclaimed Art Institute of Chicago—which boasts more than 300,000 works of art—to the spectacular Field Museum of Natural History, which houses the beloved Sue (the largest and best-preserved T-Rex ever discovered), the city covers all the cultural bases.
But beyond the impressive major museums and smaller community treasures, Chicago also offers a few quirky, little-known stops that are worth a visit.
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The Money Museum (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)
As a home to the second largest business district in the U.S., it shouldn't be a huge surprise that a money museum anchors a section of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
This small, interactive museum—frequented mostly by school groups and senior citizens—features highlights like a glass cube stuffed with one million dollars and an exhibit that allows you to create any denomination of money with your photo on it.
The free museum supplies a guided tour at 1pm, Monday through Friday, for about 30 minutes. There you’ll learn about the evolution of U.S. currency, (including nuggets like: The largest denomination ever circulated was $10,000). All adults must present valid ID to enter the museum as well as go through security, but each visitor gets a bag of $365.
The currency is all shredded, however.
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International Museum of Surgical Science
The International Museum of Surgical Science occupies four stories of a historic mansion house and is a division of the International College of Surgeons. It's meant to create understanding for the history of medicine and surgery, (I strongly recommend eating before arriving at this gory emporium, but not right before you get there).
A human body sliced into neat, half-inch pieces is the first display that greets you on the first floor. From there, you can take in preserved fetuses and art made from blood and kidney stones.
There’s also the chilling exhibit of a 19th-century apothecary and dentist’s office.
McCormick Bridgehouse and River Museum
Tucked along the Chicago Riverwalk, the McCormick Bridgehouse and River Museum explores the history of the city’s famous moving bridges and the significance of the Chicago River.
Starting at river level and climbing five stories up, visitors can view gears and the workings of the bridge system while enjoying 360-degree views of the river and the city. The museum is currently closed for the season and will reopen in May.
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Leather Archives & Museum
Yes, Chicago even has an adults-only museum.
The Leather Archives Museum is a showcase for items related to alternative sexual practices including leather, fetishism and sadomasochism. There’s clothing, gear, art, photos, literature and film on display—nothing for the prudish or shy.
The museum is open Thursday-Sunday and, like all good museums, it even has a gift shop filled with t-shirts, baseball hats, keychains and posters proclaiming various lifestyles.