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7 Best Places to Learn About History in Chicago

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History buffs, it’s time to discover Chicago. Since the 1850’s this city has dominated the Midwest. A hub for both business and culture, Chicago has inspired countless innovations in architecture, jazz music, art, commerce, higher education and cuisine. It’s witnessed everything from gangster shootouts to the World’s Columbian Exposition. So what’s the best way to soak up all this history? Check out these Chicago activities for history students.

1) Graceland Cemetery

Here’s a spooky way to learn about Chicagoans of the past. This sprawling Victorian cemetery with a park-like design is the resting place of famous Chicagoans like Marshall Field and George Pullman. Look out for some mesmerizing tombs, such as an Egyptian pyramid-themed tomb and two masterpieces designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan. Take a free, self-guided tour of this cemetery and certified arboretum for a unique look at 19th century Chicago.

2) Jane Addams Hull House Museum

In 1889, revolutionary social worker Jane Addams opened the Hull House, a settlement house that provided social, educational and artistic programs to working-class European immigrants. This establishment transformed the lives of neighborhood residents and inspired countless other types of social reforms. Discover it’s rich history at the museum that now sits on the site of the Hull House.

3) Chicago Architecture Cruise

The Windy City’s history comes alive with its architecture. While floating down the Chicago River with a knowledgeable tour guide, you’ll learn the history of the famous buildings that surround you. From the unique innovations made by the Chicago School of Architecture during the 19th century to the skyscraping towers of today, each building has an intriguing story behind it. 

4) The Art Institute of Chicago

From Rembrandt to Lichtenstein, ancient Egyptian sculptures to modern Japanese prints, the Art Institute of Chicago’s huge array of art is considered to be encyclopedic. In fact, its 260,000 pieces of art span nearly two millennia. Some of the most famous masterworks include Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings from Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh and Seurat.

5) The Chicago History Museum

Showcasing millions of pieces that represent both Chicago and U.S. history, this museum illuminates the city’s past, present and future. From the 1893 Chicago ‘L’ cart that brought visitors from the Loop to Hyde Park during the World’s Columbian Exposition to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls basketball uniform, the collections feature some of the Windy City’s most historically-significant items. Spend time hearing what Chicagoans have to say about their city’s past with the impressive Oral History Collection.

6) Chicago Gangster Tour

Discover the Jazz Age in the Windy City, when folks would drink at speakeasies and gangsters like Al Capone ruled the streets. Take a bus through the city, where you’ll see gangster hotspots and hear stories of Diamond Joe Esposito, John Dillinger and others. You’ll also learn about historic jazz and blues spots that brought the city to life.

7) The Field Museum

One of the world’s largest natural history museums, the Field Museum is filled with over 24 million specimens. Nature lovers will love exploring animal exhibitions and dioramas, as well as the famous dinosaur hall. Social historians can visit mummies from Ancient Egypt, learn about the lives of Ancient Americans and marvel at a wall of shoes whose origins span continents and centuries.

Of course, there’s no better way to discover Chicago history than with a Chicago educational tour. Get in touch with one of our Tour Consultants to talk about how you can introduce your students to this major city.

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