Out of all the large museums in our fair city, I have a couple of favorites. The Field Museum of Natural History sets us out to explore Ancient Egypt, the age of the dinosaurs, and more. The Art Institute of Chicago features fantastic national/international works of art (and was actually featured as the top museum in the world). However, for nostalgia’s sake, this last one eeks out just a liiiiitle bit more as my personal favorite. And that, my friends, is the Museum of Science and Industry @msichicago (MSI).
My post covers some of the awesomeness that this museum has to offer, and the GF experience of their cafeteria. In any case, the museum doesn’t ever truly disappoint.
Visit the museum site here at:
Our original purpose was to visit the Pixar exhibit being held there (which is up until the new year, everybody!). But upon arriving, I was pleasantly reminded that their “Christmas Around the World” exhibit was up as well. If you have to choose a time of year to go, make the holidays your time. Gorgeous trees decorated in the style of various countries stand proudly through the main rotunda, stretching around you as the staircase takes you upward and releases you to their beauty.
If you have ever been there before, you know how much there is to see in this place. It just keeps on going. It isn’t possible to see all of the regular exhibits in a day, let alone if you have tickets to extra attractions. Among my favorites are:
- The Science Storms exhibit just off the Main Floor Rotunda with the Tesla ring that fires every 30 minutes (Free)
- The U-505 submarine on display. The first time we saw it, we definitely weren’t expecting it. It gave me chills and reminded me of my grandfather. Beautiful. (Free, but fee is charged to tour the interior of the submarine)
- And, of course, the Christmas trees.
You will find countless other exhibits as well–the Henry Crown Space Center, YOU! The Experience (real human bodies! 👀), and more. If you haven’t been here, arrive early and plan for a very full and awesome day.
Pixar was interesting. For certain exhibitions, you purchase tickets for a certain entry time. Once inside, you can go through at your leisure.
Now, I’m a huge fan of Pixar and most everything they create (except for the Good Dinosaur–I’d rather forget about those tripped out pterodactyls), particularly the technical aspect of their work. This exhibit is meant to introduce children to the process of crafting these works of art, and how that applies to their popular films.
One thing I’ve always admired about Pixar is their ability to use each movie to introduce a completely innovative technological skill. Think the introduction of texture in A Bug’s Life, the metal/reflective surfaces in Cars, the water effects in Finding Nemo, Merida’s hair or Sully’s fur in their respective films. Inside Out achieved the appearance of sparkling particles making up the skin of the emotions in Riley’s mind. Most of these films have some revolutionary way in which they stretch the imagination of what can be done in the world of computer animation. This exhibit was a rudimentary way of bringing that to life for children–or grownups like me.😊
I enjoyed walking through, listening and stopping at each video station and hands-on experiment. There were two separate halls to go through to see the whole thing–completely packed, of course. And, in the end, some pretty cool merch to take home!
After Pixar we saw the Genetics exhibit (including the adorable baby chicks), and U-505.
When you visit the U-505, I encourage you to let yourself drift back to 1941. Guests enter a deep, ocean blue hall decorated with in a maze of WWII propaganda posters and displays of wartime strategy scenes and jargon. Take your time and breathe in the sounds of the rapid clicking of code-breaking machinery, smoky voices from radio signals communicating the next big move from the enemy and hand of the allies. Eventually, you’ll find yourself rounding through an opening, and look to your right–to find yourself staring down the nose of a 251 foot German U-boat.
As you round the side and travel to the floor of the exhibit, they’ll take your photo (smile!) that will be available for purchase later. Below, you’ll find various specimens from the submarine and its place of origin, including the science behind operating such a beast. For an additional fee, you can travel inside the structure and explore the inside. Though the photo is probably an unnecessary purchase, definitely give yourself some time to see everything before coming through the halls and coming back up to current day.
And now, as you might suspect, lunch time was at hand. I had brought along a couple of GF snacks in my bag like a good little girl, but I was very curious to what this cafeteria had in store for me. And if you find yourself at MSI for a day, you’ll wander down to the Brain Food Court.
Okay, so this place is pretty big. And crowded. Let me advise you to go a little early or late to try to avoid the crowds. Eating quick isn’t really a thing here. Fortunately, eating well is.
For the general diner, there’s everything from pizza to salads. There are different counters with various dishes available. They do have quite a bit of pre-made sandwiches, parfaits, and a plethora of beverages–milk, teas, Italian sodas, and Coke products at the registers.
As for the gluten-free availability: there are lots of chips and things that are GF, and of course there are the beverages. I have yet to see sandwiches or most of the main dishes made GF, but there is a grill when you first enter the cafeteria that offers grilled chicken, fries, and burgers. The chicken and beef patties are good (real meat, people!), and the fries are made alone. There are non-GF sides offered here, but I usually politely explain that I have a health condition, and ask for a new cheeseburger with no bun. They’re busy back there, but have always been more than accommodating, which I truly appreciate. The fries are made in their own fryer and there aren’t any other fried foods served at this particular counter. I don’t know that they truly are GF as far as the ingredients, but altogether the chances are good.
Of course, there are lots of snacks, candy, and other things here. Some of the pre-made salads do contain croutons, but many do not. And all things considered, you definitely will not go hungry. My cheeseburger patty was pretty substantial and very filling. And I definitely realized how much better the GF options were here after visiting the Field Museum a couple of weeks later (more in another post to come).
Of course, be aware that this is museum food, and as such, the prices are high. As in, a burger patty and a couple of sides may cost you your income tax return, and maybe the deed to your house and car. It’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not the best priced attraction food I have seen. No, the highest prices for food at a midwestern attraction goes to another destination to be covered in a later post. The good news is that this place is big, with different ways to try some different options, and (drum roll, please) has plenty of seating.
There are two large rooms to sit in, and in the couple of times we have been here over the last year or two, we have never had a difficult time finding a seat.
Other Adventures 🍨😋
After eating we went to the Giant Dome Theater, where we saw a film about tornadoes. Movies here run about thirty minutes, and it is one of the museum’s more nostalgic qualities. But I will advise–if you have small children, you might want to wait until they’re older. A dome theater, if you’ve never been in one, can even be overwhelming for adults…I usually see a few holding onto handrails to steady themselves as they climb the steps. It’s very disorienting. But if your children are older, they may enjoy it! Check what is playing before you come. There are always several good ones to choose from.
Yesterday’s Main Street is a fun exhibit, and includes an old fashioned ice cream shop. We did not stop to eat ice cream ourselves, but I did duck in to ask about their GF availability. They have the basic flavors in addition to cookie dough, cookies and cream, and other non-GF flavors. They explained that they could wash the scoops and be as careful to handle an allergy as possible, but GF seemed like a foreign concept. I totally understand–these places are bombarded with tourists, rude customers, and an overall demanding public. In these situations, I truly empathize, but I might opt out just to be on the safe side.
Here are a few shots of our adventures around the place:
Overall Rating: 4/5
Thought the whole museum is an absolute score, the GF rating barely touches the level shown above. My issue was that GF options aren’t specified anywhere, and it took a couple of visits and a lot of my own footwork to figure out what I can have, which is fine for me–but for a family on the run during a busy day at the museum, I know that could be more difficult. Because of the sheer size (and location) of this place, it would be pretty difficult to leave the museum to eat lunch–you’d have to go for a partial day.
Also, there are no kids’ options that are outright GF, and some legwork might have to be done to find your child a complete meal. However, the food itself is of pretty good quality. I am never hungry here, and once you see all of what is available to you, it’s pretty easy to fit the puzzle pieces of your dining experience together.
And, as always, I must include a note: My top priority aside from my own health is my manners. When asking about GF options and questions as you venture into these great experiences, let me encourage everyone to be courteous and patient with the staff you come in contact with. Clarity and concern for our own health, while paramount, should never compromise our kindness toward others. So go out there, treat each other well, and enjoy the world!
Until next time, salutations from Chicago and Gluten-Free Marie.💖