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May 25, 2010 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm heading to Chicago this weekend. What science/geeky/historical places should I check out?

There are lots of other recent Chicago threads which cover food, bars, theatre, and museums, e.g.

My curiosity was piqued by looking to see if Fermi's atomic pile had some sort of memorial, and it does. The other thing I found via Wiki is Millikan's house (of oil drop fame). Can you recommend any other interesting sites or cool stuff on the U of Chicago campus? I'd be interested in seeing anything to do with the economics department as well. If you can think of anything else interesting and geeky I'm game.
posted by benzenedream to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Museum of Science and Industry! Not quite on campus, but still awesome.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:32 PM on May 25, 2010

Field Museum of Natural History. Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio.
posted by Lone_Wolf at 12:48 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are a bunch of Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Chicago. The Robie House is owned by the University of Chicago, and guided tours are available.

My parents recently toured that and the Wright home and studio in Oak Park and really enjoyed it.

Not too strong on the "science" bit, but definitely fits the "geeky/historical" criteria.
posted by valkyryn at 12:49 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Museum of Surgical Science! I'm ashamed to have lived here as long as I have and never been able to go.
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:51 PM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, also the The Chicago History Museum!
posted by bibliogrrl at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Also on U of C campus is the Oriental Institute. Highly recommended.

Other sciencey things in town is the museum of surgical science on inner lake shore drive on the near north side. They have an admirable collection of kidney stones.

If you're not content with looking at statues, howabout going out to fermilab or argonne to get a tour?
posted by Cold Lurkey at 12:54 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: The American Science & Surplus Store!
posted by crush-onastick at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Seconding the Museum of Surgical Science. History + medical science = good nerdy fun.
posted by elder18 at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Manhattan Project nuclear waste smack dab in the middle of the forest preserve:
posted by stormpooper at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: If you want nerdy and strange, try the Museum of Holography, though it's not particularly historical.
posted by aimedwander at 1:53 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Perhaps while making your way to Hyde Park, you can play a rousing game of Chez Geek, inspired by some buncha slackers what shall remain nameless. Or read The Devil in the White City, which will alternately amaze you with ambitious achievement, and creep you out way the hell more than the "Nuclear Energy" sculpture could. (If you do read that, check it out before you visit the MSI, so you get an extra bit of appreciation for the building it's in.)

Bookstores! Powell's and the nearby O'Gara and Wilson on 57th, the Co-op (all the academic tomes you could wish for) and 57th St Books (popular bookstore, assuming "popular" includes things like Harry Potter in about six languages). Beware: O'Gara and Wilson lays a clever trap in the form of a trunk full of cheap hardcovers out on the sidewalk in nice weather. Very devious.

The DuSable Museum of African-American History is located just on the other side of Cottage Grove from the Hospitals, and is free on Sundays. Just a bit south of there, at the Midway Plaisance and slightly west of Cottage Grove, is Loredo Taft's Fountain of Time, recently restored.

(This is neither sciency, historical, nor geeky, but I have heard rumors that there is also a stationary ice cream truck of some renown over in Kimbark Plaza, featuring homemade ice cream in non-traditional flavors. I would like some ice cream, so I thought maybe you would too.)

If you want to take Cold Lurkey up on that tour idea, Argonne tours are by reservation only and you must be a US Citizen. You must also be physically capable of enduring the traffic on I-55 to get there. (If you possess highly advanced skills in traffic endurance, see I-290 and Fermilab.)

Outside of Hyde Park but still a bit geeky and really cool -- in the Santa Fe building (224 S. Michigan, Chicago Architecture Foundation), they have this awesome model of the city, totally up-to-date, right in the lobby, free to just drop in and look at. Also on a local architecture kick, the Harold Washington Library currently has a small exhibit on the Burnham Plan, with artifacts and video -- just take the escalators to the third floor and you'll pass it as you come around the corner toward the library proper.
posted by sldownard at 3:58 PM on May 25, 2010

I second the Oriental Institute.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:13 PM on May 25, 2010

The Art Institute currently has an installation that uses jet engines. You can see it for free if you walk up the ramp to the Modern Wing from Millennium Park.

All the others recs you've gotten so far are great, but you should know that the Museum of Holography has pretty odd hours.
posted by Xalf at 4:47 PM on May 25, 2010

Seminary Coop ! Amazing bookstore.

The Economics Department isn't glamorous at all. I'd honestly skip that, unless you want to sit in on a class.
posted by astapasta24 at 4:52 PM on May 25, 2010

Best answer: Have you ever been curious about what it's like to float in a sensory deprivation tank? Let me tell you: it's awesome and totally worth doing. (Not recommended for claustrophobes, though it's perfectly safe.) Also not in Hyde Park, but right off an L stop about 25 minutes away.
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 8:42 PM on May 25, 2010

Oh, and since Lutoslawski mentioned bookstores, you also might want to check out Myopic Bookstore in Wicker Park.

(I'll admit, this is a plug. I work there. Which is why I didn't even think to mention it.)

But the shop is the biggest used bookstore in Chicago, and there are 3 floors of well organized books. Even after being around 20 years, a lot of people seem to forget it's there. :D
posted by bibliogrrl at 7:04 AM on May 27, 2010

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