This relatively new museum is the centerpiece for the Chicago Academy of Sciences, which dates back to 1857. The Nature Museum is located in a pleasant area of Lincoln Park at the corner of Fullerton Parkway and Cannon Drive. The 1999 building seems to blend in with nature itself. When you are inside the museum, there are window views to reconnect you with the great outdoors.
The definitive experience is a visit to the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven. It is fun to wander into the humid sanctuary to witness a lovely collection of living butterflies in an approximation of their natural environment. Over 50 species of butterflies are housed in this greenhouse. There is an interesting area with delicate butterfly chrysalides, which look like beautifully fine pieces of jewelry in their display.
Other displays include a Wilderness Walk through prairie environments, with full-scale mock-ups of animals and plants and piped-in sounds. Check out the various displays of living insects scurrying about safely behind glass displays, such as the ant farm and the water bugs. Kids will also enjoy the City Science and Water Lab displays. This latter exhibit includes what is basically a glorified sandbox, with water, sand, and instruments to create make-believe land and water topographies.
Cap off your visit at the Nature Museum Shop, which is small but has an amusing array of gifts and toys that are fun and educational as well. There is a cafe with light snacks and refreshments. The second floor has an outdoor patio from which you can look out at the surroundings, with large trees, ponds, and gardens.
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a bit out of the way, as it is about three miles north of the downtown area. If you have a spot of time and want to reconnect with nature while in the urban jungle, the museum is worth a visit. The place definitely caters to kids, but it is fun for adults also.