As downtown Chicago’s #1 museum, the internationally esteemed Art Institute is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States and is visited by approximately 1.5 million guests each year. There’s so much to see at the Art Institute that, if visitors really want to be able to take everything in, they may want to plan to visit on more than one day.
Originally established in 1893, the Art Institute of Chicago is well-known for its iconic lions keeping watch over the entrance steps. The wide-ranging permanent collection of almost 300,000 pieces is nothing to scoff at, including famous icons as well as lesser-known treasures from all over the world. Plus, add in a variety of over 30 art exhibits that rotate regularly, and guests won’t get bored even if they visit often.
Not to Miss at Art Institute of Chicago
These classic, must-see items are critical for anyone who wants to experience the real Art Institute of Chicago:
- A Sunday on La Grand Jatte. A quintessential piece of artwork from Georges Seurat, this is one of the most remarkable paintings of its post-impressionist era, first exhibited in Paris in 1884.
- America Windows by Marc Chagall was made famous by the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” film just a few years after its appearance at the Art Institute in 1977.
- The Bedroom, Van Gogh’s second of three versions of this painting, is exhibited at the Art Institute. The first (almost an exact likeness) resides in Amsterdam, and a smaller version sits in Paris.
- Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper, offers an iconic look into city life of the 1940s in this view of an all-night diner that encompasses the loneliness of living in a large city.
Art Institute of Chicago Amenities
The Art Institute has three cafes available for lunch and snacks, opening daily by 11am:
- Museum Café is a family friendly dining space with healthy menu options for adults and children alike. Located on the lower level in McKinlock Court.
- Terzo Piano, on the third level of the Modern Wing, offers fine dining with bold Mediterranean flavors and farm-sourced organic ingredients. Reservations may be needed.
- Balcony Café, located on the second level of the Modern Wing, is a quick order dining spot with beverages, snacks and desserts.
The museum gift shop offers a unique selection of jewelry, gifts, and museum adaptations, much of which is drawn from the works in the collections of special exhibits. Featuring painting books, stationery, magnets, tote bags, and much more.
All visitors are welcome at the Art Institute with resources and programs specifically for children and adults with disabilities.
- Service animals are welcome in the museum.
- Both main entrances (Michigan Avenue and Modern Wing) are accessible for wheelchairs. The Modern Wing Entrance has a dedicated drop-off lane from eastbound Monroe Street.
- Millennium Park, East Monroe Street, and Grant Park North Garages all offer accessible parking but cannot accommodate oversized vans.
- Elevators are located throughout the buildings to access all levels.
- Manually operated wheelchairs may be used free of charge with first-come, first-served access.
Art Institute of Chicago Nearby Attractions
Many attractions are located in the vicinity, including Butler Field, Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park and, of course, Lake Michigan.
Art Institute of Chicago Getting There
Located across from Millennium Park and just yards from Lake Michigan, the Art Institute address is: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL 60603. For the entrance to the Modern Wing, head over to 159 East Monroe Street.
Upon arrival to the Art Institute, several parking options are available. The simplest (albeit also probably the most expensive) is valet parking available at the Modern Wing entrance every day when the museum doors open until 30 minutes after closing.
Nearby public garages include Grant Park (South & North), East Monroe Street and Millennium Park Garages. Street parking is also an option, but both sides of Columbus Drive immediately east of the museum have limited hours and violators will be towed.
Located just a block east of the Loop, the Art Institute is easily accessed via the “L” train.
- Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple lines all stop at Adams/Wabash just a block west of the museum.
- Red and Blue lines stop at Monroe underground just a few blocks away.
- Several bus lines also stop just in front of the museum.
- Metra, Chicago’s commuter rail system, has stops at both Van Buren and Millennium underground stations just a couple of blocks away on Michigan Avenue.
Chicago’s convenient Divvy bike-sharking system makes accessing the Art Institute easy, and several stations are available nearby.
Art Institute of Chicago When to Go
The Art Institute of Chicago can be visited daily from 10:30am-5:30pm and stays open later on Thursdays until 8:00 pm. The best time to plan a visit is early on weekdays, between 12noon and 3pm when it is likely to be less busy. Chicago and Illinois residents may take advantage of
Art Institute of Chicago Insider Tips
Mobile app and audio tours are available through the Art Institute’s free app with behind-the-scenes stories, expert voices, and music that transports the listener into the world of art. The app offers listings of current exhibits and a location-aware interactive map for navigational purposes.
Ask for entry fee discounts for students, teens and children, as well as Seniors (age 65+). Residents of Illinois and Chicago may qualify for discounts as well.