Chicago is full of amazing museums of all descriptions. Many of them are among the first attractions visitors check out when visiting the city.
Yet for every major museum like the Field Museum or the Chicago Institute of Art, there are many other smaller museums that are absolutely worth exploring.
Whether you’ve already visited the city’s most famous museums, or you’re simply looking for something a little different, here are three unusual Chicago museums you should check out on your next trip to “The Windy City.”
Interested in wealth and currency? Does Cash Rule Everything Around You? If so, you’ll find this museum is right on the money.
Located inside the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago—a self-proclaimed “bank for banks”—this museum celebrates all things monetary. Many guests enjoy the museum’s informative displays on the history of currency, but for most, the real selling point is a roster of more whimsical attractions. Chief among those are a briefcase holding $1M in cash—perfect for photo ops—and a 2000-pound block of $1 bills, also worth a cool million. The museum is also the home of a machine that shreds unusable right in front of guests, who are then welcome to take home fistfuls of the mulched money for souvenirs.
Here’s where it gets even better: it won’t break the bank to visit this fascinating Chicago museum. Admission is entirely free!
The United States has produced some of the most iconic writers of all time, from Ernest Hemingway to Mark Twain, from Emily Dickinson to Jack Kerouac, from Maya Angelou to William Faulkner. Those writers and many others are honored at Chicago’s American Writers Museum, which you’ll find at 180 N Michigan Ave.
Borrowing from the Dublin Writers Museum in Ireland, this museum uses innovative and interactive technology to teach visitors about some of the world’s greatest writers and their craft. That said, the museum certainly has some analog aspects too. Among its attractions is a collection of typewriters used by some of the country’s most celebrated scribes—many of which can be taken for a spin by visitors.
There are a lot of family-friendly museums in Chicago, but you might want to think twice before bringing the kids to this one. As its name implies the Leather Archives & Museum is a celebration of all things leather—with a clear focus on BDSM, kink and fetishism.
Inside this museum, you’ll find an expansive collection of handcuffs, whips, gags and more—including many items that are already centuries old. While those displays are the real selling point for many visitors, the museum also has an expansive collection literature and texts on BDSM, penned by some of the most influential and important figures in the space.
It’s a far cry from your typical museum—and again, one you probably want to refrain from bringing your kids too—but depending on your interests, it could be right up your alley.
Find it at 6418 North Greenview Avenue. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.