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Community landmark: The Adler Planetarium at South Loop

Community landmark
Explore the wonders of the universe at the Adler Planetarium, one of Chicago’s most celebrated landmarks. The Adler offers loads of fun and exciting activities and exhibits for the whole family. Each one is designed to teach and entertain audiences about the wonders of science and the history of mankind’s fascination with the stars.

The planetarium’s location on the northeast tip of Northerly Island also treats visitors to some of the most spectacular views of Chicago’s skyline across the mirrored waters of Lake Michigan in Chicago’s famous Museum Campus.

The Adler features three full-size theaters and one of the world’s largest collections of historic scientific instruments. They include rare 17th-century astronomical devices to the fully restored Gemini 12 capsule that blasted into space.

It’s also the home of the Doane Observatory, the largest aperture telescope available for the public to use in the Chicago metropolitan area.  Visitors can observe the moon, stars, and galaxies, and view our own sun safely at designated hours.


Completed in 1930, the Adler Planetarium was the first of its kind in the US and the entire Western Hemisphere. It was founded by Chicago business leader and philanthropist Max Adler who was inspired by his visit to the Munich Planetarium in Bavaria.

The Adler Planetarium was designed by architect Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr., Adler’s cousin. In 1931, Grunsfeld was awarded by the American Institute of Architects with the gold medal of their Chicago Chapter for the planetarium’s design.


The planetarium features several interactive exhibits on the history and science of spaceflight, astronomy, and exploration. Permanent exhibits include:

    • Mission MoonIntroduced in 2015, this exhibit takes visitors on America’s journey to becoming the first country to put a man on the moon. It takes on the point of view of NASA’s Captain James Lovell, the command module pilot of Apollo 8, which was the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Lovell was also commander of Apollo 13, and pilot of two Gemini missions.Look inside the actual fully restored Gemini 12 capsule. See what it’s like to fly over the lunar surface. Launch stomp rockets and race against time to save the crew of Apollo 13. Watch and listen to interactive stories and exhibits narrated by Captain James Lovell himself.


    • Planet ExplorersDesigned for kids aged 3-8, this interactive adventure lets youngsters go on a fun modern-day space adventure where they can play and learn about going on a mission to outer space.Planet Explorers features a series of indoor environments with fun activities like taking control of a two-story rocket, visiting a space station, strolling through the surface of an alien planet, and more.


    • Astronomy in CultureOne of the facility’s largest exhibits, Astronomy in Culture takes visitors  back in time to see how Medieval European and Middle Eastern stargazers used astronomy in their culture.The exhibit features hundreds of historic scientific instruments – from a sundial that fires a cannon to tell the time, to tools that used the stars to help early explorers navigate the world.


Monthly event

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the planetarium also hosts Adler After Dark every month. It’s an exclusive program that offers open access, unique entertainment, and unlimited shows to visitors ages 21 and over. It was voted the “Best After Hours Event” and “Best Date Night” by the Chicago Reader and the Chicago Parent.  Adler After Dark happens every third Thursday of the month starting at 6:00 p.m.


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