Chicago Children's Museum

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This multicultural kids' haven at Navy Pier is filled with blocks, mechanical waterfalls, foam-rubber flying machines, paints, clay and more. The newest permanent exhibit, "Big Backyard," combines technology and art to create towering flowers, large insects, giant toadstools, a wall mural of the city skyline and other whimsical outdoor sights and sounds that change with the seasons. In "Play It Safe," kids learn about house, yard and auto safety inside a 1,300-square-foot Chicago-style bungalow.

Engineering-related exhibits include the "Inventing Lab," where kids design flying machines out of foam rubber, then put them on a vertical conveyer belt that carries them to the ceiling and surrenders them to gravity. In "Waterways," kids can borrow raincoats to help build a dam on an imitation waterfall, examine the workings of a waterwheel and fit pipes over jets of water.

For kids who prefer the natural world, there are several animal exhibits. The museum also has a re-created dinosaur expedition site and a small aquarium with Lake Michigan fish. The centerpiece of the museum is the "Climbing Schooner," a three-story-tall replica of an 1850s sailing ship that kids can climb on.