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There is a reason why visiting The Adler Planetarium was given the number one spot on February’s monthly resolution list: For years now, every time we drive by the museum campus I declare “We need to go to the Planetarium.”  Also, we have taken to calling it the “Planet-arrrrrrrrrium“. Which to be fair is kind of hard to explain in writing, but trust me when I say, it’s a little “bit” we have created.**

Every month the Planetarium hosts a handful of “Discount Days” for Illinois residents, which means you can learn all about the planets and stars for a whopping total of zero bucks (otherwise its $12 for a general admission ticket). Very “On The Cheap”, and very cool.

The Adler is located between the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum on what is dubbed the “Museum Campus” here in Chicago.  On a clear day, a walk through this part of the city provides you with a fantastic southern exposure of the Chicago skyline, and of course easy access to three world-class attractions.  Unfortunately, the end of February doesn’t usually allow for such weather conditions, and the grey fog almost covered the skyline completely.

Once inside we started with the Shoot for the Moon exhibit which chronicles the life of NASA astronaut, and Apollo 8 & 13 participant Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks portrayed him in the film Apollo 13).  You get to see an actual Gemini Spacecraft, personal NASA artificats, and take the Luna Leap which let’s you see just how high you could jump if you ever found yourself on the Moon.

Left: Creepy young Jim Lovell staring back at me. Jürg landing a spacecraft on  the moon. Right: Taking a Luna Leap

Left: Creepy young Jim Lovell staring back at me. Jürg landing a spacecraft on the moon.
Right: Taking a Lunar Leap

The space is laid out in a large crescent with the actual planetarium in the center.  We strolled through all of the other permanent exhibits where we got to learn about all the planets (poor Pluto, being downgraded to dwarf planet status), peer through a twenty foot-long telescope, and even see pieces of rocks from Mars.

Oh and Jürg indulged his sweet tooth with some astronaut ice cream. 

trio 1

Left: When in a Planetarium, eat as the astronauts do
Right: The planets align.
Pretty purple galaxies

My one complaint? A general admission ticket (even when you actually shell out the dough) doesn’t gain you access into the true Planetarium.  Meaning the Atwood Sphere, which was constructed in 1913 and allows you to see the positions of some of the largest stars in the sky.  To me that’s sort of like going to an aquarium and not seeing any water, or an art museum and not seeing any art.  I understand most museums will have special exhibits and shows which will cost extra, but to go to a Planetarium and not be able to really go into the Planetarium? Now that’s crazy talk.

I am glad we visited, if for no other reason than I no longer have to say “we need to go there” every time we drive by.  Perhaps someday we will try out the Adler After Dark event where we would get to step inside the Atwood Sphere and even peek into the Doane Observatory telescope.  Or at least go back when it’s nice out.  It’s good to have options.

**UPDATE: Jürg has informed me that our little “bit” is actually a South Park reference. We have been saying it for so long now, I just assumed we made it up. There I go just ripping off Matt Parker and Try Stone’s creative property.