The first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere, the Adler boasts more than 35,000 square feet of exhibits. Known worldwide for its extensive collection of primeval astronomical art and instruments, the museum manages to straddle both the distant past and the hi-tech future.
Displays include the staples of astronomy, such as a reproduction of Stonehenge, an assortment of astrolabes and sundials, pages from such revolutionary texts as Alan Guth's notebook on his theory of "Inflation," and the Dearborn telescope, at one point the largest telescope in the world.
The artifacts don't quite wow the senses like the more recent additions. The new StarRider Theater uses flight-simulator technology to create an interactive movie experience that boggles the imagination with swirling vortexes and armrest remote controls. Flicks like " TimeSpace" take the audience on a journey back to the primordial soup of creation. The galaxy can also be viewed in 3-D or minus Chicago's light pollution, with stars speckling the domed ceiling of the Sky Theater. The eye candy continues in the Sky Pavilion, which features a stunning panoramic view of the lake and can be enjoyed while noshing on goodies from the cafe.
Entertaining the idea of becoming an astronaut? A constantly rotating showcase of lectures and temporary exhibits provide an endless bounty of the latest discoveries. The Adler isn't just for our amusement, though. The Doane Observatory, situated in a lakeside concrete cylinder, actually possesses a state-of-the-art telescope used by real-life astronomers.
The Galaxy Package ($15-$19) includes admission, an audio tour and one show. The Universe Package adds a second show for $19-$23. Check the website for special discount days.
Centerstage Reviewer: David Rosenstock