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Jun 2011  |  By kelly Konrad  |  Comments

Horsing Around with the Whales: The Field Museum

It’s the summer of large mammals at the Field Museum—and we’re not talking just about Sue.

Two special exhibits, “The Horse,” and “Whales: Giants of the Deep,” are well worth a day trip downtown.

“The Horse,” open through August 14, provides more than just a glimpse at the majestic beast. Especially impressive are the life-sized prehistoric drawings that offer proof of the animal’s long existence, and a replica of an archaeological dig of a 5,000-year-old village that suggests domestication isn’t just a recent development. (And, unfortunately, that horse meat was probably on the menu—a lot.)

The exhibit also highlights the relationship between horse and man—through wars, work, sport and even therapy. And you’ll learn exactly why it’s so dang hard to sneak up on a horse—if only a mom could swap out her eyes and ears for a horse’s set.

“Whales: Giants of the Deep” is the museum’s newest exhibit and open through January 2012. It’s a real eye-opener—I had no idea that whales evolved and migrated from land to the sea. It’s a fascinating walk-through early on in the exhibit and well-worth taking the time to read and examine the fossils.

Younger kids will appreciate the ability to walk or crawl through a life-sized replica of a blue whale’s heart. And the size of the sperm whale skeleton, saved for the exhibit finale, is, quite simply, awesome. Stand at the foot of the whale’s mouth and imagine something of that size coming at you in the water.

Both exhibits are extremely kid-friendly, with plenty of hands-on educational opportunities. And, as always, the exhibit flow is impeccable. There weren’t any visitor hang-ups and no pressure to “move along.”

See: While you’re at the Field, take a stroll through “Design for a Living World,” located on the second floor of the museum. It’s a small but very intriguing exhibit that contains commissioned work from some of the world’s leading designers, focusing on sustainable materials. The Isaac Mizrahi dress and shoes made from salmon leather? To. Die. For.

And don’t miss the newly redesigned Grainger Hall of Gems. Bling Central!

Skip: McDonalds. Really? You’re downtown. Instead, get a little adventurous and catch an early dinner at the Honky Tonk BBQ (1800 S. Racine, 312-226-RIBS). Located in Pilsen and featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” it’s some pretty darn good BBQ. Loved the pulled pork.

Tip: Don’t glaze over the docent exhibits that take place in the main hall. These guys know their stuff, and are extremely friendly. On this particular visit, the more daring members of my family got to hold a tarantula!

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