116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When the traffic flows smoothly, it’s four hours from my house in Cedar Rapids to The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., in the heart of downtown. That’s my favorite first stop on a Windy City weekend getaway.
I can immerse myself in the sheer beauty of the Impressionists, including the world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, outside of Paris. And all Eastern Iowa visitors owe it to themselves to see Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” as well as Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” brought to life so beautifully in Revival Theatre Company’s 2018 production of “Sunday in the Park with George.”
I also always seek out the Picassos, Marc Chagall’s stunning blue “America Windows,” and the suits of armor, because they’re cool.
This summer, visitors also can see two temporary exhibitions, “The Obama Portraits,” on view through Aug. 15, and “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” a collection of quilts using vibrant textiles to depict her “personal and historical narrative of Black life.” These 20 works represent Butler’s first solo museum exhibition, and are on view through Sept. 6.
General admission tickets are $25 for adults and $19 for seniors, students and teens ages 14 to 17, and free for ages 13 and under. To plan your visit, go to artic.edu/visit
Immersive Van Gogh
The Art Institute also contains works by Vincent Van Gogh, but another site is exhibiting a whole new way to experience the Dutch post-Impressionist painter’s artistry.
Visitors cannot only walk among his most famous works, but they can wear them, as well, as they walk through 500,000 cubic feet of projections — or do yoga inside the animations — at Chicago’s Germania Club, 108 W. Germania Place, described as a two-minute walk from the Chicago History Museum.
The exhibition premiered in Chicago, and is spreading around the country now and in the coming months. Tickets have been snatched up so quickly that the Chicago showing has been extended through Nov. 28. For other cities hosting the experience, go to immersivevangogh.com.
Pandemic protocols remain in place in Chicago, with face masks and social distancing required. Flex tickets and timed tickets are available. Prices range from $24.99 for children to $54.99 to $99.99 for flex tickets and $39.99 to $49.99 for timed tickets.
For details, go to the FAQ tab at vangoghchicago.com.
After seeing so many glowing Facebook posts, here are some of the impressions Eastern Iowans are sharing for Gazette readers:
From Marcia Hughes, 59, of Cedar Rapids, who saw the exhibition in Chicago in April with her husband, Scot, 57:
“This was our first trip after getting vaccinated and it did not disappoint. Glorious, digital projections of Van Gogh’s paintings swirl and dance across the walls and floors, giving you the sense that you’ve just stepped inside the pictures. There is a fantastic accompanying soundtrack that makes it all truly mesmerizing.
“We watched the exhibit multiple times and from various areas of the space, including an upper balcony with the bird’s-eye view. Highly recommend!”
From Laura Carson, 57, of Cedar Rapids, who saw the exhibition in New York on June 18 with her husband, Bill Carson, 64:
“It takes a few minutes to realize and adjust to the fact that you are a part of the immersion. The people around you become a part of the experience, as well. The lady sitting up against the wall across from me had on a white shirt. She blended in with the gorgeous moving background of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, “The Starry Night” and the countryside.
“It begins with a breath, the drawing of a line, then a chair. First in black and white then in color. The first candle is lit on Vincent’s hat.
“My favorite part was the moving frames around his paintings set to Mossorgskys “Pictures at an Exhibition.” The whole show is set to beautiful music, such as Bach’s Cello Suite. (Bill Carson also cited soundtrack works by Handel, Barber’s “Adagio” and Edith Piaf’s “Je ne regrette rien.”)
“At the end, four candles are lit then one by one they all go out, symbolizing the almost four decades of young Vincent’s life. The last candle is extinguished once he is gone at the young age of 37. Tears welling in my eyes, the show ends. I had to stay for it a second time. … Everyone in the world should see this.”
Another major attraction has recently reopened, offering daredevil views of the city from the observatory on the 103rd floor of the 108-story Willis Tower, at 233 S. Wacker Dr.
Skydeck Chicago’s transformation now features a lower-level museum showcasing the personality, history, neighborhoods and sites.
“A visit to Skydeck Chicago has always been about the exhilaration of seeing the city from a new perspective,” general manager Randy Stancik said in a statement announcing the April 23 reopening. “With the re-imagined attraction, we wanted to take that experience a step further. The new Skydeck tells the story of Chicago — from the Great Chicago Fire to iconic city legends — and allows visitors to actively engage with our beloved home in a way that is wholly their own.”
An elevator will then whisk visitors to the country’s highest observation deck, where they can immerse themselves in more of the Chicago story through interactive videos. And if they so choose, they can step into one of four glass-floor balconies extending 4.3 feet from the Tower.
On a clear day, they can see up to four states and 50 miles. Large windows also offer panoramic views for those who aren’t quite brave enough to step on the three layers of half-inch thick glass and look at the views above, around and below them.
General admission timed entry tickets are $35 ages 12 and up, $26 ages 3 to 11 and free under age 3; expedited entry is $55. For details and tickets, go to theskydeck.com.
Other major sites
Round out a weekend or more in Chicago with visits to these family-friendly attractions:
Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.: Dig into history, prehistory and scientific discoveries through a wide variety of exhibitions, some free with paid admission, others requiring an additional ticket.
The Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet features fossils, videos and interactive displays, then venture into the Elizabeth Morse Genius Hall of Dinosaurs to see the star attraction, a T. rex named Sue.
Among the ticketed experiences is “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall.”
Tickets for out-of-state visitors range from $26 basic for adults, $34 Discovery pass and $40 All-Access Pass. Discounts are available for children, students and seniors.
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.: Explore the aquatic world of penguin encounters, stingray feeding, sharks, beluga whales, sea otters, the Giant Pacific Octopus, a Caribbean reef and more.
Timed tickets must purchased in advance. Cost is $39.95 adults and $29.95 children, general admission, at sheddaquarium.org.
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.: In addition to all the fun science exhibits, visitors can explore “Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes” through Oct. 24. It’s billed as “the largest exhibition celebrating the Marvel Universe,” with more than 300 artifacts, from comic books and interactive displays to costumes and props from the super-popular films. Tickets are selling fast, so tap into your Spidey sense to get them before they’re gone.
Museum entry is $21.95 adults, $12.95 ages 3 to 11. Ticketed experiences are extra, at msichicago.org/visit/tickets.
Brookfield Zoo, 8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield, Ill.: Home to big cats, hoofed animals, swamp creatures, marine life, reptiles, birds and gorillas — all alive and kicking, except for the sloths who might just be lounging — the zoo also features animatronic dinosaurs throughout the park through Sept. 6.
Tickets are available in advance or at the gate. Price: $24.95 adults, $19.95 ages 65 and over, $17.95 ages 3 to 11, and free ages 2 and under and military personnel active, reservist and retired, with ID.
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