The paint factory that opened today has transformed the 25,000-square-foot basement of Chicago’s Willis Tower into a world of stunning, bright colors that can be felt from every angle. Admire installations by local artists, shoot candy-colored cakes off a rotating conveyor belt, blow Chicago flag-colored confetti, slide (or jump or swim) through a giant one-color balloon hole filled with over 200,000 photographs. Mint green marble and more. Lots of great stuff and smart solutions to keep your phone away and take great photos.
The paint factory gave us free early admission to the museum. All thoughts and opinions are my personal property.
The museum invites Kidlist for previews so I took my kids (6 and 4 years old) to the center to see them. We went with our visiting photographer Stacey and daughter Caitlin which was a great test as the museum caters for all ages. Not only did we enjoy the museum, but we also got tips for families traveling in the summer, learn more about accessibility options, and things to consider if you’re wondering if the ticket is worth it.
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What is a paint factory?
The Color Factory is an interactive museum that inspires visitors to explore color. Sight, taste, touch, sound and smell engage all the senses and compel visitors to see new colours, their associations and our experiences.
This is the fourth Color Factory exhibition (one temporary and two permanent), but it is not an exact copy of any other company. The group actively collaborates with Chicago artists, brands, and restaurants to showcase thoughtful details that truly capture the spirit of the city. My personal favorites include local treats like Kurima Chicago Melon Ice Cream, the confetti-filled Chicago flag room where you can sleep on a giant and take photos from above, and the super fun poetry show with a giant floating balloon that includes the lyrics. Student from
What should we expect?
You will follow a set route through the museum, looking at exhibition after exhibition. You can stick at your own pace in places that interest you (or the kids). Each room is interactive and ready to be explored!
Reasonable behavior? At the start of the museum, you can scan a small box with a QR code and then enter your email address. There are photo stations throughout the museum; You hold your QR code to scan, and then it’s designed to take multiple pictures at creatively chosen locations. This idea recognizes the importance of photos for precious memories by constantly freeing your hands from photos on your phone. I think parents of young children will really appreciate it! Photos will be emailed to you immediately after the event, free of charge, although you can purchase paper copies from the gift shop.
There are several eateries, all included in the ticket: pasta, a treat of crispy rice, a bag of guess candy, a colorful drink and a small scoop of ice cream. The portions are small and come wrapped in macaroni and rice chips if you want to save them for later; Allergy information is also provided at each stop.
My guide calculated that it would take most people an hour and a half to see the museum, which I think was correct.
If you bring the kids, expect the giant ball pit to be the star of the show. If you’re not bringing any kids, be honest. This is very cool. This is one of the last two or three shows, so include it in your plans.
Make sure there is a place at the entrance where you can leave your shoes. (I missed them, so two minutes after my six-year-old came screaming in, he exclaimed, “I can’t find my shoes!” Yes. And thanks to the staff, they started diving.) .
When is the best time to go?
When I asked this question to my guide, he said they didn’t really know because the museum wasn’t open yet. However, he expects the working day to be less busy than working days. (This is a great time to take the train into town, as you’ll have a better chance of catching a fast train and have more options for getting home whenever you want.)
The museum limits entry to avoid overcrowding of exhibits.
Note that I alerted the museum prior to opening, so I don’t know what the words were as I waved at the workers and stopped to repair the marble holes after they had applied the final touches of paint. It will be the same as any other visitor in the room.
Just two blocks from Union Station and close to Ogilvy, this is truly the perfect location for catching the train to Chicago. First, download the Ventra app, buy a ticket (or in my case, a ticket for a child under 7) and check the price in the fare information.
Enter from Jackson Boulevard and follow the signs to the catalog at Willis Tower. The Skydeck signage helps too, as the color factory is right next to the Skydeck Tour entrance.
This is downtown Chicago so there are so many food choices! The easiest option is probably to eat at a food restaurant as you enter the Willis Tower from Jackson Boulevard (follow signs for Skydeck). The exhibition is on the second floor, so you can get to the next two floors by escalator or lift, and it’s very close and convenient. Keep in mind that there are plenty of snacks on your trip, so you might not want to repeat my mistake of grabbing donuts along the way.
On the basement level, just below the food court area, there are private and family baths, as well as a bottled water fountain.
This exhibit is wheelchair accessible. However, please note that although the pool has a ramp for balls, there are steps. Staff are available to help if you need assistance. Carts are allowed, but I’d avoid them if possible. Wheel chair checked.
This museum is definitely an interesting place to visit for adults on their own, or for those who bring their children with them. Everyone in the museum encouraged my kids to jump, touch, and play, though there were places where I was a little nervous (like when the giant rhyming balloons started bouncing around the room).
I don’t think all exciting events are the same for all ages. For example, at the station you put on headphones and watch the process of photographing the person in front of you; My six year old was very excited, and my four year old looked even more confused. Meanwhile, my kids spend more time dancing and laughing their heads off in endless mirrors than the average adult. Selfie fans will probably stop at all the photos (and there are many), and we’ve looked at all but a few.
Book tickets online in advance. Entrance tickets are limited to avoid crowds. For all the dates I checked, admission was $38 for kids 13 and over, $28 for kids 3 to 12 years old, and free for kids under 2. This site also sells gift cards.
Tickets include gifts and freebies throughout the museum, which I really liked because I’m usually hesitant to add more when I’ve already saved a ton of money on tickets. It’s a relief not to tell your kids about these things… though of course you’re still going to the gift shop.