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Icons on Display at Heartland Museums

Museums can be for anything. They can be institutions dedicated to natural history or art, to science or aircraft. There are museums for dollhouse miniatures, skeletons, Japanese pop art — you name it, there’s likely a museum for it. But some museums stand out in each state.

These Heartland museums allow groups to zip down a three-story slide, “fly” in a simulator and descend 650 feet underground into a salt mine.

Field Museum of Natural History


The Field Museum in Chicago was founded in 1893 after the city held the World’s Columbian Exposition that same year.

Groups can explore the Field’s 35 permanent exhibits that showcase some of its core collections and comprise nearly 30 million specimens and artifacts. Some of the most famous exhibits are Sue, the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossil; the fighting African elephants that have been part of the museum’s collection since the 1893 exposition; and the Ancient Egypt collection, which includes 23 mummies.

The Field offers discounted admission and docent-led tours for groups, as well as special experiences such as presentations, performances, scavenger hunts, themed meals and after-hours receptions. Behind-the-scenes tours allow groups to dig into one of the nonpublic collections areas, such as those in the zoology and entomology departments.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art


Indiana businessman Harrison Eiteljorg founded the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art to preserve and share the art, history and culture of the American West and North America’s native people.

The downtown Indianapolis museum’s collection includes pieces from a range of artists, among them Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, famed Old American West painters Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, and Native artists like Cherokee painter Kay WalkingStick.

Tour guides for groups are free, but reservations must be made at least three weeks in advance. Groups can also time their visits with the museum’s many events and festivals. The 26th annual Indian Market and Festival will be held June 23-24, 2018, and will feature Native American artists from 60 cultures showing and selling jewelry, pottery, sculpture and artwork.

National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium

Dubuque, Iowa

The sprawling National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium campus in Dubuque, Iowa, covers 10 acres and features two buildings: the Mississippi River Discovery Center and the National River Center.

The Mississippi River Discovery Center has five main aquariums that tell the geographic story of the mighty Mississippi from north to south, starting with a backwater marsh through a flooded bottomland forest and ending with the bayou aquarium, where visitors marvel at an eight-and-a-half-foot-long, 350-pound alligator. The National River Center explores the rivers of North America and the oceans into which they flow, as well as the massive Gulf of Mexico aquarium.

Groups can also stroll through the wetlands and boatyard and tour a historic dredge boat. Guided tours are available, as are behind-the-scenes tours. Requests must be made two weeks in advance.