Illusions compel us to view the world in a different way and can provide insights about how our brains process reality. Chicago’s Museum of Illusions immerses visitors in illusions as they explore more than 80 fun exhibits. The museum’s unique design encourages guests to have fun as they learn about vision, perception, and the human brain.

“We call ourselves an edutainment concept,” says Stacy Stec, marketing manager at LOL Entertainment, the parent company of Museum of Illusions. “We are a blend between a museum rooted in education and an entertainment venue.”

“Clone Table” exhibit, Museum of Illusions Chicago
Credit: Museum of Illusions Chicago

Framed optical illusions, holograms, and hands-on exhibits like turntables and kaleidoscopes await visitors during their self-guided visit.

The Smart Playroom includes a series of dilemma games, puzzles, and brain teasers that inspire a little friendly competition. Staff members are on hand to answer questions or provide a hint for those particularly perplexing puzzles.

“Exhibits like the ‘Ames Room’ are popular experiences,” Stec says. As visitors walk from one corner of the room to the other, they appear to grow and shrink. The illusion distorts perceptions about depth and has applications to camera techniques like forced perspective. “Staff are on hand with some expert tips on snapping the perfect social media-worthy photo,” Stec adds. Other great photo opportunities include “The Beuchet Chair Illusion” or “Head on the Platter.”

The effects are inescapable in the must-do “Vortex Tunnel.” Visitors walk across a completely flat and stable surface as rotating lights and images confuse the body’s vestibular system, the sense of balance and spatial orientation that coordinates movement with balance.

“It is fun to challenge your brain to see things from a different perspective,” Stec says. “We pride ourselves on explaining why you are seeing what you are seeing.”

The museum’s gift shop is the perfect place to find a souvenir to continue the fun at home—from dilemma games to books about perception and the brain.

The Museum of Illusions is in the heart of downtown Chicago, making this interactive site a perfect way to round out a city-day itinerary.

Article by Michael McLaughlin

Main image: “Rotated Room” exhibit, Museum of Illusions Chicago; Credit: Museum of Illusions Chicago