Go BIG or Go Home
What Happens When A Small-Town Family Visits The "World's Largest"... Whatever!

World’s Largest Tiffany Glass Dome, Chicago, IL

For this month’s guest post, we giddily welcome the return of Julie Henning from Road Trips for Families. Giddily, because her last post for us was about the world’s largest toilet! Which remains one of the most visited pages on this site. She obviously knows how to speak to the masses.

From porcelain thrones to glass domes, she can write it all. Julie reports to us from Chicago…

Where we went, and who was coerced into going:

In the Windy City for the 60th anniversary conference of the Midwest Travel Writers Association, the pomp and circumstance of the opening night gala paled in comparison to the grandeur of the Chicago Cultural Center. Under the circumference of the largest Tiffany glass dome in the world, we backed practically into corners to capture all 1,000 square feet holding 30,000 pieces of glass with our cameras.


WHY did you go there, exactly?

Without children, I imagined the experience with kids in tow. Joking with our tour guide about the lack of water slides in the main foyer, I was handed a map for the Chicago Cultural Center Treasure Hunt with a future visit in mind. Engaging enough to hold even my attention, the treasure hunt is a twelve-part scavenger hunt through the building. Part education, part adventure, treasure seekers who solve the Golden Clue receive a prize from the Information Desk.

Okay, what was so cool about it?

Not only is admission to the Chicago Cultural Center free, the building is within close proximity (walking distance) to the world-famous Millennium Park. Offering over 800 family programs, events, lectures, musical performances, art exhibitions, and films, the annual calendar of events is as impressive as the building’s architectural significance. If you’re planning a family vacation to Chicago, matching your itinerary to culturally-themed activities is one more idea for getting the most out of your stay.

By far, my favorite “find” was the Chicago Cultural Center Treasure Hunt. By the way, the flip side of the treasure hunt map is a second, seven question, hunt for Millennium Park (prizes for both hunts may be claimed at the Chicago Cultural Center Lobby Information Desk).

A little background info about the place:

From the Chicago Cultural Center website,

“Built in 1897 as Chicago’s first public library, the building’s interior includes antique brass, rare imported marbles, and mosaics of Favrile glass, colored stone and mother of pearl. The building’s most notable features are its two spectacular stained glass domes. The world’s largest art glass dome by Tiffany, located in Preston Bradley Hall, is approximately 38 feet in diameter; its some 30,000 pieces of glass cover more than 1,000 square feet. The body of the dome has a “fish scale” pattern, while the center shows the signs of the zodiac. In 2008 it was restored to Tiffany’s original vision when a concrete outer dome that had been added in the 1930s was removed, thereby allowing natural light through the stained glass and into the room for the first time in decades.”

How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):

One of the ten most popular places to visit in Chicago, I’d go back with kids. Only because my kids are younger and unable to read beyond Level 2, I give the experience a 5 or a 6. Visit during the summer, incorporate a picnic at Millennium Park, and boost the experience to a 7 or 8.

Hey YOU! Go BIG:

Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602


  1. Dominique said,
    June 10, 2011 @ 8:51 am

    This place is an absolute must-see! I went there when they held TBEX in Chicago…and made a special trip back to take some photos so I could write a couple of stories at Midwest Guest. The GAR dome was nice as well, although admittedly not as magnificent as the Tiffany dome.
    Is the Art-to-mat machine still there? It was a refurbished cigarette machine that dispensed little packages of art from local artists. You bought a token from the gift shop on the ground floor, then went out to deposit the token to make a choice and pull the knob to have your artwork drop, with a satisfying thud, into the tray at the bottom of the machine. Fun way to recycle, and an imaginative way to support local artists.

  2. Terry said,
    June 10, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    Your aging parents also went to Chicago recently, and we visited this beautiful building three times during one weekend! A high-school chorus was practicing under the Tiffany dome during one of our visits. The chorus, and the acoustics, were great. Also, inscribed around the stone base of this dome, is Joseph Addison’s quotation “Books are the legacies that a great genius leaves to mankind which are delivered down from generation to generation as presents to the posterity of those who are yet unborn.” It reminds us to remind you younger parents to encourage your children to make the reading of books an important and essential part of their lives.

    • Traci Suppa said,
      June 10, 2011 @ 9:45 am

      That’s a great quote, Dad! Obviously one you’ve taken to heart, and made a part of your own personal legacy. Thank you for that!

  3. Julie said,
    June 10, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    There is so much beautiful architecture in Chicago. I hope you took one of the tours, either by boat, foot or bike. The walking tour is my favorite. Wish I would have known you were going to be in Chicago. We are only 90 minutes away. Would love to have you out to Lake Geneva Canopy Tours to see the longest Sky Bridge in the lower 48 states. Maybe next time.

  4. Julie said,
    June 10, 2011 @ 10:35 am

    Thanks Traci! I always love the chance to “Talk Big” on your site. 🙂 Thinking of you on the first day of TBEX! Hang in there!


  5. Mike said,
    June 10, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    Thanks for the great idea. We are actually headed to Chicago for the 4th of July and now have something to add to our already busy itinerary.

  6. Jessica said,
    July 11, 2011 @ 3:17 pm

    I’ve never even heard of the Chicago Cultural Center and I have been to Chicago multiple times for extended trips. Thanks for the great tips. Love the scavenger hunt ideas.