Chicago Children's Museum debuts Water City at Navy Pier.

Chicago Children's Museum debuts Water City at Navy Pier.

Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) unveils its newest exhibit, Moen Presents Water City, a cityscape that evokes Chicago on February 23. From its rivers and channels that meander between skyscrapers, to Lake Michigan that stretches beyond Navy Pier, complete with a lighthouse and the Ferris Wheel in view, the entire cityscape celebrates the wonder of Chicago and its waters for children of all ages to explore. 

Water City coming to Chicago Children's Museum February 23.

Water City coming to Chicago Children's Museum February 23. 

Visitors are invited to use various tools to funnel, pump, push and pull water up, down, around and through the city. Small boats populate the waterways and move with the flow created by the visitor’s actions. Child-directed cars coast over the bridges and along the shoreline. Additionally, visitors can transport water up into the tower overhead to create sporadic rain showers on the city below. Some of the buildings in the Chicago cityscape are smooth, some are perforated, and some have movable parts which spin or make noise with the impact of water. The water flows down the buildings and back into the branches of the river below.

“Nearly every children’s museum has a water experience,” said Chicago Children’s Museum President and CEO Jennifer Farrington. “We wanted to offer our visitors an experience that maximizes the play potential of water but is also uniquely Chicago and CCM.”  

“The use of the Chicago skyline and city setting creates a sense of place, highlighting the ways that water plays a role in the Chicago landscape—through its rivers, channels, and Lake Michigan. Children are invited to find familiar features of the city and explore how water interfaces with the buildings, structures, and vessels, and to create their own stories within the setting,” added Farrington.

The MOEN Presents Water City exhibit will replace the well-loved Water Ways exhibit, which debuted when Chicago Children’s Museum opened at Navy Pier more than 25 years ago. Moen’s generous donation was the match investment to the grant awarded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (ILDNR) to begin the construction of the exhibit. To complete the project, IFF provided the financing and the Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation donated the final gap funds to bring water play and STEM experiences for the next generation of young explorers and their families.


City Center

Visitors control water through a variety of methods in this area, interacting with skyscrapers evocative of Chicago’s iconic skyline that reach high up into the space’s historic tower. Visitors aim sprayers at movable parts on the buildings to experiment with cause-and- effect. They turn a crank to move a water conveyor belt that fills a large container to its tipping point, creating a big splash! Water can be made to fall on the skyline as “rain” from showerheads embedded in “clouds” overhead, with visitors controlling the timing and intensity of the rainfall.

Musical Water

This section of the water table features water-activated musical buildings and invites visitors to explore the variety of sounds that water can make when it interacts with different surfaces, vessels, and objects. Visitors use water to activate cymbals and chimes housed in buildings. Water falling on a variety of surfaces produces a symphony of surprising and familiar sounds.

Early Learning Area

The height of this section of the water table is lower to accommodate younger visitors. The area features a funnel and tube activity where children can direct the flow of water alongside a building. Open water space invites children to splash around and notice the cool qualities of water, to scoop and pour water, or to explore how objects sink or float. A replica of Buckingham Fountain inspires children to experience flowing water and to control it.

Foggy Lake

This area offers visitors the largest volume of standing water in the exhibit (a basin), representing Water City’s “lake.”  The lake provides ample opportunities to experiment with both loose parts and the qualities of water, including making waves. Over the lake hangs a layer of fog—a unique opportunity for visitors to explore water in vapor form, enjoying both its sensory qualities as well as the fun possibilities of exploring stories and narratives that involve the moody and mysterious look and feel of the fog. A lighthouse situated at the center of the lake provides further inspiration for storytelling.

River and Dam

This section of the exhibit offers a chance for children to build a dam using loose parts and to control the flow of water. They can create a course for vessels to travel, and watch what happens as the opening or closing of the dam speeds up or slows down the flow of water and its impact on the traveling boats.

Bridges, Ledges, and Loose Parts for Narrative Play

Water City includes a variety of props to support various types of play throughout all sections. Scoops and bowls invite children to experiment with volume and to scoop and pour water into the various components (such as the Musical Water features) to create effects. A variety of small boats can travel about on the river and navigate through passageways. Cars can coast over the bridges and along the shoreline and river’s edge as children guide their path.

Water City Signage

The exhibit includes a series of graphic panels that are intended to inspire conversation between parents/caregivers/educators and their children about the value of water as a natural resource, how water supports life, where our water comes from, and [developmentally-appropriate] ways that children and families can help conserve and protect water.

The new Water City exhibit will open to the general public on Thursday, February 23 during the Free Family Day event generously supported by the Pritzker Foundation.  Admissions are free during the Free Family Day.  For more information, visit

You may also like:

World of Chocolate: A sweet fundraiser for AIDS Foundation Chicago

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.