Shedd, Field Museum, Art Institute saw thousands of visitors over NASCAR, July Fourth weekend

While attendance at Field and Art Institute were similar to previous years, Shedd Aquarium saw more than double the amount of visitors on Monday, leading to long lines.

SHARE Shedd, Field Museum, Art Institute saw thousands of visitors over NASCAR, July Fourth weekend
The exterior of the Field Museum

The exterior of the Field Museum in Chicago on Tuesday, July 4, 2023.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Despite the NASCAR Chicago Street Race disrupting business as usual at local museums, which cut hours or closed entirely over the weekend, the cultural institutions reported attendance was on track with previous years.

However, at the Shedd Aquarium, attendance “surpassed” estimates the day after the race, with more than twice the amount of anticipated visitors heading to the museum on Monday.

Attendance at the aquarium, which was closed on Saturday and Sunday due to the weekend’s races, was higher than usual on Friday and Monday. The aquarium opened an hour late and closed two hours early on Thursday, Friday and Monday.

The Shedd Aquarium located at 1200 S Lake Shore Drive.

The Shedd Aquarium, which was closed on Saturday and Sunday during the NASCAR Chicago Street Race, saw higher than usual attendance the day before and after the event.

Sun-Times file

“While July is often a well-attended time for Shedd, our recent attendance has surpassed our expectations,” said Johnny Ford, public relations director for the aquarium.

For Friday and Monday, “we projected lower than usual because of our adjusted operating hours and capacity changes made to accommodate race impacts,” Ford said.

The aquarium had 6,140 guests on Friday, well above the 4,000 they anticipated, Ford said.

Monday followed a similar trend — 8,064 people visited Shedd, more than double the 3,000 they were expecting given the reduced hours.

There were 7,432 visitors on Tuesday, slightly less than the estimated 7,600, Ford said.

Mike Perrino has been giving tours with Segway Experience of Chicago around the museum campus for five years.

On Monday morning, he was scouting out his route for the day when he saw a massive line outside the Shedd Aquarium at around 10:30 a.m.

“Shedd is pretty consistently the busiest on the campus, but I had never seen the line that long. It had to be five or six times longer than usual,” Perrino said.

“It was a holiday weekend, and it could have been that busy all weekend if the aquarium didn’t have to close on Saturday and Sunday. Monday’s line represented what the weekend could have been.”

Perrino took a video of the line and posted it to Twitter from his account, @Segway_Batman.

“These festivals like NASCAR and Lollapalooza bring people in, they stay in hotels and eat at restaurants. And that’s great for those businesses,” Perrino said.

“But there’s this misconception that the people that come in for these festivals boost other tourism in the city, and that’s just not true. In the five years I’ve been doing tours, I’ve never had someone on a tour in town for Lolla, and I didn’t have anyone from NASCAR either.”

Long lines outside the aquarium can happen for several reasons, Ford said. In general, visitors wait no more than 10 minutes to enter the aquarium.

During the morning, especially on weekends with tourists visiting, lines can get long with people needing help with their tickets. And with the timed ticketing system, visitors might arrive earlier or later within the hour to get in the aquarium, causing a longer line to form.

Other museums near where the race took place reported attendance were similar to previous years.

The Field Museum opened an hour later and closed an hour earlier than usual on Saturday and Sunday. The museum stayed open during its normal hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

“The Field Museum saw positive attendance this past Fourth of July weekend, even with reduced hours, with nearly 12,000 visitors,” said Bridgette Russell, public relations and communications director for the museum, in a statement.

Illinois residents could attend for free, “and we had thousands of out-of-town guests as well as locals who opted to upgrade their tickets to see our special exhibits,” Russell said.

The long holiday weekend’s numbers were on track with attendance in previous years, excluding 2020 and 2021 during the pandemic.

“Attendance numbers this year were likely boosted by our free-day offerings and the rainy weather,” Russell added.

As for the race’s impact on attendance, Russell said the museum is assessing what effect it had.

A former payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago was indicted on federal charges of stealing more than $2 million in museum funds over a decade.

Attendance at the Art Institute was similar to previous Fourth of July weekends.

Sun-Times file

Attendance at the Art Institute was also similar to previous holiday weekends, with 13,000 visitors from Friday through Monday, according to a spokesperson, who added the museum saw an increase in visitors the day after the race.

“We did see higher attendance in particular on the Monday following the NASCAR race. This is similar to what we see during other major downtown events — like Lollapalooza — with tourists extending their stay and visiting the museum after the event,” said Salina Tsegai, a public affairs manager at the Art Institute.

The Latest
“It’s not the first half we wanted, but we just gotta keep showing up, playing hard,” left fielder Andrew Benintendi said.
The White Sox selected left-hander Hagen Smith from Arkansas with the No. 5 pick in the 2024 MLB Draft.
Forecasters say ‘torrential rains’ are likely. Chicago is under a flood watch. The storm could drop 2 to 3 inches of rain and bring winds in excess of 58 mph. Another storm system could move through the region Monday evening.
On the acclaimed NBC police drama, Sikking played Lt. Howard Hunter, uptight head of the Emergency Action Team.