o The Illinois Association of Park Districts has links to each park
district in the state of Illinois. Great for finding swimming
pools, various programs and classes as well as local parks and
o Listing and links to all available public libraries in Illinois
– Northern Illinois site with links to numerous local convention and
– Illinois Association for the Advancement of Archeology contains links and information on a variety of sites significant to the geological history of the state of Illinois.
– The Illinois State Historical Society search by county for historical landmarks – over 400 throughout the state of Illinois.
The Museum of Broadcast Communication – Chicago, IL
The mission of the Museum of Broadcast Communications (MBC) is to collect, preserve, and present historic and contemporary radio and television content as well as educate, inform, and entertain the public through its archives, public programs, screenings, exhibits, publications and online access to its resources.
Volo Auto Museum – Volo, IL
More than a museum. Collector cars, military museum, movie and TV cars. Tribute to Disney display. Coin-op rides for children. See antique cars and military and have fun doing it. Something for everyone. Seasonal trolley rides. Seasonal events. Group discounts available.
Chicago Children’s Museum – Chicago, IL
Enough hands on fun to keep you exploring all day long! Most kids through pre-teen could find something to love here. Don’t forget your camera!
Busy Brains Children’s Museum – Lake County, IL
Busy Brains Children’s Museum is working hard to secure a central Lake County site. They hope to open in 2009 with 12,000 sq. ft., including 7,200 sq. ft. of interactive exhibits for ages 0-10.
The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn – Oak Lawn, IL
The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn’s mission is to empower and engage children, and those who love and care for them, in the joy of learning. As they EXPLORE their world with changing, hands-on exhibits and activities, they will SOAR with their newfound knowledge.
Children’s Neighborhood Museum – Round Lake, IL
Imagine a tot-sized replica of a town built especially for kids or a place where they can drive a car to the grocery store, gas up at the local gas station, be a star on stage or a pizza stand owner! Our Neighborhood is a place where children ages 1-6 can practice various roles in a community, challenging themselves to explore, imagine and create, exercising both mind and body.
Discovery Center Museum – Rockford, IL
DuPage Children’s Museum – Naperville, IL
DuPage Children’s Museum is made up of many different exhibit neighborhoods and has three floors–each one special in its own way. Each neighborhood is packed with exciting ways to explore art, math, science and how they work together in the world. There are also three Young Explorers neighborhoods (adjacent to other exhibit neighborhoods) designed for children up to 24 months.
Kohl Children’s Museum – Glenview, IL
Kohl has everything you need for a successful field trip for children up to age 8. With 17 hands-on exhibits to explore, your group is sure to find plenty to investigate and discover during their visit. The engaging, developmentally appropriate and hands-on environment gives children the feeling that Kohl Children’s Museum is not just any museum. It’s their museum!
Wonder Works Children’s Museum – Oak Park, IL
Wonder Works provides a hands-on environmnet intended to strengthen the social, emotional, and intellectual development of children up to age ten. The 6,400 sq ft museum includes exhibits, educational programming, a retail store and a children’s party room.
KidsWork Children’s Museum – Frankfort, IL
Planning to open by Summer 2009
KidsWork Children’s Museum in on its our way to becoming the first and only children’s museum in Will County with 4,000 sq. ft. of interactive, hands on exhibits which support science, art, technology and learning about the world community around us.
Bronzeville Childrens Museum – Chicago, IL
The first and only African-American children’s museum in the country. Exhibits are designed for children ages 3 to 9. You may select from one of the following one hour tours: Motherland to Chicago, Food Becomes You and African_Americans in the Food Industry and Tours of Bronzevill Landmarks.
Health World Children’s Museum – Barrington, IL
No longer a museum to go visit, however they will arrange to come to you for “outreach” learning. Groups must have at least 30 students. They offer a number of courses including safety, health, family life, and environment health.
SciTech – Aurora, IL
Lots to explore, with great science exhibits for the budding scientist. Teacher membership available in advance. Call or see this link for more info. Outdoor area open seasonally. Check web site for parking information, mostly metered spaces on nearby streets. We’ve always found workable spots, and feeding the meters is reasonable.
Waubonsie Valley High School Planetarium – Aurora, IL
The planetarium’s main focus is to offer programs to students of District 204. The WVHS Planetarium also welcomes groups outside the district. Surrounding school districts and other groups can schedule programs. For information and reservations, please click on field trip information. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Museum of Surgical Science – Chicago, IL
Explore the history of surgery around the world. Roman medical implements, an iron lung, and a kidney stone are just a few of the items that offer a unique perspective of technological advancements in medicine.
Dick Tracy Museum – Woodstock, IL
Focus is on Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy and “Crimestoppers,” a youth program developed as a result.
Museum of Science & Industry – Chicago, IL
With 14 acres of exhibits – as well as Omnimax movies, daily live science experiences and hands-on Learning Labs – the Museum provides a wealth of learning opportunities. The Museum of Science and Industry provides students hands-on, real-world examples of science – inspiring them to ask questions and understand the impact of science on their lives.
Adler Planetarium – Chicago, IL
The Adler Planetarium seeks to inspire the next generation of explorers and scientists. The Adler’s array of educational offerings — from interactive demonstrations to graduate level coursework—are designed to equip participants with the skills and desire to learn more about our Universe.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum – Chicago, IL
At the Nature Museum, children can experience nature and science up-close and hands-on through creative art projects, storytelling, animal feedings and more. The Nature Museum’s Home School Science Programs are similar to those offered to traditional school groups, but scheduled to be more accessible to home school families.
Shedd Aquarium – Chicago, IL
Strap a mask and flippers onto your imagination and chart a course to Shedd Aquarium. Have you ever gotten eye-to-eye with a shark? Or followed a sea turtle as she soared through the Caribbean? Or immersed yourself in an Amazon flooded forest? At Shedd, it’s all possible.
Discover mounted animals from Africa and North America, minerals, rocks, fossils, and live reptiles! Sycamore is a great day trip destination with many other attractions within short driving distance. The Museum is appropriate for all ages and offers classes, fieldtrips, homeschool programs, birthdays, lectures, family events and more.
Town historical sites
Depot Museum – Batavia, IL
Batavia railroad history comes alive in a permanent exhibit about the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (est. 1850), the Chicago & North Western Railroad (est. 1872) and the Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Electric Line (est. 1902). On display are many railroad artifacts, photos and ticket agent office. A detailed section on the telegraph system and it’s role in railroad history includes live telegraph keys where visitors can try their hand at sending messages using Morse Code
Boone County Historical Society Museum – Belvidere, IL
Log cabin, antique cars and farm implements, dolls, instruments and a peak into the pioneer life.
Chicago History Museum – Chicago, IL
The Chicago History Museum stands at the crossroads of America’s past and its future. If you live in Chicago or visit here and are curious about the city’s past, present, and future, the Museum should be your first stop. The Chicago History Museum proudly presents fun-filled, content-rich experiences for students from pre-K to grade 12. Free field trips align with Illinois State Learning Standards.
Elgin Area Historical Society & Museum – Elgin, IL
Housed in an 1856 landmark building known as Old Main that was once part of the Elgin Academy. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Through permanent and changing exhibits, the museum brings to life Elgin’s rich heritage. Permanent exhibits include Elgin National Watch Company, a Native American collection, and Elgin Road Race memorabilia. Closed January and February each year for updating.
The only natural history museum in the Fox Valley area. The museum offers exhibits and educational programs with natural history and cultural themes for families, school groups, scouts, clubs, organizations, homeschoolers, and anyone who wants to have fun while learning!
Elmhurst Historical Museum – Elmhurst, IL
The Elmhurst Historical Museum is a local history museum founded in 1957, and is operated by the City of Elmhurst. The Museum serves as the community’s memory by collecting, preserving, and interpreting significant original materials to share the stories that are the history of Elmhurst. See their exhibition schedule
Arlington Heights Historical Museum – Arlington Heights, IL
The museum complex includes the original 1882 Victorian home, the coach house, 1906 soda pop factory, the 1908 Banta house and a replica 1830’s log cabin.
Brookfield Historical Society, Grossdale Station Museum – Brookfield, IL
Preserving the old Prairie Avenue (Grossdale) railroad station is the Society’s number one goal. The station also serves as a museum about Brookfield and the surrounding area. Other goals are to add to the cultural activities in town and to provide education through information on the history of Brookfield.
Raupp Memorial Museum – Buffalo Grove, IL
Artifacts about Buffalo Grove people & places, a general overview of life in the past: farming, household objects, family memorabilia.
Deerfield Historical Society includes a number of buildings including: The one-room log home dating to 1837 where journeyman tailor Caspar Ott and his wife, Maria Elizabetha, raised their seven children; a well preserved example of the larger three room log cabin built before the arrival of the first sawmill in 1850(this building houses a visitor center with special exhibits); a farmhouse nicknamed the Little House on the Prairie this two-story frame house is furnished with artifacts typically used in the daily life of an active farm family; a replica of a 19th century one-room school furnished with period school items; and the Carriage House with antique carriages and farm equipment.
Olmstead Museum, Somonauk – Somonauk, IL
The Olmstead Museum has the most extensive collection of local memorabilia in Dekalb County and it has the most extensive natural history collection in LaSalle County; truly, it has been described by an eminent Sycamore historian as “a hidden gem”.
The museum opened its doors to the public in September, 1992, and is located in the old bank building on Highway 30 in Shabbona, Illinois. The main floor includes a large exhibit area, while the research information and library are found upstairs. Our growing collection of records includes obituaries, cemetery books, marriage information, census records (microfilm), Shabbona newspapers (hard copies and microfilm), biographies, abstracts, church, school, military records and more.
Lake County Discovery Museum – Wauconda, IL
Hands-on interactive exhibits introduce the history of Lake County in a fun learning environment. The museum also displays the nation’s largest permanent exhibition on the history and significance of postcards. Changing exhibits in our special exhibition galleries take inspiration from art, history and popular culture.
Waukegan Historical Society, Haines Museum – Waukegan, IL
The Waukegan Historical Society operates the Haines House Museum and the John L. Raymond Research Library, both located amidst the gentle rolling landscape of Bowen Park in far northeastern Illinois. Whether you are coming to view the Victorian decor, an exhibit on Waukegan history, or researching the history of your house or family, you will find that the Waukegan Historical Society offers something for everyone.
Wilmette Historical Museum – Wilmette, IL
The Wilmette Historical Museum is dedicated to exploring, preserving, and sharing the lively history of Wilmette and its surroundings on the North Shore of Chicago. Located in a beautiful 1896 landmark building at 609 Ridge Road in Wilmette, the Museum is operated by the Wilmette Historical Society, a volunteer organization, and by the Village of Wilmette.
McHenry Historical Society and Museum – Union, IL
The comprehensive collection includes several preserved buildings: An 1847 log cabin; an 1885 town hall, now known as Perkins Hall; an 1895 one-room school house used for c.1900 school programs; and a 20th Century modern tourist cabin. In 1982, a local history research library was added to the museum; in 2002, the Society acquired the Pringle School, located on River Road, the limestone building is in the process of being restored.
Blackberry Historical Farm-Village – Aurora, IL
Pioneer village including blacksmith shop, train, pony rides, school building, covered bridge, etc.
Garfield Farm and Inn Museum – LaFox, IL
The museum offers a variety of educational, family, and entertainment events. Seminars on such topics as prairie, woodlands, and wetlands management; bat and blue bird box construction; and fruit tree grafting. Specials shows bring rare breed livestock, heirloom garden products and seeds, and collections of antique farm tools. Prairie walks are conducted monthly. Garfield Farm Museum also welcomes school field trips. Go to the educational resources page for more details.
Step back in time and experience what life was like on a DuPage County Farm in the 1890s. Stroll through restored farmstead structures and meet the historically-costumed interpreters operating this living-history farm using the tools and techniques of the past. Activities and events at the farm re-create the seasonal rhythms that have governed farm life for centuries. There is always something to see, do and learn at Kline Creek Farm.
Other historical sites
Historic Pullman Foundation – Chicago, IL
Pullman is a unique community on Chicago’s far, south side that blends the history from many different disciplines in a fascinating touring experience. Visiting this area today brings you into that history and also into a new sense of place, seeing the community as it is today. Includes visitor’s center and walking tours.
Jane Addams Hull-House Museum – Chicago, IL
An information packed museum centering around the life of Jane Adams and the history of the Hull-House and the surrounding neighborhood. Topics covered include political activism, immigration, women’s rights, etc.
Labor History Museum – Chicago, IL
This mini-museum has old books, photos, memorabilia, and artifacts. Tours available.
Ellwood House, a grand Victorian mansion, is located in a lovely park in the heart of DeKalb, Illinois. Inside, crystal chandeliers sparkle, gilt mirrors shine, and antique woodwork gleams. Built by barbed wire millionaire Isaac L. Ellwood in 1879, the mansion remains with its original furnishings just as when the Ellwood family lived there decades ago. Experience a by-gone era as you tour the many restored bedrooms, servants rooms, and service areas with a glimpse of a complete household at the turn of the twentieth century.
Naper Settlement – Naperville, IL
Naper Settlement’s living history museum tells the story of daily life in Naperville as it changed from a simple frontier outpost to a bustling turn-of-the-century community. With costumed villagers, annual events and special exhibits, you never know what a visit to the Settlement will bring!
Graue Mill and Museum – Oak Brook, IL
Graue Mill and Museum, an operating waterwheel grist mill and homestead, is dedicated to maintaining a bridge between past and present generations in the belief that understanding our history is vital to our future. The Museum provides programs — for school children and others — that include milling, spinning and weaving and living history presentations, as well as artifacts which illustrate the way of life of area residents between 1850 and 1890 and the impact mills had on our culture.
Pleasant Home Historical Landmark – Oak Park, IL
Explore this opulent 30-room mansion designed in 1897 by prominent Prairie-school architect George W. Maher. Also, read online what is happening at the Pleasant Home Foundation.
Little White School House Museum – Oswego, IL
The Little White School Museum holds the rich history of the community and reflects the spirit of its early residents. Built as a church in 1850, then used as a one-room school until the mid 1960’s, the building is now preserved and maintained by a cooperative agreement between School District 308, the Oswegoland Park District, and the Oswegoland Heritage Association. Open to the public, the White School Museum is an archive of local Oswegoland history.
Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois – Skokie, IL
The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is a project of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois. This new world-class museum is dedicated to preserving the memories of those lost in the Holocaust and teaching current generations about the need to fight hatred, indifference and genocide in today’s world.
Cuneo Museum and Gardens – Vernon Hills, IL
Built as a private residence, the Cuneo mansion is now a historic house museum, which is really many museums blended into one. As a “living museum,” the building and gardens preserve in vivid detail the flavor of an era and a way of life. The grand spaces of the Venetian style architecture, filled with antique furnishings and artwork and the quiet paths through the manicured grounds allow the visitor to savor the elegant splendor of the “gilded age.” The Cuneo mansion is one of the few surviving manor homes from the early 20th century settlement of gentleman farmers in the fields south of Libertyville. The Cuneo Museum is also an art museum. In fact, the building itself is a work of art, housing an art gallery within.
Burpee Museum of Natural History – Rockford, IL
Burpee Museum has four floors of modern exhibits. The first floor is dedicated to paleontology; take a walk through time as your visit exhibits chronicling key times in earth’s history. The Geoscience exhibit is located on the second floor, where rocks and minerals, fluorescent minerals, and the geology of the region can be found. Third floor exhibits include the Windows to Wilderness exhibit on Rock River Valley biology and the First People exhibit which introduces visitors to different Native American cultures. Located in the basement is the Dean Olson Viewing lab where fossil and biological specimens are prepared for exhibit. Special classes for homeschoolers as well.
Midway Village & Museum Center – Rockford, IL
A trip back in time to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They will happily arrange a special program for groups visiting their center.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum – Rockford, IL
The Tinker family, the sole occupants of the Swiss Cottage built in 1865, left their home to the Rockford Park District and their household belongings to trustees after seventy-five years of residence. Filled with original furnishings, artwork, diaries and household items, the Cottage is a rich time capsule of life a century ago.
Air Classics Museum of Aviation – Aurora Airport – Sugar Grove, IL
For your enjoyment and learning pleasure, expert craftsmen have carefully restored examples of all types of military aircraft, from trainers and transports, to fighters and bombers as well as an exciting array of hands-on exhibits.
Donley’s Wild West Town and Museum – Union, IL
Here you can experience life in the style of the Wild West where gunslingers have showdowns, and a narrow gauge train whistles past the Blacksmith’s Shop, Print Shop, Jail, Saloon and Sweet Phyllis Gold Mine. Try your hand at roping, panning for gold and other wild west activities of the gold-rush era.
Illinois Railway Museum – Union, IL
(800) 244-7245 or (815) 923-4000
An opportunity to see and ride on a sampling of different types of trains including steam and diesel trains, trolley buses, and electric cars.
Dusable Museum-African American History – Chicago, IL
The DuSable Museum of African American History, the first and oldest institution of its kind in the country, has been dedicated to the collection, preservation, interpretation and dissemination of the history and culture of Africans and Americans of African descent for more than 46 years.
Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum – Chicago, IL
The mission of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) is to stimulate and preserve knowledge and appreciation of Mexican culture through sponsoring events and exhibitions that exemplify the rich variety of visual and performing arts in the Mexican culture; to develop, preserve, and conserve a significant permanent collection of Mexican art; to encourage the professional development of Mexican artists; and to offer arts education programs. The Museum defines the Mexican culture as “sin fronteras” (without borders) and presents the Mexican culture from ancient times to the present and how it has manifested itself on both sides of the border.
Oriental Institute – Chicago, IL
The Oriental Institute is a research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Near East. Founded in 1919 by James Henry Breasted, the Institute, a part of the University of Chicago, is an internationally recognized pioneer in the archaeology, philology, and history of early Near Eastern civilizations.
Spertus Museum – Chicago, IL
Spertus Museum – at Chicago’s Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies – seeks to celebrate, challenge, and advance modern Jewish identity through explorations of Jewish culture and its relationship to the broader world. Spertus Museum is based on three floors of the award-winning new Spertus Institute facility that opened in November 2007 at 610 S. Michigan Avenue.
Swedish American Museum Center in Chicago – Chicago, IL
Time travel back to 1870 to experience immigration from Sweden to America in our Children’s Museum of Immigration.They offer field trips that are completely hands on and interactive, enable students to dress in clothing from the past, try chores in the stuga, pack a trunk for your journey, buy a ticket and board the ship, and start a new life on the American prairie.
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian – Evanston, IL
The only museum in the Chicagoland area that focuses exclusively on the history, culture and arts of the North American native people. The Museum’s collections range from the Paleo-Indian period through the present day. Permanent exhibitions depict the Native American cultures of the Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Northwest Coast and Arctic.
Ethnic Heritage Museum -Rockford, IL
Dedicated to preserving the history of the six ethnic groups that settled in SW Rockford (Irish, Italians, African-Americans, Polish, Lithuanians and Hispanics)
The Art Institute of Chicago Museum – Chicago, IL
The Art Institute of Chicago, founded in 1879 as both a museum and school, opened on its present site at Michigan Avenue and Adams Street in 1893. Built on rubble from the 1871 Chicago fire, the museum housed a collection of plaster casts and had a visionary purpose: to acquire and exhibit art of all kinds and to conduct programs of education. The collection now encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world, and the school’s graduate program is continually ranked as one of the best in the country.
Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art – Chicago, IL
Intuit strives to discover, document, maintain, preserve, exhibit, and collect examples of intuitive and outsider art; and to operate a permanent facility in which to pursue such activities. Intuit defines “intuitive and outsider art” as work of artists who demonstrate little influence from the mainstream art world and who seem instead motivated by their unique personal visions. This includes what is known as art brut, non-traditional folk art, self-taught art, and visionary art.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago – Chicago, IL
One of the nation’s largest facilities devoted to the art of our time, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) offers exhibitions of the most thought-provoking art created since 1945. The MCA documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance. Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the MCA boasts a gift store, bookstore, restaurant, 300-seat theater, and a terraced sculpture garden with a great view of Lake Michigan.
Smart Museum of Art – Chicago, IL
Located on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus, the Smart Museum of Art houses a permanent collection of over 10,000 objects, spanning five millennia of both Western and Eastern civilizations. The scope of its permanent collections, combined with groundbreaking special exhibitions, a focus on research and teaching by University of Chicago scholars, and distinguished outreach and educational programs geared to both adults and school age children, make the Smart one of the Midwest’s most dynamic and innovative educational institutions in the visual arts.
Elmhurst Art Museum – Elmhurst, IL
The Elmhurst Art Museum is the cultural center of DuPage County, Illinois. Specializing in late 20th Century American Art, its award winning building was designed around McCormick House, one of only three Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed residences built in the United States and the first such residence in the U.S. to be reconceived as part of a regional art museum.
Rockford Art Museum – Rockford, IL
20th Century American art. Temporary exhibits of regional contemporary art. Classes available for children and adults.
National Museum of Mexican Art – Chicago, IL
The National Museum of Mexican Art is the largest Latino cultural organization in the country and the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums. For more than two decades, the Museum has presented a vast range of educational exhibitions that have continued to offer a vibrant and comprehensive picture of Mexico’s art and history, and of Mexican communities in the U.S. Our understanding that Mexican culture is “sin fronteras” (without borders) guides our exhibition schedule and permits us to display artistic expressions from both sides of the border.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum – Chicago, IL
We at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum would like for your class visit to be as enlightening and as effective as possible, and we are pleased to offer you our Teacher’s Resource Packets to aid and prepare your class for their visit. This material is designed to be used both before and after your visit, and we hope it will maximize the impact of your class’ experience here.
Zoos and Rescues
Phillips Park Zoo – Aurora, IL
They provide safe and humane care for all the animals that call Phillips Park Zoo home. It is equally important that they increase the awareness of these animals native to North America. Viewers can enjoy the display of animals while learning about their history and way of life. Admission is free! Large playground area and picnic tables in park.
Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield, IL
Brookfield Zoo, managed by the Chicago Zoological Society, is open every day of the year! Lions, Tigers, Bears-and many, many more. Look through their Exhibit and Animal Guide to find out more about the animals at Brookfield Zoo and figure out which ones you want to visit. Then and check the zoo map to find out where they are.
Lincoln Park Zoo – Chicago, IL
Lincoln Park Zoo is a world of wildlife in the shadow of skyscrapers. Located within a verdant park just minutes north of downtown Chicago, the zoo has been a natural, free oasis for generations of animal lovers, who come to hear a lion’s roar echo off nearby apartment buildings, see gorillas climb trees as the Sears Tower looms in the distance, or forget where they are as they immerse themselves in tropical rainforests, dry-thorn forests or spacious savannas.
“Hoo” Haven – Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center – Durand, IL
“Hoo” is a facility, where North American Animals and birds are brought, when they are orphaned or injured. They are given individual treatment to get them back to health and then put back in the wild where they belong. Open to the public by appointment ONLY. They are mainly a hospital and step down unit, for the animal and birds to receive their care before release. However, if you would like to do a project, donate or help in some way a private tour may be arranged for you.
When we lived closer we stopped at this quaint, five-acre zoo almost every week. One morning in March we arrived to find a brand new calf just minutes old! They didn’t chase us away and we watched in amazement. In addition to observing the variety of farm animals and local wildlife, kids love to climb on the railroad caboose, enjoy a picnic or visit the gift shop.
Willowbrook Wildlife Center – Glen Ellyn, IL
Willowbrook Wildlife Center is an education center and a wildlife rehabilitation center operated by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. They are located on a 50-acre preserve in Glen Ellyn and are open to the public 7 days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00. Permanently disabled eagles, songbirds, owls, raccoons, and foxes are just a few of the 80 native Illinois animals on display here.
Lord’s Park Zoo – Elgin, IL
Free, but only open Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Animals include pigs, cows, goats, chickens, a miniature donkey, and sheep. Guests may visit the bison, elk, and deer year round in the larger fenced areas.
Bartlett Nature Center at the James “Pate” Philip State Park – Bartlett, IL
Nature Center, walking trails, and live exotic animals.
Hawthorne Hill Nature Center – Elgin, IL
The 67 acre natural area which flanks both sides of Brookside Drive is home to summer amphibians and an ever-changing host of birds, all visible from near the pond, in the woods or even from the comfort of the nature center.
Severson Dells Environmental Education Center – (SW) Rockford, IL
369 acres of mixed woodlands, prairie, wetlands, and old field habitat. Offers a “Nature’s Connection” program which takes an hour and is a free informative program for anyone interested in a behind the scenes look at Severson Dells Nature Center.
Crabtree Nature Center – Barrington, IL
Nature at its finest: hundreds of species of birds, wildflowers, several miles of self-guiding, educational trails, native plants, as well as an exhibit building to enrich what you can learn as you observe the surroundings.
Heller Nature Center – Highland Park, IL
Heller Nature Center, a 97-acre preserve, where oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands are an oasis for native plants and animals. Heller’s careful resource management, including restoration and controlled burns, provides a taste of an authentic native landscape. Visitors to Heller can also enjoy a picnic in the woodlands, visit the Design in Nature exhibit in the Goodman Log Cabin, or explore three miles of trails.
Volo Bog State Natural Area – Ingleside, IL
Volo Bog is significant in that it exhibits all stages of bog succession. A floating mat of sphagnum moss, cattails and sedges surrounds an open pool of water in the center of the bog. As substrate material thickens, a shrub community dominated by poison sumac and leatherleaf invades the mat. This is eventually replaced by tamarack forest. Surrounding this forest is a second, more extensive shrub zone which abruptly ends and becomes a marsh/sedge meadow community.
Note: I have enjoyed Volo Bog with my children, especially the many unique plants and wildlife in the area. However, the visitor’s center is not always staffed, even during posted hours. We had called in advance and been told it would be open, and it was not. We still had a wonderful time, but you should be aware of that possibility.
Fullersburg Woods – Oak Brook, IL
Features an Environmental Theater, Living Marsh exhibit, Graue Mill, and hiking trails.
Spring Valley Nature Center and Heritage Farm – Schaumburg, IL
Spring Valley is a refuge of 135 acres of fields, forests, marshes and streams. Spring Valley also features over three miles of handicapped-accessible hiking trails, a museum with natural history displays and information, and an 1880s living history farm. Spring Valley is open to the general public and admission is free.
Emily Oaks Nature Center – Skokie, IL
Nature is truly appreciated at this thirteen-acre savanna and center. People of all ages will enjoy their natural oasis full of native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a three-acre pond and trails. Some of the plants and animals that frequent the pond or have been sighted in the savanna include Great Blue Herons, Coyotes, Flying Squirrels, Northern Water Snakes, Red Foxes and Cooper’s Hawks. Emily Oaks is home to all kinds of urban wildlife and is a great place to observe migrating songbirds. Emily Oaks Nature Center provides programs in earth education and outdoor recreation for children, adults, scouts and family groups.
Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe, IL
The mission of the Chicago Botanic Garden is to promote the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of plants and the natural world. The Garden continues to strive to meet the lofty goals set more than a century ago. The Chicago Botanic Garden, with its world-renowned plant collections and displays, is one of the country’s most visited public gardens and a preeminent center for learning and scientific research.
Garfield Park Conservatory – Chicago, IL
Teachers are invited to lead their groups through the collection of the Conservatory at no cost. Or they may enhance their existing curricula by reserving an Exploration Kit to use within the unique and exotic plant collection that is found at the Garfield Park Conservatory – one of the world’s largest conservatories! Tours are available Monday – Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
The Morton Arboretum – Lisle, IL
Beautiful gardens and landscape with trails for hiking as well. They also have a special area designed just for children to play and explore while learning about plants and wildlife. Pack a lunch and make a day of it!
Cantigny Park – Wheaton, Illinois
A war museum, a golf course, a country club, a historical mansion, and beautiful grounds! Easily plan on spending most or all of a day here. Something for all ages and lots of space to picnic. Tanks for climbing on (just keep an eye on the little ones) and a wealth of historical information in the tours available as well. Free tours of the Robert R. McCormick Museum are available for groups of 10 or more if you call at least 2 weeks in advance.
Anderson Japanese Gardens – Rockford, IL
Even the website is breathtaking! Group rates available for guided tours, self-guided tours, and school groups.
Klehm Arboretum – Rockford, IL
Beautiful botanical gardens.
Other nature sites (trails, preserves, etc.)
Lockwood Park and Trailside Equestrian Center – Rockford, IL
Over 94 acres of gently rolling hills, meadows, woods, natural areas and a stream provide a backdrop for your visit to Lockwood Park. Enjoy pony rides, trail rides, and a playground.
Rock Cut State Park – Loves Park, IL
Camping, hiking, some swimming, picnicking, and more.
Edwards Apple Orchard – Poplar Grove, IL
Chain O Lakes State Park – Spring Grove, IL
Picnic areas, hiking trails, camping, horse riding, and other outdoor activities available.
Moraine Hills State Park – McHenry, IL
Boating, fishing, and hiking in a beautiful outdoor environment. Interpretive Center available as well.
Lombard Roller Rink – Lombard, IL
Monthly homeschool skate during the school year
Hoffman Estates Ice Arena – Hoffman Estates, IL
Sometimes offers a homeschool skate during a weekday (usually Friday afternoon). Click on the calendar for more information. is generally offered twice a month throughout the school year in Hoffman Estates.
The Centre of Elgin – Elgin, IL
In addition to typical park district classes, the Centre offers a two hours Homeschool Gym & Swim class, an indoor walking track, indoor pools, rock climbing, fitness equipment and classes, etc.
Funway– Batavia, IL
If you are looking for an Roller Rink to take the family to, Funway is a great option. They have several family skate nights and offer traditional skates or inline skates.
Feed My Starving Children – Aurora, IL
A great opportunity to serve people facing starvation world wide, as a family. They allow even young children (over 5 years) on site with enough supervision so almost everyone can participate. See their site for more information about filling a time slot.
Raising awareness of hunger on a local level, groups can volunteer to help in the warehouse for 2-3 hours. They encourage involvement from both elementary and high school students.
Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras – Chicago IL
Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) is internationally recognized as one of the premier youth orchestras in the United States. For over 60 years, its programs have provided music education and instrumental training of the highest quality to Chicago metropolitan area youth.
The Classical Symphony Orchestra and The Protégé Philharmonic – Chicago, IL
THE CLASSICAL SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and THE PROTÉGÉ PHILHARMONIC present the finest orchestral training with the widest range of repertoire available on a once-a-week rehearsal basis in the Chicago Area! Rehearsals are open to the public in Classical Symphony Hall
Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra – Park Forest, IL
The 75-member Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Music Director Carmon DeLeone, is the largest performing arts organization in the Chicago Southland providing professional, orchestral music of beauty and excellence to the region. It draws audiences from over 68 south and southwest suburbs including Chicago, Indiana and Michigan.
Elgin Symphony Orchestra Home School Subscription Series – Elgin, IL
A music enrichment program for homeschoolers with concerts and special interaction with talented musicians.
The Hemmens – Elgin, IL
This intimate 1,200 seat theatre is a favorite venue for seeing stars up close. In addition to the regular season line-up, The Hemmens Performing Arts for Young People (PAYP) Series educates and entertains the younger audience.
Rockford Dance Company – Rockford, IL
Dance performances and classes
Rockford Symphony Orchestra – Rockford, IL
Professional and youth symphony; instrument demonstrations (for schools).
Eli Cheesecake – Chicago, IL
Come experience our world with your family and friends! Learn about Eli’s history, our philosophy, and how we make our desserts, see our decorating department at work, and then enjoy a slice of Eli’s Cheesecake
Oberweis Dairy – North Aurora, IL
Join us for a tour and you’ll get to see where we make our world-famous milk and ice cream. You’ll enjoy a video presentation full of behind-the-scenes action at Oberweis Dairy including the farms where our rGBH hormone free cows live, the life of an Oberweis Milkman and how our plant operates. We finish off the tour in our Retail Store where everyone enjoys a cup of our classic vanilla ice cream!
Trail of History – Ringwood, IL
This event offers an incredible historical reenactment each year that generally takes place in October.