This weekend in Chicagoland is expected to be rainy. While you may not be able to take a long hike or go camping, there are many natured-oriented places, museums, and even an auto museum you can visit to get out of the house and stay out of the rain. Try the following places this weekend or during any other rainy or snowy weekend in Chicagoland.
The Field Museum (1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, 312/922-9410): Great historical and nature-oriented exhibits including Underground Adventure (open through December 31, 2020) and Mummies (open through April 21, 2019). Permanent exhibits and features such as Inside Ancient Egypt; Evolving Planet; The Crown Family PlayLab; Fossil Preparation Laboratory; Meteorites; and Pawnee Earth Lodge.
Volo Auto Museum (27582 Volo Village Road, Volo, IL 60073, 815/385-3644). The museum features 33 distinct exhibits in 12 buildings on 35 acres. It also features a restaurant and a large antique mall. There’s literally something for everybody at the museum. It’s a family-owned and -run museum and collectibles auto market. More so, it’s a sweet exhaust blast of kitschy Americana. There are hundreds of vintage and famous cars, but the museum also features everything under the sun—from 1950s jukeboxes and arcade games, to military aircraft and 100-year-old trains, to antique bikes, scooters, tractors, and snowmobiles. Unless you’re a chronic grump, you’ll find something that will make you smile, laugh, or simply say wow (like I did when I saw the 28-foot-long guitar car and the 14-foot-tall roller skate car). Click here for my article about the museum.
Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center (3609 Spring Road. Oakbrook, IL 60523, 630/850-8110): This nature education center is top notch. When you walk inside, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff, tons of exhibits (including one that shows birds that have been recently spotted in Fullersburg Woods), books, informational maps and flyers, and other resources. The kids can view live animals (snakes, toads, etc.), learn about the prints made by different types of animals in the woods via a hands-on exhibit (this was one of my eight-year-old son’s favorites), check out the skeleton of a 13,000-year-old woolly mammoth, and use microscopes and spotting scopes to study various animals and organisms. Kids can play with all types of hands-on exhibits in the kids’ area and climb into a “bird’s nest” (another favorite of my son). Also: good hiking, river views, and much more. Click here for my article on the nature center.
Graue Mill and Museum (3800 York Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523-2738, 630/655-2090 or 630/920-9720, firstname.lastname@example.org). Step back in history during a visit to this underappreciated local gem, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and is the only operating waterwheel gristmill in the Chicago area. The museum features a variety of rooms that depict life in the mid-to-late 1800s; an exhibit on the Underground Railroad (Frederick Graue sheltered African slaves who had escaped from southern plantations as they made their way north to freedom); milling, spinning, weaving, and living history presentations by docents; and special events such as the museum’s annual Fine Arts Festival, Craft Beer Tasting Event, Civil War Encampment, and Christmas at the Mill Holiday Boutique. The mill and museum are kid-friendly, and picnic tables are available with a nice view of the mill and Salt Creek. The mill and museum are open from mid-April through mid-November. Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.; closed Monday, except for holidays. Contact the museum for the most current information on museum hours and events. Click here for my article on Graue Mill.
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center (9800 Willow Springs Road, Willow Springs, IL 60480, 708/839-6897): One of the crown jewels of the many great nature centers in Chicagoland. The center offers a large and fun kids’ indoor play area with live animals, a reading section, games, and much more; an outdoor play area for kids; a two-story museum that traces the geological history of the area and features live snakes, turtles, frogs, fish, and other fauna; and the actual Schoolhouse. There’s also good hiking and a 6,000-square-foot garden for those with disabilities. Click here for my article about the nature center. THIS WEEKEND: Annual Arts and Crafts Fair. Sunday, October 7, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
North Park Village Nature Center (5801 North Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60646): A nature preserve and educational facility that offers a hands-on exploratory room of natural objects (antlers, shells, pine cones, fossils, etc.); a reading room for kids; and public programs for preschoolers, school age children, families, and adults. If the rain holds off, take an easy walk through its woodlands, wetlands, prairie, and savanna. Click here for my article.
River Trail Nature Center (3120 Milwaukee Avenue, Northbrook, IL 60062, 847-824-8360): A nature center that features beautiful views of the meandering Des Plaines River; friendly and helpful staff; a Noah’s Ark–menagerie of other animals for viewing—from flying squirrels, frogs, turtles, snakes galore, and lizards indoors, to a coyote, bald eagle, owls, and an impressive bee colony outdoors. (Sorry, no elephants or giraffes.); and a large children’s indoor play and exploration area where kids can climb into an “eagle nest,” crawl in a “fox den,” view Native American artifacts, play checkers on a tree stump, read nature books, climb through massive logs (just outside one of the center’s doors), and do much more. If the skies are clear, head outside for great birdwatching and three easy-to-hike trails through forest and wetlands. Click here for my article about the nature center.
Galena, Illinois, Area (about 155 miles northwest of Chicago): Nestled on bluffs above the Galena River, Galena is a beautiful historic town (which has more than 1,450 buildings on the National Historic Register, including President Grant’s home), and one of my favorite weekend destinations. This charming town features great restaurants, antique shops, bookstores art galleries, live music, and much more. Nearby, the town of Elizabeth offers the Elizabeth’s Grand Antique Co. (28,000 square feet of antiques; the Apple River Fort State Historic Site (a re-built fort that was the site of a battle in the Black Hawk War of 1832, and at which Abraham Lincoln and his militia supposedly were present; great for kids—especially during the warm months when reenactments and other events are held); the Chicago Great Western Railway Depot Museum, and Apple River Canyon State Park, which is about 17 miles from Elizabeth. A good hiking option is Mississippi Palisades State Park. Finally, Dubuque, Iowa, an underrated city 25 minutes from Galena, has many interesting attractions, including the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, the Dubuque On Ice Brewfest, and the Dubuque Museum of Art.
Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes