Western Museums

The western suburbs are rich with institutions of culture and learning, starting with the internationally-known Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park. Tour the place where Wright started his career and family, and developed the first truly American style of architecture, the Prairie Style. The annual Wright Plus Housewalk takes place this year on 5/18, featuring several private Wright homes and other significant residences and buildings.

In Naperville, community life is centered around Naper Settlement, a hands-on living museum with a 19th-century village on the grounds for exploring the region’s pioneer past. This season’s main event is Civil War Days, 5/18-5/19, when hundreds of reenactors create the spectacle of war. All summer long you can enjoy music at the Naper Nights Community Concert series on 6/14-6/15, 7/19-7/20, and 8/16-8/17, drawing people to sit under the stars and enjoy music. Come also for Settlement Sundays, with free sundaes, family activities, and building tours.

The DuPage Children’s Museum, just north of downtown Naperville, is a great place for young families, with two floors of educational play focused on science, art, and math. Pro tip: There’s water play, so bring a change of clothes! And enjoy weekend Tiny Great Performances, introducing kids to amazing arts groups and performers.

Photo by Glenn Kaupert, © 2015.

Wheaton’s Cantigny Park is a unique and beautiful spot with something for everyone. You’ve got interesting museums, gorgeous gardens, and golf courses too! The First Division Museum, which was redesigned recently, tells the story of a U.S. Army infantry unit, and the Robert R. McCormick Museum explores the work and home life of the Chicago Tribune publisher. Here are examples of what you can enjoy at Cantigny this summer. Outdoor concerts begin 5/26 and run throughout the summer, movies start on 5/31, The 75th Anniversary of D-Day will be held on 6/6, Art in Bloom takes place 6/16-6/17, Dog Days (for animals) is on 6/29, the Antique Automobile Club of AmericaIllinois Region Antique Car Show is on 7/21, and Military through the Ages encampment creates a timeline from ancient Rome through Operation Desert Storm on 7/27-7/28.

In Elmhurst, you’ll find several very interesting museums. The Elmhurst Art Museum, The Elmhurst History Museum, and The Lizzardro Museum of Lapidary Art features jade, stone carvings, and rock and mineral exhibits – dioramas, mosaics, and gemstones abound. You can also check out Castle Lizzadro, an 18-carat gold sculpture with diamond windows. Want to visit all three Elmhurst museums together? The town hosts its 22nd annual Museum Day on 5/20, when you can take a free trolley to explore all three museums with free admission, family activities (making rock critters at Lizzadro, learn to draw                                                                                                      Peanuts characters at the history museum, and making art at the art museum), tours, treats, and more.

Drive a little farther southwest and you’ll find the Joliet Historical Museum with its Lunar Landing Simulator exhibit. While you’re in Joliet, don’t miss the Old Joliet Prison, made famous by the Blues Brothers movie.

Northern Museums

The northern suburbs include the Kohl Children’s Museum, just north of the Glen retail center in Glenview. This family-friendly institution is the perfect place to tire out your little ones, with 17 creative play spaces including the Pet Vet, the Hands On House, the SpotHero Car Garage, and Turtle Rock. Enjoy art adventures and story times, and the special exhibit Build In! through 6/30.

In Evanston you can visit the The Halim Time & Glass Museum with a collection of 1,100 timepieces and 30 masterpiece windows that tell the story of the American School of Stained Glass, including treasure of Louis Comfort Tiffany, the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, Northwestern University’s Block Museum of Art with their exhibit “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture, and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa” through July 21, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie.

The Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, located in Libertyville, is another highlight of the suburban museum scene. The space includes a life-sized replica of a 20-foot-long Dryptosaurus, a 420 million-year-old rock, a reproduction of a wigwam and a one-room schoolhouse, and artifacts of the Civil War era.

And, to round out the cultural openings, the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills is open for tours on Fridays and Saturdays. The Italian Villa-style home, originally built for the founder of ComEd and then bought by the Cuneo family, features an amazing antique collection and beautiful grounds.

Northwest Museums

The Illinois Railway Museum, the country’s largest railway museum in Union, is a must-see for people of all ages who love trains. The biggest event of the year is always “Day Out with Thomas, The Steam Team Tour” which takes place this year on 7/13-7/14 and 7/20-7/21. Take a ride on a train pulled by Thomas himself, or Percy (extra ticket required) – kids love this event!. Trolley buses, steam trains, and the Nebraska Zephyr run on select days throughout the season. This year’s special events include Railway Post Office Weekend on 6/8-6/9, Father’s Day on 6/16, Chicago Day on 6/22, the 29th Annual Vintage Transport Extravaganza on 8/4, and Diesel Days on 8/9-8/11.

The Fox Valley Trolley Museum is another great place for transit enthusiasts. It’s mostly open on weekends and holidays starting 5/13, although in May and June it’s only open on Sundays. Starting on Saturday 7/6 it is also open on Saturdays.

Love cars? The perhaps the Volo Auto Museum & Antique Mall is the transit-related place for you. This 35-acre museum/shopping center features 400 cars, 33 exhibits, an antique mall, military dioramas, and more. Celebrity vehicles on site include the General Lee, Herbie, the Batmobile, a DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” and a Landspeeder from “Star Wars.”

But no, it’s not all about travel in the northwestern suburbs. For additional museum happenings all around the area, check out the following pages. We list some of the amazing cultural experiences you can have without setting foot in the city. Need more information? Call us at 847-715-4574. We’re here to help.

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