Sky Full of Bacon

Where To Go With Kids This Summer

The following is something I wrote for my kids’ school’s newsletter, outlining some interesting spots for daytrips in the greater Chicago area, together with a few food recommendations either personally experienced or at least gleaned from LTHForum. Several of the places are discussed further in this LTHForum thread. If anyone from the school (or anybody else) sends me more ideas, I’ll update it.

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We are big fans of summer road trips, the kind you can do in a day, see something that may not objectively be worth the drive, but makes for a great day of helping your kids discover the world and see life out of Chicago. Here are some places we’ve enjoyed within an hour and a half or less from Chicago, along with restaurant recommendations (this is small town America, so it’s mostly diners and drive-ins; vegans, you’re on your own).

AURORA— Aurora Regional Fire Museum has historic firefighting trucks and other equipment in a 19th cent. firehouse. Lunch: El Pollo Giro, 991 N. Aurora at Rte. 25.

GARFIELD FARM—19th century farm museum near Elburn. Mostly Wednesdays and Sundays only; best time to visit would be 1840s Days, June 27-28. Lunch: Bien Trucha, 410 W. State, Geneva.

GLENVIEW—Wagner Farm, Cook County’s last working farm, is now a museum; my son Myles does 4H there.

KENOSHA, WI— Kenosha has quite a remarkable array of inexpensive or free museums largely unknown to Chicagoans near the lakefront, including a new Civil War museum dedicated to the service of the Great Lakes states, the Kenosha Public Museum (a small natural history museum), and a dinosaur museum. There’s also a lighthouse you can climb and streetcars to ride for a quarter. Breakfast or lunch: Frank’s Diner, 508 58th St., Coffee Pot, 4914 7th Ave. Lunch/picnic stuff: Tenuta’s Deli, 3203 52nd St.

LAKE COUNTY FAIR—Carnival rides, animal and crafts competitions and more; look for us in the 4-H sheep barn. July 28-Aug. 2, Grayslake. Lunch: corn dogs at Squire’s Dog Haus on fairgrounds.

LOCKPORT/LEMONT— The Illinois & Michigan Canal has historical sites and walking/biking trails all through this area; the best-preserved lock is near Channahon. Lunch: Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria/Bowling Alley, 1015 State St., Lemont.

OTTAWA— One of the largest artworks in the world is in Buffalo Rock State Park a little southwest of Chicago—who knew? Effigy Tumuli is a series of earthworks shaped like giant river fauna; fun to climb over and try to make out what the shape is. Ottawa is the nearest town; for lunch try Row House Cafe, 728 Columbus St.

RACINE, WI— Racine has a very nice small zoo on the lakefront, 2131 N. Main, and there are some interesting playground areas for small kids on the beaches nearby. There’s also the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at S.C. Johnson, which have some public access. Lunch: Kewpee, 520 Wisconsin Ave. Then swing by Bendtsen’s, 3200 Washington Ave., to pick up some kringle.

ROCKFORD— Excellent children’s museum, the Discovery Center Museum, 711 N. Main St.; also a nice small dinosaur/natural history museum, the Burpee Museum, 737 N. Main, and a public waterpark. Lunch: Not much, there’s a local chain called Beefaroo, various locations around town.

SOUTH HOLLAND—The Forest Preserve District of Cook County has several nature centers with exhibits and walking trails; one of the nicest yet least-known is in a large reclaimed preserve on the southeast side. Lunch: Schoop’s, 695 Torrence Ave., Calumet City

UNION— The Illinois Railway Museum has one of the largest collections of real live trains in the world, many you can walk inside or even ride around their property. Lunch: there’s an on-site restaurant, or Allen’s Corner near Hampshire on Hwy 20 is a good old-style country diner.

VOLO— Tiny Volo has the Volo Auto Museum, but the coolest thing is a swamp—specifically, the huge Volo bog, which has a floating walkway through it as well as a nature center. Lunch: Sammie’s, 799 E Belvidere Rd, Grayslake.

WAUCONDA— There’s a Lake County historical museum whose main exhibit, oddly, is about a big postcard printer in Chicago; also some historical stuff of the Capone era, a tribute to Waukeganite Jack Benny, etc. Lunch: Frank’s Karma Cafe, 203 S. Main St.

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