The western suburbs of Chicago stretch from towns that border the city, such as Oak Park and Cicero, to DuPage county behemoths Naperville and Aurora — and cover a lot of ground in between. DuPage County is now the second most populous county in Illinois with close to one million people and its diverse population continues to grow. In an area this big, it is easy to find fun family activities no matter how old your kids are or where your family’s interests lie.
Here are a few of the top spots for family entertainment in the western suburbs. — Emily Paster
The Brookfield Zoo
3300 Golf Road
Brookfield, IL 60513
Just minutes off of I-290, the Brookfield Zoo is a 216 acre zoological park with indoor and outdoor animal exhibits, a petting zoo, a carousel, playgrounds and multiple dining and shopping options. Whether you want to see a dolphin show, watch a milking demonstration, get some exercise in a beautiful outdoor setting, or simply see exotic animals from all around the world – are you familiar with the okapi? — the Brookfield Zoo has it all. A single visit can be expensive, but if you think you might return within the year, a family membership, which provides free admission and parking as well as discounts on purchases in the zoo, can be a great investment.
The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois Route 53
Lisle, IL 60532
A favorite school field trip spot, the Morton Arboretum contains 4,000 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world on a 1700 acre oasis in the midst of suburban sprawl. The Arboretum has a lofty mission, to further the study of plants and trees, and an even loftier goal: to encourage conservation and a greener, healthier planet. All your kids need to know is that the Arboretum has a terrific Children’s Garden in which they can climb, explore and even get a little wet. Over nine miles of paved biking trails make the Arboretum a hit with older kids as well.
100 S. Barnes Road
Aurora, IL 60506
Part of the Fox Valley Park District, Blackberry Farm is a living history museum situated on 50 scenic acres. The five museum buildings, including a real one-room schoolhouse, contain an impressive collection of 19th century artifacts of farm and family life. The staff bring the history to life with their stories of how families lived and worked in the Fox Valley 100 years ago, including period craft demonstrations, such as weaving and blacksmithing. Even non-history buffs will enjoy the miniature train, the carousel and the pony rides. (Oh, and the huge Splash Country water park is just across the street.)
Kane County Cougars
34W002 Cherry Lane
Geneva, IL 60134
Sure, you can take your kids to see the Cubs or the White Sox, but will they get to run around the bases after the game? If you want a fun, affordable family outing to the ballpark, the Midwest League Kane County Cougars are the way to go. With lawn tickets under $10 a person, you can bring the whole gang and still have enough money left for peanuts and Crackerjack. Baseball fans will enjoy the game while fireworks, autograph sessions, between-innings promotions and a family fun area behind left field keep even the littlest spectators entertained.
One of the largest cities in Illinois and a perennial contender on lists of the best places to live, Naperville is a jewel of the Western suburbs. For the residents, Naperville is all about beautiful homes, parks and great schools. Visitors love the hot dining scene – including many family-friendly options – the shopping, and the historic architecture. The Riverwalk, with its fountains and covered bridges, is one of the most picturesque spots in the whole state, and is the site of frequent festivals and other events. Naperville is also home to the DuPage County Children’s Museum.
Emily Paster is lawyer, writer and mother of two living in the near west suburbs. Read more of her work on her blog West of the Loop.