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Entries in Daytrips (5)

Wednesday
Mar282012

Five Great ... Daytrips from the Fox Valley

For many of you, we've nearly reached the midpoint of spring break. Are you or your kids going stir-crazy? Here are five suggestions for fun daytrips you can do from the Fox Valley, and we didn't even get near Chicago! 

Photo courtesy of the LaSalle Canal Boat.*Starved Rock State Park: The park features 13 miles of trails, waterfalls active in the spring and amazing views. The park is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Both the park and its parking lots are free. It is located about 60 miles from Geneva.

*Kohl Children's Museum: We love the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville, but if you're looking for something different, head on up to Glenview for an outing that's all about imaginative play. The museumis located in a gorgeous newer facility on land that used to be occupied by the Naval Air Station Glenview. It's best for children up to 6 or 7 years of age. The museum is about 40 miles from Geneva.

*Burpee Museum of Natural History: This museum is located in Rockford, about 50 miles from Elgin. It is home to Jane, an unusually complete skeleton of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex. And while Jane was just 11 when she died, her fossilized skeleton is 21 feet long. The Burpee is right next to the Discovery Center Museum, a hands-on science museum.

*Discovery Zone Park at Deicke Park: This park in Huntley was the one that kicked off the Go West "Great Parks!" series, and I'm not sure it will ever be topped. The Discovery Zone is a play village for toddlers and preschoolers. And while it looks like a junior amusement park, it's all free and part of the Huntley Park District. Huntley is about 23 miles north of St. Charles. Make sure to pack a picnic lunch!

*The Illinois and Michigan Canal: This one has been on my list to explore for a long time, and I hope to finally get there this summer. The canal, which runs along the Illinois and Des Plaines rivers, helped provide the first complete water route from the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. It's now used for recreation and features miles of trails, state parks, restored historical sites, wildlife and beautiful landscapes. The canal runs from Channahon west to Seneca. Morris, a town which is located along the trail, is about 32 miles south of Aurora. The LaSalle Canal Boat begins its season in May and runs into October, so this is also a good addition to your summer plans.

Tuesday
Mar132012

Daytrip: Midwest Museum of Natural History in Sycamore

Did you know there is an elephant in the DeKalb County of Sycamore? Yep, it's true! He's mounted and is surrounded by dozens of other "stuffed' animals. Read on to find out where he makes his home.

Name: Midwest Museum of Natural History

Location: 425 W. State Street (Route 64) in downtown Sycamore, about 25 minutes west of St. Charles.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays, although it will be open during spring break on March 26, 2012. 

Photo by Tara Burghart.

Amenities: You can park at the meters in front of the building (they are crazy cheap), or park for free in a city lot across State Street. The museum has a coat rack in the lobby. The museum does not sell food, but if you pack a lunch or a snack, you could eat in a large room in the basement used for birthday parties and other events. There is no designated nursing area, but there are several nooks where you could breastfeed in semi-private. The lobby (where you also pay admission) features a number of cool nature- and animal-themed toys for sale. 

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Tuesday
Feb012011

Daytrip: A Go West Outing to Woodstock

“You want a prediction about the weather, you're asking the wrong Phil. I'll give you a winter prediction: It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be grey, and it's gonna last you for the rest of your life.” -- Bill Murray as Phil Connors in “Groundhog Day.”

In honor of Groundhog Day tomorrow, I thought we’d take a trip to the charming McHenry County town of Woodstock in the far northwestern suburbs.

The Woodstock Town Square. Photo by mstephens7 on Flickr.Now many of you are likely nodding your heads and thinking, "Sure. Groundhog Day. Woodstock. Makes sense.” But others might be a bit confused.

The 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day” – starring Bill Murray as an egocentric weatherman – was set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where each year on Feb. 2 a groundhog named Phil emerges from his burrow. His “handlers” then announce whether he’s seen his shadow; no shadow, according to legend, means an early spring is on its way.

While that tradition truly dates back more than 120 years in Punxsutawney, much of the movie “Groundhog Day” was filmed in Woodstock, especially on its beautiful town square.

As a result of the movie’s popularity, Woodstock now has its own “Groundhog Days” festival each winter – complete with a chili cook-off, free screenings of the movie, a walking tour of filming sites and on Feb. 2, the emergence of “Woodstock Willie” from a tree trunk on the Woodstock Square. Fans of the movie will appreciate that a polka band plays in the bandstand during the ceremony to help “wake” Willie from his winter nap.

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Tuesday
Nov022010

Daytrip: A Go West Outing to Brookfield Zoo

Here is likely the most important thing I can tell you about a visit to Brookfield Zoo: You are not going to see everything. Not in just one day.

A grizzly bear in the "Great Bear Wilderness" at Brookfield Zoo. Photo courtesy of Brookfield Zoo.But that’s OK. With a bit of advance planning – and the zoo’s website has lots of great tips  – you can make sure to see all the animals, exhibits and attractions that are most important to your family. Plus, it’s such a fun spot and less than an hour away from the far western Chicago suburbs, so you can just plan a follow-up visit.

My daughter and I visited the zoo on a gorgeous warm Friday about a month ago.  We were able to go with a good girlfriend of mine and her two toddler sons. They live near the zoo and are members, so she was very sweet to use some guest passes to get us in free. All I had to pay was the $9 parking fee.

Otherwise, there are a number of ticket options you can pick from. For those who are ages 12 to 65, the general entry to the zoo is $13.50. Children ages 3-11 pay $9.50. (Kids under 3 are free.)

There are a couple other ticket packages if you want to include special attractions that cost extra, including the dolphin show, stingray bay, the children’s zoo, the family play zoo, the motor safari and carousel.

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Friday
Jun252010

Go West daytrip: A field of dreams in northwestern Illinois

It has the ivy, it has the red bricks, it has the iconic scoreboard. It even has an odd statue of Harry Caray seemingly emerging from a block of fans. It is Little Cubs Field, a miniature replica of the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. Located in the northwestern Illinois town of Freeport, Little Cubs Field would make a fun, whimsical daytrip for any family of die-hard Cubs fans.
 
Little Cubs Field. Photo by Tara Burghart.The field (27 W. Stephenson St., 815-233-1350) was built over the last several years by volunteers, and the Cubs donated cuttings of ivy, dirt, grass, seats and flags from “the friendly confines.” Ron Santo and Caray’s widow Dutchie have both been big supporters of the project.
 
Admission is free to the ballpark, which is about 1/4th the size of the real thing and is used for T-ball, Little League, wiffleball and kickball games. It can also be rented for events, at a price ($45 per hour) that is extremely cheap by Chicago-area standards!
 
For your family’s visit, make sure to bring your camera, a bat, ball and gloves in order to take some kitschy shots of your kids making game-saving catches at the brick wall, resting in the dugouts or powering a hit out to right field.

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