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Entries in outdoors (46)


Great Parks! Hawks Hollow Nature Playground in Geneva

Park Name & Location: Hawks Hollow Nature Playground, located on the grounds of the Peck Farm Interpretive Center, 4038 Kaneville Road in Geneva. Phone: 630-262-822. The farm is located west of Randall Road, at the corner of Kaneville and Peck roads. 

About: Hawks Hollow, which just opened in the fall of 2013, is designed to engage children in environmental learning. The play area features eight interactive learning stations featuring native bird, tree and bug species. There are a child-sized bird nest and beaver lodge, log beam balance course, mud wall canvas a wood stage, log seating, musical instruments, a pulley system and optic scopes for bird-watching. A multi-level treehouse has a spiral slide, climbing cargo nets and a "tree-top eagles nest overlook." There also water features in the warmer months -- a splash area and water in a "creek" that can be manipulated by building structures, moving rocks, etc. 

Hawks Hollow is located at Peck Farm Interpretative Center. Photo by Tara Burghart.

Amenities: Peck Farm Interpretive Center has bathrooms in its nearby Orientation Barn, as well as a visitor's center, observation silo, a 19-acre wetland and miles of nature and bike trails. You can download a map here.

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Spring Guide 2014: Lambs at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago

I've gone on record saying how much I love Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago. How could you not? It's got charm, it's got history, it is open year-round, you can drop by whenever fits your family and it's free!

Photo courtesy of Kline Creek Farm.

Kline Creek Farm, which started as a log-cabin homestead in the 1830s, is part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County. It’s a living-history farm that seeks to depict everyday life as it was on that actual farm but also hundreds of similar farms in DuPage County in the 1890s. 

Of course family farms in the 1890s had animals, so at Kline Creek you can see horses, sheep, cattle and chickens.

Right now, you can also see newborn lambs that have joined the flock of Southdown sheep. Several more ewes are expected to give birth over the coming weeks.

Visitors may see the lambs and talk with staff and volunteers about their care during the farm’s normal hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays. Outbuildings, including the sheepfold, close at 4:30 p.m. (The farm is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

“Sometimes mom can do everything on her own, but our staff and volunteers are at the ready this time of year to intervene if needed for a successful birth,” says Keith McClow, manager of Kline Creek Farm. “We’re always ready to share the historical perspective with visitors, too, so they learn how lambs provide income for farmers and what it takes to raise them.”
The flock will take center stage during the “Sheep Shearing” weekend April 26 and 27. 
So plan a trip to Kline Creek Farm one nice day this spring. You won't regret it!



Holiday Guide 2013: Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Options

If your family planning to cut your own Christmas tree this season, here are some options that come recommended by Go West readers. Please check the farm's website, or phone ahead, to make sure it's open when you plan to stop by and also that it offers the type of experience your family envisioned. Do you have another suggestion to make? Please do so in the comments! 

  • Camelot Christmas Tree Farm: 16380 S. Somonuak Road in DeKalb. 815-756-6559. (This got a number of mentions, was praised for its wonderful selection, friendly staff, free cookies and hot cider.)
  • Williams Tree Farm: 4661 Yale Bridge Road in Rockton. 800-423-NOEL. (A reader says "A little further out of the way, but we LOVE it here.)
  • Photo by Accretion Disc on Flickr.
  • Larson's Family Farm: 4404 Somonauk Road in Sandwich. 815-786-2249.
  • Spring Bluff Nursery: 41W130 Norris Road in Sugar Grove. 630-466-4278.  
  • Kuipers Family Farm: 1N318 Watson Road in Maple Park. 815-827-5200. 
  • Lee's Trees: 45W002 Lees Road in Lily Lake. 630-365-2116. (A reader says this spot offers cut-your-own trees and ready cut, as well as lots of pretty wreaths. You can have your photo taken every year, put it up on a wall and replace it with a current one the next year.)
  • Marmion's Abbey Farms: 850 Butterfield Road (IL Route 56) in Aurora. 630-936-0054.

Winter Guide 2013: Where to Sled, Skate, Snow Shoe - Even Snow Tube!

This is a list I've been posting and updating since 2010. If you have some suggestions to add, please place in the comments section and I'll make sure they are incorporated. Now bundle up!

Since I didn’t grow up around here, I decided to turn to Go West readers for some suggestions on great places to go sledding and ice skating. Please make sure to call the phone numbers provided to check conditions before your family heads out.


Photo by asterix611 on Flickr.The Geneva Park District has an “Outdoor Ice Complex” in Wheeler Park off Route 31. There are actually two sheets of ice there – one for general skating and one for ice hockey. Both are free to the public to use, weather permitting. Plus there is a warming shelter available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and on school holidays. To make sure the rinks are open, call 630-232-4542.

The St. Charles Park District has outdoor ice rinks at Timber TrailsDavis Park and Langum Park, with the park at Langum reserved for ice hockey only. The rinks are open daily from until 9 p.m., weather and ice conditions permitting. You can call for updated recorded daily updates: 630-513-4320.

The city of Elgin offers an outdoor refrigerated ice rink called "City Skate." It's located on Civic Center Plaza, between the Hemmens Cultural Center and City Hall. City Skate is free; ice skate rental is available for $4 with ID but is only available when the warming shelter is open. Click here for more info or call 847-931-6140 for updates on hours and ice conditions. This is a refrigerated skating system, and it is scheduled to stay open til Feb. 23, 2013.

Wheaton has a number of ice rinks, including lighted rinks at Seven Gables, Rathje Park, C.L. Herrick Park, Kelly Park and Northside Park. There are unlighted rinks at Briar Patch Park and Hull Park. Call 630-260-6430 ex. 2 for 24-hour information about skating conditions.

The Batavia Park District maintains a skating rink on Depot Pond in downtown, near the Riverwalk. To check skating conditions and whether skate rental is available, call 630-879-5235. 

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Easy Outing: Covered Wagon Rides at St. James Farm in Warrenville

St. James Farm Forest Preserve offers covered wagon tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Nov. 18, and Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Nov. 28. You'll find the tours listed on the Go West Calendar, but here, guest contributor Naomi Krodel tells you what to expect. 

I’m always looking for nearby fun outdoor activities to do in the fall with my kids, especially this year with such pleasant weather. So when I saw that the St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville was offering covered wagon rides, I thought it was a good chance to check out a place I'd always wanted to visit anyway.

St. James Farm encompasses 607 acres, including more than 100 acres of woodlands, prairies and wetlands. Beginning in the early part of the 20th century, it was the retreat of the wealthy McCormick family.

Its borders are Butterfield Road to the south and Mack Road to the north. South Winfield Road runs through it on the west side.  We first attempted to enter from the north and west (lots of construction), and eventually we found the correct entrance from Butterfield Road.  At first we only saw a few cars but no people so we walked toward a caboose on the property. 

We then saw a wagon unloading and quickly inquired about the next ride. I paid $5 (children ages 5-12 are $2; kids under 5 are free) and we were then treated to a private tour -- we were the only ones on our wagon on a recent weekday afternoon. Although we didn’t see any coyotes or deer (the earlier tour did) we loved the colorful trees and imagining how it must have looked when the McCormick mansion was standing. 

The author, accompanied by her children, on a covered wagon tour of St. James Farm Forest Preserve in Warrenville. Photo provided.

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