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Entries in outdoors (46)


Easy Outing: Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn

If you have a wannabe veterinarian in your house, you'll definitely want to check out the latest in the Go West "Easy Outings" series.

Tonka, the Great Horned Owl, at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center. Photo courtesy of the Willowbrook Wildlife Center.Name: Willowbrook Wildlife Center, an education center and a wildlife rehabilitation center operated by the DuPage County Forest Preserve. The animals cared for there are native to DuPage County, or migrate to or through DuPage County. Once the animals recover, the center releases them back into the wild, if possible.

Location: It occupies a 50-acre preserve at 525 S. Park Blvd. in Glen Ellyn, across the street from the College of DuPage.

Hours: Open to the public daily, seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed holidays.

Admission: Free, but donations are accepted.

Amenities: The Visitor Center, which is near the parking lot, contains a number of unreleasable animals designated as "educational ambassadors" for their species. It features an area where kids can play with nature-themed games, puppets and puzzles, as well as climb inside a faux "tree trunk" to read books. The Visitor Center also has restrooms. Nearly 40 acres are occupied by a nature trail with forest, prairie, savannah and wetland eco-systems.

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Summer Guide 2012: Outdoor Pools in Chicago's Western Suburbs

School is out for summer, so it's time to pull out the swimsuits, the suncreen and the beach towels! We hope this guide might inspire your family to try out a few new pools this summer. We really do have an embarrassment of riches in Chicago's far western suburbs. If you know of a pool in the area that's open to the public but not on this list, please share. We'd also love to hear your personal take or tips on any of the spots below. 


The toddler pool at Otter Cove Aquatic Park is enclosed by a gate. Photo by Tara Burghart.Otter Cove Aquatic Park, part of the St. Charles Park District
Address: Located in James O Breen Community Park, at the corner of Campton Hills and Peck roads in St. Charles
Hours: A bit complicated. Click here for details.
Closing date: Sept. 3.
Amenities: A zero-depth entry activity pool; 25-yard swimming pool; body slide; tube slide; two diving boards, lap lanes; some sprayground-like features; gated toddler pool; lazy river; concession area; and family restrooms.
Admission Rates: For non-residents, $13 each. (Check the site for resident rates.) Twilight rate is $5 for all ages, whether you're a resident or not. It's from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. everyday until Aug. 10 but Sunday, when the twilight swim is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Twilight swim ends Aug. 10.
Go West’s Take: This 9-acre facility was in the planning stages and then under construction for several years. In my opinion, the wait was worth it! My daughter and I visited a number of times last summer, and each time we spent the bulk of our time in one of the featured pools: First the toddler pool, then the general-interest activity pool and then the lazy river. It really does offer something for every age, and the facility is so clean and nice and shiny! It is indeed more expensive than most other pools on this list, so try to take advantage of the twilight rate or look for one of the "buy one, get one free" coupons in the mail.

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Great Parks! Lions Park in Elburn

The latest in the "Great Parks!" series is one especially for all the kids who love sand, and for the parents who love them.

The tire swing at Lions Club Park in Elburn was a hit with my preschooler. Photo by Tara Burghart.Park Name: Lions Park in Elburn. Rather than being part of a local park district, the 25-acre Lions Park is owned and operated by the Elburn Lions Club. Lions Clubs International is the world's largest service organization.

Location: 500 South Filmore St. in Elburn, just one block west of Main Street (Route 47).

Amenities: Lions Park features two baseball diamonds, a number of picnic tables and benches. The playground is very large instead of being surrounded by mulch, there is sand underneath. The playground has extensive equipment for preschoolers and older children, as well as a small toddler playground. There is a set of swings (including two baby swings) and also two tire swings, as well as a very small merry-go-round (don't worry - we couldn't get it to go very fast.) It also features two "backhoes" that kids operate with their hands to scoop up and dump sand. There are indoor bathrooms in the Elburn Lions Club clubhouse, but they were closed when we visited on a recent weekday afternoon. Alternately, there were two portable toilets.

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How to Help With the Great Backyard Bird Count

Are you looking to do something free, fun, educational and nature-related this weekend? Well, you're in luck!

The Great Backyard Bird Count got underway Friday and continues through Monday. It's a wonderful excuse to get outside with your kids and a simple way to help scientists around the world.

All you need to do is count birds for at least 15 minutes from one spot anytime through Monday. You can count just one day or multiple days. There are materials at the official site that provide clear directions and some info especially aimed at kids. There's also a regional bird list that will help you prepare for the types of feathered friends you might spot.

When you're finished, you submit your results online before the March 5 deadline. You can even download a cute certificate to give to your children, recognizing their work helping with the count.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is now in its 15th year, and is led by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Organizers stress that beginning bird watchers are welcome. Scientists use the counts to provide a picture of winter birds.

"Make sure the birds from your community are well represented in the count. It doesn't matter whether you report the five species coming to your backyard feeder or the 75 species you see during a day's outing to a wildlife refuge," the website says.

But if your family feels like it needs some expert help, members  of the Kane County Audubon will be on hand at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center on Sunday afternoon from noon to 4 p.m. to help you learn to identify winter birds. 

Editor's Note: Thanks to my friend Maegen Blue at Sounds Fun Mom for alerting me to this event. If you know any young families in the greater Seattle area, please make sure they know about Sounds Fun Mom, a wonderful resource in the South Sound.


Where to Sled, Skate, Snow Shoe, Ski and Snow Tube!

This post first ran in December 2010. Got more suggestions to add? Please put them in the comments section!

It’s time to brush up on your snowman-building skills, pull the sled out of the attic and lace up the ice skates.

Two daughters of a Go West reader enjoy snowshoeing at Morton Arboretum. Love those smiles!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.


Several readers mentioned Harris Hill, in the Harris Forest Preserve in Yorkville on Route 71. Christina Messersmith says “it’s just plain huge!” and Debbie Koutny notes “It even has stairs!”

Amanda Abel is a fan of “Windmill Hill” in Geneva, located in the Fabyan Forest Preserve at the corner of Route 31 and Fabyan Road. She notes that it features a wide open hill with few trees, although her son “still manages to aim for them!” Plus, you get an honest-to-goodness windmill thrown in to make it as picturesque a setting as you could ask for.

In St. Charles, the park district says sledding is encouraged at Langum Park, facing Route 25, and at Timber Trails Park on North 19th Street. Call 630-513-4320 for daily recorded updates; sometimes the hills are closed due to icy conditions.

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