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Museums 

Aurora Regional Fire Museum

  • 53 N. Broadway, Aurora. 630-892-1572.
  • 630-892-1572
  • Admission Charged: Yes

DuPage Children’s Museum

  • 301 N. Washington St., Naperville. 630-637-8000.
  • Admission Charged: Yes
  • Notes: When I met a friend here with my then 15-month-old, I was skeptical there would be much for her to do. But there was plenty to interest her, and of course there is plenty for older kids -- the museum says it is designed for children up to age 10. You can read more about a Go West "Easy Outing" to the museum by clicking here.

Elgin Public Museum 

  • 225 Grand Boulevard, Elgin. 847-741-6655.
  • Admission Charged: Unclear

Kohl’s Children’s Museum

  • 2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview. 847-832-6600.
  • Admission Charged: Yes
  • Notes: My daughter and I met a friend here last summer, and while the drive to the North Shore is very long, it certainly was worth the trip. You can read more about the Go West trip to the Kohl Children's Museum by clicking here.

Midwest Museum of Natural History 

  • 425 W. State Street, Sycamore. 815-895-9777.
  • Admission Charged: Yes
  • Notes: A reader says. “There are a bunch of stuffed animals and lots of info. It probably takes about an hour to walk around. It's a good rainy day outing. Not a ton to see, but for little kids it's good - especially if you don't want to deal with traffic and if the big museum in Chicago is a little overwhelming."

SciTech Hands On Museum

  • 18 W. Benton St., Aurora. 630-859-3434.
  • Admission Charged: Yes
  • Notes: I took my 3-year-old daughter to SciTech in the summer of 2011 to meet some friends who live in Aurora. The exhibits are definitely designed for older children, but we had a good time there anyway, and there is a special section for toddlers and preschoolers.

NATURE CENTERS AND ZOOS

Red Oak Nature Center

  • 2343 S. River St., North Aurora (On Route 25, one mile north of Route 56). 630-897-1808.
  • Admission Charged: Free
  • Notes: A reader says “My son and I have gone there dozens of times and love it on a cold or rainy day.” Read about a Go West visit to Red Oak Nature Center by clicking here.

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

  • 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles. 630-513-4399.
  • Admission Charged: Free.
  • Notes: Read about a visit to Hickory Knolls by clicking here.

Creek Bend Nature Center at LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve

  • Located in St. Charles, west of Randall Road, inside the Leroy Oakes Forest Preserve at 37W700 Dean Street. 847-741-8350 or 630-232-5980. 
  • Admission Charged: Free.
  • Notes: This nature center is part of the Kane County Forest Preserve. It replaced the Tekakwitha Woods Nature Center, and many of the exhibits have been relocated, including the bison and Clams-Eye View of the Fox River. There are also animal puppets, puzzles, and a neat matching game on the wall. 

Peck Farm Interpretive Center Visitor Center

  • 4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva. 630-262-8244. 
  • Admission Charged: Free
  • Notes: This is part of the Geneva Park District. Peck Farm also offers a butterfly house (in summer), an obeservation silo, lots of nature and bike trails, and a new outdoor play area called Hawks Hollow. But for those days when outside play is not going to happen, the farmhouse offers a room with animal displays, fur pelts, some games and other activities. 

Hamill Family Play Zoo, a part of Brookfield Zoo

  • Located at First Avenue between Ogden Avenue and 31st Street in Brookfield. 708-668-8000.
  • Admission Charged: Yes. Admission to Hamill Family Play Zoo is usually not included in the zoo’s general admission. However, admission to the play zoo is free from Nov. 1 to March 1. And Tuesdays and Thursdays are currently free days for zoo general admission through Dec. 31, 2011, although please check the website or call ahead to confirm that before planning your visit.
  • Notes: A huge zoo is not the place you think of heading when the weather is nasty. But I was so impressed with our time indoors at the Hamill Family Play Zoo last time we visited Brookfield that I felt it was worth adding. The family play zoo does feature some outdoor activities -- such as building shelters that resemble animal homes. But there are plenty of cool, hands-on things to do inside, too: Kids can pretend to be veterinarians (coats and tools included) and examine real animal X-rays. They can engage in imaginative play as they dress up as various animals, or interact with real animals held by volunteers and staff in the Hamill Family Play Zoo. The Hamill Family Play Zoo is designed for children from infants through age 10. For parking, the play zoo is located closest to the South Lot.