Welcome to the Neighborhood! A Guide for Families New to the Fox Valley
When my husband and I moved to Geneva more than three years ago, I was still working in downtown Chicago, we didn’t have a baby yet and we ate out nearly every night. So my social life, in many ways, continued to revolve around Chicago, and we had quite a bit of leisure time to figure out what grocery store we preferred and to network with friends to find doctors we liked. Of course we didn’t even have to think about childcare or schooling options.
I can imagine that if you move to the Fox River Valley with kids already in tow, you need to figure out all that vital stuff much, much quicker -- not to mention wondering how you can make some new friends.
And that’s the idea behind this article. I’d like it to be a “living guide,” so please send me suggestions or critiques to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to update it or add new sections.
This is an area where the Fox River Valley certainly has an abundance of riches.
If you are looking for a large, national chain, Jewel-Osco
(a division of the Supervalu company) has several locations both west and east of the Fox River. One of those is located at the intersection of Route 38 and Randall Road – an area it shares with Meijer and The Fresh Market. (That intersection is like the Golden Triangle of grocery stores, and if I was a super-efficient shopper with extra time on my hands, I could probably shave hundreds of dollars off my annual grocery bill by taking advantage of all their respective specials in the same week.)
, which also sells clothing, toys, gardening supplies and other general merchandise in its huge stores, usually has a decent selection of organic produce and quite a few organic options in its private label canned, boxed and frozen offerings. In addition to the above mentioned store, Meijer also has locations in Elgin on Randall Road, in Aurora on Route 59, and Oswego on Route 34.
on Kirk Road in Aurora sells groceries, as does the one on the east side of St. Charles, on Route 64. (A reader says it got a remodel in 2011/12.) The SuperTarget stores located on Route 64 on the east side of St. Charles and on Randall Road in South Elgin devote a big chunk of their stores to groceries. Aldi also has stores in Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles.
If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, you should check out the Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Market
store on Randall Road in South Elgin. The produce there is beautiful, you’ll have enough pasta selections to make your head spin, you can perk up at the coffee bar – plus you’ll get to hear the song “Chicago is my Kind of Town” played over the loudspeakers, except the lyrics will be “Caputo’s is my Kind of Store.” Hee. Hee. Similarly, Aurora has Prisco's Fine Foods
at 1108 Prairie Street. It specializes in Italian food, fine meats and sausage. It offers some delicious-sounding cooking classes, too.
California-based Trader Joe’s
, the store with the employees in Aloha shirts, has a location near the intersection of Fabyan and Randall in Batavia. The Fresh Market, a chain which got its start in North Carolina, evokes the atmosphere of a European market and features a nearly addictive produce section, great customer service and in general makes me actually enjoy grocery shopping – although my euphoria is usually tempered by the final tally at the cash register. It’s located on Randall Road just south of Route 38. As for Whole Foods
, the “world’s largest retailer of natural and organic food,” you’ll have to drive a bit – the nearest locations are in Wheaton and Naperville.
One grocery store I definitely urge you to check out is Blue Goose Market
, located in downtown St. Charles at 300 S. Second Street. Founded in 1928, it is one of the oldest locally owned and operated businesses in the Tri-Cities. The prices certainly aren’t the lowest, but you could definitely do all your shopping in this manageably-sized store. Their slogan is “Where service is a family tradition” and that’s the truth. I rarely leave without having at least one friendly conversation with a store employee, and rest assured you’ll never stand in line for 10 minutes with a screaming toddler before reaching the cash register. Plus the bakery features splurge-deserving cookies and pastries. On Fridays and Saturdays during the warmer months, you can buy ribeye sandwiches, hamburgers and bratwurst made in-house from a grill in front of the store.
One of my loyal readers raves about the low prices at Woodman's
in North Aurora, which is on Orchard near I-88. She warns of its huge layout, but says it has lots of organic produce and gluten-free options, plus free bag loading under a covered area. Woodman's only takes cash and debit cards, no credit.
For an Old World-style butcher shop, stop in at Josef’s Elegante Meats & Deli
located in a strip mall on State Street just west of downtown Geneva. The guys behind the counter are real characters, and in addition to amazing burgers and steaks, the shop offers lots of ready-to-eat meals, too.
Located in that same Geneva strip mall with Josef’s is Soup to Nuts, a health food retailer that also has a café located inside. Soup to Nuts sells the expected vitamins and homeopathic remedies, but is also sells groceries, including organic produce and food products tailored to people with special diet needs. If you or your children suffer from serious food allergies, I would think this would be a great place to stop not only for groceries but to make some connections with others dealing with the same challenges.
Finally, don’t forget about all the farmer’s markets we have in the area. You’ll soon see a guide letting you know which market is in which town on what day – just keep an eye under the “Good Eats” section.
Hospitals and Clinics
is located in Geneva on Randall Road just south of State Street. In addition to the hospital, it is part of the Delnor-Community Healthy System, which offers a wide variety of health and medical services. It offers a “physician finder” service on its Web site, or by calling 630-208-3993.
just opened its state-of-the-art, 255-room hospital the corner of Randall and Big Timber roads in Elgin. It has a number of “Immediate Care Centers” in Elgin, Bartlett, South Elgin and Algonquin where you can be treated for minor injuries such as burns, broken bones, sprains and more. It also features a “physician finder” service on its Web site. The “newcomers” tab under “Patients and Families” is full of good information.
Also in Elgin, you’ll find Provena St. Joseph Hospital
at 77 N. Airlite Street, which recently finishes its own modernization and expansion project. Its Web site features a “physician finder” service or you can call 1-866-776-8362 for help.
Provena, which is a Catholic health system, also operates a hospital in Aurora, the 356-bed Provena Mercy Medical Center
at 1325 N. Highland Ave., east of the Fox River and just south of I-88. It has a physician finder.
Also in Aurora is the Rush-Copley Medical Center
, located at 2000 Ogden Ave. about four miles west of I-59. You can call 630-978-6700 for help finding a physician or use its online physician directory.
There are also a number of “express care” or “urgent care” centers in the area that come in handy on weekends, holidays or those times when your doctor’s office is booked.
Delnor Express Care
has two locations: One at 815 N. Randall Road in Batavia, the other at 552 Randall Road in South Elgin. You can read more about it here.
is located at 2000 W. Main St. just east of Randall Road and west of the Oberweis Dairy.
has two of its “Take Care Clinics” located in the area, staffed by nurse practitioners or physicians assistants. One is located near Peck and Route 64 in St. Charles; the other near Randall and Indian Trail in Aurora.
has one of its “Minute Clinics” located in the store at 255 North McLean Blvd. in South Elgin. These are staffed by family nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.
Dreyer Medical Clinic
has three “Walk-In Care” clinics in the Fox Valley, located at 725 W. Fabyan Parkway in Batavia; 4100 Healthway Drive in Aurora; and 1870 W. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.
Central DuPage Hospital
, which has its main campus in Wheaton, has Convenient Care Centers in six suburbs, including at 2900 Foxfield Road in St. Charles.
Nearly all of the grocery stores listed in the grocery store section feature pharmacies, and Walgreens
stores are located throughout the area. If you’re looking for a non-chain option, check out Riley Drugs at 415 W. State St. in Geneva.
Here’s a list of the 24-hour pharmacies that I know of in the area: Walgreens at 2100 W. State St. in Geneva; Walgreens at 1221 N. Lake St. in Aurora; Walgreens at 1700 Larkin Ave. in Elgin.
Making New Friends
When I moved out to Geneva, I only had two acquaintances – both friends of friends. But again, my social life still revolved around Chicago.
With the arrival of Johanna, and my parental leave from my job, it suddenly became very important that I develop a social network in our new home. I wanted her to be able to play with other children, but also I’m a social creature and I wanted to talk about all these exciting events (she rolled over! she crawled! she hasn’t napped off my lap in three days!) with someone who was experiencing similar milestones.
Less than two years later, I’m really pleased with the network of friends I’ve made for myself – all interesting, interested mothers who I now know well enough to talk about stuff not related to our darling children. Some I met through the breastfeeding support group at Delnor Hospital (see below), some through Mothers First (see below) and others through music classes and library storytimes Hannah and I participated in. I would urge you to tuck a small notebook and pen in your purse or diaper bag; you never know when you’ll strike up a conversation with a mom and want to exchange emails or phone numbers and plan a future get-together
is a non-profit group supported by Delnor Hospital, aimed at women with newborns and young children. It organizes monthly Mom & Tot events, Mom’s Night Out gatherings, and holiday parties for the kids and community outreach opportunities. It also organizes playgroups for group members with children of a similar age.
stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, and there are local groups in Aurora, West Chicago, Sugar Grove, Naperville and Oswego. I’m not too familiar with this organization, but it appears MOPS sponsors meetings twice a month.
The website Meetup.com
lists a number of meetup groups in the Fox River Valley. You can search by your zip code or limit the search with terms like “tots,” “tikes,” “moms,” “mamas,” “preschooler,” “families” and “western suburbs.” You can email the organizer of the groups directly or go ahead and join and be alerted to their next meeting. And it also looks like a good place if you’re looking to join a group that doesn’t center around kids or family; personally, I want to join the group called “The Spaghetti Night Book Club.”
Many churches in the area have groups that cater to female parishioners. One group I know several friends of mine really enjoy is called “Moms Together,” at the First Baptist Church of Geneva
, where you actually don’t need to be a church member to attend. The monthly breakfast program features a speaker and time for discussion with other women at your table; a program called Kids Together is offered for the young ones.
The Congregational United Church of Christ
in Campton Hills also has a Mother's Group
that usually meets on the third Wednesdays of every month at 7 p.m. The group welcomes moms and children of all faiths. I know both the leader and a member of this group, and they'd be great friends for anyone to have!
If you have a baby you are breastfeeding, Delnor has a breastfeeding support group
that meets every Monday at 10 a.m. in the NewLife Maternity Center. A support group for those with postpartum depression (called W.I.N.
for Women in Need) meets every Tuesday at Delnor at 10 a.m.
Also for those breastfeeding, the La Leche League
also chapters in Batavia-Geneva-St. Charles; Aurora; Elgin and Naperville.
Finally, note that the above list is heavy on groups that cater to women with infants and toddlers. If you have suggestions of social groups that involve more women with school-age children, please email me at email@example.com.
Stuff to Do
Why, check out the Go West Young Mom event calendar, of course!
But this is also a great spot to plug our local park districts. If you grew up in the Chicago area, the fact that suburban park districts offer tons of cool classes and programs at very reasonable prices is no surprise to you. However, I grew up in a tiny town in central Illinois, and our park district offerings were restricted to the summer and consisted, as I remember, of classes in learning how to apply makeup or braid hair.
I’ve been amazed at the varied offerings of the Geneve Park District. So far, all the classes I’ve taken have been with Johanna -- music, tumbling, and a mom-and-tot fitness class. Like I mentioned, I've made some good friends through those classes. And someday, I hope some of them can join me -- without the kids -- in signing up for a park district class on wine appreciation or beginner’s tennis.
So make sure to page through the seasonal catalogue offered by your own town’s park district. And remember that you can also take classes through other park districts, for a fee usually slighter higher than that paid by residents.