A kids' firehouse sets the stage for hands-on, imaginative activities at FireZone, where actual firefighters show off fire engines, explain educational displays, and oversee games for kids of all ages. In addition to children’s parties and drop-in play sessions, FireZone runs school field trips, caters to adults with corporate training days, and rents fire trucks for picnics, parades, and festivals.
In 1848, dairy cows grazed on the 30 acres that now host the Volo Auto Museum’s five showrooms. The mooing of heifers has given way to the imaginary roar of 200 collector cars and 100 gleaming autos that once graced movie and television sets—including a Batmobile from the 1966 TV series, a Herbie from the latest movie, and one of the first General Lees. After ogling the television and movie collection, guests can wander among vintage and antique vehicles and reminisce about the days when we still had to go places in person.
Nearby, the military exhibit’s realistic scenery surrounds vehicles ranging from a WWII BMW motorcycle with sidecar to a 1967 Bell helicopter shot down in Vietnam. After examining older artillery and artifacts, visitors can gaze at cases holding items retrieved from Saddam Hussein’s palace and from captured Iraqi soldiers. Those below driving age can explore kids’ attractions, including SpongeBob’s boatmobile.
Guests traverse the vast showrooms on foot or via a 1915, Victorian-style trolley, free on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Trolley tours begin by exploring autos that used to be stabled by the rich and famous alongside their unicorns. They then venture into the old dairy farm’s 19th-century barn, where activity by Civil War ghosts has drawn investigators from the Discover Channel’s Ghost Lab. Before leaving, visitors can refuel with an Angus-beef patty at the Betty Boop Burger Bar and Beer Garden or drop into four antique malls.
Located 14 miles from downtown Chicago, Elmhurst Art Museum displays national shows and the works of deserving regional, national, and international artists. In addition to hosting on going activities in the museum's education center, the museum seeks to spark creativity and foster sensitivity for fine art in the community through stimulating displays, programs, and mind control.
Attached to the museum is the historic McCormick House, which is one of only three homes in the United States designed and built by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and then replicated in LEGOs. The museum layout is designed around the house, which stands as a tribute to Mies and has won the Chicago AIA Regional Architecture Award.
• For $4, you get two adult admission tickets to the museum (up to an $8 value; museum admission is free on Fridays, and on all days for active armed forces members). • For $15, you get a one-year individual membership (a $30 value).
With more than 23,000 square feet of public space, Kohl Children's Museum gives its young visitors plenty of rooms in which to play. The kid-focused facility houses 16 permanent exhibits for infants and children up to 8 years of age, each filled with hands-on activities designed to encourage learning and exploration.
City on the Move helps children learn about Chicago by challenging them to build city scenes from geometric shapes or crank an electricity-generating wheel to power a pretend John Hancock Center. Kids can follow animal footprints to their source in Nature Explorers, move musical notes to create melodies in Ravinia Festival Music Makers, or explore the rotating temporary exhibits.
Throughout the Halloween season, mad scientists overrun a section of SciTech Hands On Museum to construct a haunted laboratory. The 20- to 25-minute, ghoul-infested journey hijacks 200 of the museum's interactive exhibits and exploits the brainpower of the museum's Fermilab physicist founders to create an experience as terrifyingly educational as a pre-calc class taught by a wild boar. Adults and older children brave enough to step across the spooky threshold will encounter wispy tendrils of smoke and fluttering strobe lights winding up and down the museum's two floors. Bubbling beakers, freakish goblins, the George Foreman Grill, and other byproducts of experiments gone horribly awry loom in the museum's shadowy corridors. Once troops have braved the Haunted Museum, the main museum awaits, where guests can interact with noncursed exhibits or slip into the gift shop or café.