Across two floors and 6,700 square feet, KidsWork Children's Museum's prompts hands-on play with scores of new exhibits. A table-top interactive computer, or SMART table, stimulates kids' brains with interactive puzzles and games. A weekly music class on Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m. invite kids to make some noise with instruments made from recycled materials. Interlocking wooden builder boards encourage open-ended play; there's also a floor piano, an interactive ATM, and story time at 10 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. The museum welcomes field-trip groups and birthday parties to explore its innards as well as special-needs families, members, and walk-in visitors.
While large groups are welcome, each child is celebrated through hands-on play. Just look at the gigantic, three-dimensional Pinscreen exhibit, a jumbo version of the classic toy that uses sliding pins to create a 3-D impression of whatever you press into them—in this case, your entire body. Along with the Lincoln-Way North Key Club, the Frankfort Fire Department helped construct the three walls by painstakingly inserting nearly 200,000 pins by hand. Their effort resulted in one of the museum's most popular interactive displays. More than that, it reflects the sense of community, curiosity, and creativity that the museum strives to engender in its patrons.
The Illinois Theatre Center enthralls audiences with a wide range of theatrical performances that range from offbeat musicals to retellings of classic dramas. The Spitfire Grill, a musical adaptation of director Lee David Zlotoff's award-winning film, revisits the tale of a young woman recently released from prison who gets a second lease on life and a studio apartment. Wistful comedy Heroes centers on the lives of three war veterans living in an old folks' home who spend their final days reminiscing about ration-packet picnics. All performances are held in an intimate 179-person theater.
By highlighting the goings-on in the community of Joliet, The Joliet Area Historical Museum scans the entirety of American history from the perspective of the town's inhabitants. Housed inside the former Ottawa Street Methodist Church, multimedia exhibits artfully assembled from audio-visual displays, touch screens, and life-size models illustrate the stories plucked from the eventful timelines of the town and its people. Occupying two full stories, permanent exhibit The Soaring Achievements of John C. Houbolt honors the life and work of former resident Dr. Houbolt, who had a primary role in NASA's race to the moon. The exhibit's life-size Lunar Lander even allows guests to step inside and glimpse the accommodations and controls, revealing a control panel more complicated than a single button labeled "Go to Moon." In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also keeps an active calendar full of special events; check the schedule for a complete list of programming.
At The Arthouse, mother-and-daughter artisans Heather and Janice Finney flatter artwork with expertly crafted frames and preserve cherished objects in customized memory boxes. More than 100 types of frames entice brush strokes to take up residence between their borders alongside a plethora of color, mat, and glass options. Enhance a 4" x 6" headshot of your child-star hamster with an 8" x 10" frame and a standard 2-inch mat ($69–$195), or buff up an artistic masterpiece in a 32" x 40" frame with a 2-inch mat ($278–$613). Heather and Janice’s specialty shadow boxes ($300+) display valuable photographs and mementos in personalized packages that protect them from light exposure and the enchanted curses of their original owners.
After health, the most important thing parents want for their children is a good education, and that means learning inside the classroom and out. But if learning becomes simply memorizing facts in a textbook, it quickly turns into a chore, leading kids to lives of mindless entertainment and ignoring the last 12 mystery ingredients on junk-food labels.
To combat this, The Children?s Museum in Oak Lawn introduces children to the arts, sciences, and industry with a series of engaging exhibits that uphold the standards set by the Illinois State Board of Education. These exhibits occupy every inch of their two-story facility, giving kids hands-on experience with concepts such as cause and effect, gravity, and motion. Painting and dress-up theaters cultivate healthy imaginations, and the infant tummy-time zone allows even the tiniest guests to flex their neck muscles and reach stuffed-animal friends. In addition to daily visitors, The Children?s Museum in Oak Lawn welcomes school field trips and family birthday parties.
Rotorzen instills students with the skills and savvy needed to command the open-air cockpit of a powered parachute. Certified instructors nurse knowledge over 60 minutes of pre-flight training, teaching aspiring daredevils how to handle instrumentation and sneak up on cirrus clouds from behind. Students next take to the skies for 30 minutes of turbine-charged cruising as they skim over and sail through the air above the Lansing Municipal Airport. Flight lessons depend upon wind conditions and are offered Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, Saturday evenings, and Sunday mornings. While powered parachutes accommodate only one pilot at a time, individuals can bring along fellow flyers to join in on the acrobatic antics. All flight time can be applied toward FAA sport pilot certification and subsequent opportunities to tickle the moon into sneezing green cheese.