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.
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.
It was the late 1970s, decades after the Holocaust, but neo-Nazis hadn’t disappeared: they threatened to march in Skokie. Realizing the need to combat this kind of intolerance with education, Chicago-area survivors and their supporters banded together to create the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois. This initiative evolved into the museum which was built to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, educate visitors, and explore the human intolerance that continues to lead to genocide today.
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.
It started in 1977, with a donation by philanthropists John Mayo and Betty Seabury Mitchell of approximately 3,000 artifacts to found the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian. Since its inception, the museum has sought to broaden the public's understanding of the continent's cultural diversity of American Indian and First Nation peoples. To that end, it showcases the historical and artistic achievements of the Native American and First Nations peoples of the present-day United States and Canada.
Donations over the decades have helped swell the meticulously preserved permanent collection to more than 10,000 objects. Consisting of pieces from tribes throughout the Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and Arctic regions of North America, the collection has a broad-based appeal for researchers, knowledge-hungry visitors, and the culturally curious. Baskets, pottery, clothing, paintings, beadwork, carvings, and archaeological and ethnographic artifacts dating from Paleo-Indian times to the present fill the display cases. Additionally, the museum features special areas where guests can touch and handle Native-made tools and raw materials?including snakeskins, birch bark, and turquoise?that the Native American and First Nations peoples historically would have used in everyday life. Temporary exhibits explore specific themes, such as the cultural identity of mixed race Native peoples and the traditions of storytelling in Native culture.
The Elgin History Museum seeks to preserve and share the history of the city of Elgin. Boasting Greek Revival-style architecture, the first floor exhibits show how Elgin developed form the 1830's to through the 1970's. Its museum focuses on the town's industry, its architecture, and, most importantly, its citizens. The second floor's thematic exhibits cover the world-renowned Elgin National Watch Factory, which employed generations of residents, and the Hiawatha Pageant, which was put on for 50 years to help preserve local Native American dances.
Size: five permanent exhibits, plus a handful of temporary exhibits
The Building: called Old Main, it was built in 1856 for the Elgin Academy prep school and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places
Eye Catcher: Check out a replica of Elgin's first cabin, built by the Gifford family, who are credited as the city's founders
Permanent Mainstay: Elgin Road Races, which chronicles the competitions held in town beginning over 100 years ago in the early days of auto racing
Don't Miss: Explore Elgin Architecture illuminates the city's many design styles, from settlers' cobblestone homes to Victorian architecture to bungalows
Hands-On Exhibit: Watch Your Pocket allows kids to build a pocket-watch prototype as if they were working on the assembly line at the watch factory
Pro Tip: through the Adventure Pass program, Illinois residents can use their library card for free admission to this museum and 16 others