Over the past quarter century, Serpent Safari's indoor zoo has amassed a collection of rare reptiles that have appeared in publications such as National Geographic. Animals of impressive age, unusual coloring (such as an albino alligator), and Guinness World Record-holding weight have all called the Safari their home. Originally founded as a reptile adoption and education center, the Safari now runs guided tours and birthday parties that usher children through the world of scaly, cold-blooded creatures known as bankers into the diverse realm of reptiles. Following the tours, patrons can partake in photo opportunities with giant snakes, or take home a friend from the pet store.
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.
Eric and Markay Suevel have run the eponymous Suevel Studios—a full-service glass studio that creates custom pieces and hosts classes—for more than 30 years. Both proprietors have practiced the art for decades, but their partnership marries two distinct approaches. Eric learned the craft at a young age from his uncle, and Markay possesses a liturgical perspective as an ordained minister with a master’s in divinity. They cut and fuse alongside a team of worldly and learned glassworkers, all of whom bring their own specific expertise to the table, whether doing restoration work or mosaics. The studio's stained-glass work lights up churches, homes, and restaurants as well as their students’ faces after they complete one of 25 classes. There, apprentices acquire the skills required to decorate household windows or liven up bland, translucent reading glasses.
Thrown Elements Pottery encapsulates the joys of sculpting and painting pots in energetic classes and drop-in activities. Drop-in paint-your-own pottery sessions allow amateur artists to decorate pottery on their own schedule either at the studio or at home ($9 a day for adults plus the cost of the piece painted). Choose a pre-fired piece of dinnerware ($8–$18) and adorn it with rainbow stripes or make a creature ($11–$18) come to life using only a paintbrush and a bolt of lightning. Specialty pieces may vary in price outside of average price ranges listed.
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.