When we are looking for fun things to do with the kids on a rainy or cold day in central Illinois, one of the first places my 3 year old thinks of is the Illinois State Museum. Located just south of the capitol building, the museum is in the heart Springfield with many nearby sites to see.
The museum is perfect for any age. My 18 month old and 3 year old have a blast exploring, but I also know older couples who like to browse the museum from time to time. I remember visiting the museum when I was a child myself so it is great being able to create similar memories with my own children.
While the museum seems to maintain a steady flow of visitors, it has never been “busy” when we have visited. I feel comfortable letting the boys out of the stroller to check out everything as we walk through. Whether it is buttons to push, animals to admire, or a bird’s nest to sit in, there is plenty to keep them entertained and busy rather than wanting to run off and find the nearest exit.
The first floor exhibits include wild life that have roamed in Illinois, as well as information and scenes of what it may have been like during the tropical sea period millions of years ago. You will find bears, buffalo, and small animals…and a huge mammoth! There are even hands-on displays and videos to give more information and take your child’s learning to a whole new level.
The second floor is one that we usually skip since my boys are young so I don’t have any photos to share (however you can view some on the museum website). On this floor is the “Peoples of the Past” exhibit. It displays life-size Native American mannequins that are doing every-day activities from many years ago. There is also artwork and household artifacts found on this floor.
Our favorite part of the museum is the basement! Kind of sounds eery though, right – the basement of a museum. Nope – it’s actually pretty awesome! The Mary Ann MacLean Play Museum is located here and my kids could spend hours playing. There’s just so much for them to do! The first thing they do is climb up in the jeep and pretend they are driving (and push every button available of course.) Then they head over and grab an explorer vest, hat, shovel, and dusting broom and head over to the fossil area to uncover imitation fossils. After that, Alex and Evan crawl through the cave and explore the rocks. Since they still have loads of energy, off they go to the doll house and barn where there are loads of fun things to play with! Little wooden furniture, people, animals…it’s so much fun and brings out their imagination!
Once they settle down, we head over to the magnetic board where my 3 year old practices spelling simple words. Kids can dress up, practice putting together the soft “bones” of a baby mastodon, look at artifacts, and so much more. Our favorite relaxing place before we leave is the library. In the library are books for all ages and fun cubbies to sit in and read.
My toddlers love going to the Illinois State Museum and I know they’ll love it for years to come! With each visit, activities will take on more meaning and they’ll learn something new. And it’s fairly easy on the wallet!
502 South Spring Street
Monday – Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Play Museum Hours:
Monday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.