Fun places to take your family in northern Illinois

Fun Places to Take Your Family in Northern Illinois

My family recently relocated from central Illinois to northern Illinois so we have had a blast searching down new and fun places to take the kids.  We’ve found an abundance of state parks and museums and I can’t wait to share some of our experiences with you! 

Rockford/Stateline Area 

  • Rock Cut State Park
    • canoeing on Pierce lake
    • Olsen beach swimming in summer
    • hiking trails
    • recreational opportunities
    • great place for fall family photos
  • Discovery Center Museum
    • children’s museum with large outdoor play place
    • water tables, dress up / pretend areas
    • several interactive educational exhibits, events
    • membership available (totally worth it if you ask me!)
  • Burpee Museum
    • award winning exhibits including a young t-rex skeleton
    • 4 floors of exhibits
    • admission varies by age
  • Anderson Japanese Gardens
    • beautiful gardens to visit with the family
    • evening and weekend events
    • closes for winter
    • donation days
  • Nicholas Conservatory
    • third largest conservatory in Illinois
    • sits next to the Rock River
    • 11,000 square foot plant exhibition
    • tickets available online or at the door
  • The Pottery Lounge
    • located in CherryVale Mall
    • paint pottery pieces or canvases in store (paint and cleanup included in price of piece!)
    • in store parties available
  • Carlson Ice Arena
    • skating and hockey
    • public skate
  • Sapora Playworld
    • indoor play structure for ages 5-12
    • smaller structure for ages 4 and under
    • admission fee varies by day/age, discount days
  • Magic Waters Waterpark
    • water slides, wave pool, lazy river, and more
    • area for ages 6 and under
    • cabana rental available
  • Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
    • year round garden
    • handicap accessible path
    • snow shoeing and cross country skiing in winter
    • butterfly garden in the summer
    • admission fee varies by age
  • Belvidere Parks
    • this smaller town near Rockford has some beautiful parks along the Kishwaukee River that I recommend checking out
  • Byron Forest Preserve
    • hiking, sledding, and star gazing are among the options you have in this quiet forest preserve, just outside of Byron
  • Parks along the Kishwaukee River
    • head south of Rockford and you will find an abundance of parks and nature preserves just off of the Kishwaukee River
  • See more (including event calendars) at Go Rockford

 

Oregon Area

  • Blackhawk Statue
    • located in Lowden State Park, you will find the iconic Blackhawk Statue.  This statue is impressive with its size and serves as a great family trip.  There are nearby hiking areas as it overlooks the river. 
  • Lowden State Park
    • Enjoy scenic views of the Rock River from the Blackhawk Statue or hike the four mile trail!  Campsites are also available. 
  • White Pines Forest State Park
    • Lodge in one of the cute little cabins at White Pines Inn and check out the teepee on the grounds.  Enjoy wildlife watching along one of the park’s two steams, or hike one of the seven hiking trails. 
  • Castle Rock state park
    • A beautiful place to practice photography, Castle Rock State Park is also a fantastic place to take your family on a hike or enjoy the serene scenery.  The views are amazing! 

 

Chicago Area

  • Shedd Aquarium
    • indoor aquarium with 32,000 aquatic animals
    • changing special exhibit (your visit will always have something new!)
    • ticket prices vary, membership available, EBT cardholders receive free admission
  • The Field Museum of Natural History
    • one of the largest natural history museums in the world
    • 65,000 exhibits including temporary traveling exhibits
    • tickets available online and at the door, $3 admission via Museums for All (EBT) program
  • Museum of Science and Industry
    • over 2,000 exhibits in 75 major halls
    • 3,500 foot fall model railroad
    • domed space theater
    • relics from the Titanic
    • tickets available online and at the door, limited tickets for free via Museums for All (EBT/WIC cards)
  • Adler Planetarium
    • three full size theaters
    • space and science exhibitions
    • antique collections
    • Doane observatory
    • tickets available online and at the door, basic pass available for those with EBT or WIC cards through Museums for All Program
  • Navy Pier
    • landmark with 50 acres of attractions including outdoor Ferris wheel, restaurants, cruises, IMAX theater, park, and more
  • Millennium Park
    • outdoor ice rink (winter)
    • outdoor art and theater
    • famous “Bean” sculpture
  • The Skydeck
    • located in the Willis tower (formerly known as the Sears tower)
    • glass viewing area on the 103rd floor with glass floor
    • open all days of the year
    • tickets available

 

Schaumberg

  • Woodfield Mall
    • LEGO store
    • fun eateries including Dave & Busters and the Rainforest Café
  • FireZone
    • anything and everything firefighters…just for kids!
    • check the activity calendar for “drop in” times as some times are reserved for events
    • admission for children (1 adult free per child)
  • LEGOLAND Discovery Center
    • play zones
    • 4D cinema
    • rides
    • tickets available online and at door, discounts for homeschool weeks
  • Pirates Cove Children’s Theme Park
    • open June – August
    • 18th century pirate ship you can climb aboard
    • children’s paddle boats
    • Castle playground
    • rock climbing
    • admission fee for ages 1-9, adults are always free

 

Bloomington-Normal

While this is more “central” than northern Illinois, I wanted to include Bloomington-Normal because there are some fantastic places to visit here.  Maybe you’ll pass through the area on your way to or from northern IL, or maybe you will just want to take a day trip to check out these places.  Regardless, I couldn’t leave them off the list. 

  • Discovery Museum
    • three floors of hands on exhibits for toddlers through preteens
    • paint wall (just washes away when you are done!)
    • Ag area, water table, and more
    • admission for ages 7 and up, works together with membership of some other museums
  • Grady’s Family Fun Park
    • 18 hole mini golf, go karts, kiddie rides, batting cages, adult/big kid rides and more
    • price varies depending on activity, wristbands available
  • Pepsi Ice Center
    • hockey and ice skating classes, free skate
  • Miller Park Zoo
    • wide variety of animals including wolves, reindeer, Sumatran tiger, and river otters
  • Upper Limits Rock Climbing Facility
    • 20,000 feet of climbing space indoor and outdoor
    • 110 feet tall routes
    • Classes, parties, membership, and day passes available

 

Other activities and places to visit in northern Illinois

 

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