Fun and Learnin’ at the SciTech Hands On Museum

My son has – and probably always will – love science. And I’m not talking an it’s-cool-to-do-experiments kind of love, I’m talking more of an I’m-totally-obsessed-and-don’t-want-to-do-anything-else kind of love/obsession. I can almost guarantee (unless you’re kinda geeky too) that he can tell you more about certain scientific subjects than you have ever cared to know. I’m amazed by the kid every day.

So when I saw that there’s a museum in Illinois, located less than an hour from my house, called the SciTech Hands On Museum, I knew I totally had to take him. In fact, I’m surprised that I hadn’t taken him sooner. This place is totally up his alley.

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What I liked straight from the get-go, was the price. Admission is only $8 for anyone over 4. That’s a bargain for a museum in Illinois! Kids three and under are free.

The museum itself is a lot larger than I thought it was too. Two floors on the main levels, and then a smaller exhibit area in the basement. I thought it was going to be a small, local museum, but for the $8 you pay in admission, you get so much for your money.

With over 150 interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) exhibits, the SciTech Hands On Museum inspires education and imagination at every turn. One of the exhibits we spent the most time at was the KidSpace area.

SciTech KidSpace

Kids can explore their inner engineer and use their imaginations to build with huge foam blocks. A house? Warehouse? Super cool special agent spy headquarters? Sure! Whatever they want!

SciTech KidSpace Building

Another one of our favorite exhibits was the bubble play area. I mean, duh, right? What kid doesn’t like to surround themselves in a big ol’ bubble?

SciTech Bubble

There are exhibits at the SciTech Hands On Museum to satisfy any science explorer. So what are you waiting for? Grab the kids and GO!

The SciTech Hands On Museum is located at 18 West Benton Street in Aurora, IL. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays.

SciTech Second Floor Exhibits

Exhibits on the second floor.

SciTech Hand Prints

Hand prints!

SciTech Motors

Hamill Family Wild Encounters at Brookfield Zoo

A visit to Brookfield Zoo is a must if you are visiting the Chicago area, but this year there’s an added incentive to check out this world-class zoo – Hamill Family Wild Encounters! This new, permanent exhibit officially opened up last week, and it replaces the old children’s zoo that closed a few years ago to make way for this fabulous new experience.

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Christopher Family Plaza

The first thing you’ll see when you walk in the all-new Hamill Family Wild Encounters is the Christopher Family Plaza, the central focal point of the exhibit, which features three captivating whimsical kinesthetic sculptures. The one-of-a-kind moving pieces of art, which range from 10 to 14 feet high, are made of metal and brilliant shapes of glass that spin and rotate with the slightest breeze.

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The rest of the exhibit features up-close encounters and multisensory experiences, where guests of all ages will have the opportunity to interact with Brookfield Zoo’s animal ambassadors and, inspired to action, become active conservationists.

The Plaza is also a place where guests can gather to meet Brookfield Zoo’s animal ambassadors, where they introduce a variety of animals to the zoo’s guests. While we visited, we met a tamandua – a small anteater.

Wild Encounters_Animal Ambassadors

GOATS

The goat habitat features 25 to 30 Nigerian dwarf goats, and guests have the opportunity to get close with the goats by petting, feeding, and brushing them. Not to worry parents – there are plenty of hand sanitizing stations right outside the exhibit.

Wild Encounters_Goats

LLAMAS and ALPACAS

The llamas and alpacas can not be pet, however, they interact with guests throughout the day during walks and grooming demonstrations. And they sit around being cute, of course.

Wild Encounters_Alpacas

BENNETT’S WALLABIES and EMUS

A walk-in wallaby yard houses more than 20 Bennett’s wallabies. Guests of all ages have the chance to connect with these Australian marsupials, along with emus, the second largest flightless bird in the world. It was interesting to see how fearless the wallabies were among the guests. Hopping throughout the enclosure, it was like we weren’t even there. My son loved it!

Wild Encounters_Wallabies

RED PANDAS

The red panda habitat, although not one where you can interact with the animals, still gets you up-close to these gorgeous animals. The exhibit features two female pandas and a man-made bonsai tree, which measures 13 feet tall and 35 feet wide, has many nooks and crannies for animal care staff to place food items. Plus, they’re just really pretty to look at.

Wild Encounters_Red Panda

PARAKEET AVIARY

This was, by far, our favorite part of the exhibit. My son could have spent hours here – and we nearly did! Featuring more than 700 parakeets, this is one of the largest indoor parakeet aviaries in North America. Seed sticks are available for purchase to allow guests opportunities to feed birds throughout the day. Best part of the day! A large area with hand wash stations and hand sanitizers are located at the exit.

Wild Encounters_Parakeets

One of the things that really impressed me about the Hamill Family Wild Encounters exhibit (aside from all the animal interactions, of course) was the number of educational opportunities throughout – giving parents the knowledge to teach their kids more about the animals they saw.

Wild Encounters_Education

Admission to Hamill Family Wild Encounters is $5 for adults and $3 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are admitted free (Brookfield Zoo members pay half price).

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Get Your Bounce On at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton, IL

Bouncing off the walls…seems like kids could, literally, do this all day.  My son could easily spend an entire day bouncing on inflatables.  I have no idea how those tiny little legs don’t give out from bouncing around, but they don’t and my boy loves it.  Monkey Joe’s is one of our go-to spots when my son needs to let out a little bit of pent-up energy.  We enjoy Monkey Joe’s so much, we also visited the Crystal Lake location.

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Monkey Joe’s is just one of those places where, as a parent of an active child, you just can’t go wrong.  Kids jump from attraction to attraction, looking for the thrill of the bounce.  And Monkey Joe’s definitely delivers the thrill.

Monkey Joes_Slide

The Wheaton location is set-up much like the Crystal Lake Monkey Joe’s.  When you walk in, the party rooms and tables/chairs are in front of the wide-open area where all the inflatables are.  There’s a Mini Monkey Zone for younger kids too.

Monkey Joes_Overview

The biggest draw at this location for my pirate-loving boy was the huge pirate ship inflatable.

Monkey Joe's_Pirate Ship

I enjoyed the comfy chairs and big TV’s in the parents area.

Monkey Joes_Parents Area

There’s also a nice arcade area when the kids need a break from all the bouncing around.

Monkey Joes_Arcade

My only gripe with this Monkey Joe’s was the number of broken attractions when I was there. Granted, I’m sure this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but we were bummed seeing all the deflated ones on the ground.

Monkey Joe's_Deflated

My son didn’t seem to notice (or care) that a few of the attractions were down.  He was having way too much fun at Monkey Joe’s in Wheaton with all the other amazing inflatables.

Monkey Joes_Castle Climb

Monkey Joe’s is located at 286 E Geneva Road in Wheaton.  They are open M-Th 10am-5pm; F-Sa 10am-8pm; and Su 11am-6pm.  Admission is $9.99 3 and up; $5.00 2 and under (if playing).  Adults are free.

Where do your kids like to bounce around?

Family Eats: Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria in St. Charles

This weekend we celebrated my husband’s birthday.  It kinda stinks to have a birthday in the first month of the year – the month where you really try to adhere to your New Year’s resolutions.  You try to save money, cut costs, eat better, blah, blah, blah.  Well for the hubby’s b-day this year, we decided to abandon all of our resolutions and headed out for family pizza night! Charlie Fox's Pizzeria Logo_St Charles_IL It’s hard for us to find a spot we all love – well, with a picky toddler and all – and pizza is usually a safe bet.  I wanted to try a new spot and saw that Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria has been voted “Best Pizza in Kane County”  for like, years and years running.  How had I never heard of this place?!?!

Charlie Fox's Pizzeria_St Charles_IL

We started off with a Charlie Fox specialty, Charlie Chips. Kettle chips covered with bacon and mozzarella cheese and served with ranch dressing and jalapeños on the side.  I had never had anything like that before.  Tons of cheese over crispy chips.  Very heavy…and very good!

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Charlie Chips_St Charles_IL

The birthday boy also got his pick with the Carnivore specialty pizza.  It seemed like there were pounds and pounds worth of sausage, pepperoni, ground beef, ham & bacon on a single pie.  Way too much meat for my taste, but it was my hubby’s pick and he loved it.  The crust was fantastic though!  I’m a Chicago girl, through and through, and I know my pizza.  And I’m picky about it too.  Charlie Fox’s thin crust was nice and crispy and perfectly delicious.

Charlie Fox's Carnivore Pizza_St Charles_IL

A nice touch to entertain families while they wait?  Trivial Pursuit cards!  I loved this game growing up and it was fun to take turns testing the family’s (mostly useless) knowledge with these cards.

Charlie Fox's Pizza_Trivial Pursuit Cards_St Charles_IL

The one thing I would change about my visit though, was the service.  I hate to knock a good place, but we weren’t greeted when we walked in and waited around for a few minutes (after reading the “Please wait to be seated” sign).  There were two employees at the registers checking out a single take-out customer, and we had to approach them to ask if we would be seated.  And it didn’t get better as the evening went on, unfortunately.  Lots of little things. While I was disappointed with the service at Charlie Fox’s Pizzeria, they weren’t voted Best Pizza in Fox Valley for nothing.  It’s a great spot for the whole family, and the food doesn’t disappoint! Bon appetit! signature

Chicago, IL: The Field Museum #ChicagoWorldsFair


The Field Museum, located in the heart of Chicago’s Museum Campus, has been a top tourist attraction in the city for many years and is a must see if you plan on visiting the city.  Filled with rich, cultural artifacts from around the world, The Field Museum offers a fun and educational way for all ages to spend the day in Chicago.

Field Museum Chicago

The Field Museum originally started as an extension of the 1893 World’s Fair as a way to commemorate the event, and they recently unveiled a new temporary exhibit titled Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair.  The exhibit highlights some of the artifacts that were displayed at the World’s Fair, and many that haven’t been seen since!

Field Museum Worlds Fair Entrance

At this exciting new exhibit, visitors can expect to see more than 200 artifacts and specimens from every corner of the Fair’s grounds—from the Midway villages to a nautical exhibit moored in Fair’s pond. Some exhibit highlights include:

  • Fair memorabilia, such as one of the financial ledgers and tickets
  • Peruvian mummies, and 3D printed replicas of figurines found inside one of the mummy bundles
  • Instruments from the gamelan played at the Javanese village on the Fair’s Midway
  • Large-scale murals and atmospheric projections that will take visitors into the Fair’s grounds.

An innovative feature of the Wonders of the World’s Fair is the use of a brand-new The Field Museum Tours mobile app that’s loaded with exclusive content, experiences and curated tours – everything you need to get a deeper understanding of the objects in the museum’s collection.

Field Museum App

Unfortunately, at the time of my visit the app had only been released for a day or two and the museum’s employees didn’t have enough information to help me navigate a tour on the app.  I was, however, able to view additional information on a Glass Sea Cucumber that was part of the Wonders of the World’s Fair Exhibit.  Download The Field Museum Tours app to check it out for yourself!

For those of you traveling to the museum with children, the Wonders of the World’s Fair exhibit also has an interactive music table that kids will love.  The giant touch screen allows kids to drag an instrument to their section and tap the screen to play.  The table can accommodate up to six instruments playing at the same time and it’s guaranteed to hold your child’s attention!

Field Museum Worlds Fair Instruments

Overall, the Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair exhibit proved to be both interesting and entertaining.  If you plan to visit The Field Museum, you will have to purchase a museum Discovery Pass to enter the World’s Fair exhibit.  The Discovery Pass grants you general museum admission, along with entrance to one special exhibition or 3-D film.  Discovery Pass prices are $23 for adults, $16 for children (3-11), and $19 for students and seniors (65+). Chicago residents may receive an additional discount ($20 ticket price for adults) by showing ID, or proof of residency.

The Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair exhibit runs through September 7, 2014 so be sure to check it out before it’s gone!

I was selected for this opportunity by Clever Girls Collective, however all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Schaumburg, IL: LEGOLAND Discovery Center

The other day my husband and I took our son to Toys R Us to look around.  Every now and then we take him in for a little “treat”.  I already know what you’re thinking and yes, we spoil him…a little bit.  Anyhow, I was astonished to see the multitude of LEGO products available.  There were 6 aisles dedicated to the little building blocks and a giant display right at the front of the store.  Huge…excessive…and I couldn’t believe it!  I had no idea that LEGOs were such a big deal!

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Well, since my youngest has discovered his affection for all things LEGO, we recently visited the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg to see if it was worth the hype.  I have always passed by the giant LEGO giraffe that greets you at the door and wondered what it was like inside…

LEGOLAND Schaumburg Exterior

You wanna know what it was really like inside???   CROWDED!

LEGOLAND Schaumburg Line

We visited on a Saturday morning and I almost wanted to turn around and head home after seeing this line.  The long line was bad enough, and I could’ve dealt with that, but as you can see above there are 2 different admission lines – one for walk up tickets and the other for pre-paid (which you don’t see immediately when you get in the back of the long line) and both lines were moving at a snail’s pace.  Seriously.  Had it been closer to my son’s naptime he would’ve been super-cranky and ready to go.  Luckily for us, though, he stood still the whole time and we were able to wait (almost 30 minutes if you can believe it!).  There has got to be a more efficient way to get folks in the door.  At least my son had the chance to get acquainted with Sponge Bob while we waited.

LEGOLAND Schaumburg Sponge Bob

Ok, so the wait time stunk, but I figured that once we got inside it would get better.  Right?

I definitely loved the MINILAND Chicago that features many of the most famous Chicago landmarks – all made with millions of LEGOS!  Recognize a few below?

MINILAND Chicago

The Jungle Expedition attraction was up next and there were tons of jungle animals like tigers, monkeys and hippos made with LEGOS – and even a few insects too!

LEGOLAND Schaumburg Jungle

I think the tiger spooked him a bit!

We also rode the Kingdom Quest ride, a slow ride where you have the opportunity to shoot at spiders to try and get the highest score.  I was surprised that my son wasn’t scared at all, even though it was a pretty dark ride.  We also watched a 3D movie and took a “tour” of a mini LEGO factory (an attraction that was a little too advanced for my little guy).

One of the highlights, though, was the small LEGO Duplo table area.  My son loves LEGO Duplo and we spent quite a bit of time there while he constructed his tower.  I was a little disappointed that the area wasn’t bigger, though.  One table with LEGO Duplo blocks isn’t enough to be named an attraction area on its own.

LEGOLAND Schaumburg Duplo

There were also a few rides and a playground area near the Duplo table and Café, although it was very crowded on a Saturday and we didn’t want to have to wait in yet another line. Sad smile

It was pretty cool, though, to meet LEGOMAN!

LEGOLAND Schaumburg LEGOMAN

Unfortunately for me, LEGOLAND could probably pass as a museum.  There are tons of really cool displays made entirely of LEGOS, but just not a whole lot for my toddler to do.  I would definitely take older kids to LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, but wish I would’ve waited a few years before taking my toddler.

If you decide to make the trip to LEGOLAND Discovery center, you should know that admission is a little pricey ($20/pp), but my readers can get a FREE Child Admission with Full Paid $20 Adult Admission!  That’s a pretty significant savings!

Have you ever been to LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, IL?  If so, what did you think?

FREE Admission to Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL

Discovery Center Logo

What is treasure?  How do people hunt for treasure?  What do YOU treasure?

treasure

The science, technology, history, and thrill of treasure hunting are explored in the fantastic traveling exhibition Treasure! The Hunt Has Just Begun.  This joint project of Burpee Museum of Natural History and Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL features 5,000 square feet of artifacts, hands-on activities, videos, biographies, and tales from around the world.

The traveling exhibition opens May 25 and runs through September 2.

treasure4

Delve into the technology employed by treasure hunters and focus on the people and personalities lured by the promise of prosperity.  Be enticed by shipwreck and treasure site artifacts, and learn to use the tools you’d need to find a fortune.  Dig for treasure and pan for gold.  Operate a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) in a tank of water.  Use a metal detector.  Use maps, compasses and clues to locate treasure.  Learn how to geocache.  You can even try your hand at cracking a safe!

Treasure! can be uncovered in the Woodward Exhibit Hall. Admission: $2 for Members; $4 for Public + general Museum admission of $8/person. Parking is free.

Make sure to check out Discovery Center Museum on Facebook!

My readers can get FREE admission to Discovery Center Museum with one paid general admission!

FREE Admission to LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, IL

Disclosure: In exchange for this post, my family will receive complimentary admission to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center.

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Visit LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, IL (Chicago) and it’s like you’ve just jumped into the world’s biggest box of LEGO bricks! With over 3 million LEGO bricks, rides and a 4D movie theatre all under one roof, what will you discover?

Legoland Discovery Center

My son is almost 3 and LEGOLAND’s DUPLO Village would be perfect for him (those are the larger LEGO blocks).

If you plan to visit, my readers can get a FREE Child Admission with Full Paid $20 Adult Admission!

Enjoy…and let me know how you like it!

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