Spring has Sprung! It’s the Perfect Time to Visit the Chicago Botanic Garden #ChicagoSpring

Chicago-Botanic-Garden-Family

I have been a life-long resident of the Chicago area, and can honestly say that my first visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden was two years ago – crazy right?!?! If you have ever been, you’ll know why waiting a lifetime to pay them a visit is just crazy talk. The most gorgeous plants, gardens, and flowers reside here and you’d be remiss not to get there as soon as you can.

Chicago-Botanic-Garden-Logo

These were some of my favorite flowers there:

Chicago-Botanic-Garden-Collage

But, aside from the gorgeous plants and flowers that you’d expect to see at a botanic garden, I was blown away at how kid-friendly the Chicago Botanic Garden was. The Enchanted Railroad Garden was a big hit for my entire family. My 4-year-old loved keeping an eye out for the train, while the adults enjoyed seeing so many miniature Chicago landmarks.

Chicago-Botanic-Garden-Enchanted-Railroad

We loved playing BINGO with the handout we picked up at the information desk. It was great to have my 4-year-old engaged throughout the day by looking for various items on the sheet.

But by far, our favorite part of the day was spent at the Children’s Growing Garden. There are so many activities that are explained at a child’s level, and my son did not want to leave. There was a kid’s treasure hunt, books, puzzles, toys, teaching kids about gardening and even spray bottles for the kids to water the plants themselves. Great fun and a valuable learning experience for kids.

Chicago-Botanic-Childrens-Garden

They also have a lot of classes and events geared towards kids and families. Check the schedule to see if there’s something that interests you. The Chicago Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, IL. Admission is free, but there is a $25 parking fee per car.

Have you visited a local botanic garden lately?

Disclosure: I did not receive any compensation for this post. This was simply a gorgeous family outing that I wanted to share.

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We Can’t Wait for DreamWorks Animation’s HOME

Every time my son sees the commercial for Dreamwork Animation’s Home, he cracks up. I can’t even tell you how many times he has said “Oh, no! My hands are in the air like I just do not care!” SO funny! Since my son has been to the movie theater before, he keeps asking to stop there to see this movie every time we pass by. It’s tough trying to tell a 4-year-old to wait till March 27th!

Home-Banner

Here’s a brand-new clip from the film. What do you think? Will you be at the theater on March 27th?

About the Film

When Oh, a lovable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human, and together they discover the true meaning of the word HOME.

Starring: Jim Parsons, Rihanna, Steve Martin, Jennifer Lopez

Directed by: Tim Johnson

Connect with Home

Follow DreamWorks Animation on Twitter
Like ‘HOME’ on Facebook
Visit the Official Website
Get to know The Boov’s at Meet the Boov!
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Kid-Friendly Shows at the Staerkel Planetarium in Champaign, IL #visitchampaign

My son is obsessed with our solar system.  He’s four now, but has been able to recite the planets (in order) since he was about 26 months old.  (Totally not a brag, but it is what it is. He is SO smart!) So, what better activity for my astronomer-in-training than a trip to the William M. Staerkel Planetarium?

Staerkel Planetarium-Kids

Photo By: Staerkel Planetarium Facebook

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit nervous to take him to a planetarium show because I wasn’t sure he’d be able to sit still through the whole thing.  I’ve never even taken him to the movies before so this would be our first “movie” experience together.  We had tickets to the “Santa’s Secret Star” show on a Saturday so I was banking on it being kid-friendly.  Thankfully, it was! (Please check show descriptions before visiting with young kids. Not all shows are recommended for children.)

Staerkel Planetarium-Seating

The Good:  The planetarium theater itself was beautiful.  Located on the Parkland College campus, the planetarium’s state-of-the-art digital projection system, operated by the (nicest) planetarium director, Dave Leake, proved to be breathtaking.  His storytelling held my son’s attention the entire time – and I’m sure seeing Santa up in the sky didn’t hurt either!

Staerkel Planetarium-Dave Leake

The Bad:  At the time of our visit, campus construction blocked the front entrance of the planetarium, making it a bit difficult to navigate our way inside. Construction should be 100% now so you shouldn’t have any issues driving and finding parking.

Overall:  We loved the kid-friendly show at the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, and would certainly return for another show!

Staerkel Planetarium-Planets

The Staerkel Planetarium is open August through May on Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:00 and 8:00 PM (barring college closure for holidays). A variety of show types are presented. Check the calendar to find out the current schedule of offerings. Tickets are $5 for adults and $4 for kids 2-12. Special discounts are available for double-header shows.(Pricing verified February 2015 – check the website for updated information.)

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Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

Have Fun Learning about Science at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in Champaign, IL

If you’ve read my blog for awhile, you’d know that my family loves to visit children’s museums. We’ve been to quite a few and always seek one out when we’re on vacation. In Illinois alone, we’ve been to the one in Oak Lawn, Rockford, Naperville, and Glenview. We hope to hit them all in the coming years too!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Exterior Signage

On our last trip to the Champaign-Urbana area, my entire family visited the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum and we had a good time.  We dropped by on a Sunday afternoon about 10 minutes before the museum officially opened at noon.  A birthday party was just wrapping up while we waited for opening time.   It’s obvious that the museum used to be a theater and we loved the architecture and some of the original details inside.  The museum isn’t very large, but it is situated on 2 levels with various exhibits that incorporate a fun way to learn about science.

The Good

My son had a great time at some of the exhibits at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum.  Some of his favorites were the train table (of course…it was so hard to pry him away from the train table), the water table (again, a favorite among many kids – but this table was different in that it had different sized plastic pieces that you could configure to control water flow), and a sand table with purple sand!

Orpheun Children's Science Museum-Train Table

Kids love the train table!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Water Table

Cool water table!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Purple Sand

Purple sand play was awesome!

My teenage daughter and I really enjoyed the Momentum Machine on the lower level.  A small spinning circle teaches angular momentum –  just like you see the figure skaters do on the ice.  You kick off with one leg, hold your leg out to the side, then slowly bring your leg back to your other leg.  You’ll start spinning faster and faster!  We were so dizzy but kept trying it out over and over again!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Momentum

During the summer months, the outdoor courtyard features a dinosaur dig area where kids can excavate dinosaur bones from the large sand pit. There were many opportunities at the museum to teach your kids a science lesson.  My son, while only a toddler, had lots of “Why?” questions for us about different exhibits – thank goodness my husband was there to answer many of his science-related questions.

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Vet Area

Vet area

The Bad

The museum was a tad bit on the small side, and we couldn’t get some of the exhibits on the second level to work – due to missing pieces and such. That didn’t deter us from trying everything though!

Overall

The Orpheum Children’s Science Museum is a great way to spend a few hours.  Children will benefit from the many science lessons found throughout the museum – and they’ll have tons of fun doing it!  Admission is only $5 per person (as of January 2015, please check website for details), so it’s an inexpensive educational outing for the kids!

Orpheum Children's Science Museum-Mirrors

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Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids #VisitIndy

This summer, I had the pleasure of visiting Indianapolis with my family.  Considering I live in the Chicago area – and it’s only a 3-hour drive from the Windy City – I’m surprised that I’ve never ventured to Indy before.  Little did I know that Indy had so much to offer families visiting the area.  From parks and museums to festivals and fantastic food, Indy has it all!  I broke it down to my family’s Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids – do you have a favorite spot that I’m missing?

Top 5 Things to Do in Indianapolis with Kids

5. Indianapolis Firefighter’s Museum

Firefighters Museum_Indy

This small museum is sure to please any fire truck enthusiast in your household.  The upstairs is designed like a real, working fire house and you’re introduced to everything from the beds the firefighter’s sleep in, to the uniforms that they wear, and the equipment they use.  Located in the trendy Mass Ave. Arts District, there’s plenty to see if you take a stroll afterwards.  Have some froyo right across the street at YoguLatte.  Their coconut mocha latte is delish!

4. Indianapolis Zoo

Indianapolis Zoo

The Indianapolis Zoo is a must-see in Indy.  Their new International Orangutan Exhibit was completed this summer, and a new aerial cable ride (not yet open when we visited, but check the park for current availability) will allow guests to view the animals like never before.  We saw orangutans climbing the structure and they are mesmerizing to watch.  The zoo’s Dolphin Adventure Pavilion is gorgeous too and their interactive dolphin show is very entertaining.

3. Rhythm! Discovery Center

Rhythm Discovery Center_Indy

My 3-year-old had a blast at the Rhythm! Discovery Center, and I’m not gonna lie – I totally did too!  We must’ve banged on every drum, shaken every tambourine, and played every xylophone in the place!  Probably our favorite parts of the museum were the sound-proof rooms that allowed you to play a real drum set and be as loud as you wanted to be – we felt like rock stars!  Handy Tip: Visit this museum late in the day.  We arrived about an hour and a half before closing and had the entire museum to ourselves.  I’m sure it’s very noisy (and migraine-inducing) at peak times.

2. Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum

Conner Prairie_Indy

Visiting the Conner Prairie Interactive History Museum was, by far, the highlight of our trip – for me at least.  We also had two teenagers with us, and they would undoubtedly say the same.  The historic aspect drew me in, but there’s so much for kids to experience here too.  For one, their indoor Discovery Station is designed for younger kids and allows plenty of room for free-play, exploring, crafting and climbing.  The Civil War exhibit even has an outdoor splash pad (open Memorial Day through Labor Day) and an indoor play area with a large climbing structure.  All that is really fun for kids, but it’s the people at Conner Prairie that really make this visit worthwhile.  They never break character, and you really feel like you’re living in the 1800’s.  I cannot say enough good things about this place – get there if you can!

1. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

Childrens Museum of Indianapolis

What visit to Indy with kids would be complete without a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis?  The almost 500,000-sf facility is the largest children’s museum in the world and is visited by more than 1.2 million people each year.  We love visiting children’s museums and I can honestly say that we experienced things here that we haven’t at any other children’s museum we’ve seen.  Where else can you let your imagination run wild and run a Chinese restaurant , slide down a long Great Wall of China slide, be transported to the land of dinosaurs, or create a colorful sculpture – all in one place?  Only at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

HOTEL BONUS: Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel

Marriott North Indianapolis_Room

Image courtesy of Marriott

Staying at the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel was a no-brainer for us.  With two teenagers in tow – that had NO interest in visiting some attractions with my preschooler – it was important to me to be located near a place that they would find interest in.  Thank goodness for Keystone at the Crossing, a shopping mall located within walking distance of the hotel!  The hotel itself was great too – friendly staff, clean rooms, and a nice swimming pool are all things I look for that will be sure to please my family, and the Indianapolis Marriott North Hotel did not disappoint.  Be aware, however, that this hotel is located about 25 minutes from the downtown area so plan your excursions accordingly.

GOOD EATS BONUS: Great Restaurants in Indy

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I honestly didn’t think I’d be overly-pleased with the food in Indy, but I’m so glad to say that I was wrong.  Breakfast at Café Patachou was one of the highlights of my dining experience with their fresh and healthy food (and fabulous coffee too!), dining outside at Iara’s Italian Restaurant with my whole family was fun – and their portion sizes were huge – we definitely did not leave hungry, Shapiro’s Delicatessen was a delicious surprise, and Arni’s Restaurant probably had the best pizza I’ve ever had – and I’m from Chicago so that’s saying a lot!  You won’t be disappointed with all the restaurant options in Indy!

As you can tell, we had a fabulous weekend in Indy – and I am confident that we will be back.  It would be impossible for me to list all the fun things to do with kids in Indy, and I feel like we just hit the tip of the iceberg on our weekend stay.  I wish we had planned on a weeklong visit – there’s still so much to see.

What about you – have you ever visited Indy?

For more information on the Indianapolis area, connect with Visit Indy!

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Disclosure: My family was invited to visit Indianapolis by the Indianapolis CVB, Visit Indy, and were provided with complimentary admission to many attractions and a hotel stay.  I was not compensated for this post.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions expressed are my own.

Making Memories at Brookfield Zoo #BZBloggers

I have been going to Brookfield Zoo ever since I was a kid.  I remember watching (& loving) the dolphin show, taking pictures in front of the fountain, watching the ducks splash around in the pond, and taking a ride on a motor safari.  Some of the best memories I have as a kid took place within the walls of the Brookfield Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo_Fountain

So believe me when I say that I am so thankful to be able to share these memories with my 3-year-old, and make some new ones as well.  My heart swells watching him take in the same dolphin shows and ride the same motor safari that I did as a kid.

Brookfield-Zoo-Lion-Statue

We usually visit Brookfield Zoo every year, but here’s a little taste of what we did on our last visit with cousins!  Spoiler:  The kids had a blast!

We were guests of Brookfield Zoo on our last visit, and they were nice enough to set-up a little Meet & Greet with some of the animals.  We got to pet an adorable wallaby.

Brookfield-Zoo-Wallaby

And watch a little tamandua (a member of the anteater species).  I’ll admit that I wanted to take this guy home in my purse.

Brookfield-Zoo-Tamandua

And watch an expert handle a hawk – and she was super-friendly too!

Brookfield-Zoo-Hawk

The rest of the day was spent doing all the kiddie activities the zoo has to offer.  We touched some stingrays at Stingray Bay.  They also sell feed (small fish) for an additional $2 to help you attract some stingrays.  They were more active than I’ve ever seen them!

Brookfield-Zoo-Stingray-Bay-Fountain

Brookfield-Zoo-Stingray-Bay-Touch

We watched an energetic dolphin show in Brookfield Zoo’s gorgeous arena.

Brookfield-Zoo-Dolphin-Arena

Brookfield-Zoo-Dolphin-Show

We even released some energy at the zoo’s playground.

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We spent most of our time this trip at the Hamill Family Play Zoo.

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The kids had fun setting up a pretend animal cage,…

Brookfield-Zoo-Play-Zoo-Cages

petting some more animals,…

Brookfield-Zoo-Kids-Petting

and even “earning their admission” by going behind the scenes in the kids exhibit.  I loved watching them pretend to be zoo keepers and how the Hamill Family Play Zoo allows kids to be “hands-on”.  It’s this kind of creativity that make the play zoo a fun, educational activity for young kids.

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My son’s favorite part of the Hamill Family Play Zoo was the Zoo Greenhouse.

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He loved watering the plants.

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And this one.

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Oh, this one too.

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Can’t forget this guy.

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Wait…still more.  I swear, I think he just might have gotten every single one while we were there!  It was adorable.

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Finally, the kids started to get tired so we spent the end of our day expending some more energy outside. The Hamill Family Play Zoo also has an amazing outdoor play area where you can climb a camel,…

Brookfield-Zoo-Camel-Climb

climb through a tunnel,…

Brookfield-Zoo-Tunnel

play in the sand, and so much more!

Brookfield-Zoo-Sand-Play

Brookfield Zoo is the ideal spot to spend the day with the kids in the Chicago area.  There are so many animals to see, you’re almost guaranteed to make a return trip!

General Information

Brookfield Zoo is located west of Chicago, approximately a 30 minute drive from the city at 8400 31st Street (1st Avenue and 31st Street) in Brookfield, IL.  General admission is $16.95 for adults, $11.65 for seniors 65 and over, and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 11.  Parking is $10.00.  The zoo is open 365 days a year.

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Disclosure:  My family received complimentary admission to Brookfield Zoo to facilitate this post. I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

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.

Monkey Joe's_Wheaton

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?

Cool Down at Millennium Park in Grand Rapids, MI #ExperienceGR

Millennium Park_Entrance

Millennium Park, just a short drive from downtown Grand Rapids, features a 6-acre beach on a lake; a large splash pad; a trail network for walking, running, or biking; a boat rental area (kayaks, canoes, row boats or paddle boats); playground areas; and picnic shelters.

Millennium Park_Playground Entrance

Cool tunnel entrance to one of the playgrounds.

Millennium Park_Playground

Climbing Playground for Older Kids

Entrance to the park and trails is free, but there is a separate admission charge ($4 for ages 16 and up, $2 for kids 3-15) to enter the beach area and splash pad. The beach area has locker rooms, changing areas, a concession stand and picnic tables. You can also pack a lunch to bring along to Millennium Park – perfect for families!

Millennium Park_Beach

I visited the park with my family – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom – and, truth be told, my toddler had never been to a beach prior to our visit to Millennium Park. I regret not thinking ahead and bringing along his sand pail from home, but he still enjoyed digging in the sand and walking in the water. He got a kick out of watching the tiny fish scatter when he walked through the water and I wish I had taken him to a beach sooner. My teen, of course, just wanted to lay out and catch some rays.

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We also visited the splash park where my son spent most of his time at the water table. There were numerous sprinklers, buckets, and sprayers at the splash pad, but he preferred to splash around at the table. I liked that there were plenty of beach chairs around the perimeter of the splash pad for the adults to sit and watch their kids play, and an employee guarded the entrance to prohibit kids from wandering away.

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Bottom line, we enjoyed our time at Millennium Park, a relaxing oasis located just minutes from the heart of Grand Rapids. We’ll definitely be back the next time we’re in town – and next time we’ll be sure to remember the sand pail!

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to Millennium Park in order to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100 % my own.

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This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

There’s Lots to Do at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, MI #ExperienceGR

One of the biggest surprises for my family during our trip to Grand Rapids was the John Ball Zoo. We had no idea we’d have such a great time, and even see some animals we’d never seen before! My family – my husband and I, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom – spent about 3 hours at the zoo, and only wish we had more time to explore more.

John Ball Zoo_ExperienceGR

The John Ball Zoo, just a short drive away from the downtown area of Grand Rapids, is a smaller zoo with a surprising number of animal exhibits. Admission to the zoo in the summer is $8.50 for ages 14 and up, and $6.50 for ages 3-13 (admission prices vary during the off-peak season). There are a number of concession stands throughout the zoo, as well as picnic table areas.

One of the neat features of the zoo is the Idema Funicular, a train-like vehicle that can take you to the highest point of the zoo (or back down near the zoo entrance). It’s a great way to quickly move from one side of the zoo to another, although you won’t see any animals on the ride. There is an extra charge of $3 per person for a one-way ride.

Photo courtesy of John Ball Zoo on Facebook

Another unique feature of the John Ball Zoo is the number of “adventure” opportunities offered. You can take off on a zip line ride ($6 per person), navigate a ropes course ($6 per person), ride a camel ($5 per person), and touch some stingrays and sharks in a small pool ($1 per person). I really wanted to try the zip line (an item on my bucket list), but both my husband and teen had no intention of trying it with me.

Photo courtesy of John Ball Zoo on Facebook

Some of the exhibits here seemed too close together to me, but that didn’t take away from our experience at all. One of our favorite exhibits included the Pelican Pier, located near the entrance of the zoo. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pelican in real-life, and I was mesmerized by these beautiful birds.

John Ball Zoo_Pelican

My toddler loved the Aquarium, where he got to play with a penguin. It was so cute – the penguin would follow him from one side of the tank and back. He got a kick out of his interaction with the penguin, and we all did too!

John Ball Zoo_Penguin

Red’s Hobby Farm, the children’s zoo at John Ball, was another family favorite. Both of my kids got to pet some sheep and goats!

John Ball Zoo_Children's Zoo

We also enjoyed watching a zoo keeper interact with a grizzly bear, watching a mountain lion pace back and forth in his habitat, and watching the monkeys playfully interact with each other.

John Ball Zoo_Grizzly Bear

John Ball Zoo_Mountain Lion

John Ball Zoo_Monkeys

Overall, I’d say that my family would definitely revisit the John Ball Zoo the next time we’re in Grand Rapids. A new tiger exhibit, set to resemble their natural habitat, should be completed in 2014 and it’s a great reason to bring my family back next year!

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to the John Ball Zoo in order to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100 % my own.

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This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

Unexpected Surprises Around Every Corner at the Grand Rapids Public Museum #ExperienceGR

 

GR Public Museum_Logo

On our last trip to Grand Rapids, my family visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum.  Honestly, we had no idea what to expect from a “public” museum. Public documents?  Records?  We were clueless.  But after doing a little research, I knew that everyone in my family would find something to love at the museum.

GR Public Museum

We stayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, and the Public Museum was located just across the street. Admission at the museum is $8 for adults and $3 for kids 3-18. The museum also features other, temporary exhibits for an additional charge. You will also pay an additional admission for a carousel ride ($1), and the planetarium ($3).  There is a café on property that is generally open during lunch hours (from 10am – 3pm). The museum features 3 levels, all accessible via elevator.

GR Public Museum_Interior

Bonus: The museum also has an interactive QR Code feature where guests with smart phones can scan QR Codes found throughout the museum to learn some additional information about the object or image on display. Very cool!

GR Public Museum_QR Codes

My toddler found something he loved almost immediately after stepping foot in the museum…letters! The Collecting A to Z exhibit features an “I Spy” discovery hunt where you can look for things in the museum’s collection that start with letters of the alphabet. “A”, for example, is for Automobiles and “Z” is for Zoology. Near the entrance to the museum is a beautiful display with all the letters of the alphabet, and my toddler was immediately drawn to it. He enjoyed finding letters all over the museum and it was a great way for him to get involved – at every letter, he would ask us what it stood for. He learned so much during our visit!

GR Public Museum_Alphabet

The museum also has GIANT games to play on the first level. My daughter and I had a pretty competitive game of Connect 4 going on, and there was a huge chess set, bowling, ring toss, and other fun games for the family to play together.

GR Public Museum_Games

Some of the other exhibits my family enjoyed included the Streets of Old Grand Rapids (I liked the old bicycle with the HUGE wheel)…

GR Public Museum_Bicycle

the Planetarium (my son LOVES the solar system and can probably tell you more about it than I can)…

GR Public Museum_Planetarium

the Habitats exhibit (a favorite for my husband and my mom)…

GR Public Museum_Habitat

and the Carousel.

GR Public Museum_Carousel

My daughter and I rode the carousel like a bunch of kids and had a fun time. My daughter also liked the big ship simulator where you turn a huge ship’s wheel to navigate the ship and collect supplies to reach your final destination. It was a fun & interactive game and we got a bit of help from one of the museum’s employees.

GR Public Museum_Big Ship Simulator

Overall, we enjoyed our experience at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. The vast variety of exhibits are sure to keep everyone entertained. If you’re planning a visit, block out at least 2-3 hours. There is so much to see here and everyone in the family will learn something new, I’m sure!

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to the Grand Rapids Public Museum to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

The inside scoop on everyday travel with kids.

This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

Get Your Classic Cars Fix at the Volo Auto Museum!

Cars have never exactly been my thing.  I can’t see headlights in the distance and say, “Ooh, that’s a nice 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 right there!”  I say that because that’s exactly something my husband would say.  He goes absolutely gaga for classic muscle cars.  His affection for them and knowledge of classic cars is pretty remarkable.  I, on the other hand, can’t tell the difference between a Honda Odyssey and a Toyota Sienna (minivans in case you didn’t know…I Googled it).

Now that I’m a mom of a little dude, some things have got to change.  Just because I’m not crazy about cars, doesn’t mean I’m not going to expose my son to something he might actually love one day.  Like father, like son after all!

So…drum roll…

Volo Auto Museum Logo

We visited the Volo Auto Museum!  Having a son has certainly changed my view on lots of things.  Never before would you catch me at a car museum.  But now, having been there, I can honestly say –

I LOVED IT!

What You Should Know!

You’ll receive a map when you pay for your admission.  Keep this!  You’ll need it.  When I think of a museum, it’s singular.  One building.  The vehicles at the Volo Auto Museum are housed in five separate buildings, well, six if you count the Military Museum.  We visited recently (in the winter) so that meant keeping our coats on because you had to venture outside to enter the other buildings.

Volo Auto Museum_Classic Cars

The Volo Auto Museum is home to lots of vehicles used in popular movies: the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Hearse from Terminator 3, “Grease Lightening” from the movie Grease, K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider, and SO MANY MORE!

Volo Auto Museum_Movie Cars

There’s also plenty for kids to love with cars from their favorite movies: Herbie the Love Bug, Lightening McQueen and Tow Mater from Cars, the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, the strange-looking vehicle from Cat in the Hat, and you can even take a picture in the Flinstone’s vehicle that was used in the movie starring John Goodman & Rosie O’Donnell!

Volo Auto Museum_Cars in Wonderland

For a couple of quarters you can also take a spin in some of the kiddie cars on display in the kid’s building, Cars in Wonderland.

Volo Auto Museum_Kid Rides

On your way to the Cars in Wonderland exhibit, you’ll be greeted by scenes from two of my son’s favorite movies, Finding Nemo and Monster’s Inc.!

Volo Auto Museum_Monsters Inc

Have a car fanatic in your family?  The Volo Auto Museum is also an auto dealership!  Hundreds of restored, classic cars are for sale.  And for not being much of a car buff myself, even I wanted to buy one to take home!

Volo Auto Museum_Car Dealership

Hungry?  Don’t forget to visit the whimsical Betty Boop Grill.  Reminiscent of an old diner from the past, you can order up burgers, pizza, hot dogs and other seasonal items to chow down.

Volo Auto Museum_Betty Boop Grill

There are plenty of opportunities here for a cute photo op too, so make sure you bring your cameras and a SMILE!

Volo Auto Museum_Simpsons

We visited in the winter, but I noticed several areas and playgrounds for kids to run around and play in warmer weather.  We’ll be back in the spring for sure!

Volo Auto Museum

Before you go, make sure you visit the HUGE Antique Mall located right next door!  Over 400 dealers sell their wares at the Antique Mall.  Even if you’re not looking to buy, it’s definitely worth the visit.

General admission* is $13.95 for adults and $8.95 for kids ages 5-11.  The Volo Auto Museum is open daily from 10am – 5pm.  Connect with the Volo Auto Museum on Facebook and Twitter!  The Volo Auto Museum is located at 27582 Volo Village Road in Volo, IL.

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*General admission verified February 2014.

Disclosure:  I received complimentary admission to the Volo Auto Museum to facilitate this review.  I was not asked to provide a particular point of view, and all opinions are 100% my own.

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