Party Time at the Skokie Exploritorium

Exploritorium Logo

For the last two years, we have been invited to a birthday party at the Exploritorium in Skokie. It’s quite a drive for us, but we really can’t say no to an opportunity to hang out at the Exploritorium. We used to drive to Skokie frequently before my in-laws moved to Florida, but never have we stopped at the Exploritorium. Thank goodness for these birthday parties – it gives us a great reason to come out and play.

Exploritorium Tunnels

The Exploritorium is a large indoor playground that is part of the Skokie Park District.  There are multiple areas that are perfect for interactive play. You can play make-believe in a costumed dress-up area; run your fingers through a water play area; make music, climb a wall, play with trains, experience new heights in two-and-a half-story tubes and tunnels, and so much more. My son loves coming here – it’s just a bummer that we live so far and don’t make it out to Skokie more than once a year.

Exploritorium Slides

This place sort of reminds me of a mini children’s museum, complete with a water table, a train table, and a huge lite brite! It would be so easy to spend a few hours here – too bad the party time is only one hour.

Exploritorium Water Table

Exploritorium Water

Exploritorium Train Table

Exploritorium Gear Table

Exploritorium Lite Brite

When you book a party at the Exploratorium, you get one hour of play time, and another hour in the party room. You bring your own food and cake, which is really nice – but it doesn’t seem like you have a dedicated party helper. The play time alone makes it completely worth the drive to Skokie.

Open play hours are 9 am – 5pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday and 9am – 1pm on Saturday. They are closed on Thursday & Sunday. The cost for non-residents is $5 per person and they are located at 4701 Oakton Street in Skokie.

An Enjoyable Afternoon at the Elgin Public Museum

If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for fun, educational things to do with the kids during summer break. I mean, pools and amusement parks are great, but I also like to mix in my summer free time with a little learning too. If you’re in the Northwest Suburbs, a stop by the Elgin Public Museum. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

Elgin Public Museum_Cover

We recently spent the day at this museum and my preschooler loved it. We spent a few hours at the museum and loved the surrounding park too. Here are a few reasons why we loved the Elgin Public Museum.

Kids’ Room

Elgin Public Museum_Discovery Room

On the first floor of the Elgin Public Museum is the Discovery Room, an educational playroom just for kids. The room features a puppet theater, puzzles, blocks, books, a microscope, musical instruments from around the world, and lots of hands on objects from furs and antlers to starfish and turtle shells. I wasn’t expecting this small museum to have so many educational activities for kids, and I was pleasantly surprised.

Elgin and Illinois History

Elgin-Public-Museum-Animals

Even though it’s summertime, I love finding teachable moments when we visit new places. It’s really easy to do that at the Elgin Public Museum, learning about the Fox River ecosystem, and how plant and animal life has changed over the years. The museum collection includes raccoon, opossum, squirrel, skunk, muskrat, owl, fox, coyote and certain species of hawks. After your visit, you can head to a trail along the Fox River and see if you see any of these animals yourself!

Location

Elgin-Public-Museum-Playground

The Elgin Public Museum is located within Lord’s Park – a 108-acre park that not only holds the museum, but is home to the Lord’s Park Zoo, the Lord’s Park Aquatic Center, a picturesque pavilion, two large playgrounds, tennis courts, and lots more. Pack a lunch and enjoy it under one of the park’s picnic shelters. You can totally make a day of your outing!

The Elgin Public Museum is located at 225 Grand Avenue (on the street that is just off of Grand Avenue at Lord’s Park) in Elgin, and is open Tuesday through Sunday from Noon to 4:00 p.m. There is a suggested donation of $2 for adults and $1 for kids aged 3-11 years old.

How do you pack learning into your summer?

Fountain Fun at Festival Park in Elgin, IL

Summer is (finally) in full swing and what better way to hang out with the kids than to spend some time at a local park.  We love a good playground and, in the summer, it’s a total bonus if that park has a water feature.  Festival Park in Elgin, IL totally hits the mark with a really cool playground and a fountain/splash pad to boot!

Festival Park_Entrance

Right on the Fox River, Festival Park in Elgin is located right next to the Grand Victoria Casino (that big, beautiful casino boat).  The City of Elgin has invested $13 million on their Riverside Drive Promenade that runs from the Gail Borden Library, through Festival Park, to the Grand Victoria Casino. The recently completed river walk promenade is a massive improvement to the city’s landscape, and Festival Park certainly benefits from its beauty.

Festival Park_Riverwalk

The first spot we visited at Festival Park was, of course, the fountain/splash pad.  Parent Tip:  Your child will likely run through the sprinkler whether you prepare for it or not.  We saw some kids at the park running through in their play clothes, so just bring extra clothes if you’re out this way.  Also, the ground here is concrete, none of that fancy, padded flooring found at other splash pads so if your child happens to run and fall it’s going to hurt…a lot.

Festival Park_Fountain

It’s a great, cheap (read: FREE) spot to cool off in the heat.  The kids will love it!

Festival Park_Spray

My son loved playing on the musical instruments at this park.  I’m seeing more and more parks with a musical element and I love it!

Festival Park_Instruments

The climbing structure (we named “The Spiderweb”) was tons of fun for other kids at the park, but it was a bit difficult to climb for my little guy.

Festival Park_Spiderweb

Ahoy, matey!  We met a new friend on the ship in the playground too!

Festival Park_Playground Ship

The large field located in between the playground and the Grand Victoria Casino hosts plenty of concerts in the summer, but it’s also a great place to run around and burn off some pent-up energy too!

Festival Park_Field

A few other things you should know:

  • There are restrooms located right next to the fountain.
  • There isn’t a dedicated parking lot, but parking is plentiful on Grove Street.  If it’s a busy day, I’m sure you can park in the casino’s covered lot too.
  • There was NO gate, or even a railing, separating the park from the river.  You really have to watch the kids.  One step over the edge and they’ll be splashing in the Fox River!
  • There are a few picnic tables if you wanted to bring lunch – or just bring a blanket and have lunch on the large field.

So pack a lunch (and some extra clothes!) and head to Festival Park in Elgin this summer.  You can kick back in the shade while the kids run around in the fountain – a win-win all around!

Where is your favorite park located?

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!

Huntley, IL: Deicke Park is Worth the Drive

One of my favorite things to do with my son is to visit lots of local (and even some not-so-local) parks.  It’s the best way for him to burn off some pent-up energy…and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  I’ve been trying to keep my spending in check so we’ve been visiting a lot more free venues and activities for kids.  Just because you don’t have a lot of money to spend doesn’t mean your kids need to stay cooped up in the house, ya know?

Deicke Park Sign

We have visited so many parks in the far northwest and west suburbs and I won’t review them all here, just the ones that we think are extra, extra cool…like Deicke Park in Huntley, Illinois.  It’s one of our favorites, and has a fantastic toddler area, Discovery Zone, for smaller kids.  The entire perimeter of the Discovery Zone area is secured by a black iron fence with only two entrances – so you can rest easier knowing your kids can’t just run right out of the park.  Not to say they shouldn’t be supervised, just a perk of not having to watch them like a hawk either.  A restroom is located just outside of the Discovery Zone area.  Definitely not one to miss if you’re in the area.

Deicke Park Discovery Zone

Here are some of the things you can expect to find in the Discovery Zone.  The first thing my son was drawn to was the GIANT red fire truck to climb on with a couple of slides.  There’s even a panel on the truck that lists 5 rules of fire safety!

Deicke Park Firetruck

Deicke Park has a really large sand area too – one that even has a water element (shown in the photo above).  Fun times for the kids, but I’d bring extra shoes and a change of clothes because things can get very messy in this area.

Deicke Park Sand Area

The music area at Deicke Park is pretty impressive.  If you stomp on the musical notes (inside the red stars) you’ll hear music!  Bring your own chalk if you want to write on the large chalk walk located just on the other side of the music section.

Deicke Park Music Overview

Playing on the percussion instruments is really fun too.

Deicke Park Music

A favorite at this park amongst lots of kids is the railroad crossing sign.  When kids push the red button, the bells start to ring just like the real railroad crossing signs (loudly, I might add).

Deicke Park Railroad Crossing

The schoolhouse area is perfect for little climbers.  The bus actually rocks, there are tunnels to climb through, small rock walls to conquer, and lots of slides.

Deicke Park Schoolhouse

My son’s favorite?  The one he calls the “cylinder” slide!

Deicke Park Cylinder Slide

The basketball area in the Discovery Zone is really cool.  The park has a full-sized court too, but the one here has baskets in varying heights, and cool backboards to “help” the kids score a basket.  Bring your own balls to make sure your kids can play in this area – my toddler loved it!

Deicke Park Basketball

The last time we visited Deicke Park, my son and I decided to take a little walk to see what else this great park had to offer.  One of our favorite finds was the long metal slide.  Kids climb up the steps and take a long, fast ride down the slide.  Some kids were even using their jackets as a sack to get down even faster!

Deicke Park Long Slide

The Discovery Zone isn’t the only playground here either.  There’s another area for slightly older kids with lots of taller slides.

Deicke Park Playground Slides

The climbing wall at the other playground area was pretty cool too – and longer than any at any other park we’ve been to.

Deicke Park Climbing Wall

The other playground also has a smaller are if you have younger kids in tow.

Deicke Park Smaller Playground

Some of the other amenities at Deicke Park include jogging paths, a baseball diamond, sand volleyball courts, basketball courts, four picnic shelters, and an over-sized pond.  Deicke Park is part of the Huntley Park District, and is located at 11419 South Route 47 in Huntley, IL.

So tell me?  Wouldn’t your kids love to play at Deicke Park?

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