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Best Bets for Families in the Oak Park Area

Top Family-Friendly Activities in the Oak Park Area

Just 9 miles from downtown Chicago, the Oak Park Area is a popular destination for everyone from foodies to architecture buffs. But families shouldn’t overlook this historically rich, conveniently located collection of communities when planning activities this summer: the Oak Park Area is brimming with museums, attractions and restaurants that offer memorable and engaging experiences for children, with plenty to relish for parents too. Here are the top sites for families to check out in and around Oak Park.

Brookfield Zoo | 8400 31st St, Brookfield IL

Brookfield Zoo is one of the most popular family-friendly attractions in all of Chicagoland. Home to more than 3,000 animals representing about 420 species, Brookfield Zoo inspires families every day with extraordinary connections to the world around them. Hands-on experiences, like the penguin encounters or the walks with wallabies, allow your kids to interact with animals like never before. Parents and children alike will love the largest indoor parakeet aviary in North America, where guests hand-feed hundreds of these yellow, green and blue birds. Other popular exhibits this year include Dinos & Dragons, featuring 17 roaring animatronic creatures and a chance to get up close to a real Komodo dragon. Fridays and Saturdays during the summer, see the zoo in a whole new light with live music, a beer garden and a dazzling laser show at Summer Nights.

Go Ape Treetop Adventure and Zip Line Course | 1100 Ogden Ave, Western Springs IL

See the lush Forest Preserves of Cook County with a birds-eye view at the Go Ape Treetop Adventure and Zip Line Course, a seven-acre park home to some of the most exhilarating outdoor experiences in Illinois. Catch your breath as you soar across five breathtaking zip lines. Let out a roar while swinging on the Tarzan rope, and don’t look down as you traverse a suspended obstacle course. Scared of heights? The staff has helped hundreds of visitors conquer their fears while having a blast. There’s also a Go Ape Treetop Junior course, which gives younger children the chance to experience the thrilling action a little closer to the ground. Please note: Go Ape is a seasonal attraction open to the public from April through November.

Hal Tyrell Trailside Museum of Natural History | 738 Thatcher Ave, River Forest IL

Get back to nature at Hal Tyrell Trailside Museum of Natural History. Housed in a stunning mid-1870s Victorian mansion, the museum is nestled among live native animals, colorful local flowers and winding hiking trails for tykes and adults alike. Kids will love the captivating story time programs, building a fort amid the trees in the museum’s yard, and exploring the oak woodlands and ponds that dot the banks of the Des Plaines River. After learning about the native flora and fauna, unwind next to the wildflower gardens with a picnic.

Oak Park Art League | 720 Chicago Ave, Oak Park IL

Get crafty this summer at the Oak Park Art League, located in the center of Oak Park’s historic district and one of the nation’s longest running non-profit arts organizations. Its dedication to art education allows the whole family to get hands-on and express their artistic side. Summer camps are offered for ages 5-13 and feature sculpting, painting, papermaking and metal working classes. Teens and adult classes include beginner’s mixed media, watercolor painting, 2-D and 3-D fiber paintings, and sculpting, giving learners with a range of interests the chance to find their inner artist.

Galloping Ghost Arcade | 9415 Ogden Ave, Brookfield IL 

No quarters are needed at the Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield. Your entry fee gets you and your family access to the largest video arcade in the world, named one of the state’s top offbeat attractions by Best Things Illinois. Featuring nearly 600 arcade games spanning from the 1970s to 2000s, more than 180 world records have been set at the Galloping Ghost Arcade. Your kids will enjoy seeing what life was like before “Candy Crush” and “Angry Birds” on arcade hits including “Donkey Kong” and “Dungeons & Dragons.” Relive your childhood with a round of “Frogger” and “Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker,” or bond with your kids in a “Mario Kart” race or a “Ms. Pac-Man” showdown.

Cernan Earth and Space Center of Triton College | 2000 Fifth Ave, River Grove IL 

The Cernan Earth and Space Center of Triton College offers a literal out-of-this-world family experience. See the spacesuit worn by astronaut Gene Cernan on the Apollo 10 mission, one of the first space missions to orbit the moon. Admire the replicas of the Space Shuttle, the Apollo-Soyuz spacecraft and the Explorer 1 dangling overhead, and be swept away by the dazzling laser light show. The Cernan Earth and Space Center will also enthrall the little archeologists and paleontologists in your family with the Brachiosaurus bones display and the full-scale model of a prehistoric fossilized footprint. Don’t forget the Tully Monster—a fish fossil and one of the most famous in Illinois because of its bizarre trunk-like snout and claw-like mouth.

Vault Escape | 3234 Harlem Ave., Riverside IL

Put your family’s brainpower to the test at Vault Escape. Teams have 60 minutes to work together to figure out how to escape a themed locked room by finding hidden clues, decoding riddles and solving puzzles. Each room has a different theme accommodating between 2-8 players, and the hints are delivered in a story format to ensure everyone is engaged until the clock runs out. 15, 30, and 60-minute portable games are also available for larger groups, perfect for a family reunion or party!

Wonder Works Children's Museum | 6445 W. North Ave, Oak Park IL

Unleash your kids’ creativity at the Wonder Works Children’s Museum, a 6,400-sq.-ft indoor playground loaded with interactive games and activities. Watch them put on a play in the Lights, Camera, Action! exhibit, home to a working stage and kid-sized set. Take a seat and watch the show as your kids dance, sing and perform onstage, or admire their technical skills as they operate the spotlights and backdrops. The nearby Build It! exhibit allows them to develop their spatial awareness and cooperation skills while constructing cities and buildings with other children. Your kids will be so entertained, they won’t realize they’re learning!

Oak Park Conservatory | 615 Garfield St, Oak Park IL 

The Oak Park Conservatory is a diverse and picturesque collection of exotic plants and wildlife, considered one of the top historical sites in Oak Park. See what’s on display in the Fern Room with its rotating collection of aromatic orchids and begonias, take in the vibrant colors of the exotic flowers and palms in the Tropical Room, and warm up with the cacti and succulents in the Desert Room. Kids will relish interacting with the chatty parrots that call this conservatory home, while parents will appreciate free admission to visit.

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