Things to Do This Summer

Often I suggest field trips you can take with your kids; trips that combine a fun adventure with opportunity to get into a good discussion about God’s Word (of course, we can do THAT anywhere.) Some of these I’ve written about before and link back to my original, more detailed post. Others are simply great places for good conversation.

My goal is to suggest places you might not ordinarily think about visiting, so I didn’t mention any of the well-known museums, parks, etc. I also have listed activities in one large area – I might someday do a post on places around the country.

If you can think of another location that should be added, please put it in the comments.

Here and There

DSC_1029* Graue Mill – An enchanting mill sits on the banks of Salt Creek, nestled in a tree-shaded park. The mill wasn’t running the morning I was there, but upstairs, both the spinning lady and weaving lady were happy to have someone to whom they could demonstrate their talents. Lots of verses to back up what you’ll learn here. See my original post.

* The Lazzadro Museum of Lapidary Art.  This is a museum of gemstones and I especially liked looking for stones that were mentioned in the Bible. If you follow the link, you will see what I found. The museum was filled with kids the day we were there and I have had other friends who have told me their kids truly enjoyed it.DSC_1009

*Bronners.   Yes, this one is further away – about five/six hours. Still, you might be nearby and have the opportunity to stop. Bronner signs are all over the place. Trust me. Bronners is for anyone who likes CHRISTmas — all 27 acres of it. Yes, it’s overload of twinkly lights, and ornaments for every mood, occasion or personality – but Bronners also has an interesting story which is why every single package they wrap at the store or online includes a tract explaining the gospel. Your kids will love all the glittery Christmas stuff, but stop and explain the Bronner story to them, too. Also stop by the replica of the Silent Night Chapel on the grounds. Mr. Bronner received special permission to do a replica of the chapel in Oberndorf, Austria where Silent Night was originally sung back in 1818.DSC_0279 2.jpeg

*Marion E. Wade Center. My mind still boggles at the fact that C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe (yes, that famous wardrobe) is in Wheaton. Other historical pieces are there too – like Toiken’s desk. This is a research center so the kid interest will probably be focused on just a few things – but I was there with some kids who were fascinated by the wardrobe — so it might be worth it to stop in for a few minutes if you’re in the neighborhood.

*Northwest Territory Historic Center — Ok, no spiritual application here, though I think teaching our kids the importance of history is a good thing to do. I found this place by accident. A few years back, I had a couple friends from South Florida staying with me and wanted to show them the area. They liked history, so we headed to Dixon (Reagan’s house – good for an historic visit). But we were there in February and the house was closed, so we decided to meander around town. I remembered that there was also signage on Reagan’s school and church, so we drove by. The school was open with a Northwest Territory Historic Center sign on it. I had never been inside, wasn’t sure what to expect, but was totally surprised. Besides Reagan history and Walgreen’s history, there is this little gem tugged away on the second floor. I describe it here.

But more than that – a not-what-you’d-expect-to-see-on-the-second-floor-of-an-old-school-building:  dioramas of Blackhawk history tucked away on one side of the hall. Except the exhibit is state-of-the-art costing millions of dollars and looking like it belongs in the Lincoln Museum in Springfield. That exhibit goes right into an Illinois farming exhibit – again unbelievably surprising for what you’d expect. The dioramas include talking mannequins (which sound sort of robotic, but still …) and are bordered with prairie grasses complete with ladybugs and snakes (which our guide pointed out to us). If you’ve been to the area before (as I have) and haven’t noticed this building – these latest exhibits just opened a few years ago.

PLACES TO EAT — I have learned that taking a child (or teen) out to eat is one of the greatest places to get into a good conversation. I could suggest a lot of places to go – from the super old SuperDawg in Chicago, to another place with fast food history – one of the Maid Rite places in Iowa, but I won’t.

*Pilot Petes. Instead I’ll focus on Pilot Petes. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a sit-down restaurant that will interest kids. This is one that will – especially if you get a seat by the window. (You can ask for one.)  The seats by the windows overlook the runways and you can watch the planes come and go. However, make sure you go on a nice day, otherwise there isn’t that much action on the runways. Besides small, private planes, I’ve seen news helicopters. Great fun and I’ve had some good food there, too.

NATURE – getting kids outside to enjoy God’s creation is a great goal for summer. Here’s some places you can do that. (Of course, there’s Morton Arboretum and Cantigny – but we all know about those places.)

*LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve  is a great place for little kids to run. Not only is there the Creek Bend Nature Center, but also the Pioneer Sholes schoolhouse (which you can tour on Sunday afternoons). A huge barn sits on the property – you can’t go in it, but it would be a fun place for kids to run around and enjoy the outdoors.

*Fermi Lab has their obstinacy (herd) of bison. New babies being born this spring,


*Windpoint Lighthouse (in Racine, Wisconsin) is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. The Bible has so many verses about light: Psalm 119:105; John 8:12; 1 John 1:7. Yes, it’s a drive to get there – but is extremely pretty and you’re right on the edge of Lake Michigan, so a lot to enjoy. (Oh, and don’t forget to get some Kringle before you head out of town.)IMG_1894

THOUGHT-PROVOKING — Sometimes field trips aren’t fun and happy as much as thought-provoking. Here’s a few examples of places to take your kids (usually older kids) that will make them think. You might want to discuss beforehand what they’ll see and also follow up with a good discussion afterwards.

*Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center –  This museum is well-done with state-of-the-art exhibits. The survivor story exhibit theater is outstanding. Holograms of Holocaust survivors interact with the audience via an elaborate question and answer set-up. This exhibit has been named one of the top 12 museum exhibits in the WORLD.Holocaust Museum

Pictures and exhibits give a realistic picture of what it was like (although no exhibit could convey even half the horror). I’ve been twice – once with a friend and once with two grandchildren. The 13-year-old boy was particularly interested. (I think he had recently studied it in school.)

You know your kids and if they’re ready for something like this. I would say mature fifth and sixth graders, middle school and up.

The building is tight with security and you have to go through a metal detector. The atmosphere is quiet and reverent.

*Billy Graham Center, Wheaton  A visit to the Billy Graham Center Museum is for older children – though younger children may enjoy the heaven room. A good opportunity for a good discussion on the history of Christianity in America.

Have fun … and add your own suggestions in the comments.



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