|Chicago Botanic Garden|
Crabtree Nature Center: Crabtree in Barrington is probably our favorite place to hike. The preserve is always picturesque and peaceful. Also, kids can pick up a scavenger hunt at the Nature Center to inspire them along a hike. There is a nice kids exploration area not far from the Nature Center. The preserve is free--so we visit quite often!
Chicago Botanic Garden: The Chicago Botanic Garden is another favorite. Any time of day, the garden is a real treat. There are various sections to walk through, so you can switch it up on each visit. Parking costs $25 per car ($30 per van), admission is free.
Elk Pasture: The Elk Pasture in Elk Grove Village is always a fun place to walk. You can even bring your dogs, which is a plus! Kids (and even the dogs) will love to watch the elk. Plus, you can get some great views of airplanes from the preserve. Totally fun and free!
Volo Bog: The Volo Bog is truly a natural wonder. (The bog actually has the distinction of being deemed a National Natural Landmark by the Department of the Interior.) You can actually walk on a boardwalk through the bog, which kiddos will love! Plus, there is an interesting progression of ecosystems to observe. More free fun!
River Trail Nature Center: River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook is another wonderful place to hike. The area is heavily wooded, providing for peaceful walk even though the free preserve is right off of Milwaukee!
Red Oak Nature Center: The Red Oak Nature Center in Batavia sits above the Fox River, lending to some gorgeous views. Also, there is a cave that is sure to amaze some little ones. (Don't worry, it is small.) Additionally, there is a lot to see in the Nature Center. This is another free gem!
Spring Valley Nature Center and Volkening Heritage Farm: Spring Valley Nature Center is quite a treasure in the suburbs. The farm is really fun and hosts many unique events during the year. The preserve itself is beautiful and often has wildlife. The Nature Center is fun for kids. If you go, be sure to check the hours for the farm. Visiting the preserve is free, however some of the events have admission costs.
Morton Arboretum: The Morton Arboretum is another one of our favorites! The Children's Garden is huge and has so much for kids to experience and explore! There also are special exhibits, which are always amazing. Currently, the Arboretum is hosting the Tree House Tales which is fun area for kids to run around, explore and learn about trees! We go so often that we buy the yearly membership which also covers parking at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Check the website for admission details.
The Grove: The Grove in Glenview is another hidden treasure. The Nature Center is fun for kids. It houses many animals for them to see. Plus, Cora the Skunk is an immediate hit. (Don't worry, she is de-skunked!) There often is a craft to do as well. The trails are peaceful. There are some historical buildings in the preserve, so you will want to check and see when they are open to the public.
Twin Lakes: Twin Lakes in Palatine is another one of our favorites. It is close, has a few playgrounds and a nice trail. Plus, it is free--what else could you want!
Village Green: We always have fun at the Village Green in Northbrook. Once again, there is a large play area. Plus, you are near a few eateries, so you can make a little event of the trip.
Lake Katherine: Lake Katherine in Palos Heights is beautiful and serene. The waterfall definitely adds to the hike. There are several gardens including a vegetable garden and a butterfly garden. Lake Katherine is free and you can bring your pooch! Nice!
Independence Grove:When it comes to options, Independence Grove packs a punch. There are hiking trails, paddle boats for rent, places to fish, a lovely playground and even a beach. Located in Libertyville, Independence Grove is a beautiful place to spend the day. However, the admission fee can be a little pricey for non-Lake County residents. The beach is ideal for little ones--very shallow, good number of life guards, no real waves.
Peck Farm: Peck Farm in Geneva has a bit to see in addition to the wonderful surroundings perfect for a hike. You can also climb up a silo, visit the old house and sit with the butterflies. An amazing place to visit for free. (A donation is suggested to enter the Butterfly House.)
Deer Grove: Deer Grove is in Palatine and is one of the quieter places we have walked. It is pretty large and has a nice path for bikes. There is a tranquil lake that will have you quickly forget the busy suburbs!
Where do you like to go for a little hike or to hit a playground in the suburbs? We are always looking for new places to explore! Leave a note in the comments if you have found any other hidden treasures!