For Your Family: Hidden suburban treasures

June 22, 2009 10:18:12 AM PDT
Some great places to check out with the kids this summer- for free.Experts from Chicago Parent Magazine teamed up with ABC7 to visit some hidden treasures just outside the city.

About 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, a historic tradition lives on at the Wilder Park Conservatory in Elmhurst. The story of the beautiful landscape began almost 140 years ago. A successful ice merchant in Chicago built the estate as his summer home and added a green house for his wife.

"It's probably one of the first horticultural therapy green houses; they lost their child when he was 6. He built the greenhouse for his wife to sort of take care of some of the problem," said David Price, horticulturist, Elmhurst Park District.

That greenhouse has been expanded into the conservatory, which is a wonderful oasis for young children to explore.

"We just thought this was a sweet small conservatory perfect for little feet that can just explore the tropical plants the gold fish pond and then the surrounding area," said Lourdes Nicholes, Chicago Parent Magazine.

The 17-acre park is also home to a spectacular formal garden. It's the perfect backdrop for taking family photos. Also at the park, there's a one-of-a-kind museum called the Lazzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. The museum is filled with stones and minerals from around the world. Dazzling exhibits showcase a centuries-old art form called lapidary.

"Lapidary is the art of cutting and polishing stone," said Dorothy Asher, director, Lizaddro Museum of Lapidary Art.

For another getaway- head a little south to the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in southeastern DuPage County.

"Water fall glen is our best preserve in terms of diversity of habitat for plants and animals," said Carl Strang, naturalist, DuPage County Forest Preserve.

Nine and a half miles of crushed limestone trail circles this 2,400 acre preserve. What sets it apart is the varied topography with glacier-formed ridges, ravines and 75% of all the plants known to grow naturally in DuPage County. It forms a green belt around the grounds of Argonne National Laboratory. Another find? A picturesque water fall, a dam designed by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the 1930's.

"It's just spectacular the water fall, trails, come picnicking, bike, jog, walk really just get back to nature with your family in an unguided format," said Nicholes.

Chicago Parent Magazine has a list of 10 free family spots.


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