Whether your family wants to learn about nature, local history, animals, or anything in between, there is an educational destination within a short drive of your South Barrington home that’s sure to please. That’s why Crème de la Crème of South Barrington has put together this list of seven of the best museums, nature preserves, and other educational spots in and around South Barrington.

Stillman Nature Center

Image via Flickr by RyanCrierie Licensed CC BY 2.0

The Stillman Nature Center is located here in South Barrington, so you’re just a few minutes away from a beautiful landscape, a variety of animals in their natural habitats, and educational events and programs about your furry, feathered, and scaly neighbors. You might sign up for a nature hike where you’ll learn to track different animals, an owl-sighting adventure in the moonlight, or a plant and tree identification presentation.

You can also hike the park on your own and take in the sights and sounds of the area and its inhabitants. Or, you can visit the nature center on Sundays and Mondays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. You also can visit the park all year long to see the landscape transform during the seasons and see how different animals adapt to seasonal weather. 

Barrington History Museum

Located just a few minutes away in nearby Barrington is the Barrington History Museum. This educational destination is a great local alternative to the larger, more comprehensive, and busier history and culture museums in nearby Chicago. That’s because the Barrington History Museum focuses on local Illinois historical figures, events, and artifacts. Some of the displays include local artist collections, children’s toys throughout the ages, and wedding dresses of different decades. What’s more, some of the exhibitions are curated by locals whose families have lived in the area for generations.

The Barrington History Museum is open to visitors on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

James “Pate” Philip State Park

Explore the great outdoors at the James “Pate” Philip State Park in nearby Bartlett. This state park is home to hiking and biking trails through the native landscape of northeastern Illinois. It’s a fantastic destination for nature lovers since you can go birding, track land mammals, and spot a variety of native plants. There are three trails in the park: the 1.5-mile Blazing Star Trail, the 1.5-mile Bluestem Trail, and the 0.7-mile Indigo Trail.

Be sure to stop at the visitor center to learn about the negative impacts that people have had on natural habitats and take part in activities that show how we can repair the damage done to these areas.

Crabtree Nature Center

Over in nearby Barrington Hills is the Crabtree Nature Center. This local nature center teaches about the park’s geological and biological histories, including how ancient glaciers carved out the woodlands, wetlands, and prairie landscape you see today. You can visit for a special event, such as an introduction to the native reptiles, a guided hike with a kid-friendly nature story, and other special activities that get the whole family exploring. Or, you can visit on your own to walk the trails, go birding, or track local animals.

From March through October, the nature center is open Saturday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. From November through February, hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Graue Mill and Museum

The Graue Mill and Museum is located in Oak Brook, just west of Chicago. This property is the only waterwheel gristmill still in operation in the Greater Chicago area, and it has some fascinating history that you and your family can discover. German immigrant Fred Graue opened the gristmill in 1852 and used it to mill wheat, corn, and other locally grown grains. Before and during the Civil War, Graue’s mill was a “station” on the Underground Railroad, helping slaves find liberation in the North. 

Explore this history by touring the mill and seeing the grinding area, the general store, the workshop, a weaving station, and many other rooms. Be sure to stop by the museum’s store to pick up locally made jams and jellies, freshly ground cornmeal, and Graue Mill-themed knickknacks. 

The Graue Mill and Museum is open from April to November. You can visit Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The mill also runs a holiday market on weekends throughout December.

Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn

South of Chicago is the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, which offers play-based education for children of all ages. Your kids can learn about science, culture, history, communication, engineering, art, and many more subjects throughout the wide variety of hands-on exhibits. 

Children can explore how NASA scientists study space, discover the different landforms on Earth, learn how to take care of animals, play with model trains, perform on stage with puppets and costumes, express themselves through art projects, and play firefighter. This museum also has exhibits for the littlest kiddos, like the Tummy Time room for infants and toddlers.

This museum is closed on Monday. It’s open Tuesday -Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the best in the country, housing hundreds of unique water-loving species. The aquarium is split into exhibits that showcase different aquatic habitats, from the Amazon to freshwater lakes and rivers to coral reefs. Some of the species you’ll see here include sharks, Beluga whales, stingrays, dolphins, octopi, jellyfish, and hundreds of different types of freshwater and saltwater fish. Plus, you’ll see birds, amphibians like frogs and salamanders, reptiles like alligators and lizards, turtles, sea otters, penguins, and sea lions.

This educational destination is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days, but open hours can change. Keep an eye on their events calendar for day-specific operating hours.

These are just some of the awesome educational spots your family will love visiting around South Barrington. What’s more, you also have all the museums, parks, and historical sites in Chicago to check out, too. So there you have it, seven cool educational destinations around the South Barrington, Illinois, area. Did we miss your family’s favorite museums, preserves, and other educational spots around your hometown? If so, contact Crème de la Crème of South Barrington. We’ll be sure to add it to our list!