Naperville, Illinois, is the home of the Naper Settlement. The town is a suburb of Chicago on the west side. This outdoor museum of the history of the region is a popular destination for historians and others who are interested in learning more about the 19th-century pioneer outpost. If you're planning to take a trip to Naperville, and this is your first visit, there is so much to see and do that you might not know where to start. We've prepared a guide to point out the most interesting places to visit. Here are the 20 best things to do in Naperville for first-timers.
20. Visit the Naper Settlement
The Naper Settlement is an outdoor museum that sits on 12 acres of ground. You can learn about pioneer life and what it might have been like to live during the era. The Naper Settlement is a frontier outpost. It is preserved to retell the history of the area. This is a family-friendly activity that will take you back in time with villagers in frontier-era costume with tons of special exhibits. Visit the new Agricultural Interpretive Center while you're there.
19. Catch a show at the Bright Side Theater
The Bright Side Theater is Naperville's professional theater. You can check the schedule in advance to find out what will be playing and reserve your admission tickets. The theater sits in the downtown district. The theater is known for its diverse offerings, so you never know what will be presented unless you check the schedule in advance. If you're going to be in Naperville for several days, an entertaining night at the theater followed by a lovely dining experience could be the perfect night out.
18. Take the family to Odyssey Fun World
Odyssey Fun World is the ideal place to go if you have a family with younger children. This venue is packed with a range of entertainment options including carnival rides, an inflatable kids park, paintball, laser tag, arcade games, and more. You can also grab a bit to eat at the cafe that is located on the premises. During the fall, the Odyssey Fun Farm is in operation with a pumpkin patch, hayrides, a corn maze, and more activities for the entire family.
17. Take an art class and indulge at Pinot's Palette
Pinot's Palette is a quaint place to visit if you want to take an art class and enjoy a glass of wine or beer. You can check out the website in advance to find out if there will be a painting class during the time of your visit. It's a great place to learn a new skill and have a good time while you're doing it. The studio sponsors open studio painting days and you can order whatever type of beverage you prefer to make the class even more enjoyable. There are instructors available or you can paint on your own without instruction.
16. Visit the Millennial Wall
The Millennial Wall is another popular tourist attraction in Naperville. The structure was built to recognize the sense of pride and togetherness of Naperville. It honors many who contributed to the Celebration 2000 festival in the city. The wall is located at the Riverwalk Amphitheater at the top. While you're there you can catch free performances that are scheduled at various times of the year.
15. Go hiking at the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve
The Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve features almost 2,000 acres of land with a 200-acre lake that is shaped like a dragon. If you visit Naperville in the warm months, you can enjoy staying at the campground and frolicking at the beach. This is a preserve that features several hiking trails. Guests enjoy horseback riding, dog-walking, cycling, and walked through the trails. There's also an area reserved to fly model aircraft.
14. Tour the Naperville Century Walk
The Century Walk is another popular tourist attraction for those who enjoy public art exhibits. The Walk was launched in 1996 to display sculptures, murals, and other works of art. There are over 40 pieces of art displayed on the walk that routes through the downtown area of Naperville. The Century Walk features art from the 1900s. Members of the community worked together to create each piece by hand with pieces that represent the formative years of Naperville.
13. Catch a concert at the Wentz Concert Hall
If you enjoy fine arts and catching a concert then you'll want to check out the Wentz Concert Hall. The venue features musical performances from several genres including contemporary, jazz, and classical. The Hall is recognized for its world-class acoustics. It's wise to check the website before your trip to find out what is playing during the time of your visit. You may reserve your seats online.
12. Take a Trolley Tour
The Naperville Trolley and Tour Company is one of the best options for seeing the town of Naperville. This is one of the few working trolleys in the nation. You may schedule a group tour or a private tour that caters to your personal preference. The company offers everything from bar hops to historic tours that are both interesting and educational. Themed tours are also available around the holidays. The operation is family owned and operated.
11. Take a paddleboat ride
Paddleboat Quarry sits on the Riverwalk near Centennial Beach. This body of water is another popular destination for visitors. If you are visiting Naperville between May and October, you can rent a kayak or paddleboat to tool around the quarry. Paddle boating is a great activity for couples or the entire family. Admission is required. You can purchase your tickets in advance at the Riverwalk Cafe.
10. Test your skills at Hidden Key Escapes
If you are the kind of person who enjoys a challenge, then you will want to make sure that you indulge in the experience of Hidden Key Escapes. The business features room escape challenges that put your problem-solving skills to the test. You get one hour to solve puzzles, find clues, and free your team from a locked room. This activity is not for the claustrophobic. Hidden Key offers a choice of two different challenges. These are called The Storage Room and The Hideaway. The Storage room is the easiest of the two but be forewarned that the escape rate is only 40 percent. The Hideaway is harder. It has a 37 percent escape rate. Each team is required to have a minimum of four members.
9. Visit the Knoch Knolls Nature Center
The Knoch Knolls Nature Center is another fun place to take the entire family. The nature center sits on the DuPage River with wildlife and nature trails to explore. The center provides education about the formation of the river, the earliest settlers in the area, and the local wildlife. There is a freshwater fish tank in the center. It features some of the aquatic life that lives in the river. There are opportunities for hiking and fishing. Be sure to check the schedule online before your trip because there are several events, festivals, and family nature nights scheduled throughout the year.
8. Take the kids to the Ball Factory Indoor Play and Cafe
The Ball Factory is ideal for families with young children. Although kids will love the ball factory with all of the learning activities and games, it's something that adults can join in as well. This venue is a great place to spend time playing with the kids and bonding with them. There is also a cafe conveniently located at the factory so you can have a great day of fun together and then catch a meal of healthy food at the child-friendly cafe that also serves coffee for exhausted parents or grandparents.
7. Wet your whistle at Solemn Oath Brewery
The Solemn Oath Brewery is a visit that is recommended for anyone who enjoys West Coast, Belgian, and barrel-aged beers. The establishment has been in business for about five years and it's received rave reviews from visitors. It's a great place to tour if you're interested in learning more about the brewing process. There is also a seating area where you can enjoy a cold brew with friends. The taproom is open every day of the week to serve you. Check out the online calendar of events before your scheduled trip to find out what special events are going on.
6. Tour the Morton Arboretum
The Morton Arboretum is another outdoor museum in Naperville. Here you'll find a herbarium, a tree research program, and a library. The Arboretum encompasses 1,700 acres with over 4,000 plant species. This is a herbologist's dream come true. Each plant species appears on the database at the center and you are welcome to research them on your own. Some areas of the preserve are restored to the original prairie grass that grows tall. There is also hiking, cycling trails and a children's garden.
5. Tour Cantigny Park
Cantigny Park is another popular tourist attraction in Naperville. It is the former estate of the Chicago Tribune publishers. Enjoy touring the formal gardens and book a guided tour of the McCormick Mansion. You'll also find the First Division Museum here, and you can also play 27 holes of golf. Check the online schedule of events to find out about any outdoor concerts being held before your visit. There are also children's playgrounds, picnic grounds, shopping, fine dining venues, and three miles of trails to explore.
4. Spend an afternoon at Centennial Beach
Centennial Beach is one of the few beaches you will find in a Chicago suburb. Although it's not a real beach, it is an aquatic park built for public enjoyment. The water park is a great place to take the family if you're visiting during the warm months. The park features two acres of open water that comes from Lake Michigan with four additional areas of sane next to a shallow pool There is also a skatepark at the beach along with a ball field and a restaurant.
3. Tour the DuPage Children’s Museum
The Children's Museum is another family-oriented venue that kids and adults can enjoy together. There are so many exhibits that you'll want to schedule at least a few hours to get the most out of your visit. Here you'll find exhibits that focus on math, art, and science. The museum is designed to thrill kids from toddler age through elementary school.
2. First Division Museum
The First Division Museum is one of the most important attractions in Cantigny Park. The museum is filled with artifacts and exhibits that relate to Colonel McCormick's First Division from World War I. The kids will love the Tank Park that is situated on the outside of the museum. They're welcome to climb on board without getting in trouble.
1. Naperville Riverwalk
The Naperville Riverwalk features some of the most beautiful surroundings in the state of Illinois. There are two miles of brick paths, bridges, sculptures, fountains, and lovely memorials along the riverwalk. This is a place that has been set aside for relaxation and observing the beauty of the surroundings. There are so many different amenities at the Riverwalk that you might not know where to begin. You'll find quiet peaceful landscapes, works of art, shopping, and fine dining venues nearby. It's close to Centennial Beach.
Written by Liz Flynn
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