Worth the Trip: A Day Trip to Elgin

Family Travel - Elgin, IL

Growing up in Lake County, I didn’t really realize life existed to our west. But as an adult, I called Elgin home for over ten years. Now that I have been back in Lake County the last three years, I realize there are a bunch of places I miss in Elgin. Here are some of the great places the locals go with the kiddos. Although the city of Elgin may sound foreign to you, it’s really not that far away. Just meander your way over to I-90 West and you’re good. Driving from central Lake County to Elgin takes approximately 50 minutes.

Gail Borden Library, Elgin

First stop, Gail Borden Library. As if this library weren’t impressive enough with a wonderful play area for little ones and a room just for teens, they currently have a traveling exhibit: Dinosaur Giants! The exhibit is designed from the findings from paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno’s African expeditions. And is it impressive! Besides all the huge dinosaur models (one of them is 60-feet long and 33-feet tall and extends from the lobby of the library through the stairway to the second floor), you can touch a real fossil, and even take a pic with a dinosaur on a leash! And it’s all free!

Gail Borden Library
270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin | (847) 742-2411

Gail Borden Library, Elgin

Lords Park is another unique place to go. While it looks like a typical park as you drive in, all of a sudden, you see buffalo. Yes, it has the unique feature of large mammals: buffalo, caribou, and deer. In the summertime, their petting zoo is also open. There are also a couple of playgrounds and lots of places to picnic as well.

Lords Park
100 Oakwood Blvd., Elgin | (847) 531-7000

Lords Park, Elgin

And might as well take a walk around Festival Park. They have a great playground. And, on a hot day, check out the splash pad. There are also various concerts and festivals throughout the summer. Stay until dark and you can catch a movie in the park! Our friends at Kidlist has the dates.

Festival Park
132 S. Grove Ave. Elgin | (847) 931-6100

Festival Park, Elgin

Downtown Elgin has a variety of restaurants, including Elgin Public House. This a wonderful pub featuring bison burgers, build-your-own macaroni and cheese, and quite an extensive drink menu. Al’s Cafe offers wonderful sandwiches and super good—and big!—shakes, and offers outdoor seating. (Note: Al’s is closed on Monday’s)

Elgin Public House
219 E. Chicago St., Elgin | (847) 468-8810

Al’s Cafe
43 Dupage Ct., Elgin | (847) 742-1180

Although this next place is not in Elgin, but rather in the neighboring town of East Dundee, it needs to be included. As I mentioned, it’s been three years since I’ve lived in Elgin. Out of the blue, my mother recently told me she misses me living there because she wanted to have some Van’s Frozen Custard & Burgers. Besides it being quality custard, they have a different flavor each day, such as Blueberry Crisp, Toffee Coffee, and Banana Cream Pie. My favorite thing to get is Grandma’s Brownie—a homemade-brownie sundae. They also have delicious hamburgers and sandwiches.  Note: this restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Van’s Frozen Custard & Burgers
16 E. Main St., East Dundee | (847) 836-8267

Van's Frozen Custard & Burgers, West Dundee
Courtesy of Van’s Frozen Custard & Burgers

Another great destination near Elgin in East Dundee is Santa’s Village Azoosement Park. Some of you may remember going here as a child. Now it not only has rides (including small roller coasters) but over 200 animals (and even has an aviary)! The park is designed especially for little ones. (Many rides are for children less than 54 inches tall.) While they have some of the kiddie rides that Six Flags does, the park is smaller. You can explore the whole park in one day! (And bonus: you can bring your own food in—see their FAQ page for more details). And bonus number two: Santa lives there! Head over to Santa’s House to have a quick chat. You can also take a train ride to see his reindeer. And a favorite: ride a fire truck and use a hose to put out a fire. (Note: There are often Groupons for Santa’s Village. Start looking out for them!)

Santa’s Village Azoosement Park
601 Dundee Ave., East Dundee | (847) 426-6751
(save on admission with Groupon!)

Santa's Village Azoosement Park, West Dundee

So if you’re looking for a new town to explore this summer, there is a ton to do in and near Elgin. And if you’re in the area, pick up a Grandma’s Brownie for me!

What do you like best about Elgin?

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About Natalie Rompella 37 Articles
Natalie is the mom of two humans and one nonhuman. She is the author of more than forty books and resources for kids, was a teacher and a museum educator, and will always be a Lake County native. Natalie enjoys insects, sled dog racing (observing!), crafting/experimenting with her kids, and forming a world safe from peanuts. Find out more about her and her books at www.natalierompella.com.

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