Lake County Nature Centers

Sometimes we want to experience nature, even when Mother Nature is not complying with our itch to get out of the house. Luckily we have many local options to come in contact with the great outdoors, indoors.

lake county nature centers

Ryerson Woods Welcome Center
21950 N. Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods | (847) 968-3320
Admission is free.
The visitor center is pretty small and includes information on maple syrup, turtles and turtle conservation, sand hill cranes and more. Located on an old farm, there is a lot to see outside including nice trails to the DesPlaines river, cabins, sheep (and babies in the spring!), chickens, bee hives, a hawk and an owl. They also have backpacks that you can borrow full of information and activities to accompany you on your hike.

Volo Bog State Natural Area
28478 W. Brandenburg Rd., Ingleside | (815) 344-1294
Admission is free.
It was a surprise to me when I first visited that not only is it a nature trial, but has a fun and interesting indoor nature museum. Inside the visitor’s center is a program room, restrooms, exhibits, a gift shop, a hands-on discovery area, and a library. The hours are posted online, but they are also based on volunteer availability, so call ahead to make sure they are open if you plan to visit.

Photo Source Volo Bog Facebook Page.

Wildlife Discovery Center
1401 Middlefork Drive, Lake Forest | (847) 234-2600
Admission is free for families with less than eight people, but donations are recommended.
One of our family’s personal favorites, The Wildlife Discovery Center allow you to visit with a variety of reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. New ones are added every year, and now there is a bald eagle! There are interpretive trails and nature-based programs for all to enjoy. In the summer we visit on Fridays and hit their farmers market as well. Check out Loralie’s review!

© J.Burris | Little Lake | 2017

Crabtree Nature Center
3 Stover Road, Barrington Hills | (847) 381-6592
Admission is free.
Great for those in southwest Lake County, it features an exhibit building and nature workshops (registration required).

crabtree nature center
Photo Source: FPDCC Crabtree Nature Center

Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Boulevard, Glenview | (847) 832-6600
Admission is $11 per person.
The Kohl Children’s Museum has many nature exhibits, including Nature Explorers, Turtle Rock, Habitat Park, and Powered by Nature.  The Nature Explorers exhibit has a pretend pond, bridge, and boat.

Photo Source Kohl Childrens Museum website.

Heller Nature Center
2821 Ridge Road, Highland Park | (847) 433-6901
Admission is Free.
Owned and operated by the Park District of Highland Park, The Heller Nature Center has a lot to offer. There are children’s nature classes and hikes for kids as young as four, camps, birthday parties, and after school programs.

Photo source Heller Nature Center Facebook Page and Dirt Cheap Photography

River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Ave., Northbrook | (847) 824-8360 
Admission is  free.
River Trail Nature Center tells the story of native plants and animals that remain in the area. Including a River Trail’s nature discovery area for small children, with a climbing and crawling nature area. Kids can hold their own puppet shows. Programs and special events are held throughout the year; I recommend “Whats on the Menu,” where you can watch wild animals eat.

Photo source River Trail Nature Center on Facebook

The Grove Interpretive Center
1421 Milwaukee Ave, Glenview | (847) 299-6096 
FREE Admission
The Grove is owned and operated by the Glenview Park District. The center is run by volunteers and is home to countless birds, native plants, snakes, turtles, and fish.  Children and adults can learn about nature through hands-on exhibits and workshops

Prairie Grass Nature Museum
860 Hart Road, Round Lake | (847) 740-9823
Admission is free.
Explore the ecology of Lake County at the free Prairie Grass Nature Museum.  At this museum you will find habitats, live animals, and plenty of activities. In addition, they offer a variety of nature-related programs for both families and adults, year-round.

Photo Source Prairie Grass Nature Museum Facebook page.

Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe | (847) 835-5440
Admission is free, parking is $25 (weekdays) and $30 (weekends) if you purchase it in advance. Additional information about parking can be found here.
While much of the grounds are outdoors, the Chiago Botanic Garden boasts several indoor greenhouses including a desert and tropical area. This is where they showcased the Corpse flowers in previous years. There is also a Learning Center and a Nature Play Garden that opened last year, for when the weather cooperates. Read Melissa’s review here.

Worth the trip:

Pringle Nature Center
9800 160th Avenue, Bristol, WI | (262) 857-8008
Located just a couple of miles north of the Illinois-Wisconsin state border, the Pringle Nature Center is a hidden gem. This nature center usually not crowded. It holds a variety of live animals including turtles, snake, and hissing cockroaches. It also includes a variety of taxidermed wildlife, hands on exhibits and lots of nature trails. You may also rent binoculars or a GPS to explore the many geocaches in the park. There is also a metal playground reminiscent of my childhood in the 80’s.

© J.Burris |Little Lake| 2015

The Field Museum1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago | (312) 922-9410
Admission is $22 (adults), $15 (children). Some exhibits cost additional money.
While most of the museum is not about nature, there are still some exhibits that teach about nature such as Underground Adventures, “For the Birds,” geology rooms, as well as numerous other animal displays.

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Dr., Chicago | 773-755-5100
FREE admission on Thursdays.
This fun museum houses a butterfly garden, hands-on habitats, animals, insects, reptiles, and water play exhibits. You get to learn about the weather, even be a news anchor. We like to pair this with a short walk to the Garfield Park Conservatory or the Lincoln Park Zoo. Visiting this museum is a wonderful way to spend a day in the city. Check out Melissa’s 2015 review.

Water play at the Nature Museum

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr, Chicago | (312) 939-2438
Admission is $8 (adults) , $6 (children)
The iconic aquarium is definately worth the trip, but I recommend that you purchase your tickets in advance. Here, you meet over 32,000 different animals and take a peek at their habitats, and even touch sting rays. If you have time, try and arrive around lunch time when they feed all the fish in the giant tank.

What is your favorite indoor nature center? Leave us a comment below and tell us about it.

About Jenna Burris 27 Articles
Jenna is an active wife and mom of 2 game changers (Benjamin 5 years and Jillian 2 years). A professional Counselor by trade, Antioch resident and native Cheesehead, this mindful momma is laid back and up for any mess or adventure, doing her best to live in the moment. When not tuning out or taming tantrums she’s running, cooking, reading, creating music, or shopping local.

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