Gearhead heaven

Auto museum is perfect for the post-car show season

Even before my sons were able to speak, they demonstrated a huge interest in automobiles. One of their first words was "car.' While the children were in diapers, my husband and I took them to car shows just to watch their excited faces.

Their car collection numbers in the hundreds, they read Auto Trader and they sleep in a muscle car-themed bedroom. These boys have been able to identify a car's make and model with 90 percent accuracy since they were younger than 4.

So once the local car shows shut down for the summer, what is a parent of such "gearheads" to do? The answer is the Volo Auto Museum, 50 miles north of Chicago. With its five climate-controlled showrooms, it is an ideal place to spend the day admiring vehicles from famous Hollywood cars and antique Fords to sporty muscle cars and military vehicles.

The Hollywood Cars showroom was my children's favorite, featuring vehicles such as Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, Herbie the Love Bug, the Batmobile, the "Cat in the Hat" mobile, the Flintstones family car and a Cinderella "carriage" for my daughter to admire. Volo's Muscle Car showroom was vast and impressive, and the antique showroom led us to discuss the differences between various "old-time" cars, as the boys refer to them. The military showroom features battle dioramas and weapons, but the sound effects could frighten younger children. Across the way, an antique mall hosts more than 350 dealers, with a large section devoted to die-cast vehicles.

Before entering the museum, parents should discuss that the vehicles are not for climbing or touching. It's tempting for young aficionados to want to reach out for these shiny vehicles or clamber inside to turn a steering wheel.

The museum is completely stroller friendly, with a few kiddie rides that cost a quarter or two. The 1950s-style food court is handy for a snack or ice cream once your tour is complete. It is surrounded by car memorabilia and souvenirs for purchase-perfect for decorating a muscle car bedroom.

The Volo Auto Museum is located at 27582 Volo Village Road in Volo, Ill., about one-half mile west of Route 12 on Highway 120. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $8.95, $6.95 seniors, $4.95 kids 6-13, free kids 5 and under. The museum hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including Haunted Battlefield, scheduled for Oct. 7-31.

For information, call (815) 385-3644 or visit

Lisa Stiegman

Kids Eat Chicago

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