The Joliet Area Historical Museum is not your typical historical society storefront full of odds and ends of yesteryear. This museum, which celebrated its fifth birthday last month, draws visitors from Chicago and all over Will, Cook, DuPage and Grundy counties. Even out-of-state bus tours and out-of-country tourists make it a place to stop.
One of the big draws is the Route 66 Experience exhibit featuring an interactive area that takes you down historic Route 66. Sit on a couch that looks like a ‘57 Chevy and watch a movie about the route’s importance to history and the success of Chicago, Joliet and nearby towns. Sit in a model car, turn on the radio and hear music and news reports from the past.
A gallery inside the museum features seven distinct thematic zones: River City, the Canal, City of Steel and Stone, Metropolitan City, World War II, Route 66, and the All-American City. Kids don’t just learn which immigrants settled in this area, but what life was like for them and their children.
Upstairs kids can play with old-fashioned toys, check out a display of fossils and do arts and crafts.
"There is so much to see and do here," says Kim Shehorn-Martin, the museum educator who handles events and tours. "A favorite is the virtual trolley ride. You sit in an old-fashioned trolley and, through the use of audio/visual effects and old photos, you feel like you are actually traveling through Joliet."
Shehorn-Martin says it takes about an hour and a half to get through all of the exhibits and while many visitors bring their young children, the exhibits really suit kids ages 5 and up.
The Joliet Area Historical Museum, 204 Ottawa St., sits on the corner of Cass and Ottawa streets in downtown Joliet. The Route 66 exhibit is free. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors or college students with I.D., $3 for kids 4-17 and free to 3 and under.
The museum also hosts a number of special events, including "Lunch with the Lincolns" where girl scouts get to eat with Abe and Mary Todd. On Nov. 23, special programs and events are planned between 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For information and special event prices, call (815) 723-5201 or visit online at www.jolietmuseum.org.