There's just something about train travel:
The impressive size of the towering silver cars. The nifty
flippable seats, upper deck, green-tinged windows, squeal of metal
against metal and the big Chicago ticket takers punching tickets
and bantering with the boys.
My kids still get their electrono-gadgets out, but focus
on them less, mesmerized as they are by the long, thin ribbons of
track, sway of cars and the backside view of the guts and alleyways
that butt up against railways. Our train-tripping
adventures are all about that: making the journey part of the
Our pick for fall: A Metra-train journey on the BNSF line to
Naperville and Lisle. The trip is scalable: All-day, if you include
stops at the DuPage Children's Museum, Naper Settlement and Museum
at Lisle Station Park. Shorter, if you cut one or two of those
The route Start at Union
Station, 225 South Canal St., that monolithic Chicago hulk of a
commuter hub, which is itself fascinating to kids. Catch the BNSF
train to Aurora, getting off at Naperville.
The cost It's $5 each way
for an adult train ticket; $7 for unlimited weekend rides.
Weekdays, kids 7-11 are 50 percent off; kids under 7 ride free.
Weekends kids up to 11 ride free with an adult. Admission at the
DuPage Children's Museum is $8.50 per person. Naper Settlement
entry fees are $9 for adults, $6.50 for kids. The Museum at Lisle
Station Park is free.
Tips Start early! Leaving on
the 7:45 a.m. train will put you at the children's museum just as
it opens at 9 a.m. (Museum hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9
a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday). Pack water,
sunscreen, snacks and books or toys for the journey.
Suggested day plan
7:30 a.m. Arrive at Union
Station and buy round-trip tickets to Naperville.
7:35 a.m. Board
8:45 a.m. Arrive at the
Naperville train station. From here, take the stairs and ramp that
will bring you under the tracks and up across the street to DuPage
Children's Museum, 301 N. Washington St. Geared for kids birth-10
years, there's lots to keep children interested. Long-standing
favorite exhibits include the Waterways water play area and
AirWorks drying tunnel and blowers and the Build It construction
area. On Sept. 14, the museum launches a new exhibit upstairs, "The
Play's the Thing," featuring a stage and props for budding set
designers, costumes and special programming including plays,
puppets and dramatics.
11 a.m. It's about a 15
minute stroll south on Washington and west on Aurora Avenue to get
to the Naper Settlement. (Note: We like tucking an extra 15 minutes
into the journey, allowing us to meander west along Naperville's
Riverwalk (covered bridges, ducks, fountains and flowers) before
crossing over to the settlement at 523 S. Webster St.). Naper
Settlement is an outdoor history museum depicting an old-time
19th-century Midwest village. Enter the settlement through the
Pre-Emption House Visitor Center, Naperville's oldest hotel and
tavern. From here, you can ramble along the settlement's streets
viewing blacksmiths, stonecarvers and printers at work. Costumed
volunteers roam the 12 acres of grounds and 30 buildings, bringing
the scene to life. There are log homes and mansions, churches and
shops, plus, an 1840 schoolhouse still scratched with kids'
graffiti that's centuries old.
1 p.m. At this juncture,
you'll need to decide if you want to head home or continue on to
Lisle. Either way, you'll be ready for lunch. Walking back to the
train, there are numerous downtown dining options. Whatever you
choose, save a little room for a treat from Naper Nuts &
Sweets, 10 E. Jefferson Ave., (just a half block off of Washington
Street). Pull open the heavy door with a jangle and you're in candy
heaven. There's not much elbow room inside, but row upon row of
sweets-packaged candy on the shelves, bulk candy in the jars and
house-made candy behind the glass counter.
2:30 p.m. Catch the train
south to Chicago or get off at the next stop, Lisle, to view the
Museum at Lisle Station Park. If the ticket taker comes by before
you get off at Lisle, be sure to tell him you'll be getting back on
shortly to continue down to Union Station-that way, you can reuse
2:38 p.m. From the Lisle
train stop, it's a short block and a half over to the square of
historic buildings that make up Lisle Station Park, tucked just
behind Lisle's Village Hall. Open from 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays
and Saturdays (or by appointment) admission is free, and Museum
Curator Brian Failing or one of his volunteers will be happy to
take you on a tour. Buildings include the original 1874 Lisle train
station with ticket office, waiting room, baggage area and the
conductor's living quarters. There's also a mid-1800s
blacksmith/woodworking shop, the 1840s Beaubien Tavern and Inn and
the 1855 Netzley/Yender farmhouse. We liked the house's fully
functional summer kitchen with beehive baking oven and smokehouse.
Be sure to ask for a peek at the intricate model train display in
the lower level of the farmhouse. But the best time to come back?
Sept. 18-19. Station Park will be bustling with its 26th Annual
Lisle Depot Days, a free festival including live music, craft show,
blacksmithing and more pioneer demonstrations. Call (630) 964-3410
3:38 p.m. Catch the train
back to Chicago. By now, you'll be very ready to settle into your
seat. (You'll arrive at Union Station at 4:42 p.m.) The kids will
probably nap, you might, too. Either way, you'll be glad to leave
the driving to the train conductor.
See more of Monica's stories here.
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