Checking out planes, trains and automobiles in the Chicago area

 
 

Museums dedicated to transportation and its history are typically considered something old men, war veterans and collectors enjoy most. But that's a stereotype museum directors in the Chicago area want to change. In our own backyard, museums and stores dedicated to planes, trains and automobiles offer something for every member of the family.

 
 

See the stars at the Volo Auto Museum

"Vintage," "bizarre" and "formerly owned by the stars" describes just a small portion of the exhibits at Volo Auto Museum. While adults may enjoy classics such as The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee or the Delorean from "Back to the Future," every member of the family will love the museum's latest Cars in Wonderland exhibit.

Cars in Wonderland features vehicles and displays from favorite Hollywood children's shows and films. Cars' Mater, Lightning McQueen and Doc Hudson are featured alongside Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, SpongeBob SquarePants' Boatmobile and more. Life-size character figures complete each display, and visitors can watch cartoon shorts in the Disney-themed theater area.

"Walking through this exhibit, families don't know what's around the next corner," says Brian Grams, the museum's director. "It's a permanent exhibit, but it will always be changing. We are always looking for ways to change and build the museum."

During the fall months, the museum hosts its haunted trolley tour. The museum is built on an 1848 farm, and guests and staff have experienced some creepy things. Discovery Channel's Ghost Lab crew even made their way to the museum to see what the fuss was about. Families can hear about the paranormal activities and enjoy the attraction on weekends beginning in late September and throughout October.

Volo Auto Museum
27582 Volo Village Road
Volo
volocars.com

 

 
 

Fly away at the Air Classics Museum in Sugar Grove

The Air Classics Museum of Aviation, located in Sugar Grove near the Aurora Airport, is home to retired aircraft and helicopters, an exhibit featuring plane engines, and the stories of innovators and heroes in aviation.

Families can arrange private tours during the week or visit the museum during general admission hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Before exploring the planes outside, families are guided through an indoor exhibit featuring airplane models and equipment and stories of people who lived their dream to fly. There is a coloring station to keep kids busy if they get antsy
while parents explore.
Outside is the most exciting part of the tour: the planes! Families can sit in two planes and one helicopter to play pilot and co-pilot while learning about how technologically advanced planes are and why some were painted like sharks to fool the enemy during wartime.
The museum is creating an exhibit dedicated to commercial aviation. Henry Winkler, the museum's curator, says new things always are being added.
Air Classics Museum of Aviation
44W546 U.S. 30
Sugar Grove
airclassicsmuseum.org

The Air Classics Museum of Aviation, located in Sugar Grove near the Aurora Airport, is home to retired aircraft and helicopters, an exhibit featuring plane engines, and the stories of innovators and heroes in aviation.

Families can arrange private tours during the week or visit the museum during general admission hours on Saturdays and Sundays.

Before exploring the planes outside, families are guided through an indoor exhibit featuring airplane models and equipment and stories of people who lived their dream to fly. There is a coloring station to keep kids busy if they get antsy while parents explore.

Outside is the most exciting part of the tour: the planes! Families can sit in two planes and one helicopter to play pilot and co-pilot while learning about how technologically advanced planes are and why some were painted like sharks to fool the enemy during wartime.

The museum is creating an exhibit dedicated to commercial aviation. Henry Winkler, the museum's curator, says new things always are being added.

Air Classics Museum of Aviation
44W546 U.S. 30
Sugar Grove
airclassicsmuseum.org

 

 
 

Hands-on play with toys and trains

Are there any words more tempting for a kid than "do not touch"-particularly when they're surrounded by toys practically crying out to be played with by enthusiastic little hands?

That's why I took my 2-year-old nephew to America's Best Train & Hobby Shop, a dream come true for his choo-choo crazy self. The inconspicuous shop doesn't look much like a toddler playground until you step inside.
Half of the store is devoted to toys-it claims to have one of the largest selections in the state. The narrow aisles are packed full of fun products, and yes, lots and lots of trains. Pop culture favorites like Thomas and Chuggington get a lot of shelf space, with everything from playsets to PJs begging to be bought.
But the highlight of the store isn't quite as obvious. Tucked into the back corner (where there are also spacious restrooms) is the Kids Station, a room containing eight different train tables for visiting kids to use.
On a quiet Monday morning, we had the room all to ourselves. Aidan loved maneuvering choo-choos from track to track and table to table-and not having to put them away afterward.
There's also a Calico Critters table for those who prefer woodland animals to planes, trains and automobiles.
It's best to hold your little one's hand in the other half of the store, where model trains abound. Aidan loved the large model train platform with, by my count, five different engines. Stools allow kids to get a close-up view, and they'll love spotting everything from jack-o-lanterns to playground swings. If you ask, the employees may even turn on the trains for a show.
Best yet, our outing would have been completely free, had I been able to resist buying a conductor hat and a train-shaped lollipop to remember our hands-on, train-filled day.
Elizabeth Diffin

Are there any words more tempting for a kid than "do not touch"-particularly when they're surrounded by toys practically crying out to be played with by enthusiastic little hands?

That's why I took my 2-year-old nephew to America's Best Train & Hobby Shop, a dream come true for his choo-choo crazy self. The inconspicuous shop doesn't look much like a toddler playground until you step inside.

Half of the store is devoted to toys-it claims to have one of the largest selections in the state. The narrow aisles are packed full of fun products, and yes, lots and lots of trains. Pop culture favorites like Thomas and Chuggington get a lot of shelf space, with everything from playsets to PJs begging to be bought.

But the highlight of the store isn't quite as obvious. Tucked into the back corner (where there are also spacious restrooms) is the Kids Station, a room containing eight different train tables for visiting kids to use.

On a quiet Monday morning, we had the room all to ourselves. Aidan loved maneuvering choo-choos from track to track and table to table-and not having to put them away afterward.

There's also a Calico Critters table for those who prefer woodland animals to planes, trains and automobiles.

It's best to hold your little one's hand in the other half of the store, where model trains abound. Aidan loved the large model train platform with, by my count, five different engines. Stools allow kids to get a close-up view, and they'll love spotting everything from jack-o-lanterns to playground swings. If you ask, the employees may even turn on the trains for a show.

Best yet, our outing would have been completely free, had I been able to resist buying a conductor hat and a train-shaped lollipop to remember our hands-on, train-filled day. -- Elizabeth Diffin

America's Best Train, Toy & Hobby Shop
865 Maplewood Drive, Itasca
(630) 467-1102
americasbesttrain.com

 

 
 
 







 
 
 
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