5 living history museums near Chicago for families


“Don’t know much about history” is the start of the old-time Sam Cook song, but you can make sure that it doesn’t apply to your kids with these fun living history museums around Chicagoland. Kids can interact with costumed characters, learn how chores were done more than a century ago and get their hands on history in ways that make it literally come alive.


Volkening Heritage Farm


Where: 201 S. Plum Grove Road, Schaumburg


Cost: Free


Guests can time travel back to the 1880s to see what life was like in Schaumburg then. In addition to helping with chores, families can learn old-fashioned games or even take a horse-drawn wagon ride. It’s located in Spring Valley, which is also home to a nature center and hiking trails. They are closed December through March.


Naper Settlement


Where: 523 S. Webster St., Naperville


Cost: Admission rates vary by season


See a one-room schoolhouse, learn how newspapers used to be published at the print shop, and explore a log cabin at Naper Settlement. Little ones will enjoy the early learning playscape, which includes a Conestoga wagon, a trading post and a sensory prairie garden, as well as a modern splash pad. Stop by the History Connection exhibit in the Naper Haight House with hands-on activities aimed at kids ages 3-10.


Blackberry Farm


Where: 100 S. Barnes Road, Aurora


Cost: Admission rates vary by season


Pioneer life is recreated here and kids can watch demonstrations and try out activities themselves. The goats are always pretty popular. See a train lobby and ticket window from the 1800s, visit the carriage museum, and watch spinners card and spin wool. Including educational opportunities, there’s lots of fun to be had on the carousel, train and adventure playground. The regular season runs from May to October, there are also special holiday dates in December.


Kline Creek Farm


Where: 1N600 County Farm Road, West Chicago


Cost: Free (additional costs for classes and special programs)


This restored farmstead gives visitors a chance to experience farm life in the 1890s. (Hint: It’s radically different than life today.) Activities vary by season, as did life on the farm. See Percheron workhorses help with the harvest and tour the farmhouse and learn about canning, baking and quilting. Check out the wagon shed and learn about ice cutting. There is also an apiary and honey is available for sale. It’s located in Timber Ridge Forest Preserve, so consider leaving time for a nature walk, too.


Historic Wagner Farm


Where: 1510 Wagner Road, Glenview


Cost: Free


Explore the inside of a two-story silo and wander through a 1930s grocery store at Glenview’s Wagner Farm. Wagner Farm was one of the last working dairy farms in Cook County and today the public can visit to learn about farming heritage. Discover the way of the past and how livestock and crops are grown on the farm to help kids understand where their food comes from today.


Don’t forget to explore the Heritage Center where visitors learn about farming practices. During the summer, you can get a scoop of historic Homer’s Ice Cream and visit the Glenview Farmers Market hosted there on Saturdays through Oct. 26.


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This story was originally published on Aug. 10, 2018. It has been updated with the most recent information.


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