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.

Love planes, trains and automobiles? Here’s a few great spots to find all three.

“Vintage,” “bizarre” and “formerly owned by the stars” describesjust a small portion of the exhibits at Volo Auto Museum. Whileadults may enjoy classics such as The Dukes of Hazzard’s GeneralLee or the Delorean from “Back to the Future,” every member of thefamily will love the museum’s latest Cars in Wonderlandexhibit.

Cars in Wonderland features vehicles and displays from favoriteHollywood children’s shows and films. Cars’ Mater, LightningMcQueen and Doc Hudson are featured alongside Scooby Doo’s MysteryMachine, SpongeBob SquarePants’ Boatmobile and more. Life-sizecharacter figures complete each display, and visitors can watchcartoon shorts in the Disney-themed theater area.

“Walking through this exhibit, families don’t know what’s aroundthe next corner,” says Brian Grams, the museum’s director. “It’s apermanent exhibit, but it will always be changing. We are alwayslooking for ways to change and build the museum.”

During the fall months, the museum hosts its haunted trolleytour. The museum is built on an 1848 farm, and guests and staffhave experienced some creepy things. Discovery Channel’s Ghost Labcrew even made their way to the museum to see what the fuss wasabout. Families can hear about the paranormal activities and enjoythe attraction on weekends beginning in late September andthroughout October.

Volo Auto Museum 27582 Volo Village Road Volo volocars.com

See the stars at the Volo Auto Museum


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

Families can arrange private tours during the week or visit themuseum during general admission hours on Saturdays andSundays.

Before exploring the planes outside, families are guided through anindoor exhibit featuring airplane models and equipment and storiesof people who lived their dream to fly. There is a coloring stationto keep kids busy if they get antsy

while parents explore.

Outside is the most exciting part of the tour: the planes! Familiescan sit in two planes and one helicopter to play pilot and co-pilotwhile learning about how technologically advanced planes are andwhy some were painted like sharks to fool the enemy duringwartime.

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

Air Classics Museum of Aviation

44W546 U.S. 30

Sugar Grove

airclassicsmuseum.org

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

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

Before exploring the planes outside, families are guided throughan indoor exhibit featuring airplane models and equipment andstories of people who lived their dream to fly. There is a coloringstation to keep kids busy if they get antsy while parentsexplore.

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

The museum is creating an exhibit dedicated to commercialaviation. Henry Winkler, the museum’s curator, says new thingsalways are being added.

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

Fly away at the Air Classics Museum in Sugar Grove


Are there any words more tempting for a kid than “do nottouch”-particularly when they’re surrounded by toys practicallycrying out to be played with by enthusiastic little hands?

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

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

But the highlight of the store isn’t quite asobvious. Tucked into the back corner (where there are also spaciousrestrooms) is the Kids Station, a room containing eight differenttrain tables for visiting kids to use.

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

There’s also a Calico Critters table for those whoprefer woodland animals to planes, trains and automobiles.

It’s best to hold your little one’s hand in theother half of the store, where model trains abound. Aidan loved thelarge model train platform with, by my count, five differentengines. Stools allow kids to get a close-up view, and they’ll lovespotting everything from jack-o-lanterns to playground swings. Ifyou ask, the employees may even turn on the trains for ashow.

Best yet, our outing would have been completelyfree, had I been able to resist buying a conductor hat and atrain-shaped lollipop to remember our hands-on, train-filledday.

Elizabeth Diffin

Are there any words more tempting for a kid than “do nottouch”-particularly when they’re surrounded by toys practicallycrying 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 playgrounduntil you step inside.

Half of the store is devoted to toys-it claims to have one ofthe largest selections in the state. The narrow aisles are packedfull of fun products, and yes, lots and lots of trains. Pop culturefavorites 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. Tuckedinto the back corner (where there are also spacious restrooms) isthe Kids Station, a room containing eight different train tablesfor 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 totable-and not having to put them away afterward.

There’s also a Calico Critters table for those who pre

Hands-on play with toys and trains


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