Chicago hiking adventure: Graue Mill and Fullersburg Woods

‘Bundle up, get outdoors and explore’ is slowly becoming my wintertime mantra. While I don’t necessarily enjoy the chilly weather, my kids love being outdoors any time of the year. And when dressed properly, being outdoors is a joy, even in the dead of winter. Fullersburg Woods in Oakbrook is a great spot to set off on a late-fall/early winter hike and this past weekend our family headed outdoors to explore both the woods and the Fullersburg Vistor Center.

Park your car near the Graue Mill and Museum in Oakbrook, just off York Road. Since 1852, the Graue Mill has been grinding cornmeal, its waterwheel turning at the edge of the picturesque Salt Creek. Today, the Graue Mill Museum is dedicated to bridging past and present through living-history programs that illustrate daily life of the past, including milling, spinning and weaving demonstrations. While the museum is closed in the winter, the grounds of the mill are picture-perfect year round. My kids spent a long time just throwing pebbles and rocks into the Salt Creek and watching sticks make their way down the beautiful falls the make the mill’s gristmill go round.

Follow the short hiking trail which links the Graue Mill to the Fullersburg Visitor Center. This paved hiking trail was easy enough for my 4-year-old to hike all on her own.

The Fullersburg Nature Center, located at the end of the trail, is an engaging, interactive mini-nature museum. Kids can get up close and personal with the actual 13,000-year-old skeleton of a wooly mammoth discovered in DuPage County, use microscopes to see microscopic creatures living in the woods and the creek and make animal tracks with stamps in putty that they can later identify in the mud and snow of the woods. My kids love climbing the wooden kid-sized bird nest. The center is cozy and usually quiet, making it a great place to curl up on a comfy chair with one of the many children’s nature-themed books.

This upcoming weekend, November 15, 16, and 17, the Graue Mill will be open for its annual Christmas at the Mill Holiday Boutique. This special holiday shopping event features local artists selling handcrafted Christmas decorations, unique jewelry, stained glass, pottery, and handwoven and knitted items. Decorated Christmas trees and strolling carolers add to the fun and even Santa will make an appearance on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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