When you think of learning experiences, "fun" may not exactly be the first word that comes to mind.
Fortunately, there are a ton of spots in Illinois that are as exciting as they are educational. Whether you're looking for something that the whole family can enjoy or just trying to make use of a lazy afternoon, you're sure to find an excellent edifying experience in the area.
Keep reading to learn more about five of the coolest educational destinations in and around Lake Forest.
Wildlife Discovery Center
Sometimes referred to as just the WDC, the Wildlife Discovery Center is a living natural history museum like no other. During your visit, you have the chance to not only learn about — but get up close and personal with — an array of animals, including a bobcat, birds, bats, turtles, Komodo dragons, crocodiles, frogs, and snakes. The setting is way more intimate than a zoo, and the caretakers take extra care to personalize your experience by teaching you about important concepts like environmental stewardship and wildlife conservation.
Aside from the attractions and exhibits, the Wildlife Discovery Center also has a rescue and rehabilitation center, captive breeding, interpretive and nature trails, lectures, and a research area. Even if all of this hasn't convinced you to visit, here's the real clincher: Admission is completely free for groups of eight or fewer. Additionally, while still being as educational as a zoo, it's much less walking between exhibits. This makes it perfect for young children and the elderly. This is definitely an experience that visitors of every age can enjoy.
The center's outdoor exhibits are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., but the indoor exhibits only have visiting hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Lake Forest Library
If you're looking for a learning experience, there's no better place to be than surrounded by books. The Lake Forest Library has books for every age and in every genre, making it an incredible resource for the entire family. There's even a separate children's area, complete with cubbies to hang your coats at the entrance. Inside the children's area, your little ones can explore interactive centers, including a map of the United States with buttons to learn about the states and capitals. Kids can ignite their imagination in the dramatic play area, which features puppets and costumes.
Aside from an incredible children's area, the library is home to some great community events and groups. There are story times, movie features, and book groups for every age — children, young adults, and adults. With your library card, which is completely free, you also have the opportunity to attend classes that focus on teaching you about different technological programs and skills, like coding, making a podcast, or developing a Shutterfly book.
Lake Forest Library is open seven days a week. From Monday through Thursday, you can visit any time between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., but the library closes at 6 p.m. on Friday and 5 p.m. on Saturday. On Sundays, they limit their hours to 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.
Elawa Farm has historical and ecological significance. It was built in 1917 for A. Watson Armour, giving us a rare glimpse into the distinguished architecture and design of a Lake Forest gentleman's farm. Since then, the farm has been restored and transformed into a public-private partnership to preserve history and provide a hands-on learning experience that develops visitors' appreciation for gardening. During your visit, you can hike trails, visit the garden market, walk the garden (which is full of organic flowers and veggies), or volunteer at the market, garden, or kitchen. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife, including sandhill cranes, toads, garter snakes, butterflies, and honey bees.
The farm also offers a number of programs that you can take part in, such as yoga, summer camps, and classes for floral arranging and cooking. You can visit from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., but the farm closes early at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve
In our opinion, nature is often the best teacher. There is so much that can be learned through quiet observation, and the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is the perfect spot for just that. Covering 250 acres, Fort Sheridan boasts beautiful views, rare species of animals and plants, and four different trails. There are also a number of educational outdoor exhibits, located along Lake Michigan's shoreline, the ravines and woodlands, and the trails, detailing the preserve's history and natural resources.
The Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve served as a U.S. Army post from 1887 until 1993, which has greatly influenced its architecture and landscape. In fact, the site played a major military role during both the Spanish-American War and Operation Desert Storm. In addition to being a military base, Fort Sheridan also has a historical cemetery with gravestones from as far back as 1890. Though the preserve maintains the grave site, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs operates it. Stop by the Preserve any day of the week from 6:30 a.m. until sunset.
Lake Forest Book Store
The Lake Forest Book Store is rich in history, full of books, and the hub for a ton of local events. Originally, the bookstore was just a650-square-foot shop opened by a group of women in 1949. Since then, the store has relocated to Lake Forest's historic downtown and more than doubled its size. They offer a wide selection of books of all types, including a huge section to house their children's books.
Even though books are their game, the Lake Forest Book Store offers some awesome educational activites, and community events by partnering with other local businesses. Some of these educational things to do include book drives for charity, school book fairs, and author meet-and-greets. Drop by Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., but keep in mind that the store closes thirty minutes early on Saturday.
It's no secret that we love learning at Pasquesi Sheppard LLC, so we're always looking for spots that are engaging and educational. Did we miss one of your favorite educational destinations in Lake Forest? If so, let us know! We'd love to check it out and add it to our list.