Road Trips: Museums that are worth the trip

By Judy Harvey Chronicle Media

Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford first opened to the public in 1942. (Photo courtesy of Burpee Museum of Natural History)

The pandemic has taken away many common summer outings we took for granted and one of those was a day at a museum.

But, as Illinois continues to progress through Phase 4 of the recovery, many museums are opening their doors to visitors once again.

From children’s discovery places to art and culture centers to local history societies, there are plenty of places that appeal to the interests for all residents.

This week’s entry in our Road Trip series showcases museums that may not be well known but offer unique experiences and worth a day out.

Aurora Regional Fire Museum

53 N. Broadway



The Aurora Regional Fire Museum is located in Aurora’s old Central Fire Station. The museum is open to the public regular hours, and features a variety of interactive exhibits designed to educate and entertain children, families, and firefighters. The museum preserves and exhibits the artifacts and history of Aurora and surrounding area fire departments

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is a single seat aircraft developed for the United States Navy and Marine Corps in the early 1950s.  It is one of the many planes at the Illinois Aviation Museum. (Photo courtesy of Illinois Aviation Museum)

Illinois Aviation Museum

130 S. Clow International Parkway



The Illinois Aviation Museum was established in 2004, and is currently housed in Hangar One at Bolingbrook’s Clow International Airport.

Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center

9603 Woods Drive



The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice and indifference. The museum uses exhibitions, preservation and interpretation of its collections and through education programs and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights.

The DuSable Museum of African American History was founded more than 50 years ago and preserves and celebrate achievements of African Americans. (Photo courtesy of DuSable Museum)

DuSable Museum of African American History

Hyde Park

740 E. 56th Place, Chicago

773- 947-0600

DuSable Museum of African American History is the first museum of its type in the country and is the only major independent institution in Chicago established to preserve and interpret the historical experiences and achievements of African Americans.

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th St.



Immerse yourself in the richness of Mexican art and culture in Chicago. Whatever your background, you’ll connect to this museum on a very personal level.   The museum showcases 3,000 years of creativity from both sides of the border, connecting museum visitors to the diversity of Mexican culture.  Located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.


The Illinois Holocaust Museum is Skokie uses exhibitions, preservation and education programs and initiatives that foster the promotion of human rights. (Photo courtesy of the Illinois Holocaust Museum)

Museum of Contemporary Art

220 E Chicago Ave.



The MCA is an innovative center of contemporary art where the public can experience the work and ideas of living artists, and understand the historical, social, and cultural context of the art of our time. The museum interweaves exhibitions, performances, collections, and educational programs. Virtual programs available online.

Volo Auto Museum

27582 Volo Village Road



Just 50 miles north of Chicago.  The museum recommends spending anywhere between 1 1/2 hours to five hours. You can plan an entire day to explore all the museum has to offer, or carve out a few hours on the weekend.

The Volo Auto Museum is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac museum offers a taste of the icons, lifestyle and the historical timeframe of the Mother Road throughout the years. (Chronicle Media photo)

Discovery Center Museum

711 North Main St.



Discovery Center Museum is a hands-on children’s science museum with more than 300 exciting interactive exhibits spread throughout 23,000 square feet on two floors. All exhibits relate to STEM. Exhibit galleries focus on the human body, forms of electricity, the science of sports, space travel, simple machines, communication, agriculture, color and light, and math.

Burpee Museum of Natural History

737 North Main St.



Burpee Museum of Natural is equipped with 4 floors of engaging exhibits, suitable for the whole family. Mission Statement: To inspire all people to engage in a lifetime of discovery and learning about the natural world, through preservation and interpretation.

Monday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac is located in downtown Pontiac and is open daily. It is operated by the Route 66 Association of Illinois. (Chronicle Media photo

Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum

110 W Howard St.



The Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum holds thousands of pieces of historic memorabilia from the glory years of the Mother Road. See images of the road’s wonderful history, and hear a few great stories about life in America when Route 66 was the most important highway in the nation.

Due to Covid-19 the museum will be open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the end of 2020.

Prairie Aviation Museum

2929 E Empire St.



The Prairie Aviation Museum opened its Air Park (adjacent to the museum) to the public. Guests wanting to enter the air park are required to make an appointment.  All state of Illinois COVID-19 guidelines will be in effect.  In light of these difficult times, there will be no charge for admittance.  Guests wishing to attend should call John Eckley at 309-530-2221 to make an appointment.

; Located in Chicago’s Pilsen Neighborhood, the National Museum of Mexican Art covers more than 3,000 years of Mexican culture. (Photo courtesy of National Museum of Mexican Art)

Peoria Riverfront Museum

222 SW Washington St.



The Peoria Riverfront Museum uses art, science, history and achievement to inspire confidence, lifelong learning, and talent. The museum manages a permanent collection of 15,000 objects and organizes more than 20 self-curated and visiting exhibitions annually in five major galleries and 25 total display spaces.  Visitors can enjoy four new exhibitions and other new spaces, as well as the Giant Screen Theater and Dome Planetarium.

Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Explore the history of the Galena region and the life of President Ulysses S. Grant who called the town home before the Civil War. (Photo courtesy of the Galena History Museum)

Galena History Museum

211 S Bench St.



Home of a collection of artifacts that tell the rich story of Galena: General/President U.S. Grant, Civil War, lead mining, steam boating, and so much more. The museum runs Main Street Walking Tours with General Grant on Saturdays. He’ll share the stories associated with the many buildings on the National Historic Register and share his experiences when his family owned a leather and saddlery shop more than 150 years ago.

Open Friday through Monday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.



National Great Rivers Museum

2 Lock and Dam Way,

East Alton


The National Great Rivers Museum at Melvin Price Locks and Dam is dedicated to telling the story of the Mississippi River from her grand history and cultural significance, to her ecological importance and role as a transportation corridor.  Visitors gain an understanding of the great rivers, their environments, their place in the natural world.

Open Daily 9 5 p.m.


Southwestern Farm & Home Museum

Rt. 116




This living memorial offers an insight into rural and farming life, with exhibits that include antique farm implements and a number of household items.