Destination: Frankfort

| June 30, 2009 | 1 Comment

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Odds are good that you aren’t going to be taking a  fabulous European vacation this summer.  But you can have the next best thing and take a fun-filled trip to Frankfort, Illinois!

Frankfort is located approximately 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, off of Interstate 57.  It is just south of shopping mecca Orland Park. According to the town’s official website, Frankfort was ranked as the 36th fastest-growing suburb in the nation by Forbes magazine.  (In case you’re interested, I dug up the whole list here.  It’s from 2007.)

The town was named after Frankfurt am Main, Germany, since some of its early settlers were of German descent.  And, indeed, Frankfort’s quaint historic downtown area of Breidert Green resembles a European village.

If you’re looking for locally-owned stores, downtown Frankfort is the place to go.  The small shops offer everything from penny candy and meats to clothing and guitars.  There’s an independent bookstore, a store for pampered pets, and a dollhouse store.

And if you’re looking to eat something a little more substantial than penny candy and ice cream, Frankfort’s got some good restaurants, too.  Try Choo Choo Johnny’s, another “served by train” diner, for kids of all ages.  Or, if you happen to be without kids, Courtyard Bistro is a delicious upscale restaurant.

If you’re after some outdoor recreation, the Old Plank Road Bike Trail Path gives you some great opportunities to get in touch with nature.  Or take the kids to Commissioner’s Park, possibly one of the coolest parks I have ever seen (think a neat wooden fort-style playground, big sandbox with ample sand toys, a splash pad, a “bark park” for dogs, and a disc golf course).  Check out Frankfort’s park district website to learn about all the parks and fun events this town has to offer.  The town is a truly beautiful place with natural landscapes that rival its outstanding shopping and dining experiences.

But since I’m the mother of a toddler, and I live in a place where outdoor recreation isn’t alway preferable, I’m most excited about Frankfort’s brand-new KidsWork Children’s Museum!  And when I say “brand new,” I mean the place just opened up a week ago.  It’s not as large as some of Chicagoland’s other children’s museums (your Chicago Children’s Museum or your Kohl Children’s Museum, for example), but I actually find this smallness preferable because you can see the entire place before somebody in your party gets overstimulated and has a meltdown.  Also there’s free parking, and the museum’s two open floors make it hard for you to lose your child.

The museum is located in The Trolley Barn, which is set up to look like you’re walking into a trolley.  The “barn” also houses some cute shops, including an ice cream and candy shop.  Admission to the museum is reasonable, just $4 for children and $5 for adults.  They offer a frequent-visitor punch card that allows you to buy 9 tickets and get your 10th free.  Memberships are also reasonable and offer reciprocal free or discounted admission to over 100 other museums that are part of the Association of Children’s Museums.  You can host your birthday party, field trip, or meeting there.

The museum is an absolutely delightful place to spend a day.  The colors are bright and the exhibits are inviting.  What exhibits do they have, y0u ask?  Here’s a brief rundown:

  • Pinscreen: It’s a giant, less-pokey version of this toy.
  • 911 Center: A bank of computers and phones that let you simulate calling 911 and being a 911 dispatcher.  This is just one of the many safety-based features the museum offers.
  • Sensory Table: A giant table of beans that kids can measure, scoop, and pour
  • Pet Vet: A dress-up and pretend play area that lets kids be vets; it’s adjacent to a series of cages containing real animals
  • Tot Spot: A soft playground for the 2-and-under set
  • Nemo! Tank: A cool fish tank
  • Math Patterning: A stand-up magnetic board with magnetic shapes
  • Imagine Theater: With a puppet theater area and a stage, plus cool dress-up costumes and an opportunity to paint your own face
  • Blocks, Trains, Cars: A neat train table and one of those big rugs that has roads on it, plus many blocks and vehicles
  • (Another) Sensory Table: This one has pretty polished rocks that kids can scoop up with construction toys and parents can just admire because they’re so pretty.
  • Art: Possibly the most ample collection of art supplies I have seen at a children’s museum, this thing is jam-packed with multi-colored construction paper, glue, scissors, stamps, easels, paints, and egg cartons.  There is also a play-dough area with lots of cookie cutters and stamps.  Volunteers quickly clean up and replenish the art supplies.
  • Music: Various instruments and a neat series of pipes you hit with flip-flops to make different tones.
  • Library: A cute little reading area with rotating themes.  The current themes are spring and poetry.
  • Misc: Light table with illuminated colored blocks; puzzles; a magnetic fishing activity; kid-appropriate microscopes

Trust me, if you go to this place with a child 7 or younger, you will not be disappointed.  And check out all the neat programs they’re offering for kids this summer.

So if you’re not backpacking through Europe this summer, take a little staycation and spend a day in Frankfort!

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Category: Featured, See & Plays

About the Author ()

Joining Shannon Capanna in Home Sweet Homewood are her professor husband, toddler son, and giant cat. Career-wise, Shannon worked as an elementary school teacher for three years before becoming an editor for math textbooks. She quit that job to try to achieve that elusive work-life balance, and she is now trying to cobble together some kind of career as a writer, editor, and mom. Shannon enjoys swimming, watching quality television, and cat-watching.She also blogs at Chicago Moms Blog, and at her personal site, Boringtown's Closed.

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