“We say, ‘See Chicago, stay in Lisle.’ The rates are considerably less, and there is free coach parking,” said Larry Slade, senior sales manager for the Lisle Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are within a half-hour radius of anything you possibly would want to see or do in the greater Chicago area.”
One of those sites is the Morton Arboretum.
“We have 1,700 acres, which is huge,” said Phelps. “Our collections are very, very vast.”
The arboretum has more than 16 miles of paths, including nine miles of paved roads. “If it is a large group, they can drive through,” said Phelps, “but it is also a great way to take a hike adventure. We also have tram tours on our Acorn Express.”
The East Woods is a natural area that is being restored to presettlement conditions. “If you want to go for a hike in the woods, hear the birds chirp, see the leaves, this is the place to go,” said Phelps.
The arboretum also has several themed gardens.
“Right next door is one of our biggest attractions, the Billy Graham Center Museum,” said Slade. “It’s a history of evangelism. It goes back to the 1600s and its beginnings, and how and why it evolved. It winds down and zeros in on him [Graham] and his family.”
The museum is located on the campus of Wheaton College, which Graham attended.
Chicago’s museum campus on Lake Michigan offers three world-class and different museum experiences within walking distance of each other.
The Adler Planetarium, which opened in 1930 as America’s first planetarium, is undergoing a major transformation to put more emphasis on space exploration, with the addition of several extensive space science exhibits, including a Gemini 12 capsule and the personal memorabilia of astronaut James Lovell.
The original 1930 Sky Theater is scheduled to reopen in May after an extensive renovation that will update its equipment and extend its dome screen to the floor. A new show is being developed for the renovated theater.
“It will provide more of an experience than just a show,” said Julie Bishop, director of sales.
Also nearby are the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.
The 81-year-old Shedd, which has nearly 22,000 aquatic animals representing some 1,500 species, has expanded and upgraded its popular dolphin show to add beluga whales, penguins, a sea lion and a red hawk.
The mammoth Field Museum has nine acres of exhibit space that focuses on anthropology, geology, botany and zoology. One of the most famous and popular of the museum’s millions of artifacts and specimens is Sue, the world’s largest and most complete skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Robert R. McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, was so influenced by his participation in the Battle of Cantigny in France during World War I with the U.S. Army’s First Infantry Division that he renamed his Wheaton farm in honor of the battle.
McCormick left Cantigny to the people of Illinois, and today, it is a 500-acre multiuse park and gardens that also includes two museums: one about McCormick, in his former mansion, and another that deals with the history of the First Division.
“You could literally spend hours there,” said Scholle. “When visitors come in, they watch a 10-minute video of the man, which gives the viewpoint of what he was all about and his vision.”
Scholle said the Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook Terrace has “very affordable Broadway plays,” and Lynfred Winery “makes wonderful, wonderful wines.”
Drury Lane Theater offers group packages that include meals in its dining room and Broadway musicals in its 971-seat proscenium-stage theater. Scheduled later this year and early next year are “Broadway Bound,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Sound of Music” and “Gypsy.”
Fred Koehler and his late wife, Lynn, started Lynfred Winery in 1979 in a historic house in Roselle. The current 24,000-square-foot facility with a tasting room mimics the original house, to which it is attached by a vaulted tunnel in which barrels of aging wine are store, with stained-glass windows, burgundy velvet walls and oak stairs and floors.
Out of the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed much of downtown Chicago, rose the opportunity for a laboratory for architects to create a new and innovative style of American architecture. Today, the Chicago skyline is an eclectic mix of old and new buildings that is a living museum of architecture.
A great way to experience the architecture and learn more about the city’s buildings is on one of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river tours aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises’ yachts from May through November.
The river cruises provide a distinctive vantage point and highlights 53 historic and architecturally significant sites, including the Trump Tower, Merchandise Mart, the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Tower, Marina City and the Willis Tower, where you can see people standing on the Ledge.
“We also offer a wide variety of walking tours,” said Jennifer Devermann, manager of tours and group sales for the foundation. “There are 80 different ones; most are two hours.”