One of my favorite things about the northwest suburbs of Chicago is the abundance of forest preserves and beautiful open spaces with biking/running trails. When I feel the need to be out in nature, I know where to go. We like to explore new forest preserves as a family, and found this hidden gem in Barrington, IL. Crabtree Nature Center is a great place to teach children about the outdoors and the local environment. It sits on acres of forests, prairies and wetlands, with numerous walking paths and areas to explore. We started in the nature center building, which included information and maps of the local area, as well as interactive exhibits and live animal terrariums. My boys loved the puzzle area and puppet show theater featuring all the local fauna.
Surprisingly, we were the only ones with kids at the nature center when we visited. We spent about an hour doing the various activities and watching the animals. It was neat to learn more about the natural history of the area and discover it in an interactive way. The forest preserve employee encouraged us to check out the outdoor animal exhibits, which included some injured animals that are not strong enough to be released into the wild. We saw a few owls and walked some of the nature paths in the surrounding area. We visited in the fall, but apparently during other times of year this area is also great for bird watching.
Down the trail, we found several informational and activity placards. We learned about bees and the different plants in the area. We also found a story trail! We followed the trail and every so often, a paragraph of the story and pictures to go with it! It was a fun way to get our kids to do a little more hiking than they normally would.
The Crabtree Nature center was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. We spent half our time learning about the local area in the information-packed nature center building, and half hiking around the preserve enjoying the story trail and the beautiful early fall outdoors. Check out their website for special events like bird walks and children’s events! I love the Cook County Forest Preserves and their dedication to providing clean and beautiful open spaces for all to enjoy.