Exploration Station…a Children’s Museum
- 1095 Perry Street
- Bourbonnais, IL 60914
- (815) 933-9905
In 2008, my mom became a grandma for the first time. My brother and his wife had the first of what would be three granddaughters (plus one grandson) for my parents. I can’t complain at all about the things I did with my parents growing up. From the time I was 8, both of my parents worked full time, but we still lots of great things together. We took several trips to Wisconsin Dells, Indiana Beach, Kings Island, Six Flags Great America, Rockome Gardens, and several other smaller vacations and trips to see the White Sox play at new Comiskey Park.
As my brother and I got older, we got in to sports. Our summers were filled with baseball and the vacations dropped off. All we did was play baseball. We traveled to play baseball and we traveled to practice baseball. My mom was always athletic, but I think she started to miss the family trips we took as kids as my brother and I grew up.
Then….grandkids. My mom gets to do a lot of that stuff again and do stuff that wasn’t around when we were kids. As I’ve mentioned a few times, we grew up in a pretty small town. There’s not much to do there. The entertainment and shopping center of the area was 30 miles to the north in the Kankakee/Bradley/Bourbonnais area. There’s not a lot to do there either.
One of the big recreations areas in the tri-cities is Perry Farm Park. This 170 acre recreation area has a small, hands-on farm, trails, a playground, picnic areas, and a fruit orchard just to name a few. The big attraction for my mom at Perry Farm though is the Exploration Station.
The Exploration Station…a Children’s Museum was sort of around when we were kids. The original museum was started in 1990 in a much, much smaller building just up the road from Perry Farm. I don’t ever remember going there as a kid. I don’t think at the time, my parents knew what it was. Children’s museums weren’t super popular in our area and without the Internet, there was no way to really here about all the great ones in the Midwest to even have a clue as to what a children’s museum could offer.
Eventually, the Bourbonnais Park District was able to raise money to move the Exploration Station to the Perry Farm Park in to a much bigger building. That happened in 1997 and that’s the same building the museum is in today.
The Exploration Station is one of the first things you come across once you enter Perry Farm Park from Kennedy Drive. You actually first see the backside of the building. You have to drive around the building to the front where there’s a large parking lot. Unfortunately, the day we were there, they were re-doing their lot and we had to park behind the building in a field. We just assumed we should still use the front door, so we walked around the building in the grass to the front to find the doors locked. Luckily, someone was standing near by and let us in. They were actually using a side door through a conference room as the entrance, but we weren’t aware of that.
Admission to the museum is $7 for anyone over the age of 1 up to 55). It cost $28 for the four of us to get in which my mom took care of.
We’ve been to a lot of children’s museums with L, but this one was a little different right off the bat. The museum is very well organized and the different sections of the museum are very clearly marked. From the admission desk, there are so many options, but L started in right away with the Shop-A-Lot Market.
The Shop-A-Lot Market is a grocery store with a real, working check out. All of the “canned goods” have barcodes on them that will scan and all the fruit, meat, veggies, and breads can be entered in on a touch screen. L grabbed a little shopping cart and went to town getting the groceries for “our family” and took them over to the conveyor belt and check out area to scan them herself. She really had no idea how much bread costs and how much we actually use, so we ended up with about $60 worth of bread in our bag, but she had fun figuring out how to scan things and bagging them up just like she sees us do at the grocery store.
It’s not hard to get L into anything princess related and the next area she ran for was the Exploralot Castle. This is a cool exhibit with a multi-story castle that is big enough for a guy like me to climb up easily yet it’s built with the little prince and princess in mind. There area areas I couldn’t get to and L would run into these areas wanting me to chase her. That wasn’t going to happen. This area also has a puppet theater in the bottom of the castle, a dress up area with medieval period clothes on another side, a number of secret tunnels and a jail where L “locked up” mom and then laughed at her for being behind bars.
We headed down the main hallway next to a curtain that hides the Light Writing Wall in the Illumination area. This dark area has light pens that you can write on walls with. L showed off her skills to grandma and papa but lost interest quickly because of what was on the other side of the curtain.
We spent way too much time in the Up, Up, and Away area. The main focus of this exhibit is the A-Mazing Airways. This is serious of tubes that you can put scarves or balls in to and watch them shoot around a series of tubes to an opening on the other side. There are switches that the kids can move to change the path of the object making them come out somewhere different every time. There was another kid playing with the tubes when we got there, but he and L had a blast shoving scarves into the tubes and then waiting to be hit with them as they came out the other side.
This area also has the air fountain table and a flight simulator. I tried playing the simulator and didn’t quite understand what I was supposed to do. L, of course, liked dressing up as a pilot and yelling at me for “crashing the plane” (FYI, I never crashed it).
We spent a lot of time at the A-Mazing Airways and tried to move L along so we could get to more of the museum. The next part she found was the Postal Office. This area was set up like a pre computerized back room at the post office. There were scales to weigh packages, a hand cranked letter sorter, and pieces of laminated mail with velcro stamps for the kids to put into mail boxes. What’s really neat is all of the pieces of mail are addressed and their are mailboxes throughout the lobby area that this mail can actually be delivered to.
From there, it was to Exploratown Safety Place. L really liked playing with all the warning signs (stop signs, etc.) that were on the back of this hand built wooden fire truck. There was also a hose that pulled out from the back and little turnout gear and helmets for the kids to pretend they were fighting fires with.
The last place we made it to before it was time to go was the Lickety Split Soda Shop and Diner. Once again, another real-to-life set up of a 50’s soda fountain. My mom, dad, and I all took seats and let L be our waitress. She’s really good about asking what we want, but when we say something, she’ll always say, “We don’t have that. We have xxxx” and list off a bunch of things to us to choose from. We all played along and ordered a meal and once we were done, she cleared our plates and made us ice cream cones for being such good customers.
All told, we spent a little over two hours at Exploration Station. My parents loved the one-on-one time they got with L and I know L had a lot of fun with them too. I spent the first 22 or so years of my life in that area and never knew what the Exploration Station was. I really enjoyed the time L and I got with my parents and I hope we get it again soon…as well as one-on-one time with B when he gets a little older.