Marvelous Museums in Lake County

By: Stephanie Wylie 11/03/2023

Welcome to the fascinating world of Lake County's museums, where history, art, science and culture come alive! Nestled in the heart of Illinois, Lake County boasts a vibrant array of museums that cater to every curiosity and interest. From captivating exhibits showcasing the region's rich history to art galleries housing masterpieces from renowned artists, these museums offer immersive experiences that leave visitors inspired and enlightened.

Take a journey through the halls of knowledge, where each museum tells a unique story, inviting you to explore, learn and marvel at the wonders within. Get ready to uncover the treasures that await in the diverse museums of Lake County, where education meets entertainment!

The Adler Arts Center in Libertyville





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The Adler Arts Center in Libertyville unveils its mesmerizing exhibition, "Holding onto the Small Hands of Details." Curated by the talented artist Anne Bernard-Pattis, this showcase features over one hundred exquisite pieces in porcelain, prints on paper, textiles and compelling narratives—Bernard-Pattis, drawing inspiration from everyday encounters, literature, landscapes and passing thoughts. The exhibition transcends traditional artistic boundaries, inviting visitors to contemplate the delicate interplay between the mundane and the cosmic. Through delicate porcelain, eloquent paper and rich textiles, the exhibition crafts a sensory and philosophical experience, celebrating the profound beauty found within life's minutiae. Visitors are welcome to immerse themselves in this artistic odyssey, where ordinary moments transform into extraordinary expressions, offering a poignant glimpse into the intricate marvels of existence.

Adler Arts Center, 1700 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville.

The African American Museum at England Manor





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In the heart of Waukegan, lies a treasure trove of Black history, art and culture. The African American Museum at the England Manor, one of its most captivating exhibits, delves into the transformative period of the "Great Migration". This epoch reshaped the landscape of African American life in profound ways. During the Great Migration, from 1916-1970, millions of African Americans moved from the rural Southern states to the urban centers of the North, Midwest and West. The museum highlights the pivotal role of educational institutions like Howard University, nurturing black excellence and enlightenment since 1867. It pays tribute to the courageous Tuskegee Airmen, the first Black military aviators, who defied racial prejudices during World War II. The museum also features Afro picks, symbols of cultural pride and natural hair acceptance, showcasing the era's cultural renaissance. Ultimately, the museum stands as a testament to the strength, creativity and resilience of the African-American community, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and inspiring hope for a more inclusive future.

The African American Museum at The England Manor, 503 N. Genesee St., Waukegan.

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods





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The Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods in Riverwoods presents an immersive sensory experience with its exhibition, "Soundscapes: Visualizing the Healing Sounds of Nature." This exhibition, a part of the At Ease initiative, explores the therapeutic potential of natural and human-made sounds, showcasing the profound impact of calming music, rustling leaves and birdsong on well-being. The accompanying reception celebrates these healing forces, inviting the public to witness the transformative power of art and nature. Through visually expressive artworks, the exhibit offers visitors a unique perspective on the harmonious connection between nature, art and the human spirit. Admission is free, welcoming all to experience the balanced blend of sound and creativity at the Brushwood Center in Riverwoods.

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods, 21850 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods.

Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe





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Get ready to be enchanted by the mesmerizing Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Lightscape returns to the Chicago Botanic Garden, transforming new areas, including Evening Island, into captivating and unprecedented landscapes. From dazzling first-time installations to beloved classics like the Winter Cathedral, this year’s reimagined trail promises to elevate your holiday experience. Gather your loved ones and step into a world adorned with vibrant lights, colors, and music. Let the festive ambiance brighten your spirits as you explore the enchanting displays. Visit Lightscape, where nature meets art, and create unforgettable memories surrounded by the magic of the season. 

Chicago Botanic Garden,1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe.

Dunn Museum in Libertyville





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Step into the prehistoric world at the Dunn Museum's latest interactive exhibition, "Dinosaurs: Fossils Exposed." Curated in collaboration with the Arkansas Discovery Network, this exhibit lets visitors get up close and personal with six dinosaur skeletal molds, including iconic species like Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus rex and Velociraptor. Delve into the past as you touch and explore these colossal creatures, with the exhibit featuring an Apatosaurus femur and various fossilized artifacts. This immersive experience made possible through the partnership with the Lake County Forest Preserve District, offers a hands-on educational adventure, bridging the gap between history and the present. It's a unique opportunity for both enthusiasts and curious learners to marvel at the ancient wonders that once roamed our planet, fostering a deep appreciation for the mysteries of Earth's distant past.

Dunn Museum, 1899 W. Winchester Rd., Libertyville.

Grayslake Heritage Center & Museum in Grayslake





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The Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum proudly hosts the enthralling exhibit "Biking Through the Years: Cycling in Grayslake." Showcasing a captivating array of artifacts from the Grayslake Historical Society and local community members, the exhibition traces the evolution of cycling over three centuries, capturing national and local cycling history. From the early days of bicycles as symbols of freedom and adventure to the modern, sleek designs we see today, the exhibit explores the mechanical evolution and societal attitudes towards cycling. What sets this exhibit apart is its focus on Grayslake's significant contributions to the cycling world, emphasizing the community's passion and innovation. More than a mere display, "Biking Through the Years" is a vibrant celebration of the joy of cycling, highlighting the thrill of exploration and the enduring camaraderie within the cycling community. Visitors immerse themselves in the rich heritage of cycling, appreciating the pioneers and enthusiasts who have shaped Grayslake's unique cycling legacy.

Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum, 164 Hawley St., Grayslake.


Kohl's Children's Museum at College of Lake County - Lakeshore Campus





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The Kohl's Children's Museum is bringing its engaging Pop-Up Museum back to Waukegan, this time at the College of Lake County Lakeshore Campus. The museum offers free interactive learning experiences for families. The Pop-Up Museum provides an educational haven where children can explore science, art and creativity. With a mission to make learning enjoyable, this initiative encourages children to engage in hands-on activities, sparking curiosity and nurturing their imaginations. The flexible schedule ensures accessibility for families, promising a world of discovery and growth for young minds in a stimulating and enriching environment.

Kohl's Children's Museum at College of Lake County-Lakeshore Campus, 33 N. Genesee St., Waukegan.


Mother Rudd Museum in Gurnee





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Experience a captivating evening of history and community at the Mother Rudd Home Museum in Gurnee. In collaboration with Warren Township High School, the Historical Society presents "Oral History at Mother Rudd Home Museum," featuring interviews conducted in the 1990s with long-time Warren Township residents. These rarely-seen videotapes offer unique insights into the lives and memories of community members, preserving personal histories hidden for decades. This event provides a valuable opportunity for attendees to connect with the past, celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Warren Township and the enduring power of storytelling. All are welcome to join this enlightening evening, embracing the community spirit and the importance of preserving our shared history.

Mother Rudd Museum, 4690 Old Grand Ave., Gurnee.


Mundelein Heritage Museum in Mundelein





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The Mundelein Heritage Museum proudly unveils a series of captivating exhibits that dive deep into the town's rich history. Visitors are welcome to explore the pioneering days of early settlers, the legacy of one-room schools in Fremont Township and the iconic businesses that have shaped Mundelein's commerce landscape. The museum also pays homage to Mundelein's military heroes with displays dedicated to World War I and World War II, honoring the town's brave servicemen and women. Another exhibit delves into the evolution of Mundelein's name, shedding light on the town's historical identity. Additionally, the museum transforms its office space into a captivating showcase of Mundelein's railroad legacy, highlighting the town's connectivity and growth through the railway system. These exhibits serve as immersive portals, inviting visitors to embark on a captivating journey through Mundelein's vibrant heritage, capturing the essence of the town's past and present.

Mundelein Heritage Museum, 601 E. Noel Dr., Mundelein.


National Museum of the American Sailor in Great Lakes





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In the heart of Naval Station Great Lakes, the National Museum of the American Sailor recently hosted a captivating exhibit, "Sailor Ink: Tattoos and the U.S. Navy." Tattoo historian Dr. Anna Friedman guides attendees on a mesmerizing journey through the intricate history of naval tattoos, unveiling the deep-rooted connections between ink and maritime heritage. Through a rich array of historical images, attendees explore the symbolism and significance behind iconic naval tattoos, such as pigs, chickens and the renowned "Hold Fast" knuckle tattoos. The event not only delves into the mysteries behind these inked artworks but also celebrates the unity, protection and tradition represented among sailors. "Sailor Ink" became a poignant tribute to the enduring legacy etched into the skin of sailors, emphasizing the profound impact of tattoos on naval identity and tradition.

National Museum of the American Sailor, 2531 Sheridan Rd., Great Lakes.


Robert T. Wright Gallery of Art at College of Lake County in Grayslake





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The Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art at the College of Lake County in Grayslake proudly presents its latest exhibit, "Celebration of Latinx Artists." This vibrant showcase honors the diverse and creative voices within Latinx culture, featuring an array of captivating artworks from the surrounding community. The exhibit includes a diverse collection of pieces, from Ivan Almazo's colorful oil painting "Baby Shoes," a poignant tribute to his mother, to Javier Chavira's "Secret Garden," an oil painting honoring the Yanomami people's struggle against modern intrusion. The exhibit also includes collaborative pieces, like the group mural project "Untitled," depicting life in Lake County, showcasing the collective vision of CLC students under the guidance of visiting artist Mario Castillo. This diverse array of art pieces, celebrating the depth and richness of Latinx culture, provides visitors with a compelling and thought-provoking experience at the Robert T. Wright Community Gallery of Art.

Robert T. Wright Gallery of Art at College of Lake County, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake.


Shiloh House in Zion





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The Shiloh House Museum, located in Zion, Illinois, is a captivating tribute to the town's founder, Dr. John Alexander Dowie. Built in 1901, this mansion served as Dr. Dowie's residence and witnessed the birth of Zion, a planned industrial community and religious utopia. Designed by architect Paul Burkhardt, the house boasts a unique Swiss Chalet design featuring red brick, Indiana limestone and intricate plaster and wood panels. Inside, visitors can explore 25 rooms, each steeped in history, from the grand foyer to Dr. Dowie's study and the tragic tale of Esther Dowie's unfulfilled wish for a pink fireplace. The mansion's restoration journey, overseen by dedicated individuals like Mr. Wesley Ashland, has transformed it into a museum and headquarters for the Zion Historical Society, preserving the town's rich heritage and sharing its story with visitors. The Shiloh House Museum stands as a testament to Zion's resilience. It serves as a place where the spirit of Dr. Dowie and the town's enduring legacy come to life. Don't forget to stop by this holiday season to visit and view the beautiful mansion all dressed up with holiday decor. The "Shiloh House Christmas" is an event worth seeing! The mansion will be open for self-guided tours starting November 25.

Shiloh House, 1300 Shiloh Blvd., Zion.


Sock Monkey Museum in Long Grove





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Nestled in Long Grove, the Sock Monkey Museum is a delightful haven where whimsy and nostalgia meet. Housing a charming collection of Sock Monkeys, each with a unique tale, the museum celebrates the reunion of these lovable creatures, affectionately termed "Solemates." From cheerleader outfits to pink boa feathers, every Sock Monkey carries a past, yet all share a common purpose: spreading joy and smiles. The museum's origins trace back to the discovery of a Sock Monkey mascot in 2006, leading a family on a quest to bring together these delightful companions. Through diverse means, including estate sales, gifts and online discoveries, the museum has amassed over 2,000 Sock Monkey relatives over 16 years. Visitors are welcomed not just as observers but as participants in a heartwarming narrative where the spirit of adventure and togetherness thrives, embodied by these timeless and endearing creations. The Sock Monkey Museum in Long Grove recently earned a Guinness World Record for having the largest collection of handmade sock monkeys in the world.

Sock Monkey Museum, 210 Robert Parker Coffin Rd., Long Grove.


Volo Bog State Natural Area in Volo





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Nestled just 56 miles northwest of bustling downtown Chicago lies Volo Bog State Natural Area, Illinois' sole open-water quaking bog, showcasing the marvels of nature and the unwavering dedication of local conservationists. The history of Volo Bog dates back to 1958, with passionate community efforts leading to its preservation and expansion. The Friends of Volo Bog, formed in 1983, continue championing the site's conservation, advocating against potential threats and supporting educational programming. The Visitor Center, housed in a renovated dairy barn, serves as a hub for learning, featuring engaging exhibits and a hands-on discovery area. With upcoming events like the book club discussion on "Life Lived Wild: Adventures at the Edge of the Map" by Rick Ridgeway, Volo Bog State Natural Area beckons nature enthusiasts, history lovers and anyone seeking a tranquil escape into the heart of Illinois' natural heritage. Visitors can explore scenic trails, enjoy picnics and delve into the captivating world of Volo Bog, where nature's wonders meet human dedication. Volo Bog is listed on the National Natural Landmark since 1972.

Volo Bog State Natural Area, 28478 W. Brandenburg Rd., Ingleside.


Volo Museum





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The Volo Auto Museum presents a profoundly moving experience with its "Titanic: Tribute to the Tragedy" exhibit. This 45-minute journey delves into the tragic night of the Titanic's sinking, offering a unique blend of education and heartfelt tribute. Tailored for Titanic enthusiasts and curious minds, the exhibit seamlessly intertwines emotion with knowledge, captivating visitors with its immersive storytelling. Visit the Volo Museum and embark on a journey beyond entertainment, leaving a lasting connection to the past and the indomitable spirit of the Titanic's passengers. This exhibit is more than an educational journey; it's a heartfelt tribute that will resonate with you long after you leave, reminding us all of the enduring impact of history on our lives.

Volo Museum. 27582 W. Volo Village Rd., Volo.


Waukegan History Museum at Bowen Park





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The City of Progress museum proudly presents "Waukegan's Past-Time," a captivating exhibition that delves into the deep-rooted love affair between "Greentown" and baseball since the late 1850s. From the town's very first recorded team in 1859 to the formation of iconic clubs like the Athletic Baseball Club and the Belvidere National and Waukegan Baseball Clubs in the early 1870s, baseball became an integral part of Waukegan's cultural fabric. Through vintage photographs, historical accounts and memorabilia, the exhibit paints a vivid picture of the town's baseball heritage, celebrating the triumphs and defeats, the community spirit and the enduring passion baseball has inspired for generations. Visitors step back in time, immersing themselves in the nostalgia of neighborhood fields, championships won and lost and the timeless joy found in America's favorite pastime. "Waukegan's Past-Time" is more than a sports exhibition; it's a heartfelt tribute to the town's history, teamwork and the enduring spirit of camaraderie that baseball has fostered in Waukegan.

Waukegan History Museum at Bowen Park. 1917 N. Sheridan Rd., Waukegan.


Waukegan Holiday Tour of Homes





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Embrace the festive spirit at the Waukegan Holiday Tour of Homes, a magical event organized by the City of Progress Historical Society. Set against the charming backdrop of the city's historic district along Sheridan Road, homeowners graciously open their beautifully decorated houses, both inside and outside, for a self-guided tour. This cherished tradition, dating back to 1969, allows attendees to explore the festive wonders leisurely. The event not only spreads holiday cheer but also serves as a significant fundraiser for the Waukegan Historical Society, supporting their efforts to preserve the town's rich heritage and community initiatives. It's more than just a tour; it's a celebration of tradition, community and the enchantment that defines the holiday season, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the warmth and magic of Waukegan's holiday splendor.

Waukegan History Museum at Bowen Park, 1917 N. Sheridan Rd., Waukegan.

For a list of all the museums and historic homes in the land of lakes, continue here. For a list of all the events Lake County has to offer, click here.

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