Thirty miles southwest of Chicago, Bolingbrook is a village that took shape in the 1960s and has grown steadily since then to a population of 75,000.
Bolingbrook stands out for its diverse population, and for visitors one of the big draws is a bustling outdoor mall flanked by national and international retailers like IKEA.
Another big feather in Bolingbrook’s cap is the sheer quantity of nature all around, at historic preserves and regenerated industrial sites like former quarries that are now lakes.
In fact the public amenities in the village are excellent, at a mammoth public library, a year-round water park, fishing lakes, two golf courses and extensive parks.
1. Pelican Harbor
The only indoor/outdoor water park in the state can be found in Bolingbrook and is even a public facility.
You’ll find it at Volunteer Park and features a wealth of attractions whether you’re bringing your family for a day of summer fun or want to get some laps in.
Pelican Harbor has seven water slides, two zero-depth pools, a lap pool, a diving well, a hot tub, a lazy river, as well as a spray park and sand playground for younger kids.
This is a great option during the school summer break, with concessions outside and lots of space for parents who would prefer to relax on a sun lounger.
2. Hidden Oaks Conservation Area
Run by the Bolingbrook Park District is this tract of wilderness where you can connect with nature all year round.
There’s an educational dimension to the Hidden Oaks Conservation Area, with exhibits about the wildlife native to Illinois, as well as hands-on activities, a small array of animals, a rooftop garden for picnics and a wonderful wooden playground.
The center also organizes a range of programs, classes and tours. You can set off on your own hike on signposted trails that connect in the north with the DuPage River Greenway Trail.
3. Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm
Next door to the Hidden Oaks Conservation Area is a fantastic destination for sport fishing, managed by the Bolingbrook Park District.
This spot is made up of four lakes just south of the East Branch DuPage River. The lakes are couched in 15 acres of woodland, and on the site is the Tackle Box Bait Shop, open daily for equipment, bait and snacks, but also fishing licenses and permits.
The four lakes have large numbers of catfish, trout, bluegill and bass, and set the scene for a series of fishing derbies throughout the year.
4. The Promenade Bolingbrook
Like the best outdoor shopping centers, The Promenade Bolingbrook could easily be mistaken for a dynamic commercial district in a city.
On genuine streets with trees, shrubs and flowerbeds are more than 60 shops, including Barnes & Noble, Macy’s, H&M, Claire’s, Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle.
These are interspersed by 12 restaurants offering indoor and outdoor dining, whether you’re up for pizza, American cuisine, ramen or hibachi Mongolian-stlyle.
The Promenade is part of a larger shopping area home to dozens of chain restaurants and big box stores for the likes of Costco, IKEA and Petland.
5. The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park
Just east of Bolingbrook there’s a new outdoor activity park on former industrial land previously quarried for yellow dolomite.
The park covers more than 300 acres next to the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and features ropes courses, the longest zip lines in the tri-state area, climbing towers and climbing walls.
The Eight Towers aerial ropes course is the main event, spread across ten acres and comprising 299 high ropes elements.
But the park also has extensive terrain for activities like laser tag and biking, as well as kayaking, canoeing or pedal-boating on pristine quarry lakes.
6. Whalon Lake
Nature has also returned to another quarry in the north of Bolingbrook at Whalon Lake. Right by the Hidden Oaks Conservation Area, Whalon Lake is an 81-acre body of water next to the DuPage river.
At the preserve you can stroll along a 3.71-mile section of the DuPage River Trail, also open for biking, as well as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
The water is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, black crappie and walleye, and is also open to canoes and kayaks, which are available to rent from Naperville Kayak.
And if you’re here with your four-legged pal, the preserve has an extensive off-leash dog park, with designated spaces for smaller and larger dogs.
7. Wilderness Falls Mini Golf
Right by Clow International Airport in Bolingbrook is a mini golf center worthy of a top theme park and rated as one of the best in the Chicago area.
Wilderness Falls has two 18-hole courses, in imaginative environments that include a 40-foot mountain, a 35-foot waterfall and a cave inhabited by Bigfoot.
On your round, keep an eye out for the attraction’s mascot, Maddox the Moose. Wilderness Falls also offers nine batting cages, six for baseball, with pitch speeds of up to 75 mph, and three for softball.
8. Illinois Aviation Museum
The 6,000-square-foot Hangar One at Clow International Airport is the setting for this museum open on Saturdays.
Despite the limited opening hours the Illinois Aviation Museum has a riveting aircraft collection that goes back to World War I.
From this period there’s a Fokker E.III, a Nieuport 11 and a Nieuport 12. Later models include a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a North American T2 Buckeye, two North American T-33s, a homebuilt Jungster II and a UH-1C Huey gunship, made famous by the Vietnam War.
There’s also a trove of aviation artifacts to discover like uniforms and pilot equipment, as well as an early flight simulator, known as a Link Trainer.
9. Greene Valley Forest Preserve
These botanically diverse 1,388 acres are in the care of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
At the Greene Valley Forest Preserve you’ll get a sense of what the natural landscape was like more than a century ago, especially in the savanna between Greene Road and the East Branch DuPage River.
There are 12 miles of trails at the preserve for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
A real highlight is the 190-foot scenic overlook, open on weekends May through October, and offering a complete panorama of DuPage County but also arresting views of the Chicago skyline, far off to the east.
10. Rocket Ice Arena
If you’re in search of an affordable family activity, Bolingbrook’s public skating rink is a good bet.
The Rocket Ice Arena was established in 1999 and is rated among the best in the state, offering skate rental for as little as $3.
As well as regular public skate sessions (with music in the evenings), the rink offers freestyle slots, skating lessons for all levels and competitions for individual and synchronized figure skating.
On the hockey side of things you can also sign up for lessons, join a league team or just hit the ice on a casual stick and puck session.
11. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Just off Bolingbrook’s east flank is another substantial parcel of natural space managed by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
Ecologically speaking, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is thought to be one of the most diverse spaces in Illinois, with 740 different native plant species.
This makes up three quarters of all the plants growing naturally in DuPage County, and in inhabiting these oak-maple woodlands, savannas and prairies are more than 300 species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.
Much of the reserve’s southern portions are covered by a carefully maintained Bluff Savanna, supporting hickories, black walnuts and oaks as old as 200 years.
You can discover these important habitats along a multi-use 9.5-mile trail, laid with crushed limestone.
12. Fountaindale Public Library
If you’re a Bolingbrook resident, the village’s public library is a godsend, with first-class amenities, services and programs.
Set amid parkland on W Briarcliff Rd, Fountaindale Public Library has a wide-ranging collection of titles, along with DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, computers, study rooms and meeting rooms.
Parents can bring their children to use designated computers or learn while they play at the creativity park. If you’re a cardholder you can borrow a Chromebook during your time at the library, while there’s also a wealth of other equipment on hand, from E-readers to tablets and studio equipment.
Added to that is a packed schedule of events, like arts and crafts, storytimes and movie screenings.
Non-residents can still visit the library to read the day’s newspapers and magazines, use a computer or make the most of the free Wi-Fi.
13. Johansen Farms
For much of the year Johansen Farms is mainly a garden center and nursery.
You can visit for everything you could possibly need for your yard, from perennials to shrubs, petunias, begonias, geraniums, long bloomers and all manner of pots, planters, baskets and other accessories.
But in the fall season Johansen Farms also becomes a true family attraction, complete with hayrides, a corn maze, nine holes of mini golf, train rides, air slides and a petting zoo where kids can hand feed farm animals and take pony rides.
14. iPiC Bolingbrook
Established in 2010, and with more than a 100 locations in the United States, this upscale movie theater chain can also be found at The Promenade Bolingbrook.
The iPiC experience combines in-theater, chef-driven dining with state-of-the-art entertainment and luxurious comfort.
So you can indulge in signature cocktails and a contemporary menu to suit all palates and dietary needs, all at the push of a button.
This might be a beyond burger, buttermilk fried chicken, salad bowls or fancy popcorn with churro or truffle-parmesan.
The whole time you can simply ease back into your comfy, reclinable seat and enjoy the show.
15. Bolingbrook Golf Club
For a municipal course, Bolingbrook Golf Club earns stellar reviews, blending championship golf with world-class facilities.
The 18-hole par 72 course was designed by the famed golf architect Arthur Hills and is a joy to behold from every hole.
You’ll be wowed by scenic elevated tees, rambling fairways and an abundance of water, with no fewer than seven lakes strewn across the landscape.
The signature par 3 15th hole makes the most of this with a true island green. To go with the superb course there’s a driving range with 70 hitting stations, along with a chipping area and putting green.