Found 20 miles west of the Chicago Loop, Lombard is a village with plenty of history and a preserved downtown area surrounding the train station.
It’s impossible to talk about Lombard without mentioning lilacs. Lombard’s park district was born when a long-term resident donated his lilac-rich estate to the village in 1927.
Within a few years this space, dubbed Lilacia Park, became the focal point for Lilac Time, a festival celebrating these beautiful blooms.
The Lombard Historical Society maintains two museums in Lombard, while Yorktown Center, one of the top malls in the suburbs is set here, and the famed Morton Arboretum is just a stone’s throw away.
1. Lilacia Park
Then multitalented Colonel William Plum (1845-1927), a writer, lawyer, soldier and horticulturist, bequeathed his estate to the village when he passed away.
His house became the Helen M. Plum Memorial Library, named for his wife, while the garden, treasured for its lilac bushes, became a public park.
Today Lilacia Park has some 200 lilac varieties, and they descend from Plum’s collection, built from cuttings purchased from the famed breeder Victor Lemoine (1823-1911), in Nancy, France.
There are 700 bushes in total, usually in bloom in early May to coincide with an annual festival.
Also growing at Lilacia Park are 35,000 tulips from 50 varieties, and the park is on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the history of horticulture in the United States.
2. Lilac Time
By 1930 Lilacia Park’s exquisite lilacs had become the subject of a festival that is still going strong today.
For more than two weeks in the first half of May, Lombard goes lilac crazy, with a bucketful of lilac-themed events.
A “Lilac Princess” has been crowned each year since 1930, while there’s a lilac parade down Main Street, a formal ball, an arts and crafts fair, a Mothers’ Day brunch.
You can catch a whole program of guided tours at Lilacia Park, as well as wine and beer tastings and concerts.
3. The Morton Arboretum
Staying on the botanical theme, the famous Morton Arboretum is just off Lombard southwest corner.
As well as a captivating attraction with more than 200,000 catalogued plants in 1,700 acres of gardens, the arboretum is a leading center for tree research, hosting the Center for Tree Science.
Visitors have much to explore, on foot or via the Acorn Express Tram Tour. There are numerous gardens awaiting you, from the idyllic Ground Clover Garden to the magical Maze Garden, centered on a giant sycamore.
Throughout the arboretum are important collections of trees, from conifers to willows, ornamental flowering trees, maples, ginkgos, birches, beeches, oaks, lindens, elms and more.
You can also view engaging indoor exhibitions at the sustainable visitor center, built in 2004, while the Sterling Morton Library (1963) holds many thousands of books, magazines, prints, photographs, maps, letters, drawings and more.
4. Lombard Historical Society – Victorian Cottage Museum
This local organization documents 150+ years of local history, and has two separate campuses that you can visit in Lombard.
The headquarters can be found at the Victorian Cottage Museum, at 23 W. Maple Street. The building in question is a dainty middle class family home from 1882, with six period rooms carefully preserved in the Victorian style and replete with antique fabrics, furniture and fixtures.
On the grounds you’ll find the Carriage House from 1887, containing an ongoing exhibit about the history of Lombard, as well as the romantic William J. Mueller Gazebo.
5. Lombard Historical Society – Sheldon Peck Homestead
A leisurely walk from the Victorian Cottage Museum is another property steeped in history. Standing here is the restored homestead begun in 1837 by the artist Sheldon Peck (1797-1868) and his wife Harriet Peck.
Not only did the Peck House serve as the first school in the area, it was a key station on the Underground Railroad.
It is thought that Peck, a fervent abolitionist, would hide people escaping slavery at this property and transfer them to Chicago via wagon.
The homestead is listed on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom as a confirmed Underground Railroad site.
You can visit for tours and to find out more about the Pecks, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, February through November.
6. Yorktown Center
Lombard claims one of the top shopping destinations in the Chicago Suburbs, with a two-level mall and a pleasant outdoor shopping center complemented by trees, flowerbeds and benches.
As malls go, the Yorktown Center has a long history, and when it opened in 1968 it was the largest shopping center in the country.
With close to 200 stores, the mall brims with familiar names like JCPenney, Target, H&M, Forever 21, American Eagle, Yankee Candle and Hot Topic.
The extensive food court is a major draw too, with mall ever-presents like Panda Express, Nori Sushi & Ramen, Auntie Anne’s and Sbarro, but also the Chicago-specific chains such as Billy Goat Tavern.
7. Great Western Trail
Passing through Lombard is a section of a rail trail on the right of way of the Chicago Great Western Railway.
This Class I railroad operated between 1885 and 1968, linking Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha and Kansas City. Gradually improved since the early 1990s, there are three non-contiguous sections of the Great Western Trail in the Chicago suburbs.
Lombard is on the eastern section, extending between neighboring Villa Park and West Chicago for 12.7 miles, through quiet suburban communities and tracts of open farmland.
For an easy walk or bike ride, the path passes along the north end of a couple of parks in Lombard, at Westmore Woods and Lombard Common. At Villa Park and West Chicago the trail connects with the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path.
8. Noon Whistle Brewing Company
Lombard has a highly rated craft brewery in an unexpected location at a rather nondescript looking shopping center.
Noon Whistle opened here in 2014, and since that time has been constantly experimenting and coming up with unusual beer varieties.
There are up to 28 brews on tap at any one time, and you can fill growlers or pick up six packs and cases to go.
A few of the creations include Pale Ales, Sours, Stouts, a Czech-style Pilsner, a Belgian Dubbel, a Witbier, a Weissbier, a Red Ale, as well as hard seltzers.
The taproom and accompanying beer garden are open Wednesday through Sunday, and on Fridays and Saturdays there will be a food truck for anything from BBQ to tamales and Italian beef sandwiches.
9. Madison Meadow
This 85-acre park attracts people from well beyond Lombard’s boundaries for its extensive facilities.
To sum up, you’ve got an 18-hole disc golf course, a fishing pond, tennis courts, soccer-football fields, softball/baseball fields, a skate park, a 1.5-mile walking trail, a basketball court, children’s playgrounds and a picnic shelter.
Something worthy of mention is the Madison Meadow Athletic Center. Unveiled in 2018, this state-of-the-art indoor facility features a 4,800-square-foot fitness center, an open gym, indoor track, fitness studios, all sorts of classes and free Wi-Fi.
Plus if you’re around on the 4th of July, Madison Meadow hosts one of the area’s best fireworks shows.
10. Maple Street Chapel
A fine historic landmark can be found at the corner of Maple Street by the Victorian Cottage Museum. This is the Maple Street Chapel, constructed in the Gothic Revival style in 1870.
This building held a great deal of significance for the village, and not just as a place of worship.
The chapel’s bell summoned the village’s volunteer fire department, while the interior housed Lombard’s first library, its first kindergarten, and even screened silent movies in the early 20th century.
This whitewashed monument has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978 and is easily recognized by the open belfry and spire on the north side.
To learn more about the building you can check out the chapel’s website for details of upcoming guided tours.
11. Lombard Common
Right beside the Sheldon Peck Homestead is another of Lombard’s favorite places for outdoor recreation.
Lombard Common is a large spread of flowing lawns, scattered with tall trees and no lack of sports amenities.
At the north end is Paradise Bay Water Park, cherished by families in summer, with a zero-depth entry leisure pool, an eight-lane lap pool and a shallow play area for the littlest visitors.
Elsewhere you’ll find facilities for baseball, basketball and tennis, as well as paved walking paths winding through the greenery and a short but well maintained disc golf course.
12. Sunset Knoll Recreation Center and Park
Another exceptional public amenity in Lombard is this recreation center surrounded by a spacious green park.
All year round, but especially in summer, Sunset Knoll is an anchor for all sorts of camps and community programs for kids.
Also in the warmer months, parents bring smaller kids to the fantastic splash pad, always a big hit on hot days.
Other amenities include a conventional playground, picnic areas, walking trails and soccer and baseball fields. The name is pretty accurate too, as the sunsets here are gorgeous, while in winter that knoll becomes the best place in Lombard for sledding.
13. Enchanted Castle Restaurant & Entertainment Complex
There’s no lack of things to do at one of the largest family entertainment complexes in the Chicago area, set right here in Lombard.
As well as a 700-seat restaurant, Enchanted Castle has innovative VR games, laser tag, go-karts, mini golf, bumper cars, mini-bowling, indoor rides and an immense arcade room packed with video, skill and redemption games.
Younger children will adore the Quest II: Kids Adventure Playland, a play area with fun and safe challenges including a climbing wall, bumper bridge and dragon slide.
Finally, the Dragon’s Den Restaurant has a large menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads, appetizers and entrees, and prides itself on its homemade pizzas topped with 100% real mozzarella.
14. Safari Land
If one isn’t enough, there’s another action-packed family activity center on Lombard’s north side.
Also on a vast scale, Safari Land covers more than 60,000 square feet and offers eight indoor attractions.
You’ve got 12 lanes of bowling, an arcade with more than 100 machines (including a Maxflight Simulator), a carousel, tilt-a-whirl, indoor roller coaster, a virtual roller coaster, bumper cars, kids’ go-karts and a massive soft play area with five slides.
Safari Land offers a choice of packages, with unlimited access to various attractions, as well as a pizza and soft drink at the restaurant.
15. Churchill Woods Forest Preserve
The Great Western Trail also grazes the north side of this 255-acre nature preserve on the boundary between Lombard and Glen Ellyn.
Churchill Woods is managed by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, taking care of a wealth of forests, wetlands and prairies in the area.
At Churchill Woods you’ll encounter an array of wooded habitats, with one of the few remaining, and largest, native prairies in the county, as well as a savana of black maple, white oak and bur oak.
Native flora abounds at the preserve, including bellwort, wild strawberry, mayapple and hairy hog peanut, a holdover from when this land was a large grazing area for hogs.
You can navigate the woods on a mile-long trail, while there are designated spaces for birdwatching and picnicking.