This northwestern suburb of Chicago has put a lot of care into its downtown area over the last few years.
Centering on a sociable village green, the streets around the Metra station have wrought-iron lamp posts, colorful flower displays and newly planted trees, creating a walkable focal point for the village.
Something special about Mount Prospect is the profusion of public green space, belonging both to local park districts and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Mount Prospect has excellent amenities, from outdoor pools to an ice arena and acclaimed municipal golf course, as well as a bustling events calendar with something going on all year.
1. Mount Prospect Historical Society
An enthralling window on the village’s past, the Mount Prospect Historical Society has a small campus close to the train station downtown.
There you can admire the elegant Dietrich Friedrichs House, dated to 1906 and preserved as a historic house museum.
Also on this plot is the one-room Central School, built in 1896, relocated to the site in 2008 and opened to the public in 2017 after a long-term restoration.
The historical society displays extensive collections of photographs, furniture, household items, textiles, fashion and much more, and has also published interesting walking itineraries of the village that you can download from their website.
2. Mt. Prospect Golf Club
Held as a shining example for municipal courses, Mt. Prospect Golf Club has recently been given a significant redesign.
This returned the course to its 1920s origins, with a layout evocative of the fabled course architect Seth Raynor (1874-1926), responsible for celebrated Illinois private courses, Shoreacres and Chicago Golf club.
In Mount Prospect this kind of elevated golf experience is available to all, with Raynor-style “template” holes mimicking famous equivalents at places like St. Andrews and Prestwick.
The club also has the best driving range in the area, more than 300 yards long and with bent-grass tees.
3. Melas Park
This beloved public park is just off the Northwest Highway and has a prominent place in local life in Mount Prospect.
Summer here means a slew of outdoor events, and one of the biggest is the Fourth of July festival, which we’ll cover in more detail later.
There are baseball and softball fields on the southwest side for summer leagues, while in winter the park has one of the most popular sledding hills in the area.
The Canine Commons dog park on the north side is almost two acres, with separate fenced-in areas for larger and smaller dogs (membership required).
4. Camp Pine Woods
Mount Prospect’s eastern fringe is buffered by an extensive Cook County nature preserve, one of a string of natural spaces on the banks of the Des Plaines river.
This is an ideal place to get onto the Des Plaines River Trail (more later in this list). Camp Pine Woods has an interesting history, as a Civilian Conservation Corp work camp in the 1930s and then a German POW camp in WWII.
You can find the faint remnants of the camp along the main trail, which loops around its footprint couched in woodland.
The preserve is composed of oak woodland, mixed forest and an important parcel of restored shrub prairie on the eastern margins of the main trail, as it leaves the woodland.
Adjoining Camp Pine Woods to the southeast is the 37-acre Beck Lake, a fishing destination with a boat launch and an off-leash dog area close by.
5. The Grove National Historic Landmark
There’s a compelling slice of local history just across the Des Plaines River in Glenview. There you can get to know the Kennicott family, key figures in the region’s agricultural and science communities in the 19th century.
The physician John A. Kennicott planted the area’s first commercial nursery, while his son Robert (1835-1866) became a leading naturalist and founder of the Chicago Academy of Sciences.
Their property at The Grove features 123 acres of ecologically diverse prairie, as well as the Kennicott House from 1856, and the Tudor Revival Redfield Estate, built by a descendant, Bertha Redfield.
You can tour those historic houses, explore the trails and check out the interpretive center, which has fascinating natural history and live animal exhibits.
6. Burning Bush Trails Park
On the east side of the village, this park has undergone some dramatic renovations in the last few years.
The changes are most noticeable on the western half of Burning Bush Trails Park, which now has a highly innovative and interactive playground for children.
Other details added during the work include ping pong tables, a sand pit, fitness stations, new shelters, relaid walking paths, a shoot-around basketball court, improved futsal and roller hockey courts and gorgeous passive gardens with a pollinator education area.
The eastern half of the park is dominated by a pair of baseball/softball fields.
7. Mount Prospect Ice Arena
Chicago is ranked as the fifth best hockey city in the United States so it should come as no shock that Mount Prospect has a state-of-the-art hockey and skating facility.
Geared towards adult and youth leagues, the Mount Prospect Ice Arena has two NHL-sized rinks, both with a capacity for 450 spectators.
This is combined with 10 team locker rooms, a full-service pro shop and a high-quality pizza restaurant on the second level that has a superb view of both rinks.
For the casual skater or hockey enthusiast, there are public skate sessions at the North Rink and Stick N’ Puck sessions at the South Rink, usually Monday, Wednesday and Thursday,
8. Meadows Park
We’ve seen that Mount Prospect is endowed with some fabulous public parks and recreation amenities.
One of the best sits directly opposite from Melas Park on Route 14. Meadows Park really comes alive in the summer months when the outdoor pool opens. Depending on the weather you can use the pool from Memorial Day weekend until September.
As well as an eight-lane lap pool there’s an eight-foot drop slide, a diving board, interactive spray attractions for kids and concession areas with seating.
You’ll also find plenty of green space around the pool complex for picnics. In Mount Prospect, Lions Park has an ever-popular wave pool, open in the summer.
9. Des Plaines River Trail
Passing by the east side of Mount Prospect along the namesake river is a trail that runs through a big portion of Cook County and then all of Lake County to the north, as far as the Wisconsin border.
Always being improved, the Des Plaines River Trail is a multi-use route that carries you through an approximately 50-mile corridor of nature preserves between Russell Road in the north and River Forest in the south.
Even though you’ll be hiking, biking or even skiing through the Chicago suburbs you can travel through miles of oak-hickory forest without crossing a road.
10. River Trail Nature Center
During your walk along the Des Plaines River Trail you could make the detour to this wonderful attraction in Allison Woods minutes east of downtown Mount Prospect.
The River Trail Nature Center has captivating hands-on exhibits and play areas, as well as terrariums and aviaries for animals like turtles, snakes and owls to paint a clear picture of the ecology of the Des Plaines River.
The center also has a small system of trails installed with interpretive signs pointing out wildlife.
The staff here are friendly and knowledgeable, and host a range of workshops, as diverse as beehive-tending and making maple syrup.
11. Lions Club Farmers’ Market
Setting up throughout the summer season is a charming community farmers’ market run by the Lions Club.
This takes place on Sunday mornings, right by Mount Prospect station at the southwest corner of Northwest HWY and Emerson Street.
Open whatever the weather, the farmers’ market has upwards of 40 vendors for seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, baked goods, sauces, syrups, preserves and more, all from farms and producers in the Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan area.
12. Play Ball USA
If you have a potential big league slugger or pitcher in your family, or if you want to improve your own technique, Play Ball USA is a high-end baseball/softball training center open to the public.
The company has two facilities in Mount Prospect: The group-oriented Team Training Center and the individual-oriented Player Development Academy.
Both facilities are equipped with batting cages, baseball and softball pitching machines and enclosed pitching areas.
You can book a cage for 30 minutes on your own, or if you want pointers to get your game to the next level you can sign up for a lesson. Discounts are offered with 10 or 20-lesson packages.
13. Randhurst Village
This mall in Mount Prospect underwent a transformation in the 2000s when it was redesigned with outdoor elements.
Randhurst Village has a history reaching back to 1962 when it was the first regional mall in the Chicago area and the largest air-conditioned space in the entire United States.
On landscaped streets, with street lamps, trees and flowerbeds, the mall has dozens of regional and national retailers, like Old Navy, T.J. Maxx, Home Depot and Costco.
These are side-by-side with restaurants, from Five Guys to Jersey Mike’s and Chipotle, along with a 12-screen AMC cinema.
On the day before Thanksgiving, the curtain is raised on the holiday season in Mount Prospect with this cozy event at the Village Hall.
Outside there’s a tree-lighting ceremony, usually at 5 pm and accompanied by carols and treats like cookies and hot chocolate.
Starting a little earlier and running into the evening is the Christkindlmarket in the Village Hall’s community room.
Here talented local artists and crafters sell handmade gifts, from festive decorations to cute toys.
15. Fourth of July
Independence Day is a particularly fun time to be in Mount Prospect, when the local Lions Club puts on all sorts of celebrations.
The day kicks off with a parade through the center of the village, usually between Emerson & Prospect and Melas Park.
Taking part are local businesses, youth groups, civic organizations, schools and churches, while the parade is attended by thousands and is televised on local cable.
Then at Melas Park there’s an action-packed festival, with carnival rides, midway attractions, food vendors and plenty of live entertainment. The event culminates in time-honored style with fireworks.