Home to just over 24,000, the city of Rolling Meadows is on the Northwest Suburbs’ affluent Golden Corridor.
Rolling Meadows is a relatively new community, founded by the property developer Kimball Hill in the 1950s who built a neighborhood of ranch-style homes on land once intended as a golf course for neighboring Arlington Heights.
You can see what one of these houses was like at the Rolling Meadows Historical Museum, filled with 1950s-specific artifacts and domestic finishings.
Nature lovers can’t ignore the immense sweep of Busse Woods, just south of Rolling Meadows, while nearby Schaumburg has one of the largest malls in the United States, along with attractions and performance venues for all of Chicagoland.
1. Ned Brown Forest Preserve
One of the finest forest preserves in the Chicago area is right on Rolling Meadows’ south side. The Ned Brown Forest Preserve is 3,700 acres of deciduous forest, wetlands and open water, waiting to be discovered on 13 miles of trails.
This wonderful natural escape comprises an important preserve for mature Great Lakes hardwood forest (Busse Woods), within which is a 440-acre fragment of the rare flatwoods habitat (Busse Forest Nature Preserve), growing swamp white oak, black ash and red maple.
On the east side of the Ned Brown Forest Preserve is a 17-acre enclosed pasture, home to a herd of elk since 1925.
2. Busse Lake Boating Center
A large expanse of the southern half of the preserve is taken up by the labyrinthine Busse Lake, with its miles of indented shoreline and numerous little islands.
This can all be discovered courtesy of the Busse Lake Boating Center, which manages two trailered boat launches, as well as a rental service.
Usually from early April through late October you can head here for row boats, kayaks (single and tandem), paddle boats and electric-motor fishing boats.
Inquire ahead of time to find out about lessons and guided tours offered by the center, while you can normally purchase food and beverages, fishing licenses, bait and other fishing supplies from the center.
3. Rolling Meadows Historical Museum
Opened in 2002, this free attraction downtown was designed to be a museum that didn’t feel like a museum.
The building is a replica of the initial ranch-style homes built in Rolling Meadows by the city’s founder Kimball Hill.
What you get is an interesting peek at domestic life in the Chicago suburbs in the 1950s, rounded off with original interior furnishings, decorative arts and appliances.
These are complemented by information boards explaining Rolling Meadows’ early days, the evolution of Kimball Hill Homes and different aspects of the City’s story over the last 70 or so years. At the time of writing, the museum was open only on Sunday afternoons.
4. Opera in Focus
Beside the Historical Museum on Central Road is a real curiosity, founded in 1958 by the famed puppeteer and art director William B. Fosser (1928-2006).
Fosser worked on a host of films, many of which were shot in the Chicago area, like The Breakfast Club (1985), Home Alone (1990), A League of Their Own (1992) and Groundhog Day (1993).
But he spent his free time developing highly sophisticated and lifelike puppets, performing opera and musical theater with them through the Opera in Focus troupe.
This found a permanent home in Rolling Meadows in 1993, staging twice-weekly performances from a rich repertoire that includes opera from Pagliacci to La Bohème, as well as popular musical shows by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
5. Woodfield Mall
Where I-280, IL 58 and IL 72 cross at the northwestern corner of Busse Woods there’s a bundle of shopping centers, big box stores and Woodfield Mall.
The latter is one of the largest malls in the country, with more than 2,150,000 square feet of retail floor area, and more than 230 tenants. Woodfield Mall has been here in some form for more than 50 years, and was one of the places Tiffany performed in 1987.
A few of the premium brands present include Apple, Guess, Lacoste and Michael Kors, along with international fashion favorites from Gap to Zara, Uniqlo and H&M.
There’s a massive choice of food and drink, whether you want mall favorites (Panda Express, Auntie Anne’s, Sbarro), fast food (McDonald’s, Shake Shack) or fast-casual and full-service spots like Chipotle, The Cheesecake Factory and Red Robin.
6. Kimball Hill Park
Rolling Meadows Park District’s premier park is on the northern fringe of downtown, and can be accessed on Kirchoff Road.
In summer, Kimball Hill Park hosts the city’s summer concert series, with performances at the amphitheater on Friday evenings. Close by is the picturesque Kimball Hill Pond, a nice place to feed the ducks, with a waterfall/fountain, as well as fishing piers on its banks.
The Rolling Meadows bike trail system extends from this park to neighboring spaces, while kids will be thrilled with the park’s three ziplines.
For sports amenities you’ve got three lighted baseball/softball fields, a seasonal skating rink and a sand volleyball court.
7. Medieval Times
Spurred by fantasy and medieval-set TV shows and movies from the last 20 years, this dinner theater attraction is more popular than ever.
Medieval Times Chicago Castle was established in Schaumburg in 1991, becoming the chain’s fourth location.
What you get is a hardy four-course banquet that you eat with your hands, as well as two rounds of drinks.
All the while, story-driven action will unfold in the arena in front of you. This combines jousting, horsemanship, swordplay and falconry, involving a cast of more than 70 actors and some 20 horses.
8. Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology
There’s a compelling, specialized museum awaiting you at the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) in Schaumburg.
This was founded by Dr Paul Meyer Wood in 1933 and hopped around a long list of temporary locations before finding its permanent home in 2014.
The library is an invaluable and up-to-date resource in the field of anesthesiology, as well as a historical record, holding some 13,000 books as well as more than 50 US and international medical journals.
The museum collection features a remarkable array of machines and instruments and machines going back to the 19th century, from masks and inhalers to military anesthesia kits, monitoring devices, vaporizers, ventilators, respirators, resuscitators and more.
9. South Salk Park
Bursting with amenities, this space is part of a cluster of Rolling Meadows Park District facilities.
On the north side is the Nelson Sports Complex, boasting a gymnastics center, fitness center, skating rink and an Olympic-size outdoor pool that opens in the summer.
South Salk Park is great for families, with its ADA-compliant playground, combined with a double climbing rock and two story Sky Builders apparatus.
The Rolling Meadows bike trail system connects this park with North Salk Park, which has a disc golf course and sledding hill.
10. Legoland Discovery Center
Woodfield Mall has the only LEGO-themed attraction in the Chicago area. Based at a gigantic LEGO store, this is a two-story experience with plenty of things to hold the attention of younger children.
Miniland for instance is a miniature Chicago, composed of 1.5 million bricks and featuring landmarks like the Willis Tower, Soldier Field and The Bean.
There’s also a 4D cinema, a pirate-themed adventure playground, a LEGO cafe, a Merlin-themed ride, a model building workshop and a Giant Speed Ramp, on which kids can test their own self-built LEGO race car.
11. Chicago Improv
Woodfield Mall has a location for the national comedy club franchise, Improv, famously founded in Hell’s Kitchen in 1963.
After opening a branch in Los Angeles in 1974, Improv has steadily become a chain, and its list of performers is a who’s who of American comedy of the last 50+ years, from George Carlin to Jerry Seinfeil.
The Schaumburg location is officially the largest comedy club in the United States, welcoming household names, as well as showcases for emerging talent from the Chicago area’s rich production line.
A few standout names from recent years include Anjelah Johnson, Jamie Kennedy, Shawn Wayans, Gary Valentine, Orny Adams, Christopher Titus and Bill Bellamy.
12. Florey Park
The Rolling Meadows bike trail system connects with this pretty community park north of Kimball Hill Park.
Florey Park was last renovated in 2008 and is divided between a space for passive recreation down its east side and active recreation facilities to the west.
If you’re here just to enjoy the peace there’s a picnic grove and picnic shelter, as well as a series of bronze statues depicting the wildlife found along the banks of Salt Creek.
On the other side is an accessible playground for children aged 6-12, as well as amenities for baseball, basketball and tennis.
13. Plum Grove Reservoir Park
This park in the very west of Rolling Meadows, spills onto neighboring Palatine at the edge of the Harper College campus.
Plum Grove Reservoir Park is managed by the Palatine Park District, and among its numerous amenities there’s a playground, fenced dog park, walking/bicycling trail, a shelter and set of picnic tables and grills.
The park’s central feature is the namesake reservoir, ideal for fishing and complete with a small pier.
A few of the species recorded in a recent survey include channel catfish, perch, carp, northern pike and largemouth bass.
14. 4th of July Parade
Always a hotly anticipated date in the calendar in Rolling Meadows, the 4th of July brings an annual parade.
Featuring local organizations, services, businesses, kids and pets, this spectacle sets off from the Rolling Meadows High School parking lot and makes its way north through leafy residential streets to Kirchoff Road.
Later in the day you can catch the city’s fireworks display just after dusk at Community Center Field by the Nelson Sports Complex.
15. Cornfest and Craft Fair
The origins of this one-day August event hosted by the Community Church of Rolling Meadows go back to the mid-1950s.
Church members witnessed a corn boil while vacationing in the south, and brought the tradition back with them.
The first Cornfest took place in 1957, and the menu has barely changed since then. From 11:00 to 7:00 pm you can come by for hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, watermelon and, of course, all-you-can-eat sweetcorn.
There’s also a 50/50 raffle, and the fair’s art and craft fair and bazaar takes place throughout the day.