Around 18 miles from the Chicago Loop, Westmont is a village in the Western Suburbs, incorporated in the 1920s and developed mostly in the 70s and 80s.
Two famous former Westmont residents are musician Muddy Waters, who spent the last ten years of his life here, and Beanie Baby entrepreneur Ty Warner, who funded his namesake park in this suburb.
Westmont’s early origins go back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, when brickworks cropped up along the railroad in this area for the city’s reconstruction.
During Prohibition, Westmont earned the nickname “Whiskey Hill” for its clandestine alcohol production and speakeasies.
For today’s visitors, local draws include a slew of independent restaurants along Cass Avenue, as well as the village’s proximity to the Morton Arboretum and scenic DuPage County forest preserves.
1. Cass Avenue
Downtown Westmont is threaded by Cas Avenue, which runs north to south from near Ty Warner Park down to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve.
If you’ve got an appetite you’ll be drawn to the few blocks north and south of the Westmont Metra station. Here you’ve got an appetizing assortment of eateries, pubs and cafes, representing a real diversity of cuisines.
There’s Korean, Balkan, Chinese, BBQ, contemporary and traditional American, breakfast food, sweet treats, pub fare and Italian, to name a few.
This diversity is celebrated every summer with the Taste of Westmont festival, which we’ll cover later in the list.
2. Morton Arboretum
One famous attraction within striking distance of Westmont is this sprawling outdoor museum founded in 1922 by salt magnate Joy Morton.
There are more than 220,000 plants growing at the Morton Arboretum, with an incredible 4,100 different types of trees.
This is both a captivating visitor attraction and a vital institution for tree research, home to the Center for Tree Science.
You’ll need to plan ahead, as there’s much to see on the 1,700 acres of grounds, including one of the nation’s oldest prairie and savanna restorations and spectacular collections of conifers, ornamental flowering trees, willows, maples, birches, ginkgos, beeches and many more.
If you don’t know where to start you can always book a one-hour guided tram tour via the Acorn Express.
3. Ty Warner Park
Way beyond a typical neighborhood park, this space in the north of Westmont is a day out for its wealth of attractions.
In summer the biggest is the giant splash pad, with a small world of interactive jets and sprays.
This facility charges a small fee for entry. Elsewhere you’ll find a disc golf course, fitness stations, concessions (summer) and superb playgrounds for kids aged 5 to 12.
Ty Warner Park also has a large picnic shelter with grills, a sledding hill in winter and lighted facilities for baseball, soccer and tennis.
4. Gregg House Museum
The museum for the Westmont Historical Society is in a pretty Second Empire-style house built in 1872.
This building was relocated a little way from its original location to the corner of Veterans Memorial Park in 1977.
The story of the house ties in with Westmont’s 19th-century origins. It was built by brickmaking industrialist William L. Gregg who positioned the building close to the railroad tracks to market his product.
February to December, the museum opens Sunday and Wednesday afternoons, recounting the history of the community, domestic life in Westmont a century ago, as well as the checkered past of this very building.
5. Graue Mill & Museum
Five minutes away in Oak Brook is one of only two operating grist mills in Illinois. Powered by Salt Creek, the Graue Water Mill was raised in 1852 by one Friedrich Graue, a German immigrant who brought his knowledge of waterwheel grist-milling with him to his new home.
The mill is a story of ingenuity and self-sufficiency, as it was built from bricks fired from the clay that came from ditches dug to drain the farm’s soil. The millstones meanwhile were imported from France.
As Pietists, the Graue family opposed slavery, and the mill was part of the Underground Railroad in the 1850s and 60s.
Now the site is owned by the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and run by a non-profit. You can come for a tour to see the mechanism in action and admire a series of preserved rooms in the attached residence.
6. Whiskey Hill Brewing Company
Chicagoland is a craft beer paradise, and there’s a great one on an industrial park in the south of Westmont.
Founded in 2018 Whiskey Hill has a taproom at this brewery, as well as a bar not far away in Woodridge. If you’re wondering about the brewery’s name, it comes from Westmont’s old nickname during Prohibition.
This area had a reputation for alcohol production, underpinned by one Mr. Reitmayer, who ran a speakeasy at the Gregg House.
With a focus on quality ingredients, traditional brewing methods and small batches, Whiskey Hill has ten beers on tap at any one time.
When we wrote this article there was an IPA, an American Lager, two Stouts, a Red Ale, two sours, a Wheat Beer and a Hard Seltzer.
7. Uncle Bub’s BBQ
Going strong for 25 years, Uncle Bub’s is an award-winning restaurant on Cass Avenue making authentic, pit-smoked BBQ.
This is a family-owned and operated business, using premium cuts of beef, pork and chicken, seasoned to perfection with a secret blend of spices and placed in a hardwood smoker until perfectly tender and then doused in Uncle Bub’s award-winning sauce.
Inside, the restaurant has a rough and ready roadhouse style, with lots of unvarnished wood and sheet metal, and you can buy bottles of Uncle Bub’s sauces to take home.
8. Classic Cinemas Tivoli Theatre
A couple of Metra stops or five minutes in the car, downtown Downers Grove is the scene for an opulent restored movie palace.
When the Tivoli Theatre was completed in 1928 it was just the second theater in the country to open with sound movies. And unlike many of these vintage cinemas, the theater has never been divided up to build a multiplex.
You can sit back in the original cavernous auditorium or catch a movie at the cozy second screen, with 33 seats.
Part of an historic complex that includes a bowling alley and residential hotel, the venue has an ornate Spanish Revival facade and a French Renaissance interior.
Showing first and second-run movies, the theater doubles as a performing arts venue, hosting the likes of Neko Case and Los Lobos in recent times.
9. Go Ape Zipline and Adventure Park – Western Springs
The international adventure activity chain, Go Ape has a center a couple of miles away at Bemis Woods in Western Springs.
The headline attraction here is the Treetop Adventure (min age: 10) high ropes course, hoisted in the canopy up to 43 feet above the forest floor.
There are 45 unique and thrilling obstacles to overcome, from suspended bridges to Tarzan swings, and the longest zipline is an incredible 553 feet long.
For an intro to high ropes courses there’s the Treetop Journey. Open to all ages, this is a little closer to the ground, with 21 obstacles.
The park opens new attractions by the year, and when we wrote this article had just introduced Treetop Nets, a suspended playground with slides and bouncy nets, and axe throwing.
10. Taste of Westmont
For four days in July, three blocks of Cass Avenue just north of the railroad tracks are closed off to traffic for the village’s biggest annual event.
At Taste of Westmont you can sample a bit of everything from the village’s high-quality array of restaurants and food vendors.
There are also two beer tents, and while food and drink are the stars at this event, there’s much more going on. You’ve got two stages of live music, as well as a carnival that runs for all four days.
Westmont was the home of Blues legend Muddy Waters (1913-1983) for the last decade of his life, and this is celebrated with the Muddy Waters Blues Jam and Mojo Morganfield Tribute on Sunday.
11. Veterans Memorial Park
Westmont Park District’s flagship park was purchased from the American Legion in 1959-60 on the condition that this space would always remain a public park.
A recreation honeypot, Veterans Memorial Park is especially popular with families for its two playgrounds, with a sand play area and a long zip line.
For sports amenities there’s a pair of lighted baseball fields hosting little league games, as well as a sand volleyball court.
The park has a picnic shelter with a grill, available for rental and has a lighted walking path shaded by trees in summer.
12. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
At the southern end of Cass Avenue is a vast forest preserve, held as one of the most ecologically diverse in Northern Illinois and traversed by 11 miles of trails.
At 2,500 acres, Waterfall Glen encompasses the high-tech Argonne National Laboratory, employing 3,400 people, as well as a 19th-century cemetery, and continues down to the bank of the Des Plaines River.
The preserve’s name comes from a waterfall in a picturesque ravine created by a dam. Ecologically, Waterfall Glen is a patchwork of prairie, oak-maple woodlands and savanna, containing three quarters of all the plants native to DuPage County.
The Bluff Savanna, in the southern part of the preserve, is especially important with hickories, oaks and black walnuts dating back 200 years or more.
13. Suburbanite Bowl
On US 34 in the north of Westmont is a bowling alley that has been open since 1959. Suburbanite Bowling offers open bowling and league bowling seven days a week, 363 days a year.
You can bowl here for a flat rate of $12 for two hours or $16 for three hours, and this rises to just $16 for two hours on weekends.
The alley is accompanied by a sports bar with ten taps, an arcade room and Nuka Barbeque, cooking up smoked wings, pulled pork, brisket sandwiches and smoked mac and cheese.
14. Twin Lakes Golf Club
The local park district course has nine holes in 25 scenic acres comprising woods and lakes in rolling hills.
This is an inexpensive place to play a round of golf, with an especially low replay fee if you want to play a full 18.
Mostly par 3, and with a tricky fourth hole over water, the course has been laid out to be accessible to newcomers to the game while posing some fun challenges for more seasoned golfers.
Twin Lakes’ clubhouse serves a range of drinks and bites, and has a deck with a great view of the course.
15. Hidden Lake Forest Preserve
The DuPage County forest preserve bordering the Morton Arboretum is a water-rich environment on the East Branch DuPage River, with two lakes and deep woodland.
In the 20th century this 390-acre property belonged to William “Big Bill” Johnson, who also made his fortune during Prohibition with gambling clubs and speakeasies.
Hidden Lake is an ideal place for a fishing trip, with crappie, bluegill, bass, carp and more in the 10-acre Eagle Lake and 15-acre Round Meadow Lake.
There are two miles of trails encircling these lakes and rambling through King’s Grove, an important remnant woodland growing white, red and bur oaks.