Genuine Northwest

Great Lakes Naval Museum

Building 42, Sheridan Rd. • Great Lakes, Ill. • (Directly across from a METRA station) • (847) 688-3154

Those interested in U.S. military history will enjoy a visit to this museum, which is located behind the visitor center inside the main gate of the Naval Station Great Lakes. The museum emphasizes the quality of Naval training that takes place at Great Lakes and the unique role it has played in the lives of millions of sailors who have passed through the “Gateway to the Fleet.” It is sponsored by the Great Lakes Naval Museum Foundation.

Through exhibits, a growing historical collection and interactive multimedia experiences, visitors learn about the founding, history and present operation of the midwestern Naval Station; the importance of ethnic diversity in the Naval Service, including the first black enlisted school, the first black officers trained, and the first integrated schools (1944); and the story of the transition from civilian to sailor, both for men and women.

The museum has embarked on a campaign to restore Building 42, also called “The Hostess House,” the first military project of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Desgined by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Gordon Bunshaft, and completed around 1942, it was originally used during WW II for Naval recruits and contained spaces where recruits could meet with guests, as well as a reading and writing room, reception room, lounge terraces and offices. It was slated for demolition in 2006, but the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency has since declared Building 42 “very significant architecturally and merits listing on the Natinal Register of Historic Places.” Bunshaft also designed the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City and the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.

The museum is easily accessible to the public and entrance is free of charge, as is parking.
Hours are Wed., Thurs. and Sat. 1-5 p.m.; and Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. It is closed on federal holidays. ❚

Fox Valley Ice Arena

1996 S. Kirk Road • Geneva, Ill. • (630) 262-0690 •

When the weather turns cold and outdoor options for burning off energy begin to narrow, consider a visit to an indoor skating arena like this one, owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. It offers plenty of public ice time, as well as lessons galore, for both serious and recreational skaters. Learn hockey skating or figure skating, both advanced and beginner. Or maybe your preference is team or show skating. There are leagues for all ages. From kids’ pick-up games to high-level athletes preparing for college and the pros, the facility is up the challenge.

This skate complex contains both an NHL rink and an International Rink. There’s a fitness center, and speed and agility training; a pro shop offering merchandise and expert skate repair and sharpening; birthday skate party rooms and packages; and ongoing special programs. The public enjoys Cosmic Theme Nights on Friday and Saturday nights, such as Pajama Night Nov. 19 and Crazy Hat Night Dec. 18, in which prizes are handed out for the best costumes.

The rink is a partner of the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Wolves. ❚

Midwest Museum of Natural History

425 W. State St. (Rte. 64) • Sycamore, Ill. • (815) 895-9777 •

This “Illinois Small Museum of the Year” houses impressive displays of animals in the wild. One of the most striking is the trumpeting African elephant, which is so tall that its trunk extends through the ceiling. There are bobcats, caribou, bears, elk, moose, zebras, ostriches, buffalos and much more. There’s also a movie theater with films on Illinois aquatic creatures, birds, trees and wild mammals.

The adventurous will want to visit the Nature Exploratorium, with its many displays of fossils that visitors may touch. It’s also the home of Hercules, the African spurred tortoise. Live animals include tarantulas, scorpions, lizards, turtles and a boa constrictor.

A prehistoric cave bear’s skull adorns the museum’s entrance area. Oddly enough, this 10-foot, 1,000-pound ursine was a vegetarian.

The museum offers pre-school programs each week and an educational science series on Sundays. Jack Hanna, the famous animal expert seen frequently on TV, has been a museum guest, as has “Animal Planet” star Jeff Corwin. Check the Web site for special events such as Save Our American Raptors (S.O.A.R.) on Nov. 20 and a Shark Dissection Workshop on Dec. 4.

The museum has welcomed more than 36,000 visitors since opening in 2005. Hours are Mon. through Sat., 10 a.m-5 p.m. and Sun., noon-5 p.m. ❚