Located just about 18 miles west of Chicago is one of the area’s most beloved suburban communities. Elmhurst, Illinois straddles both Cook and DuPage counties, and is known for being a quiet college town full of tree-lined streets and inviting architecture. But Elmhurst is also a vibrant and active city in its own right, with a bustling downtown area, thriving museums, beautiful parks, engaging community organizations, and plenty of unique entertainment destinations and attractions.
So, what should be on your “bucket list” of things to see and do in Elmhurst? Here are ten of the special places, events, and experiences that make this western suburb stand out from the crowd:
1.) Explore Elmhurst College
Founded in 1871, Elmhurst College is a legendary institution for higher learning in the Midwest — and a pretty remarkable place to see, in its own right. The college is a local cultural destination, hosting concerts, public lectures, art exhibits, and live theater throughout the year, along with NCAA Division III sporting events. Elmhurst College is also home to some truly gorgeous architecture, and its grassy and tree-lined grounds are officially recognized as an arboretum.
2.) Enjoy Nature and History at Wilder Park
One of the crown jewels of the Elmhurst area, Wilder Park is a can’t-miss destination perfect for the whole family. One of the most popular suburban parks in Chicagoland, the grounds of Wilder Park are home to plenty of unique attractions. Beyond its pristine sports fields and playgrounds, Wilder Park contains a historic and beautiful conservatory, picturesque formal gardens, and a sprawling mansion, which plays host to weddings, special events, art shows, and concerts throughout the year.
3.) Eat and Shop at Elmhurst City Centre
Nestled in the heart of Elmhurst is one of western Chicagoland’s most active downtown areas. Just a short distance away from the local Metra station, the appealing and walkable Elmhurst City Centre is home to countless local events throughout the year. The lovely streets of the City Centre district contain 275 merchants, including a historic movie house, plenty of one-of-a-kind shops, and some delicious places to grab a drink or a unique bite to eat.
4.) Celebrate the Arts Throughout the Community
Elmhurst is a community that places tremendous emphasis on the arts. The area is home to many different art shows and events each year, including the popular annual Art In Wilder Park event, a free two-day show that draws 100 artists and thousands of visitors from all across the Midwest. If you’re looking for a more permanent exhibition, the community also plays host to the Elmhurst Art Museum. Since it was established in 1997, the Elmhurst Art Museum has curated one of the area’s most intriguing collections of art, education, and architecture programming. In addition to its permanent and rotating displays, the museum is also home to the Elmhurst Artists’ Guild, which focuses on bringing exciting new exhibitions, workshops, and lectures to the community.
5.) Wander Through Nature Along the Illinois Prairie Path
Looking to get up close and personal with some of the flora and fauna that make Chicagoland unique? Elmhurst is a great place to hop onto the famous Illinois Prairie Path, a multi-use nature trail that spans more than 60 miles across Cook, DuPage, and Kane counties. In Elmhurst, this historic trail gives visitors an incredible opportunity to see some of the majestic prairies that make our area unique, including Elmhurst’s Great Western Prairie — all while serving as a prime path for hiking, biking, jogging, or even horseback riding.
6.) Travel Back In Time at an Elmhurst Museum
The Elmhurst area is steeped in local history, and is home to some amazing sites for exploring Chicagoland, past and present. Since its founding in the 1950s, the Elmhurst History Museum has delighted visitors with its extensive archives and exhibits, all housed in the beautiful Glos Mansion, a historic local landmark in its own right. The History Museum also oversees the care of the Churchville Schoolhouse, which dates back to 1846 and is one of the few remaining original one-room schoolhouses in Illinois. Finally, the Elmhurst Public Library also plays host to countless events, talks, and exhibits throughout the year, helping residents and tourists alike connect with the region’s storied past and exciting future.
7.) Discover the Community On a Classic Trolley
Looking for an easy and entertaining way to see all that Elmhurst has to offer, in comfort and style? Then you’ll want to consider catching a ride on the Explore Elmhurst Express Trolley, which connects downtown Elmhurst to several robust shopping districts nearby, including the popular Spring Road Business District. The trolley offers service throughout the spring and summer, and becomes a festive “Holly Trolley” during the holiday season.
8.) Listen to Local Musicians
Open your ears, and you can practically hear the music wafting throughout Elmhurst. The city is home to two of Chicagoland’s most accomplished musical groups, the Elmhurst Choral Union and the Elmhurst Symphony, which each get the chance to take the spotlight at concerts and special events throughout the year. The area is also home to some immensely popular outdoor festivals and events, including the annual June Jazz performance on the Elmhurst College mall, and Music at the Gazebo, which brings stellar acts to the picturesque Wild Meadows Trace Park all summer long.
9.) Party, Play, or Cool Off at Berens Park
Looking for a fun spot to get active with the whole family? Berens Park certainly fits the bill. This popular Elmhurst park is home to turf sports fields and running trails, and is one of the area’s most popular destinations for sledding during the winter months. Berens Park is also home base for The Hub, an entertainment complex boasting four batting cages for baseball and softball; a full 18-hole miniature golf course; a sprawling aquatic sprayground; and a play area for tots and young kids.
10.) Indulge Your Inner Thrillseeker
Throughout Elmhurst, you’ll find plenty of unique entertainment destinations, perfect for a night out with friends or a weekend with the family. At SkyZone indoor trampoline park, kids and adults alike can soar through the air or practice their ninja skills on a warped wall and free-climbing course. The Room Upstairs, meanwhile, lets visitors put their cerebral muscles to the test, as they work collaboratively to solve puzzles and interpret clues to escape a room before time runs out. The Skate Park at York Commons is a popular place for the next generation of skateboarders to practice their skills, while Halfway House Indoor Golf gives attendees the chance to virtually test their talent on the links with amazing simulations of some of the most prestigious courses in the world.
Want to Keep Exploring Elmhurst?
To discover all that this inviting suburban community has to offer, visit our official guide to Elmhurst’s real estate market, available here.