Naperville is known as a family community. In fact, earlier this year WalletHub, a personal finance website, named Naperville the 10th best city in Illinois to raise a family.
The Naperville area boasts many family-focused businesses which offer opportunities for residents and their children to have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.
The Naperville Park District’s new $24 million Fort Hill Activity Center is a nearly 80,000-square-foot recreational facility featuring a fitness center, indoor track, two full-sized basketball courts, childcare services featuring an indoor playground, gymnastics facility, wood floor multi-purpose rooms for dance instruction and group exercise and a café for socializing and enjoying healthy menu options.
“All of our surveys and questionnaires of residents revealed the need for an activity center in Naperville where the community can come together and enjoy a variety of recreational activities in one place,” said Susan Nance, Fort Hill Activity Center manager.
“We had never had the space for a youth basketball league and our adult leagues were held in the schools. Our adult athletic leagues are excited to make the move to Fort Hill in order to play in the new wood floor gymnasiums,” she added.
The fitness center is open to those age 15 and older and fitness center members have access to the indoor track, open gym times, fitness equipment and a wide variety of group fitness classes held throughout the week.
There are many opportunities throughout the week for open gym play on the basketball courts and in the gymnastics area. The Western DuPage Special Recreation Association holds one of its “Rec and Roll” programs in the facility and there are also both volleyball and basketball leagues for youth and adults. Seasonal events are also planned and birthday parties and other special events may be arranged.
Naperville is also the home of a new privately-owned 103,000 square-foot facility called Naperville Yard which features a full-service day care facility, four indoor artificial turf fields and a performance sport programming area.
The fields are available for any sport, but so far have been most popular with soccer, football, lacrosse and baseball practices and competitions, as well as parties and open play, according to Carol Mucha, director of the day care program.
“We are very popular with local teams. In addition, we are offering our own recreational, competitive and instructional programs, particularly in soccer,” she said.
Naperville Yard’s full-time day care facility is available for infants (six weeks and older) through five-year-olds. It offers a safe, nurturing environment Monday through Friday. Parents may drop off their children for a half day or full day.
There is also an after school program during which older children can have a snack, try out different sports and spend some time getting homework done. The Naperville Yard bus currently picks up children from five different schools. School day-off and holiday programming is also offered and camps are planned for next summer.
Open play for parents and their younger children is offered, Monday through Friday, from September through May for $8 a session.
“They can bring their children here during inclement weather instead of going to the park or on a bike ride and let them run on the fields or play in the play tower to get rid of their energy,” Mucha said. “We also offer punch cards which gives them an occasional free visit.”
Customizable birthday parties on the fields and play tower have also been popular.
The facility also houses Acceleration, a performance sports area where personal trainers work with small groups of athletes and other fitness seekers of all ages to become faster, stronger or more coordinated.
“We are willing to open 365 days a year if there is a call for it. And we are already booking adult sports leagues until 1 or 2 a.m. We are here to meet the needs of the people,” she added.
Sky Zone trampoline park has come to the ring road around the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and, according to franchise owner Barbara Glazer, it is a great place for “awesome, healthy family fun where parents can keep their children active and having a good time.”
“We are out to change people’s perceptions of trampoline parks. Sky Zone offers a wonderful experience because of our high standards for cleanliness and safety,” she said. “We strictly enforce our rules by having court monitors who are trained and make sure that our guests are jumping safely. There is only one person allowed on each trampoline – no double-bouncing and we encourage people to only jump within their personal abilities.”
Sky Zone is available for birthday parties, sports team parties and even corporate team-building events. They offer Toddler Time morning classes and a calorie-burning exercise class called Sky Fit for those 16 and up.
Friday nights feature GLOW-in-the-dark jumping and a disc jockey while Saturday nights are known as “Jumpapalooza” and feature pizza, pop and jumping for one price.
“We really want to be a part of the community and we want to donate to local nonprofits and we will also host fundraisers at Sky Zone. We sponsor Little League teams and choose a different charity each month to share the proceeds of our Sky Swag sales,” Glazer said.
She and her husband opened the Aurora location in December 2015.
In 2017 the DuPage Children’s Museum will celebrate its 30th year of educating children through creative, open-ended experiences. It remains a facility with an art, math and science focus where children, ages zero through ten, primarily, may interact with each other and with their parents to learn more about the world around them.
“Children learn by trial and error and that is so important for adults to understand,” said Sarah Orleans, Museum President and CEO. “We give children opportunities to try different things and make sure that there are no right and wrong answers.”
Their air exhibit, for instance, is ingenious in the way that it teaches children about something that they cannot see, but can feel. They first learn that air exists. Then there are scarves that they can hold in front of tubes shooting air so they can see that the air has the power to move things. There is also an opportunity for the children to build fans that they can power by riding a bicycle.
All of the exhibits are colorful and engaging and help children figure out something about the world and how it works.
“When I see the adults becoming as curious as their children, I know that we have a great exhibit,” Orleans said.
The museum is divided into nine key galleries. All are designed so that the museum’s 320,000 annual visitors may build upon the knowledge they already have to gain an even deeper understanding.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are rotating exhibits like the “Dream with Da Vinci” exhibit that is featured through the spring of 2017, a studio where makers’ workshops are directed by staff members and special child-oriented programs like the Saturday “Tiny Great Performances” by arts organizations like the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and the Salt Creek Ballet and Family Fun Nights on Fridays.
Birthday parties may be scheduled. Science-based overnight events are offered for both Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts. A Bubble Bash is held each New Year’s Eve morning and camps are offered during school breaks and every summer. Finally, on the third Thursday of each month, the museum is open late for families with special needs or accessibility issues who prefer to enjoy the museum during a quieter time.