A Visitor’s Guide to Vernon Hills, Illinois

Family fun is on the menu when you take a trip to Vernon Hills, IL. The northern suburb of Chicago, whose motto is “People Planning With Pride,” first sprung up as a small village in the 1950s, born from a nearby golf course. The area grew quickly, and its population is now more than 25,000.

Vernon Hills houses offices for big companies such as Zebra Technologies and CDW, but the largest local employer is the mall, where you can easily spend hours exploring both popular national chains and unique specialty stores. The mall hosts special expos as well.

So how about the family fun we mentioned? Oh yes, you’ll find that abounds in Vernon Hills. Kids and kids-at-heart can enjoy all sorts of activities, from active outings at Kids Castle or the Blast Zone, to a calmer but no less entertaining time at the Cuneo Museum & Gardens. Once you’ve traipsed all over town indulging in all Vernon Hills has to offer, enjoy some downtime at our Milwaukee Avenue location. It’s also the perfect meeting place to discuss where you’re going to go next if the night is still young.

Getting From Place to Place in Vernon Hills

If you choose to drive to Vernon Hills, you can easily navigate the area. The town is located just off of Route 94. But if you’d rather experience Vernon Hills by foot or by other transportation options, you have several possibilities.

The town offers a dial-and-ride service for residents, which is quite cheap at $2 per ride. It requires advance reservations. Seniors can hitch a ride on a shuttle that’s free for those over 55. Several buses also offer routes throughout the area.

Kid-Friendly Adventures in Vernon Hills

Anyone with kids who’s visited Vernon Hills knows about Kids Castle. Back in 1997, parents raised the money to construct the playground at Deerpath Park. In 2015, officials decided the park needed a facelift, and it shut down for a few months. Wood chips at the park were replaced with sturdy rubber to make it more wheelchair accessible, and builders installed a 50-foot zipline and a climbing wall. The park reopened in summer of 2016, and you can spend hours exploring every new nook and cranny with your kids.

Prefer to have your fun indoors? Head to The Blast Zone, an enormous indoor playroom. It features:

  • A giant inflatable obstacle course
  • A tower for kids to climb and slide down
  • Go Karts
  • Foam ball blaster battles
  • A climbing maze

Another place that caters to kids in Vernon Hills is Yu Kids Island, located at the Hawthorn Mall. Meant for slightly younger tykes than The Blast Zone, Yu Kids Island offers the perfect place for your children to unwind while you wander the mall. Activities range from a jungle maze to big puffy blocks in a fenced-in play area to a merry go round castle that will please even the smallest of children.

Hawthorn Mall offers events especially for kids as well, outside of Yu Kids Island. The annual law enforcement expo, for instance, lets children explore the cars of police officers in a safe environment while also getting law enforcement-themed stickers. And who doesn’t love stickers?

Events for the Entire Family

Vernon Hills provides special events for families all year ‘round. The village coordinates them throughout every season, meaning no matter when you come to visit, there will be something fun to do. Consider these options:

  • Concerts: On warm Thursday nights, you can find people gathering at the Arbortheater for concerts. These free events allow music lovers to congregate on the lawn with a picnic basket dinner to listen to talented local artists.
  • Summer Celebration: The annual Summer Cel includes music, rides, food and drink, as well as a car and bike show.
  • Oktoberfest: Welcome fall with the annual Oktoberfest, held at the Metra Station in Vernon Hills. With free crafts for kids and beer and food sold by local nonprofits, the festival draws attendees from far and wide.
  • Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Heralding the coming holidays with the lighting of the town tree and menorah has become a treasured tradition in late November. The mayor flips the switch, and Santa makes a guest appearance for those who want to see the big man before the December rush.

Culture and Arts in Vernon Hills

Originally built for Samuel Insull, the founder of General Electric, what came to be known as the Cuneo mansion was constructed more than a century ago. As befits the home of a millionaire, its designer, Benjamin Marshall, and landscape architect, Jens Jensen, were both world-renowned. The Cuneos, owners of the Hawthorn Mellody Farms Dairy and the National Tea Company, purchased the home in 1937. They raised their children in the mansion and then, in 2009, their foundation donated it to Loyola University of Chicago.

The Vernon Hills residence became a museum, filled with artwork, elaborate furniture, gilded curtains and more breathtaking artistry than you’ll find in most American homes, even the most legendary. Cuneo Mansion & Gardens has become a must-visit destination for anyone who has done so much as a stick figure drawing in their lifetime.

The mansion includes a history of the Cuneo family, as well as information about Insull, an American pioneer whose business collapsed during the Great Depression. Loyola recently began offering classes on the grounds, giving new life to this amazing home.

Vernon Hills: Enjoy Visit After Visit

Just one day in Vernon Hills hardly seems like long enough to experience all the town has to offer. If you want to do a secondary trip without the kids, you can always take a trip to the Beer Market, a craft beer bar with a comfortable patio where you can sample flights while watching sports or just enjoying downtime with friends.

Plan an excursion to Vernon Hills to coincide with any of the major seasonal events, and you’ll have a memorable day in one of Chicago’s lively suburbs. Enjoy your trip!