As far as Chicago suburbs go, Oakbrook Terrace is one of the smaller ones. With a population of just over 2,000, the city is dwarfed by nearby neighbors such as Schaumburg, Glenview and Vernon Hills. Even close cousin Oak Brook is significantly bigger. But what Oakbrook Terrace lacks in size, it makes up for in activities per capita. There is plenty to do in this tiny town, which was originally named Utopia but changed that moniker in the 1950s.
The town may be best known for the Oakbrook Terrace Tower, the tallest building in Illinois that does not reside within the Chicago city limits. This uniquely shaped building, which has 31 floors, was designed by Helmut Jahn, the man behind One Liberty Place in Philadelphia and several buildings in Germany. Oakbrook Terrace Tower has an octagon shape and houses a fitness center, hair salon and café. It’s been subject to rumors that it leans, like Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, but that’s just an amusing local myth.
Beyond the OTT, there’s much to see and do in Oakbrook Terrace. We know, because we have a location in Oakbrook Terrace, conveniently placed between a Holiday Inn and a Marriott. When you get the munchies between activities in Oakbrook Terrace, come in to Giordano’s to fuel your empty tank, then get back out there to explore the rest of what the city has to offer.
Pop in for a Show at the Drury Lane Theater
Decades ago Tony DeSantis, a Chicago-area trumpet player, opened six theaters in the Chicago area, all of them named after London’s famed Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The Oakbrook Terrace location thrives today, becoming a favorite location for weddings and putting on a slate of live plays each year.
From musicals such as “Crazy For You” and “42nd Street” to dramas like “The Gin Game,” Drury Lane has a reputation for being among Chicago’s finest live theater venues. In addition to plays geared toward adults, Drury Lane also offers productions for children such as “James and the Giant Peach.” Whether you want to go out on a date or take the kids along, you can find endless options at this theater.
Drury Lane has also, in recent years, become a convention center that hosts many out-of-town guests. Shopping and restaurants are available to ensure a fun all-around experience for theater enthusiasts or people traveling for business.
Play Games and Connect With Nature in Oakbrook Terrace
A few hours of bowling can bring out the competitive juices in any family. At Pinstripes, the upscale bowling center located in the Oakbrook Center Mall, you can do more than just knock down pins. Other options include:
- Playing bocce ball
- Enjoying an appetizer by the fire pit, on the patio that’s open year-round
- Listening to live weekly music performances
If you prefer more of a natural environment, then get outdoors for your recreational opportunities. The Lake View Nature Center often holds special events, such as Kids Fit in Nature, where families can participate in fitness challenges and a scavenger hunt. The center encourages interaction with nature by making it fun for everyone to do. Hands-on activities such as investigating different seeds and examining trees help incorporate fun into the learning experience.
Still want more nature? In nearby Oak Brook, the Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center has lots to offer visitors, including a nature center and six miles of trails for biking, hiking and walking. Animal lovers will enjoy bird watching around the 226-acre Forest Preserve. In the winter, you can cross-country ski or stay inside the nature center, whose treasures include the skeleton of a wooly mammoth that dates back to 11,000 B.C.
Experience History in DuPage County
Also located in the preserve, DuPage County’s Graue Mill and Museum includes Illinois’ only operational waterwheel gristmill as well as an Underground Railroad stop. Oak Brook was one of several area cities that was part of the Chicago-area Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom. The mill owner in the 1800s hid slaves in his basement, and an exhibit recreates the route of the slaves as they tried to escape.
History abounds in Oak Brook, which borders Oakbrook Terrace. The Mayslake Peabody Estate offers docent tours of the Tudor Revival-style home of Francis Stuyvesant Peabody, a coal baron and Democratic party bigwig who had his mansion built in 1919 to house himself, his wife and his young children. Alas, Peabody died shortly after the home was completed, and his widow decided to sell it rather than live there without him. The Franciscans bought the mansion, and decades later, it was sold to the Forest Preserve.
These days, visitors can take part in many activities at the estate, including:
- Musical performances
- Art classes
- Cultural programs
- Educational tours
Shopping in Oakbrook Terrace and Oak Brook
Shopping can also be a fun way to while away your time in Oakbrook Terrace. Many of the best stores are located on 22nd Street, not far from Giordano’s. Some have an Oak Brook address, but all are in the same general area. You can find everything from toddler shoes to outdoor gear to makeup. Great choices include:
- Once Upon a Child: This store offers gently used children’s clothing, toys and shoes. You can also find furniture at prices much lower than what you’d pay for new pieces.
- Ulta: This chain store offers a great makeup selection, but the real reason to go is for the brow bar, where specially trained consultants will help shape your eyebrows.
- REI: If you plan to go hiking, biking or walking during your visit, it’s worth picking up an extra pair of handwarmers, cozy socks or energy bars before you head out.
- Bella Amore Spa: Technically you won’t be shopping at the spa, but rather indulging in one of the many beauty services it offers. That still sounds like time well-spent to us.
Take Time to Try all Oakbrook Terrace Has to Offer
From games to theater to one very tall skyscraper, Oakbrook Terrace has a wide variety of activities and attractions. Enjoy your time exploring this small but spunky town.