13 Top-Rated Things to Do in Naperville, Illinois
Author Brad Lane enjoyed a lengthy reporting trip throughout Illinois and the city of Naperville.
Naperville is one of the largest and most popular suburbs to visit outside of Chicago, approximately 35 miles west of downtown. The congested city traffic and skyscraper views are out of sight in Naperville, and visitors are more likely to see covered bridges, public art, and colorful local shops and restaurants.
The main artery of sightseeing and fun things to do in Naperville is the Naperville Riverwalk. This two-mile pedestrian path in the heart of the city connects green spaces and other top tourist attractions of the city. These places to visit include several local and national storefronts, encouraging some light shopping or a bite to eat.
Beautiful outdoor attractions also surround the city, like Cantigny Park and the different DuPage County Forest Preserves. Plan your adventures with our list of the top things to do in Naperville, Illinois.
1. Naperville Riverwalk
The Naperville Riverwalk is a nearly two-mile linear park at the heart of the city near downtown. The Riverwalk follows the banks of the DuPage River, with a manicured walking path and scenic bridge crossings. This public space is in the heart of Naperville and connects other cultural attractions with aesthetic pleasures.
The Millennium Carillon, a 72-bell musical tower more than 16 stories high, is seen and heard along the entire Riverwalk. On the other side of the river from the Carillon, the historic Centennial Beach is a unique swimming spot popular throughout the summer season.
Other popular attractions along the Riverwalk include paddleboat rentals; decorative fountains; and special events like the annual end-of-summer celebration, the Naperville Jaycees' Last Fling. The historic Naper Settlement can also be found a few blocks from Riverwalk Park.
Address: 500 Jackson Avenue, Naperville, Illinois
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2. Naper Settlement
The Naper Settlement is a 12-acre living history museum preserving the heritage of the community, easily accessible from the Naperville Riverwalk. Two original 19th-century buildings still stand on the Naper Settlement today, including an 1883 mansion.
Thirty other structures are explorable at the settlement, including a displaced Civil War-era church that moved to the property in 1969. The Naper Settlement offers a wide variety of events and programs alongside its outdoor exhibits and regular tours. The facility is often popular with school groups on weekdays during the spring and fall.
Other aspects of the settlement, like the costumed characters and historical reenactments, make for an immersive experience. The Visitor Center at Naper Settlement remains open throughout the year, but the surrounding historic buildings are closed between November and March.
Address: 523 South Webster Street, Naperville, Illinois
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3. DuPage Children's Museum
On the outskirts of the Naperville Historic District, the DuPage Children's Museum provides three floors of interactive exhibits and year-round programming for kids. Permanent exhibits at the Children's Museum relate to science, technology, and creativity, and all provide experiential learning.
Different programs at the museum include family nights, drop-off and playtime, and an annual Bubble Bash New Year's Eve party. For birthday parties and other private events, the facility also features a private room for rent, which includes unlimited time in the museum for guests to explore.
While parking is free at the museum, sometimes the lot can fill up during busy weekend days. The Children's Museum is conveniently located across the street from the Naperville train station for public transit convenience.
Address: 301 North Washington Street, Naperville, Illinois
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4. Centennial Beach
This unique swimming pool is near the shaded path of the Naperville Riverwalk and was created from the remains of a historic stone quarry. Thanks to this unique history, the massive swimming space has a zero-depth entry and goes as deep as 15 feet. It's also complete with sand and lawn areas to lay a towel down.
Waterslides, fountains, and other floating attractions find good use near the water of Centennial Beach. And the expansive sandy beach is ideal for sandcastle competitions and volleyball. Centennial Beach has been a popular spot for families and friends to swim since the 1930s, and its long history as a summer tradition adds to the value of any visit.
Opening and closing dates are weather dependent, but the pool typically opens by the end of May each year. Swimming is usually available through August, though hours might be limited toward the end of the season.
Address: 500 Jackson Avenue, Naperville, Illinois
5. Downtown Naperville
Adjacent to the Riverwalk, downtown Naperville is filled with many unique stores, restaurants, and galleries worth exploring. For anyone looking to do some window shopping or boutique browsing, the downtown area has more than 100 stores to choose from, with a good mix of local and national storefronts. Specific spots like the Gallery Trio give this bustling area of the city some serious artistic flair.
During warm weather in Naperville, expect to see patrons dining al fresco at the many local restaurants. While heading downtown with a plan is a good way to go, it's also recommended to just start walking and see where your senses take you.
For one of the best slices you'll find on the downtown streets, Lou Malnati's serves up some world-famous Chicago deep-dish pizza. The downtown restaurant selection also includes several fine-dining options, including popular places like Vasili's and La Sorella di Francesca. For a more casual date night, Allegory is a good spot with a modern dining room and southwest-inspired menus.
6. Millennium Carillon
A unique musical instrument stands tall on Rotary Hill in Riverwalk Park. The 16-story Millennium Carillon contains 72 bells that chime throughout the day. This beautiful piece of architecture is hard to miss at the heart of the park and has become a symbol of the greenspace since its installation in the year 2000.
The bells typically go off every day at 12:00 noon, 4pm, and 7pm, and are easily heard throughout the park. Special concerts also ring out across the natural space sometimes.
Visitors also have the chance to climb to the top of the 16-story tower for an amazing view that includes the downtown skyline. These guided tours include over 250 steps with no elevators available. Guided tours are available at different times throughout the year.
7. Cantigny Park
Cantigny Park, less than 10 miles north of downtown, was once the estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, a longtime editor of the Chicago Tribune. The sprawling grounds were open to the public in 1958, and today contain more than 500 acres of natural, educational, and simply beautiful space.
A good first stop is the park's visitor center, complete with a three-dimensional, scale map of the entire estate built into a glass-plated floor. From here, the 30 acres of formal gardens are fun to explore on a self-guided tour, as is the Robert R. McCormick Museum and historic house.
The on-site First Division Museum is one of the best military museums of its kind and is worth the trip to Cantigny Park alone. It highlights the history of the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army through many arenas of war with immersive exhibits. These exhibits include the decommissioned tanks parked outside the museum.
Among its many tourist attractions, the adjacent Cantigny Golf Club on the grounds also receives plenty of attention. Well-regarded as one of the top public courses in the United States, Cantigny Golf Club features 27 championship holes available to all ages and skill levels.
There is a small cost for parking at Cantigny Park, but admission to the museums is free. The grounds are open daily between March through December. The grounds are closed in January and open on the weekends in February.
Address: 1 South 151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, Illinois
8. Knoch Knolls Nature Center
On the southern edge of the city, near the Springbrook Prairie Nature Preserve, the Knoch Knolls Nature Center provides educational resources alongside a scenic environment to explore.
Within the sunlit Knoch Knolls Nature Center, families participate in naturalist programs and classes. Some programs include the chance to meet the resident animals, including a salamander, garter snake, and box turtle.
Surrounding the nature center, Knoch Knolls Park provides more than five miles of woodland trails to explore. The park also features a nature-themed playground, picnic areas, and an 18-hole disc golf course. A boat
Address: 320 Knoch Knolls Road, Naperville, Illinois
9. Wentz Concert Hall
North Central College, originally founded as Plainfield College, has been a vital addition to the city for well over a century. This private liberal arts college contributes many attractions that the whole community enjoys. The Wentz Concert Hall is a prime example, and this 600-plus-person theater attracts an audience of students, tourists, and long-term residents alike.
Showcasing classical, jazz, and contemporary music, the concert hall is mechanically tuned to achieve the perfect sound. This spacious auditorium has events spanning every month. Within the larger Fine Arts Center of the Wentz Concert Hall, the Madden Theatre is a flexible stage that hosts a variety of theatrical performances.
Address: 171 East Chicago Avenue, Naperville, Illinois
10. Springbrook Prairie Nature Preserve
This nearly 2,000-acre forest preserve encourages outdoor exploration on the southwest side of the city. Noted as a birder's paradise, the natural habitat at Springbrook Prairie Nature Preserve has hiking trails, picnic spaces, and designated areas where dogs can run leash-free.
For anyone looking to test out their piloting skills, the preserve also has a model-craft area where model-plane and drone operators can launch their aircraft.
In efforts to educate the community about the natural systems found in Illinois, the Nature Preserve hosts several programs and activities for both children and adults.
11. Naperville Community Concert Center
Connecting the gap between the Naperville Historic District and downtown, the Community Concert Center is an outdoor theater backdropped by a beautiful mural and public park. This charming open space is the home stage for the Naperville Municipal Band or anyone looking to give a public performance (by permit only).
Concerts by the Municipal Band define summer fun in Naperville. Visitors can find the band doing what they do best every Thursday evening throughout June, July, and August. Outside of the scheduled performances, the large concert space and surrounding Central Park are great spots for a picnic and playground exploring.
Address: 55 Concert Lane, Naperville, Illinois
12. Herrick Lake Forest Preserve
More than 26,000 acres of forest preserves are throughout DuPage County, including many forested areas close to Naperville. One of the most popular of these reserves, Herrick Lake Forest Preserve, located five miles north of Naperville, provides nearly 900 acres of mature woodland settings to explore.
The park is popular with birdwatchers, hikers, bikers, and horseback riders throughout much of the year. Come winter, you can find cross-country skiers making their way along the trails. Fishing is another fun thing to do at Herrick Lake, either from the shore or on the water, and the preserve provides non-motorized boat rentals throughout the spring and summer.
13. The Morton Arboretum
Established in 1922 and located in the neighboring village of Lisle, just over five miles northeast of downtown Naperville, the Morton Arboretum is one of the best natural places to visit. Encompassing 1,700 acres of woodlands bisected by the East Branch of the DuPage River, the Arboretum fosters a wide variety of trees and welcomes the public to enjoy the wooded space.
On the grounds, patrons can enjoy a Children's Garden, the Sterling Morton Library, and dining at the Ginkgo Restaurant and Café. A popular event at the Arboretum is "Illumination" during the winter, where alongside fire pits and warming tents, the trees shine with a whole new light. The Morton Arboretum offers a discount for visiting on Wednesdays.
Address: 4100 Illinois 53, Lisle, Illinois