Out in the western suburbs there’s a place called Cantigny Park. It can’t be easily classified – yes, it has beautiful gardens, and the park is wonderful. But Cantigny is also home to a golf course and two historical museums. And the site hosts events all year long.
The park was a gift from Robert R. McCormick, longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. when he died in 1955, he established a charitable trust and designated Cantigny (pronounced can-TEE-nee, since the “g” is silent) as a space for education and recreation. Today, the park is home to 30 acres of formal gardens, a visitor’s center with a cafe and shop the education center, three miles of walking trails, and 300 acres of golf with 27 scenic holes, a 9-hole youth course, and a clubhouse with banquet facilities.
The First Division Museum
One of the two museums, the First Division Museum, has just been renovated and is once again available to the public with updated exhibits and information on the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division, which saw its first action at the battle of Cantigny in World War I, discovered concentration camps in Hitler’s Germany, and guarded those on trial at Nuremberg. The First Division also acted as peacekeepers in the Balkans.
Here, you can view vehicles and air transports, and dioramas, and learn something about military history. You’ll also find interactive exhibits. A tank park outside lets kids climb and explore military vehicles from the last 100 years – a big draw anytime of year.
The Robert R. McCormick Museum
The Robert R McCormick Museum is a historic mansion that documents the publisher’s life, his legacy, and his family. Materials here include those related to his family, his business ventures, his political life, and his philanthropy.
The house itself is from 1896. You can take a guided tour that will help you learn about family life. The tour touches on the subjects of journalism, architecture, history, politics, First Amendment issues, and patriotism.
Considered one of the best public golf facilities in the midwest, Cantigny Park features a gorgeous course and a full-service clubhouse. Cantigny Golf Academy and Cantigny Youth Links are also housed here. The award-winning operation features three courses, 27 holes total, for three separate and unique experiences.
The Red Oak Room, overlooking the golf course and lake, offers great views and private event space for up to 150 guests. It is open Sundays for the weekly breakfast buffet. Fareways Grill features a fresh seasonal menu for all three meals and a view of the golf course and lakes, all at a reasonable price. Live music takes place on Thursday evenings. For tee times and other golf-related information, visit www.cantignygolf.com.
If you’re in need of tranquility and natural beauty, visit the formal gardens at Cantigny. You’ll see lots of different types of trees, the Rose Garden, a shade garden, the fountain garden with its magnolias and flowering shrubs, a Douglas fir garden, the Dryland Garden, a Rock Garden, the Prairie Garden, the green garden, the Idea Garden, and Reflection Point. The Exedra, the gravesite of McCormick and his wife Amy, is also on site. Also visit the Allee, an tree-lined avenue.
Cantigny has an 18,500 square-foot greenhouse that holds annuals, perennials, native plants, and tropical and cut flowers – up to 1,100 kinds! In the winter, this is where you can view the poinsettia crop, which features 1,500 plants.
Except in January, when the park is completely closed, Cantigny hosts a variety of events all year. Everything from bird walks and children’s programming to outdoor concerts, dinners, and yoga classes take place here. Golfing events are par for the course, too (see what we did there?). Expect Garden Tours, Family Nights, Lunch & Learn events, trade events, Civics Workshops, seasonal rides in hay wagons or sleighs, markets, and holiday brunches (with either Santa or the Grinch, your choice)!
In October, events include the Fall Festival on 10/14, ClaySpace Pottery Show on 10/15, a Lagunitas Beer Dinner in the Red Oak Room on 10/19, a Civics Workshop: How to Run for Office on 10/19, Family Night: Pumpkins & Treats on 10/20, and the Cantigny Bridal Show on 10/21. A Murder Mystery Dinner Theater event takes place at the McCormick House on 10/27.
In November, look for the Cantigny 5K Run/Walk on 11/4, the “Reflections Framed” Military Service Celebration at Le Jardin restaurant, the Scotch and Sandals Dinner at McCormick House on 11/10, and Veterans Day Programming. The Community Trees Display starts on 11/17, and the Shades of Crimson Poinsettia Display is in the Greenhouse on 11/17.
Cantigny Park is located in the western suburb of Wheaton, at 1s151 Winfield Rd. Admission is free, but daily parking costs $5 per car (the price rises to $10 on weekends between May-September). Parking is free on the first Wednesday of each month, and free for those attending ticketed or paid events. To find our more about this cool, family-friendly place, visit www.cantigny.org.