By Stefanie McLeese
You hear ‘Monticello’ and you think, Allerton Park, downtown shopping and stellar schools. But the locals know there’s so much more. These are just a few things that make this little community a Midwest-family dream.
The Monticello Railway Museum – You probably know all about the Polar Express, but there’s a lot more to the MRM than that. Ride the train from the museum at the north end of town into the downtown depot; walk uptown to get some lunch (Brown Bag, anyone?) or dessert, a coffee, tea, Homer Soda or chocolates at Steeple Coffee House; and stop in a shop or two. Take the kids to burn off a little more energy at Nick’s Park, which recently had an awesome upgrade. Steam engines, diesels, open railcars… Rain or shine, there’s no way you’re walking away disappointed.
The Trailblazers Rodeo – With open barrel shows, high school and junior high state championships and their signature annual rodeo event, this organization of rodeo enthusiasts reigns in about 12,000 attendees annually, proving rodeos aren’t just for horse-riders. Our little buckaroos were so inspired by the annual rodeo last year, my 5-year-old son is insistent upon competing in the mutton bustin’ competition in this year’s rodeo. (Mamma is not so sure!)
Eli Field – Yes, Monticello has a model air park! And this isn’t just any model airpark. This site, which doubles as a test center for Horizon Hobby, has national (and international) events with high-speed flying action. You can watch model jets fly upwards of 200mph as they do choreographed shows, all controlled from a remote controller. It’s just plain cool.
Monticello Movie Nights – FREE movies for all during warmer weather months. These are typically paired with a downtown event or theme. There will also be live music leading up to the event, and the human foosball tournament will be back! In other words, it isn’t just a typical movie night.
The Monticello Family Aquatic Center – Open daily from Memorial Day weekend through mid-August, this cooling-off-spot was perfectly designed for families of all ages. The zero-depth entry ‘kiddie area’ – with its mini, cushioned slide; intermittently dumping water buckets from above; walk-thru waterfalls and more – is perfect for the youngest of children. The concession stand, plume slide, two diving boards and feature pool make for ‘big kid’ fun, too. Daily admission is $5.
Stefanie Santos McLeese is a native Texan, an independent public relations advisor and the mother of three children (5, almost 4 and 2) who are her “toughest clients.” She met her Monticello-native husband playing rec league flag football in Dallas where they married and had their children before moving to Illinois in June 2015 for a wholesome, Midwest, child-rearing experience, and near retired, babysitting-in-laws who live seven minutes door-to-door.