Hands-On Family Fun at the Museum of the Grand Prairie
Experience what life was like for families through different historical periods of time through fun, interactive exhibits at the Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet
You may have driven past this gem dozens of times and never realized you could stop by and wander in anytime during open hours for some fun (and educational) family time. Many people have heard of Museum of the Grand Prairie in Mahomet when classroom field trips head there, but this Champaign County Forest Preserve District facility serves the community on a far greater level than only a popular field trip spot.
The Museum of the Grand Prairie plans to reopen on a limited basis on 7/8/2020. The District encourages people to bring their own hand sanitizer and follow all current Champaign County Public Health District mask-wearing and social distancing recommendations. Boat rentals at Lake of the Woods are canceled for the 2020 season. Updates and more details can be found at www.ccfpd.org or on Facebook.
With the unveiling of the new “Freida Mumm’s Discovering Home” exhibit in May 2019 and a renewed commitment to making the museum as interactive as possible, your family will have more fun than ever with a visit to the Museum. Have we mentioned that it’s completely FREE, too!?
Museum of the Grand Prairie is located in the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve (near the Botanical Gardens) and is operated by Champaign County Forest Preserve District. The focus is on natural and cultural history and allows visitors to get up close and personal with exhibits that allow you to transport in time to that period and experience a glimpse of what life would be like.
Upon arrival, you’ll enter the Museum and pass a gift shop. There will be a staff member sitting at the desk and while you’re welcome to make a donation, there is no admission fee to enter the museum. There are exhibits on both floors of the museum so take your time to explore.
If you have children with you, we recommend you head straight down the stairs to the lower level to experience the new “Discovering Home” exhibit and other interactive areas designed with kids in mind.
“Discovering Home” is the newest addition to the Museum of the Grand Prairie. The focus of the idea is on the concept of “home” through different historical periods, primarily a Native American wigwam through about the 1830s and a Settler cabin beginning around 1820.
Other areas in the lower level, like the transportation section, bring visitors into and through the mid-20th century. Everything is clearly displayed, so you and your children can grab some historical facts while experiencing the exhibits. Hey, this might be the only place you can teach your kids how to dial a rotary telephone!
Museum and Education Department Director Barb Garvey says the exhibit exists to “make parallels as much as possible. Throughout all of time, people need shelter and a place to get water and food.” Our kids can relate to this firsthand, so its a good experience for them to see how families did this many years ago, and how their needs really don’t differ much from what our needs are today.
It’s very open and easy to supervise. We think you’ll enjoy working it into the rotation of indoor places to play, just like our local libraries!
Don’t miss the chance to explore the level of the museum that you entered in, too. A popular section of the museum focuses on Abraham Lincoln, who made many stops and many friends in and around the Champaign County area.
If you are interested in weather, want to see what its like to put horseshoes on a horse’s hoof or like to get up close and personal with fossils, you can do that, too.
There’s so much to see at the Museum of the Grand Prairie that we know your kids will want to come back again and again after your first visit.
IF YOU GO: The Museum of the Grand Prairie is located just a short drive from Champaign-Urbana and you can spend the morning or afternoon here. Our tip: pack a lunch to enjoy at Lake of the Woods as part of your visit.
Directions from Champaign-Urbana: Hop on I-74 West. Get off at the Mahomet exit (exit 172) and go north. The entrance to the museum is less than a mile north of the Interstate.
Make sure you check the museum website to see the hours before making the trip to Mahomet. Summer hours and winter hours differ, and the Museum typically closes in January and February to make improvements/updates, but may open for special events.
Current hours info:
March 1 to Memorial Day
Daily 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Memorial Day to Labor Day
Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
and Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Labor Day to December 31
Daily 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
ACCESSIBILITY: Museum of the Grand Prairie is an accessible facility; simply ask for assistance when you arrive if you need it.
The museum offers several different programs for home-schooled students. Call 217-586-2612 for more information.
The museum also offers a variety of summer day camps for kids.