Now that you’ve been to the Museum of Science and Industry and The Field so many times you could lead a tour, it’s time to earn a little extra credit. When you’re craving something new and culture’s on the menu, check out a hidden gem museum that’s just a mini road trip away. We dug up 9 goodies that are within an hour’s drive of Chicago. Click through to see them all, from a secret nature center to an auto museum with superhero appeal.

Illinois Railway Museum – Union

America’s largest railway museum is right here in Illinois and goes way beyond your everyday Metra train. Ride on a one-of-a-kind main line train, hop aboard an old-fashioned trolley coach or take a loop in a vintage street car. Feel like you've seen some of these sights before? That’s because the museum has been the set for numerous transportation scenes in commercials and movies, including A League of Their Own. Perhaps the biggest attraction is the annual Day Out With Thomas. On select days in August, kids chug along on a 20-minute ride on Thomas the Tank Engine and enjoy music, magicians, clowns and a meeting with Sir Topham Hatt. Consider taking a special trip for Halloween or Christmas when the museum features holiday-themed train rides.

7000 Olson Rd.
Union
815-923-4000
Online: irm.org
Hours: Varies, check website
Admission: $10/adults, $7/ages 5-12; $38 is the maximum admission price per family.

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Do you have a favorite hidden gem museum? Tell us about it in the Comments!

— Amy Bizzarri & Jenny Muslin