Note: This is the first in a series called Goin’ Local, where we explore what Chicago’s Western Suburbs have to offer.

We can’t take an Alaskan Cruise or cross-country road trip every day. But that doesn’t mean we stop exploring. Today, we explored Willowbrook Wildlife Center, part of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, for the first time. (I don’t know what took us so long, we live right down the street.)

Mommy, what if we find a hurt duck?

Willowbrook Wildlife Center flashed onto my radar a couple of weeks ago when my daughter asked me what we would do if we found an injured duck. I remembered there was a wildlife rehabilitation center nearby and took a look on the internet. The website for the wildlife center is deceiving as it doesn’t begin to highlight all they have to offer.

Willowbrook wildlife center

Right before I snapped a picture of this sign, someone brought in a rabbit for rescue. If I was any sort of photographer, I would have documented it. Alas, I am not. So a picture of the sign will have to do.

First and foremost, Willowbrook is a wildlife rehabilitation center. But they also have a butterfly garden, both indoor and outdoor live animal exhibits (including a bald eagle), and a few winding nature trails for an easy outdoor walk.

The center is free to visit, but a donation (either cash or other) is appreciated.

Willowbrook wildlife center

Urgently needed as of 06/30/2017

Indoor Exhibits

After dropping our donation in the box outside, we headed into the Visitor Center to see what there was to see. First was a case full of beautiful monarch butterfly chrysalises. The kids love the golden details.

Willowbrook wildlife center dupage forest chrysalis

Monarch butterfly chrysalis with beautiful gold trim.

There were many other indoor exhibits as well, which housed small birds and other small animals and reptiles. The birds were fun to see because the kids could get up close and really get a good look. (Unfortunately, I haven’t yet mastered our fancy camera enough to know how to focus on the animal, not the cage. I’ll be doing some more research on that.)

It was also fun to take a peek into the animal care area to see what was going on behind the scenes.

Willowbrook wildlife center

Bird enclosure

Willowbrook wildlife center

I told myself to remember what kind of frog (toad?) this was. But, of course, I forgot.

Outdoor Exhibits

We headed on to check out the outdoor exhibits. First, the kids encountered a sand pit where they could make imprints of animals’ footprints and figure out which animal each footprint belonged to.

Willowbrook Wildlife center

But there was much more to explore. My son and I tried to catch a glimpse of the cormorant. We couldn’t get a good picture, but I find this bird interesting because a flightless variety of the cormorant exists in the Galapagos Islands. My daughter headed off to the butterfly garden.

Willowbrook wildlife center

We didn’t spy any butterflies in the butterfly garden, but we did enjoy the koi pond.

Willowbrook wildlife centerkoi

Meandering further through the exhibits, we saw a sleepy and itchy red fox. (We actually smelled it before we saw it. It looks much cuter than it smelled.) And some owls that had eye injuries and could not be returned to the wild.

willowbrook wildlife center

Sleepy red fox

willowbrook wildlife center

Itchy red fox

Willowbrook wildlife center

We took the nature trail to the sandhill crane exhibit and found one of them to be very friendly, walking with my daughter back and forth (the bird inside the enclosure while she was outside).

Willowbrook wildlife center

Sandhill crane (photo credit: my 7-year-old son)

Finishing up our walk on the nature trail, we encountered some lovely foliage and a very camera-shy deer.

Willowbrook wildlife center

Camera-shy deer taking a drink.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center is a lovely, close-to-home (for us) place to visit.