Naper Settlement is an outdoor museum where visitors can learn about local history, but during the summer, it’s also filled to the brim with events and programming for guests of all ages. NCTV17 talked to its president and CEO about all of it for our weekly “Fun Friday” series.
More About Naper Settlement
Joe Naper settled into what is now Naperville in 1831. To preserve and share all that history, Naper Settlement was established under the Naperville Park District, bringing together a number of historic structures from across town, including the chapel, along 13 acres of land in downtown Naperville. They have guided tours, educators in period costumes, exhibits and a number of activities.
Latest addition: Agricultural Center
Named after local residents and donors, the Mary and Richard Benck Family Agriculture Center — a new 4,000 square foot exhibition space — is a state-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) driven center for “showcasing Naperville’s rich agricultural history while connecting it to the farming story of the region and the nation,” as described by the settlement’s website.
“Naperville has a very rich agricultural history and there’s an important story to be told,” said Rena Tamayo‑Calabrese, President and CEO of Naper Settlement. “And that story can be told in the exhibits of the Agricultural Center.”
Playscape and Splash Pad
The settlement is also home to the Harvard Early Learning Playscape, designed for two to seven year-old children to explore the outdoors. Features include:
- Sensory prairie garden
- Replica Conestoga wagon
- Reconstruction of Fort Payne
- Animal tracks
- Splash pad
“This is a place for education as much as it is for fun,” said Tamayo-Calabrese. Children can learn about history, the trading post, pioneer times, and grow their critical thinking skills.
Naper Settlement offers various summer camps for school children, each with a different theme, from coding to sports to food and culture. There are about 15 different camps overall, catering to a variety of ages and interests. While many are sold out, Tamayo-Calabrese said there are few left for July and August. A list of camps and their availability can be found on the settlement’s website.
“We have science camps, art camps. If you want to learn how to build a theme park, we have a camp for that, as much as if you are interested in environment,” said Tamayo-Calabrese. “We do employ many teachers that are our camp counselors so there’s a lot of learning that happens while they’re having a whole lot of fun!”
For several weekends throughout the summer the settlement is transformed into an outdoor concert venue. Naper Nights features an entire weekend of live music from various tribute bands, plus cold drinks and food from a variety of local restaurants. Pinot’s Palette will also be on site for painting, plus other family-friendly activities.
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