Donley’s Wild West Town – a slice of the wild west in the Midwest

Just off the highway between Chicago’s O’Hare airport and Rockford is the village of Union. Union is home to two attractions that can help bring you back to the days of the wild west; Donley’s Wild West Town, and the Illinois Railway museum.

Donley’s Wild West Town has everything you’d expect from a cheesy wild west village; gold panning, cowboy shows, a miniature railroad, horse and pony rides and a large western restaurant. You need to be in the right mindset to enjoy places like this, as it has a bit of a cheesy feeling to it. Kids will obviously love the various attractions, and as with many attractions, that is often what it is all about.

Donley’s is closed for the season, and will reopen on May 1st 2010. Admission is a pretty steep $15 per person. If you see yourself visiting more than once, you may be better off with a family season pass.

If you want to experience rail travel as it was back in the days of the wild west, then head closer to Union for the Illinois Railway museum, where you’ll find the largest collection of antique trains in the country. The museum owns 25 steam locomotives, and operates two fully restored steam locomotives. It is also home to several sheds filled with beautifully restored passenger cars. Granted, not all this material is directly from the “wild west”, but it does give you a good idea of the importance railroads played in the history of this country.

The Illinois railway museum is located at 7000 Olson Road, Union, Illinois. Admission starts at $8 for adults and $4 for children. The museum will be open on several days in December for their Happy Holiday Railway event.