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Lombard is a classic Midwestern town, complete with a village parade, a corner butcher shop and a white steepled church on Maple Street. McDonald's, Dover and Navistar are some of the Fortune 500 companies that dot the surrounding suburbs. And big-shouldered Chicago is 22 miles east, a quick ride by train or car.

Yorktown Center, a 150-store mall, and Enchanted Castle, a kiddie-fueled complex of go-karts and laser games, are the local hangouts. A saunter around sweet-smelling Lilacia Park shows how the town got its Lilac Village nickname.

But it's not so much what's in Lombard that impresses as what's around it. Cantigny Park, the grand home of newspaper magnate Robert R. McCormick, is in neighboring Wheaton. Marble busts, gemstones and war ephemera pack the interior, while formal gardens and a tank collection fill the grounds. In nearby Lisle, Morton Arboretum lays out 1700 acres of pristine woods to drive, hike or snowshoe through. A short distance onward, Brookfield Zoo wows with 450 species prowling amid cageless habitats.