The Arbortheater Vernon Hills: An Inspiring Family Portrait Location


My hometown of Vernon Hills keeps calling me back and tucked away in their corporate park is a hidden gem, The Vernon Hills Memorial Arbortheater.


In the summers as an 80’s child, my friends and I would ride our bikes along this creek, fish the pond, and explore the area. In 1995, this site was transformed to a meeting place that beautifully honors our nation’s Veterans. Years later, when I was in college at NIU, I would come home and draw the waterfalls in pastels for art class.

Today, the landscape is mature with bold natural textures and tones. This Vernon Hills location is simply one of my favorite places to capture family portraits in the early morning! The landscape is manicured with gorgeous reflecting pools, waterfalls, and a war memorial with a fountain that feeds the stream encircling a big hill, creating the theater.

This is a great location for families with accessibility needs too! There are paved paths with curb cutouts in the parking lot, bathrooms, and a variety of shots not too far from your car.

I’ve had the privilege of capturing the Realmuto family over the years. This beautiful summer family photography session brought us to this inspiring outdoor location a second time. The sun-drenched morning produced light and bright images. There were plenty of opportunities to capture both posed portraits and candid family portraits.


It’s nostalgic to bring families here and see kids intrigued by the very things that drew me to this exact spot.

Little Grace easily loved up on her Mom and Dad but Luca needed some time to warm up. This is a great location for kids to break free the rigid portrait experience! It’s nostalgic to bring families here and see kids intrigued by the very things that drew me to this exact spot. This little man enjoyed seeing the fish in the shallow waters, watching the falling water, throwing pebbles into the pond, and exploring the rocks. These were great distractions for him resulting in a successful family portrait session.

We began on a hillside lawn surrounded by trees, which overlooks the main waterfall. This is a great spot to catch vivid greenery in the full sun, producing glowing images. The path and wood fence wind around thick green foliage that mimics a tropical scene.

The entrance to the theater is exposed to full sun and is beautifully hardscaped. Raised reflecting pools flanked by colorful garden beds are the focal point in this area. Kids have been known to splash in the water for some playful candid portraits. The staggered stones are a great place to snap a family garden picture.

Tucked away in the shadows of the hill, your family is surrounded by bold textures of the stone wall dappled with foliage. It’s a great spot for natural scenery and tranquility.

I enjoy capturing the kids as they explore the rocks and it’s another great opportunity to get the parents sitting with the kids.

The path continues along the stream and empties into a pond with the theater’s pergola. A footbridge leads you out of the park through a tree line that is a reminder of the dense woods that flanked the creek as a kid.


Come take a walk with me through the Arbortheater and discover why it’s a family favorite location!

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