3 Tips for Your Troll Hunt at the Morton Arboretum

You have probably seen a crazy haired wooden beast looking out at you and your fellow travelers when driving down I-88, but don’t be alarmed. He is just one of the trolls that have invaded the Morton Arboretum thanks to the talented Danish artist Thomas Dambo.

Wondering what the wooden installation buzz is all about? Dambo’s giant trolls tell the “Great Story about the Little People and the Giant Trolls,” emphasizing the struggle that exists between mankind and nature. Each troll tells a unique story based on his location and post within the massive Morton Arboretum. Here are three tips that your family NEEDS to know before starting your troll hunt. And trust me on this one—there are sore feet at stake!

My family and I were given free admission to the Morton Arboretum. All opinions are my own.


Yes, that’s right, the best way to track down these massive beasts is by slowly driving the long, winding main route that travels throughout the Morton Arboretum. There is one troll that is easily accessible on foot because it is in the parking lot and another that is only about a seven minute walk from the Children’s Garden (check out my Children’s Garden tips here), but the other trolls are FAR. Don’t be like me and think that you can see the trolls on foot because your kids have boundless energy. Because your kids will get tired, start whining, and demand to be carried.

Even if you do drive the troll hunt, you will still need to hike up to most of the wooden installations. Each troll is located between two feet and ¾ of a mile away from the nearest parking lot. Use the map to guide you so you don’t make the same mistake I did and park in two different lots to see the same exact troll. Ooops!


Nowadays no one goes anywhere without their phone so they can document their day (please tell me I’m not the only guilty one), but that’s not the only thing that will keep your kids happy and focused during your troll hunt. First off, make sure everyone has comfortable gym shoes. Sandals simply aren’t going to cut it because the winding paths are littered with woodchips, tree roots, and tons of other natural items that make it a hike instead of just a leisurely stroll. Also, be sure to pack both sunscreen AND bug spray (check out my favorite eco-friendly picks) since most of the wooden installations are set up—you guessed it—in the woods! Lastly, you can’t go wrong with packing some type of sweet to keep your kid motivated to keep on trekking to find the trolls. My boys were easily swayed by some ice cold juice boxes and a pack of Starburst. Bribery, thy name is Amanda.


As with most art, the trolls aren’t just there to take cool Instagram photos. Thomas Dambo created his wooden installation to promote his anti-waste messaging. If you look closely at the trolls, they are constructed with discarded items. If this isn’t a great talking point for families who want to live a more “green” lifestyle, I don’t know what is.

In addition to discussing what the trolls are made of, work with your kids to try to figure out the story behind the troll. Joe, the guardian of I-88 for example, looks like he is protecting the quiet forest of the Morton Arboretum from the loud, busy machines traveling down the expressway. Why would a troll have a rock in his hand, trying to crush cars in the parking lot? Why is yet another troll setting up a trap? There are so many fun conversations that can take place thanks to not only Dambo’s imagination, but your children’s as well.

When my boys and I went on the troll hunt at the Morton Arboretum, we ran into a friend and a handful of our cousins…but only found five trolls. Think you can find more? Prove it!


Simply comment on this post with your favorite thing about the Morton Arboretum (mine is Adventure Woods!) in order to win a pair of tickets to the Troll Hunt. The contest ends this Sunday, August 5that 8 p.m. CST and winners will be contacted via email.

Happy Trolling!
Don’t miss a post…follow me on Blog Lovin’.


  1. Valerie Thompson says

    Thank you for the great tips!! I am a big fan of the illumination event each year. It always puts me in the holiday spirit!

  2. Lauren says

    We’ve only been once, but loved the children’s garden. Thanks for the tips on seeing the trolls! I’m excited to try the hunt!

  3. Sarah says

    Havent been for many years, but my kids loved the tadpool pond when they were little tadpoles themselves 🙂

  4. Lia Sosa says

    The holidays just aren’t the same without Illuminations. This year, Katie will be bundled up like Randy from A Christmas Story. She definitely won’t be able to put her arms down.

    We’ve been wanting to see the trolls all summer, but now I’m back to school. So…weekend adventure!

  5. Andreadoesntgiveaduck says

    I’ve never been to the MA, but this Troll thing seems like something that NEEDS to be seen!!!

  6. Katie Walsh says

    I love how it’s such a wonderful escape from the city. My girls loved the tadpole and dipping their feet in the streams. Such a beautiful getaway.

  7. Alison Hightower says

    We haven’t been to Morton Arboretum yet, but I’m dying to check out the children’s garden. It’s on our summer bucket list!

    • Amanda says

      Congrats, Cynthia! You are the winner of the Morton Arboretum giveaway! Will contact you via email for your mailing address.

  8. Jill says

    My kiddos are still little so we love the children’s garden, especially when we can spot tadpoles in the pond!

  9. Hillary says

    Sadly I have not been to the Arboretum in years and have not taken my littles…I did a 5k there right after college but that’s it! Have been planning to take the kiddos to see the trolls though! Thanks for the tips!

  10. Anne says

    We have never been but would love to venture out of the city in a few weeks when there is no more summer camp! The trolls look amazing!

  11. Heather P. says

    We went for Illumination last year, but it was closed due to weather so we haven’t actually been, but it’s on our list.

    Many years ago, pre-kids, I had a fabulous lunch in the onsite restaurant

  12. Kristin says

    We have never been to the Morton Arboretum, but would love to go. My kids would definitely love the Troll Hunt.

  13. eileen marie says

    Our favorite thing is the festivals they host there! My husband is performing in the Destination Asia festival this weekend!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.