15 Best Things To Do In And Near Saint Charles, IL

things to do in saint charles illinois

St. Charles, Illinois, lies west of Chicago. The city’s motto is “pride of the fox” on account of the Fox River, which runs through it. Founded in 1834, it remained a small town for many years due to being well isolated. It did not have train tracks, and the Fox River was too small for large boats to navigate. In the 1880s, a direct line to Chicago was built. St. Charles was also home to many “stations” along the Underground Railway, and there was an open abolitionist group, founded in 1842, called the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society.

These days, the city is known for its parks, the Arcada Theatre, museums, and its downtown area. There’s plenty to explore and it’s also a great vacation spot for families, especially with all the lakefront hotels to stay in. You can also book a stay at the best Airbnb vacation rentals in the city! Read on to see the top things to do in and near Saint Charles, IL.

1. Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

The kids will have a blast when you head to Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. If you have curious little ones, this sure is a place to pique their interest and keep them wondering about the Pale Blue Dot! The resident reptiles await, as well as the fun to be had feeding critters and the other animals. Put your scout hat on, learn about the Ice Age, experience the interactive mural, and explore the miles and miles of trails filled with mesmerizing flora and fauna right at this nature preserve.

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

Address: 3795 Campton Hills Dr, St. Charles, IL 60175, United States

Website: Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10am - 4pm (closed on Sun)

2. Steel Beam Theatre

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Steel Beam Theatre on Monday, March 29, 2021

Catch a professional performance at Steel Beam Theatre if you want to turn up your trip to St. Charles up a few notches. This performing arts theater features engaging and thought-provoking shows that never lose their entertaining touch. These productions cater to all ages and are made affordable. Children’s plays are often featured at the theater too. If you are an enthusiast of the performing arts or you’d like to get to know the craft, you may even sign up for acting classes and other workshops

Steel Beam Theatre

Address: 111 W Main St, St. Charles, IL 60174, United States

Website: Steel Beam Theatre

3. Primrose Farm

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Goat Yoga classes have been filling up quickly, so we have added two new classes to the roster this spring! Sign up...

Posted by Primrose Farm, St. Charles Park District on Wednesday, April 21, 2021

What about a day of fun with the animals, how does that sound for a St. Charles outing? At Primrose Farm, you can explore the outdoors as you meet and feed adorable farm animals. You can sign up for activities such as hands-on milking, feeding the goats and chicken, and picking fresh eggs (some of which you get to take home!) You may also have an up-close experience with the horses and learn basic grooming techniques and other equine care practices.

Primrose Farm

Address: 5N726 Crane Rd, St. Charles, IL 60175, United States

Website: Primrose Farm

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 8am - 3pm (closed on Sun)

4. Portillo's Hot Dogs

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Spend less time cooking and more time with your guests at your Fourth of July celebration this weekend! Catering Fast Packs, Buffets and Take & Make kits are available now! https://catering.portillos.com/

Posted by Portillo's on Tuesday, June 29, 2021

For a classic American staple, you can’t go wrong with the Chicago-grown Portillo’s Hot Dogs. With a branch in St. Charles, you won’t have to beat the traffic just to get your hands on some of the best handheld eats in the state. Portillo’s is famous for its Chicago-style hot dogs, cheese fries, and Italian beef sandwiches, among others. These are the perfect comfort food after being out and about in town. Don’t skip out on their homemade chocolate cake and chocolate cake shake too!

Portillo's Hot Dogs

Address: 3895 E Main St, St. Charles, IL 60174, United States

Website: Portillo’s Hot Dogs

Opening hours: 10:30am - 10pm (daily)

5. Delnor Woods Park

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Delnor Woods Park is a great place to visit in St. Charles if you simply wish to get out in nature and stretch your legs with a scenic walk. Bring out the blanket and lay down your baskets on the grass or set up at the pavilion if you want to have a family picnic. The kids can enjoy themselves, run around, play hide-and-seek, and of course, have fun on the playground. This neighborhood park also features fishing spots, trails, river access, and benches.

Delnor Woods Park

Address: 517 IL-25, St. Charles, IL 60174, United States

Website: Delnor Woods Park

Opening hours: 8am - 9pm (daily)

6. St. Charles History Museum

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

The mission of the St. Charles History Museum is to share stories and facts about the city’s history with both residents and visitors. The museum is home to permanent and temporary exhibits, a research room, research archives, a repository for the collections, and of course the gift shop. Their collection contains over 10,000 photographs and 15,000 artifacts, all relating to the city’s history.

Their permanent exhibit is currently undergoing construction, and thanks to a generous grant will reopen with a better-designed space. Their current temporary exhibition is about fashion, highlighting trends from the 1860s to the 1960s. They also hold events, including gallery talks and scavenger hunts. In case you don’t know what to do in St. Charles, IL, first, come to this place!

St. Charles History Museum

Address: 215 E Main St, St Charles, IL 60174, USA

Website: St. Charles History Museum

7. Pottawatomie Park

Fierorama 2014 #7
Source: Photo by Flickr user artistmac used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel like you need to stretch your legs, head to Pottawatomie Park. Located on the Fox River, there’s plenty of outdoor fun to be had. You can canoe and fish on the river, and the park also has a swimming pool if you’d like to cool off in the water. There are playgrounds, picnic areas, and facilities to play sports like tennis courts and ball diamonds.

There are also paved trails for walking and running. There’s even a golf course! The park provides a great way to burn up some energy and enjoy the outside. It’s a perfect spot to bring the whole family.

Pottawatomie Park

Address: 8 North Ave, St Charles, IL 60174, USA

Website: Pottawatomie Park

8. Geneva History Museum

Pic4 in Geneva Illinois History Center
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user user:PhilFree used under CC BY-SA 3.0

To learn more about this area’s history, head to the Geneva History Museum. The city of Geneva is next to St. Charles. The museum aims to collect, preserve, and educate the public about Geneva’s history.

The museum has a main gallery, which shares Geneva’s story. They also have a feature gallery, with exhibitions that change throughout the year. There’s also a research area and a gift shop. Their feature gallery has an exhibition exploring the people of Geneva who built and lived in some of the city’s more interesting homes. The museum also puts on various programs, including a monthly lunch hour talk.

Geneva History Museum

Address: 113 S 3rd St, Geneva, IL 60134, USA

Website: Geneva History Museum

9. Fox River Trolley Museum

20020901 1447 Fox River Trolley Museum (5508235612)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Wilson used under CC BY 2.0

For one of the fun things to do near St. Charles, IL, come to Fox River TrolleyMuseum! The mantra here is “education through demonstration”. Here, you can take a ride on a historic electric trolley car, journeying along the banks of the Fox River. The museum also puts on special events, including the Terror Trolley around Halloween and the Polar Express in December.

Fox River Trolley Museum

Address: 365 S La Fox St, South Elgin, IL 60177, USA

Website: Fox River Trolley Museum

10. Beith House Museum

William Beith House (St. Charles, IL) 03
Source: Photo by user G LeTourneau used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Standing on the banks of the Fox River is a Greek revival style home, one of just a few buildings of river stone architecture in the area which remains largely unaltered. This is the home of William Beith, a stone mason in Kane County who built the home in 1850. Today it houses Preservation Partners, a company which owns three museum houses and which aims to promote the preservation and appreciation of the area’s architectural history.

Permanent and temporary exhibitions take place on the first floor of Beith House, which are open to the public. Tours and events also take place at the museum, so you can gain a deeper understanding of the history of the home and the area.

Beith House Museum

Address: 8 Indiana St, St Charles, IL 60174, USA

Website: Beith House Museum

11. Arcada Theatre

Arcada Theater Building (St. Charles, IL) 03
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user G LeTourneau used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Home to the best St. Charles events, the Arcada Theatre opened in 1926, with 1,009 seats for a town of 5,000. Despite a large number of seats, it was a popular Vaudeville stop, and on the night of the theatre’s grand opening, hundreds of people were unable to get seats. A number of legendary stars have performed on its stage, including the John Phillip Sousa Band and Vincent Price.

The theatre was revived in the 2000s, with much work going into upgrading the sound system, lighting, and stage. Today, the theatre has its original pipe organ, and it has seen acts by Jerry Lewis and Martin Short.

It’s also home to Onesti’s Club, a speakeasy and restaurant serving drinks and dinner Wednesday through Sunday. The theatre is home to music and comedy acts, so keep an eye on their website for a current list of upcoming events.

Arcada Theatre

Address: 105 E Main St, St Charles, IL 60174, USA

Website: Arcada Theatre

12. Healing koi pond and Japanese garden

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

A place we call home. Love & Light... M

Posted by Koi Whisperer Sanctuary & Japanese Gardens on Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The healing koi pond and Japanese garden is the place to go in St. Charles if you want to feel peaceful and relaxed. Located on the Fox River, the pond and garden cover two acres (0.8 hectares). The founder created a sanctuary with authentic Japanese gardens to create a zen space and to support the lives of the koi fish.

By experiencing the koi up close, we see their movements and colors, and feel their energy. Over 50 koi live in the pond, some of which have been imported from Japan and some of which have been rescued. Throughout the year, the pond is host to public activists and private tours. It’s a wonderful place to sit and unplug; relax and watch the koi fish swim!

Healing koi pond and Japanese garden

Address: 6N779 Il Route 31, Saint Charles, IL 60175-6334, USA

Facebook: Healing koi pond and Japanese garden

13. Otter Cove Aquatic Park

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

For a family-friendly summertime activity, head to Otter Cove Aquatic Park. Plunge off a diving board, fly down a water slide, or float down the lazy river. There are also areas for smaller swimmers, so toddlers can splish-splash too.

The water park hosts events throughout the summer. These include “Sundae Sundays” and days for senior citizens. The park is open during the summer, and you can get a season pass if you’ll be visiting frequently.

Otter Cove Aquatic Park

Address: 3615 Campton Hills Dr, St Charles, IL 60175, USA

Website: Otter Cove Aquatic Park

14. West Branch Forest Preserve

The West Branch Forest Preserve covers 725 acres (293 hectares), and has two lakes, wetlands, a meadow and prairie. It’s home to a variety of reptiles, mammals, and birds, including grassland birds and shorebirds.

There are over two miles (3.2 km) of trails, so the preserve is an excellent spot to go walking or running, or to enjoy a bike ride. You can even cross country ski or go horseback riding on the trails. Deep Quarry Lake has two fishing piers, so you can try your luck at catching bass and carp.

West Branch Forest Preserve

Address: West Chicago, IL 60185, USA

Website: West Branch Forest Preserve

15. Garfield Farm and Inn Museum

Garfield Farm and Tavern (St. Charles, IL) 01
Source: Photo by user G LeTourneau used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Finishing off our list is the Garfield Farm and Inn Museum. It was originally an inn for teamsters (truck drivers in modern day English) in the 1840s. The property includes the hay and grain barn, the horse barn, and the inn. Today, it’s a museum offering educational and entertainment events.

You can attend a seminar prairie, woodlands, and wetland management or bird box construction. The museums hosts monthly prairie walks and social events like barn dances and a candlelight tavern reception. The museum is open on Sundays and Wednesdays during the summer, and by appointment year round.

Garfield Farm and Inn Museum

Address: Garfield Rd, La Fox, IL 60147, USA

Website: Garfield Farm and Inn Museum

Historic St. Charles

Fox River St Charles IL
Source: Photo by user Keybdn used under CC BY-SA 3.0

With a number of attractions, St. Charles, Illinois offers plenty of opportunities to explore the history of the area. You can ride on a historic trolley or learn about life in its early days. The St. Charles, IL shopping scene is great, too! When you feel like you need to stretch your legs, head to a park and go for a walk. There are also theme parks and amusement parks, so there’s plenty to keep you and your family occupied in St. Charles. Start planning your trip today!

Frequently asked questions about things to do in Saint Charles, IL

1. What are the top attractions to visit in Saint Charles?

Make Arcada Theatre, one of St. Charles’ top spots, the first on your list of places to visit. Some of the other best attractions are Fox River Trolley Museum in the nearby village of South Elgin, St. Charles History Museum, and Beith House Museum.

2. What are the most popular things to do in Saint Charles for families?

Going to St. Charles with your loved ones? You’ll be having a blast in no time when you spend a day at Otter Cove Aquatic Park, meet the animals at Primrose Farm, dine at Portillo’s Hot Dogs, and have a picnic at Delnor Woods Park.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Nicole is an American expat living in London, England. When she moved from the midwest to London in 2012, it was her first time leaving the US. She has traveled steadily since then, making trips...Read more

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