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 a great spot for families. Read on to see our top ten things to do in and around St. Charles.
1. St. Charles History Museum
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.
St. Charles History Museum
Address: 215 E Main St, St Charles, IL 60174, USA
Website: St. Charles History Museum
2. Pottawatomie Park
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.
Address: 8 North Ave, St Charles, IL 60174, USA
Website: Pottawatomie Park
3. Geneva History Museum
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
4. Fox River Trolley Museum
The mantra of the Fox River Trolley Museum 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
5. Beith House Museum
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
6. Arcada Theatre
The Arcada Theatre opened in 1926, with 1,009 seats for a town of 5,000. Despite the 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.
Address: 105 E Main St, St Charles, IL 60174, USA
Website: Arcada Theatre
7. Healing koi pond and Japanese garden
Koi Whisperer Adopt a Koi Day!! 10-12 noon only Application, Water Test, Select Compassion beyond it all. Each and every Koi has a voice and a place to call home. This is our purpose. Love & Light... M ❤️Posted by Koi Whisperer Sanctuary & Japanese Gardens on Friday, 21 July 2017
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
8. Otter Cove Aquatic Park
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
9. 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
10. Garfield Farm and Inn Museum
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
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 early St. Charles. When you feel like you need to stretch your legs, head to a park and go for a walk. There’s plenty to keep you and your family occupied in St. Charles, so start planning your trip today!
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