Venue: Hickory Knolls Discovery Center
Location: 3795 Campton Hills Road, St. Charles, Illinois 60175, 630-513-4399.
Owned and operated by the St. Charles Park District.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10am-4pm; Sunday: 12-4pm; Monday: CLOSED
Parking: Free – plentiful
About: The Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is a nature center that is owned and operated by the St. Charles Park District (located near the Otter Cove Aquatic Park). The 10,500 square foot facility houses exhibits and activities that appeal to a variety of ages.
Our Experience: We visited the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles at 10:00am on a Saturday morning (when the facility opens). There were tons of cars in the parking lot and I started to get discouraged, thinking that this venue was really packed, but later learned that a hiking group was meeting at the facility that morning. So parents – don’t let the number of cars in the lot fool you. The Discovery Center was as empty as could be.
Immediately greeting us at the doorway was the Easter Bunny! (I’m not sure if his presence was a seasonal thing, but the kids loved it!)
The venue itself isn’t very large and most of the parents felt comfortable letting the kids run around (I visited with a group of 5 moms and their kids ranging in age from 1 to 4).
Some of the highlights of our visit included:
Turtle Pond: The kids enjoyed looking for the turtle in this pond situated in the middle of the hallway at Discovery Center. The turtle was pretty active too, swimming back and forth in the water. The Kids liked playing “Find the Turtle” and spent a good amount of time at this exhibit.
Fossil Dig: A fossil dig, complete with shovels and mini dustpans to put the pebbles back where they belong, was a huge hit with the kids. The kids would dig to find fossil bones and sea shells in this sandbox filled with pebbles. This was the only area that got a bit crowded at times, as only a small number of kids fit around the fossil dig at one time. What moms like: There was a table located right next to the fossil dig with a big bottle of hand sanitizer to clean up when we were done.
Activity Center: The rear of the building housed an activity center nook where the kids could explore hands-on with some animal bones, snake skin, and other items found in nature (like pine cones). There was also a table in the back with children’s books to read, puzzles, and crayons and paper to draw.
Overall: I spent about an hour and a half at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center with my group and it was the perfect block of time to enjoy everything this facility has to offer. And did I mention that admission is FREE?!?! This venue is the perfect mix of play time with an educational element that both parents and children can enjoy.
Have fun exploring!