With the price of gas at more than five bucks per gallon and flight cancellations rising, many families will opt to stay closer to home this summer. While expensive trips to far-off places can be exciting, the great news is there are plenty of local, family-friendly places to have fun, cool off, explore nature and make memories this summer.
One of those places is Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles. The 47-acre park has a range of amenities, guaranteeing your kids have no reason to whine that they’re bored. Families can spend the whole day – or even a weekend – exploring the park and never run out of things to do. If you’re looking for ideas to plan your trip, here’s a sample itinerary.
9 a.m. – Start with a relaxing walk through the native plant and sensory gardens along the Fox River. Young kids love the log steppers and vine tunnel, and everyone can stop to play a quick baggo game.
“The garden is right behind the Pottawatomie Community Center,” says Katie Miller, assistant superintendent of recreation at Pottawatomie Community Center. “It’s a neat little walkthrough made up of all native plantings, so you’ll find lots of butterflies and bugs crawling around. Everything is marked so you can identify what’s there.”
An all-inclusive playground was installed in 2021 and is designed so that children of all abilities can enjoy its features. It includes a wheelchair swing donated by the St. Charles Kiwanis Club.
11 a.m. – Next, head to the 18-hole River View Miniature Golf Course. “This is a great amenity that reaches all ages,” Miller says. Try Stanley’s Spin-N-Play wheel if you’re up for some extra amusement. You might look silly when you putt standing on one foot or with just one hand, but it sure will entertain the kids. Don’t expect the course to be easy; with names like “I Dare You” and “Leap of Faith,” it’s a fun challenge even for a seasoned golfer.
12:30 p.m. – Next, grab lunch from the refreshment stand. Whether you’re craving something savory or sweet, you’ll find it here. “We serve all of the concession favorites, and they’re pretty affordable,” Miller says. You can order everything from hot dogs and brats to candy, soft pretzels, ice cream and soda. There’s plenty of seating nearby, so you can leave the picnic blanket at home.
1:45 p.m. – Now that your belly is full, take to the water on the Paddlewheel Riverboat for sightseeing on the Fox River. Kids and parents alike can partake in the ISPY activities onboard while searching for critters and birds during the cruise.
“Those cruises are fun, and they run about 45 minutes, so it’s a good length of time for a little one’s attention span,” Miller says. The boat departs at 12:30, 1:45, and 3 p.m. on weekends or at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Alternatively, you can rent a swan-themed pedal boat and do the paddling yourself. These boats seat four at a time, so the whole family might be able to sit together.
3:30 p.m. – Get back on dry land with a walk around the paved trails or challenge the kids to a friendly competition with a game of tennis or sand volleyball. There’s also a steep incline by the amphitheater that makes for a great uphill running contest.
5:30 p.m. – Is there anything more refreshing after a long walk than a dip in the pool? “We have Swanson Pool right in Pottawatomie Park,” Miller says. “It’s a great spot to go, and it’s perfect for families. We’ve got plenty of lap lanes, which is a nice feature for adults.”
Twilight Swim starts at 5:30 p.m. and continues every evening through Aug. 14. “It’s just $5 per person,” Miller says. “You can end your day with an evening swim to cool off.”
Affordable Summer Fun
This action-packed day would only cost around $30 per person, including lunch, making Pottawatomie Park an affordable choice for families looking for fun that’s close to home.
Miller also says some new and special events are happening this summer inside the park.
“We have movies in the park, which we’re collaborating with the St. Charles Public Library on,” she says. “There’s a movie playing on Friday, Aug. 19, ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’. It starts at 7:50 p.m., and it’s free for all ages.”
Pottawatomie Park is located at 8 N. Ave., in St. Charles. Check stcparks.org for up-to-date hours and pricing.