A Visit to Bartlett Nature Center with Little Kids: Reptiles, Hands-on Nature Exhibits, and More

Indoor Places to GoNature

Situated in James “Pate” Philip State Park, Bartlett Nature Center is surrounded by beautiful hiking trails. Inside, visitors will find a variety of reptiles and amphibians, as well as hands-on exhibits.

A visit to the Bartlett Nature Center is perfect for the littlest nature lovers, whether you’re looking for indoor or outdoor fun. Read more below about what you’ll find on this must-see nature center in the northwest suburbs.

What You’ll Find in the Bartlett Nature Center

When you enter the main exhibit all of the Bartlett Nature Center, you’ll find fox snakes, corn snakes, bearded dragons, ball pythons, leopard geckos, and many other animals. The animals are all close together and were very active during our visit.

The walls are lined with taxidermy birds and fish, and a large bison statue fills the center of the room.

Near the entrance to the nature center, a small interactive area has animal track stamps and seasonal scavenger hunts. The stamps are imprinted into a rubber surface that reforms back to its original shape, providing an extra layer of sensory play.

A nearby bookshelf with a variety of nature books and puzzles invites families to read and play. Visitors are welcome to touch displays of animal pelts and antlers, too.

Bartlett Nature Center is in the middle of James “Pate” Philip State Park, which contains three main hiking trails, ranging in distances between 0.75 to 1.5 miles. These shorter distances provide the perfect length to run off extra energy after a visit to the nature center.

Food and Snacks

There is a snack vending machine in the hallway if you’re looking for a small pick-me-up. Otherwise, we recommend bringing your own food if you plan to stay for a longer visit. There are picnic tables right outside the main entrance for a day when the weather is cooperating.

There are plenty of restaurants near driving distance. The Bartlett Nature Center is about a 10-minute drive away from one of our favorite kid-friendly restaurants, 2Toots Cafe.


There are public restrooms inside the nature center available during regular business hours.

Kidlist Tip: If you visit the state park when the nature center is closed, there’s a standalone shelter with flushable toilets behind the nature center.


The Bartlett Nature Center is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00am – 4:00pm and Saturday from 9:00am – 1:00pm. It does close on most major holidays, so we’d recommend checking their website to confirm. These hours are current as of April 18, 2024 and are subject to change.


Visiting the Bartlett Nature Center is always free!

Recommended Ages

I visited the nature center with my 5-year old, and we enjoyed ourselves for over an hour. We did a few loops through the animals as they took turns being more active. We explored the play areas, and even read a few books. He appreciated being more hands-on with exhibits at the Bartlett Nature Center, such as the various pelts on display. With nicer weather, a visit could extend much longer as you explore the outdoor space, too. This is a great spot for toddlers, as the animals habitats are all very closer together and easy to see, and there were still plenty of other things to explore while visiting.

Best Days/Times To Go to the Bartlett Nature Center

The Bartlett Nature Center is home to a variety of programming and events throughout the year. There tends to be more foot traffic before and after these offerings. We were there around 11am on a weekday, and only shared the space with one other family.

If you are planning a visit, I’d recommend calling ahead to see if any field trips or larger groups will be there. The main exhibit space is not large, which will likely fill up quickly with a visiting school group.


The Bartlett Nature Center houses all of their exhibits on one floor, which is easily accessible by wheelchair.

Upcoming Events

Bartlett Nature Center is home to a variety of nature programming. You can also find more details about free or drop-in events offered at the Bartlett Nature center by visiting the Kidlist calendar.

Bartlett Nature Center
2054 W Stearns Road
Bartlett, IL 60103
(847) 608-3120

Looking for more great nature centers throughout the Chicagoland? We have a list for that!

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