A Visit to Hickory Knolls Discovery Center with Your Littlest Nature Explorers

Indoor Places to GoNature

A visit to Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles is filled with snakes, turtles, rabbits, birds, and a variety of other animals. Learn about where they live, what they eat and how they learn, too.

We paired our visit with a trip to Creek Bend Nature Center, which is just 2 miles away, making it the perfect combo trip for your littlest explorers. Read more about all there is to see at, and nearby, this nature center in the western suburbs.

Features of Hickory Knolls Discovery Center

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is home to a variety of native animals. Near the visitors desk, visitors will find a few smaller terrariums, as well as an enrichment tower for snakes. When we visited, there was a snake climbing up and down the pegs.

The main hall after the entrance is home to a large turtle exhibit. With flowing water and native plants, the turtles are able to walk and swim through this space. We spent a good amount of time watching them, as my son was intrigued by a Spiny Soft-shelled Turtle that was in the enclosure. The ends of his shell are curled upwards.

In separate viewing areas, we found more snakes, a rabbit, box turtles, bearded dragons, and other animals. We loved that the back walls of this room are filled with large windows. There are bird feeders outside them, and with comfy chairs to watch from indoors, you have a close-up view of cardinals, woodpeckers, and various other local birds.

If you’d like a more personal experience, Hickory Knolls offers “Feed the Critters” programming. Our family did this in the past, and enjoyed it. For a flat fee per family, guests get a private experience, including meeting and feeding the animals.


There is no food sold at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. There is no space inside to eat, but visitors can enjoy snacks from home at the picnic tables outside. There is a strip of restaurants nearby along Randall Road if you prefer to stop.


There are restrooms available directly to the side of the exhibit halls. There are also restrooms available on the grounds if you are visiting while the nature center is no longer open.


The building is open to visitors on Mondays to Saturdays, from 10:00am to 4:00pm. These hours are current as of June 2024 and are subject to change.


Visiting the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is always free!

Recommended Ages

I visited Hickory Knolls Discovery Center with my 5-year old, and he really enjoyed his time here. He liked seeing the variety of animals, and appreciated that they were all active enough to keep his interest.

As the staff were feeding animals and cleaning their exhibits, they were all very friendly while answering his questions. We also took some time sitting in the chairs watching the birds come by. We visited this nature center a few years ago, and it was exciting to him as a younger toddler, too. My 9-year old, who is a true animal lover, would also enjoy time to see the animals.

Make it a Combo Trip

I would consider this outing to be a shorter adventure, and loved that we paired our time with a stop at Creek Bend Nature Center to extend our visit to St. Charles. Hickory Knolls is in the same complex as the James O. Breen Community Park, and the Otter Cove Aquatic Park.

You could also add a trip to the sports fields, splash pad, dog park, or water park after you see the animals, and you have a fun-filled day.

Best Days/Times To Go

We visited in the morning, and there was a large field trip there at the same time. Since the exhibits are smaller, it made it difficult for my 5-year old to see the animals. I asked the employee, who told me that they would be leaving in about an hour. We decided to leave, venture over to Creek Bend Nature Center, and come back when we knew they were gone. When we returned closer to lunchtime, we had the place to ourselves, which was perfect for seeing the animals. If you are worried about field trips or camp groups, call ahead to see what is on their calendar for the day.


Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is all one level, making it easy to access the animals. To be able to see the turtle enclosure in the middle of the exhibit hall, there is one small step up.

Upcoming Events

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is home to a variety of nature programming. As of June 19, 2024, they are offering “Hangin’ with Hickory Friends”, a daily visit with one of the animals. Visit any day at 11:00am or 3:00pm for these up-close experiences. You can also find more details about free or drop-in events offered at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center by visiting the Kidlist calendar.

Hickory Knolls Discovery Center
3795 Campton Hills Rd.
St. Charles, IL 60175
(630) 513-4399

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

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