Those of you who live in or grew up in St. Charles are probably thinking “No duh. Of course Pottawatomie is a great park.” So this story is for the rest of you!
Location: The park is located on the east side of the Fox River, four blocks north of Route 64 (Main Street) and three blocks west of Route 25. If you’re looking for an address for your GPS, 8 North Avenue in St. Charles will work.
Amenities: Oh gosh. Where to start? This 92-acre park includes a community center, Swanson Pool, a 9-hole golf course, an 18-hole mini-golf course, paddlewheel riverboats, several rentable pavilions, a bandshell, summertime pedal boat and canoe rentals, lighted softball fields, lighted tennis courts, sand volleyball court, a native plant demonstration garden, fishing, picnic tables, paved trail system and two playgrounds. There are two sets of restrooms.
Good For: All ages. One playground (near the tennis courts) is best for the younger set, while the playground on the hill would appeal to older kids. Parents and grandparents will like the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, as well as the paddlewheel riverboats.
Our Experience: While we swam at Swanson Pool several times this summer, it had been probably a year since my daughter and I visited the rest of Pottawatomie Park. I have no idea why, because it truly is a fabulous park, with something for everyone.
We are still in potty training mode, so we started off by using the (very nice) indoor restrooms located inside the charming stone Pottawatomie Community Center. As long as the building is open, you are welcome to use those restrooms. Building hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The community center has some vending machines that sell bottled water, cans of soda and snacks, as well as a nice sitting area. There are also restrooms located inside a stone shelter by the miniature golf course.
Next we took a stroll through the Native Plant Demonstration Garden, located behind the community center. I thought it was just a small strip of plants, but the garden is actually quite large and impressive! You can pick up a brochure in the community center that will serve as a guide to what plants are blooming during your visit. The garden is a great resource if you want to incorporate more native plants into your own yard, and it has several scenic spots for photos of your kids, too.
We checked out both playgrounds. The one by the tennis courts (and closest to the community center) is good for preschoolers on up – no openings up too high here. This smaller playground is also shaded, and has a couple benches and picnic tables nearby. Farther into the park and up a hill is a larger playground that unfortunately has no shade, although a number of picnic tables nearby are indeed under the trees. This playground has slides, monkey bars and climbing features to appeal to older children. Neither playground is state of the art or particularly unique, but they don’t need to be when the rest of the park is so great.
We had brought a picnic and enjoyed it from a picnic table in the beautiful large, gingerbread-style wooden pavilion, looking out at the Fox River. It’s a newer structure, but based on a pavilion constructed in the park in the 1890s that had to be torn down more than 10 years ago because of structural problems.
A few other interesting features and notes about Pottawatomie Park:
- After our picnic, we climbed the tower in the large wood pavilion for great views of the Fox River.
- River View Miniature Golf is open daily in the summer but now just weekends through Sept. 25. When the mini golf course is open, there is a concession stand open, too.
- Two paddleboat riverboats operate out of Pottawatomie Park, the St. Charles Belle II and the Fox River Queen. The boats take four-mile sightseeing trips on the Fox River and run on weekends and holidays from May to mid-October, as well as weekdays in the summer. Adults are $7.50, children 15 and younger are $6 and kids two and under are free. Click here for more info, including a schedule of departure times.
- The Pottawatomie website lists parking fees. I’ve never seen parking fees taken during my numerous weekday visits, so I think they are only applicable on weekends and holidays. St. Charles residents park for free, while non-residents pay $5 a vehicle or $1 per person.
- If you’re a history buff like me, you’ll enjoy this article from the Chicago Tribune about the origins of Pottawatomie Park (it was a camping site for the Potawatomi Indians) and this one from the St. Charles Public Library.