The 10 Best Nature Centers in Illinois!

Nature centers provide the opportunity to step away from daily responsibilities and appreciate nature. They’re also ideal locations for children to explore and learn about the native wildlife and habitats of local areas. Illinois is fortunate to have many quality nature centers dedicated to preserving the land and educating the public on the importance of respecting the Earth. The following nature centers also have special programs and events for the entire family. 

1. Sugar Grove Nature Center, McLean, IL

Sugar Grove Nature Center is a magic place where kids can be kids and adults can relax in nature. It offers several activities such as trails, an observatory, and Imagination Grove where kids can build a fort, dig for fossils, search for arrowheads, and engage in other interesting activities. Many programs and events are held here, as well, including natural photography contests, summer nature study, and family nature exploration days. 

2. Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center, Oak Brook, IL

Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center is a highly interactive center dedicated to educating children and the public on the effects humans have on the local ecosystem. Visitors can go on an excursion through the woods, view the skeleton of a 13,000-year-old wooly mammoth, and use the free Wi-Fi in the nature center. 

3. Lake Katherine Nature Center, Palos Heights, IL

This small and peaceful nature center in the middle of the suburbs is perfect for an afternoon stroll. Trees, flowers, waterfalls, geese, ducks, and other wildlife are visible along the walking path. The grounds are also clean and well-maintained, plus the nature center has activities for kids. 

3. Red Oak Nature Center, Batavia, IL

Explore the hiking trails and cave at the Red Oak Nature Center. Located near the Fox River, this nature center is surrounded by lush forests and is home to a variety of native wildlife. Visitors can interact with nature first-hand and learn about the great outdoors. 

5. Adams Wildlife Sanctuary, Springfield, IL

This 40-acre bird and wildlife sanctuary is dedicated to preserving the diverse urban wildlife in the area. Visitors can enjoy the trails through the woodland, observe over 81 bird species, and enjoy the various tree varieties including silver maple, hackberry, cottonwood, and black walnut. 

6. North Park Village Nature Center, Chicago, IL

The North Park Village Nature Center is a nature preserve in Chicago. With programs for all ages of children, this hand-on nature center is full of discovery and interactive displays. Visitors can also explore the many trails through the prairie, woodland, savanna, and wetland areas. 

7. Sand Ridge Nature Center, South Holland, IL

Explore 235 acres of diverse habitats including woodlands, oak savannas, prairies, and others at the Sand Ridge Nature Center. Visitors can view natural wildlife such as fish, turtles, snakes, and birds while discovering the rich natural history of the area. The nature center holds several events throughout the year, as well, celebrating Earth Day and Illinois Archaeology Day. 

8. Crabtree Nature Center, Barrington, IL

No matter the season, Crabtree Nature center is always beautiful and teeming with wildlife. Over 260 bird species have been spotted migrating over the 1,182 acres of woodland, prairies, and wetlands, which were all formed by glaciers thousands of years ago. The center openly welcomes visitors to explore the several miles of self-guided trails, as well. 

9. Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, Willow Springs, IL

A log cabin school once stood at the site of this nature center in Willow Springs. The Little Red Schoolhouse is now dedicated to teaching both kids and adults about preserving the Earth. Visitors can also still see the fruit orchard planted on the site back in 1906. 

10. Emily Oaks Nature Center, Skokie, IL

The Emily Oaks Nature Center in Skokie features 13 acres of savanna with native grasses, oak trees, and wildlife including flying squirrels, red foxes, river snakes, and more. A three-acre pond also sits on the property, as well. The nature center itself offers classes and interactive events for children and adults. 

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270 North Lombard Road, Addison, IL
Amenities: Fishing Walking Path 17.85 acres Read More
318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, IL
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4650 Brummel Street, Skokie, IL
Skokie's thirteen-acre savanna and nature center is an oasis full of native wildflowers, grasses, oak trees, a three-acre pond, and trails. Residin... Read More
1591 Tower Avenue, Edwardsville, IL
The Watershed Nature Center is home to over 40 acres of prairie, forest, and wetland habitats. The center features paved walking trails, a raised m... Read More
2204 Dewitt Avenue East, Mattoon, IL
The Douglas-Hart Nature Center consists of 65 acres of native Illinois habitat including prairie, woodland, and wetland. The center includes a... Read More
2715 South Main Street, Rockford, IL
Mission:To inspire people through education, environmental experiences, and enjoyment as a unique arboretum and botanic garden. Read More
2024 McCormick Boulevard, Evanston, IL
About UsThe Evanston Environmental Association is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the long-term success of the Evanston Ecology Cent... Read More
4532 North 725 East Road, Mc Lean, IL
Mission: The mission of Sugar Grove Nature Center is to provide a place where individuals can experience, study, and enjoy the environment and his... Read More
1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton, IL
MissionCantigny gardens offers opportunities for both display and education, which include plant testing, growing and blooming assessments and colo... Read More
Campus Box 9100, Fell Arboretum 116, Normal, IL
Mission:The Fell Arboretum is committed to collecting diverse species of trees and other plants integrated with art and architecture on the campus ... Read More
1008 Park Avenue, Galena, IL
The Belvedere Mansion and Gardens are open to the public from mid May to mid November. This 22 room private residence is truly lavish: the finest a... Read More
650 North Lombard, Mahomet, IL
The garden has evolved over a period of years from a small garden outside the museum to the eight acres it covers today. A major renovation in 1974... Read More
6799 Guilford Road, Rockford, IL
Mission of the Heritage Garden ProgramThe mission of the Heritage Garden Program at Midway Village Museum is to be committed to the continuing rese... Read More
3622 Brookview Road, Rockford, IL
History: The property was a Marsh family farm.  In the 1920’s it was part of the original Edgebrook Subdivision developed by notable Ro... Read More
150 South Park Avenue, Lombard, IL
About Us: Lilacia Park, once home to Colonel William R. Plum's lilac garden, is now a park with poetic appeal. The park was bequeathed on the pass... Read More
2391 North Stockton Drive, Chicago, IL
History:The Lincoln Park Commission constructed the Lincoln Park Conservatory in phases between 1890 and 1895, replacing a small greenhouse that da... Read More
2520 North Prospect, Peoria, IL
Luthy Botanical Garden encompasses five acres and offers over a dozen theme gardens, a Conservatory, a garden gift shop educational programming, nu... Read More
615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, IL
Our mission: The Park District of Oak Park's historic Conservatory inspires through the beauty of nature, imparts horticultual knowledge and provid... Read More
2998 West Pearl City Road, Freeport, IL
12000 Boy Scout Trail, Petersburg, IL
About Us:Located on 48 acres in southern Menard County, IL, Starhill Forest is a private arboretum owned andoperated by the Sternberg family since ... Read More
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