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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