Drop Zone: St. Charles, Illinois

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
October 21, 2005

St. Charles boasts a small town’s charm while offering a big city’s array of activities, from theater and dining to shopping. Located one hour west of Chicago, downtown St. Charles offers a great escape for city folks looking for a quick getaway with plenty of options.


Town House Books & Cafe 105 N. 2nd Ave. (630) 584-8603

There’s nothing like an old fashioned bookstore. Sure, the warehouse-sized chains have tons of material to offer, but where’s the love there? At the 30-year-old Town House Books, the staff is knowledgeable and the setting is oh-so cozy and inviting … especially since you can smell the delicious dishes being cooked up at the store’s cafe. Weather permitting, you may sit outside with a book or newspaper while you enjoy a cup of herbal tea or coffee. But if you have the time, plan on getting lunch there. The soups are homemade, the salads are delectable and the hummus platter is generous enough to share with a friend.

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.


The Arcada Theatre 105 E. Main (630) 587-8400

Back in the 1920s, the Arcada Theatre was home to vaudeville acts such as George Burns, Gracie Allen, Edgar Bergen and, of course, Charlie McCarthy. Designed by Elmer F. Behrens, the Arcada’s Spanish-Venetian look was grandiose and lush. These days, it’s a little more run down but is a quaint reminder of days gone by when guests used to actually dress up when they went out to the theater. Seating 900, the Arcada screens classic silent films such as Buster Keaton’s “The General” (accompanied by an organist). It also serves as a concert hall for oldies revival tours. Mary Wilson has played here, and a couple weekends ago radio personality Dick Biondi hosted a revue starring Joey Dee and Bobby Valli. On Oct. 15, the Arcada showcased a concert tribute to the Rat Pack. Think you can get that experience at a multiplex by you? Think again.


Pottawatomie Park One-half mile north of Main Street on 2nd Avenue

Located in the heart of St. Charles, Pottawatomie Park is walking distance from City Hall and the shopping district. A central gathering point for everything from the Fourth of July fireworks to last weekend’s Scarecrow Festival, the park boasts a baseball field with the type of stone seating you’d expect to find in a Roman coliseum. Also, the Saint Charles Belle and the Fox River Queen — a pair of 65-foot paddlewheel riverboats — set sail for a 4-mile tour of the Fox River at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through mid-October. Tickets are $4.50-$6. Call (630) 584-2334.


Filling Station Pub & Grill 300 W. Main (630) 584-4414

Ask any of the locals about the Filling Station and they’ll rave about the hot-off-the-grill burgers. Once an actual filling station, the fenced-in front patio sits where the station’s former driveway was. A landmark in downtown St. Charles, the restaurant describes itself as an “antique eatery,” but the phrase has more to do with its furnishings than its style. All the furniture–from the tables to the chairs–are antiques. The food is similar to what you’d get at Ed Debevic’s … minus the rude service!

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.


The Warehouse Antiques & Confectionery 16 N. 1st Ave. (630) 584-6368

St. Charles loves its antique shops. You’ll find them dotted along Main Street and in neighboring clusters. The Stonehouse (201 Cedar) is literally steps away from Artemisia Antiques (115 Cedar). But one of the more unique antique shops is the Warehouse, which offers not only old collectibles, but also fresh confectionery and hand-dipped candies. Located in the old Railway Express Building, the Warehouse is the type of place where the kids will have plenty to keep them occupied (albeit hopped up on sugar) while the grownups browse through all the nooks and crannies for a rare treat of their own.

Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. select Sundays.


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