Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Joliet, IL

  • Published 2022/12/17

Joliet is a city and seat of Will County in northeastern Illinois.

It is nestled on the Des Plaines River, which is 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.

James B. Campbell from Ottawa initially named the city “Juliet” in honor of his daughter.

It was later renamed “Louis Jolliet” in 1845.

Joliet’s population has reached 150,362 as per the 2020 census.

Its total land area comprises 65.08 square miles of land and 0.74 square miles of water.

This area is also known as a shipping and transportation center.

It is also a popular city to live and settle in due to its low crime rate and suburban feel.

But aside from that, Joliet is also dotted with exciting tourist attractions that locals and tourists love.

What’s more interesting is you won’t have to spend a dime to be able to experience what this city has to offer.

Here are the free things to do in Joliet, Illinois:

Take a Day Trip to Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Trail at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Joliet Iron Works Historic Site is a 52-acre preserved site on Columbia Street.

It was acquired by the city sometime between 1991 and 1997 and is a part of the Des Plaines River, which conserves over 2,400 acres.

Joliet Iron Works Historic Site used to be an iron manufacturing facility.

Now, this area is open to those who want to visit or try outdoor activities in its trails and spacious area.

Ruins at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

BD Images /

You can explore its 0.59-mile paved trail via a self-guided tour.

This will also lead you to the paved I&M Canal Trail, which measures 7.75 miles.

You can do several activities on I&M Canal Trail, such as biking, running, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Don’t miss the chance to visit its 3.26-mile paved segment for some in-line skating sessions alone or with friends.

You can also rest at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site’s picnic shelters and have a bite while relaxing.

Ruins facade at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Go Hiking at Pilcher Park Nature Center

Pilcher Park Nature Center is situated on Highland Park Drive.

This nature center is perfect for biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing.

Its nature trails will lead you to some of the most scenic spots in the area.

Pilcher Park Nature Center is ideal if you want to relax and take a day off from the stress of everyday life.

It also boasts a 640-acre of natural habitat for wildlife animals.

You can also set up your picnic blanket in its picnic areas.

Aside from nature tripping and fun outdoor adventures, Pilcher Park Nature Center is a go-to place for people looking for the best wedding venue.

A visit to this nature center is free, but there are also poles, skis, and boots for rent with children’s sizes available.

Let Your Kids Enjoy at Mayor Art Schultz Park

Mayor Art Schultz Park is a small park nestled on South Broadway Street.

Your little ones will have fun in this park as it features several pieces of play equipment.

It has slides, swings, and a wide open play area.

While you let your kids enjoy and bond with other children, you can take a walk or run in this park’s spacious vicinity.

Mayor Art Schultz Park is also located near a river, providing a serene atmosphere.

Engage in Outdoor Activities at Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access

Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access is a 372-acre nature spot on Hollywood Road.

It was acquired between 1989 and 2003.

Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access is a major part of the Rock Run preservation system.

This spacious preserve is home to diverse habitats such as forests, savannas, prairies, and wetlands.

You’ll get the chance to spot some northern water snakes and eastern kingbirds as you explore deeper into this natural area.

Some of the most recommended things you can do here are hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access also has picnic areas and is ideal for geocaching.

See Beautiful Flowers at Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory

Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory is a three-acre land situated on North Gougar Road, close to Pilcher Park and Higginbotham Woods.

It was constructed in the early 1900s.

It boasts an Italian Renaissance style designed by Lord and Burnham Company.

Here, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of colorful flowers that vary in shape and size.

Bird Haven Greenhouse & Conservatory also has a cacti room, tropical house, and show house, which can be visited at the end of the year.

This place is also suited for photography but requires a permit and permission beforehand.

Explore Nature via Rock Run Greenway Trail

Rock Run Greenway Trail is an 11.24-mile paved trail with access to nearby nature preserves and spots in the city.

It runs from Crest Hill south through Joliet.

This trail will give you access to the Theodore Marsh, Rock Run Preserve – Paul V. Nichols Access, Rock Run Preserve – Black Road Access, Colvin Grove Preserve/Joliet Junior College South Lot, and Lower Rock Run Preserve – I&M Canal Access.

Rock Run Greenway Trail also runs through wetland, prairie, and woodland.

This is ideal for biking, running, hiking, in-line skating, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Spend the Afternoon at West Park

West Park is located on Wheeler Avenue and Belleview Avenue.

This is a good place to relax and have a peaceful time with nature.

You can bring your children and let them play at the playground, which features swings, slides, and more.

West Park also has hiking and walking trails.

You can use the tennis court or disc golf facility if you want to play sports.

This park is also suited for cross-country skiing.

Comfort stations, shelters, and picnic areas are also available.

Walk around Inwood Park

Inwood Park is another park situated on West Jefferson Street.

Just like all the parks in the city, this is a great escape if you want to have some peaceful and quiet time alone.

Inwood Park is surrounded by lush trees and a wide landscaped area, so visiting this park will make you feel recharged and closer to nature.

You can also explore the trails or play tennis and bocce ball.

Aside from these, Inwood Park also has play equipment suitable for little children.

You can bring your food and set up a picnic blanket in Inwood Park’s picnic areas.

See Amazing Wildlife at Rock Run Rookery Preserve

Rock Run Rookery Preserve is a 224-acre natural area on South Youngs Road.

It was a quarrying site before the district acquired the land where it sits.

Aside from forests and wetlands, Rock Run Rookery Preserve is also home to 84-acre and 13-acre lakes.

Here, you’ll see amazing creatures like the great blue heron, egret, and other bird species.

You’ll also spot various plant species in this natural area, such as marble seed, sedges, and pale beardtongue.

You can also try fishing for bluegill, bass, walleye, and catfish in its two lakes.

Rock Run Rookery Preserve also has a boat, kayak, and canoe launch.

If you’re not into water activities, you can do some biking, running, in-line skating, snowshoeing, and cross-country skating in this preserve.

Mingle with Friends at St. Joseph Park

St. Joseph Park is situated on Theodore Street.

This street is known for its lively atmosphere, especially during summer weekends.

St. Joseph Park hosts free music entertainment.

There is also a wide selection of shops where you and your friends can window shop.

This park is usually crowded, so it is one of the best places to meet new friends.

Have a Picnic with Loved Ones at Dellwood Park

Dellwood Park is a 150-acre park on Woods Drive.

The Chicago & Joliet Electric Railway Company built it from 1905 to 1906.

It quickly became one of the city’s best and most visited parks since its opening on July 4, 1905.

Dellwood Park boasts a grandstand that can fit up to 5,000 people.

It serves as a venue for different events like baseball games and races.

Dellwood Park is also a popular picnic spot and recreational area.

It features playgrounds, a disc-golf course, and trails.

During summer, the nearby lake can be used for boating and swimming, while in winter, it becomes a wonderland perfect for ice skating.

Watch Free Concerts at Preservation Park

Preservation Park on Taylor Road is a must-visit, especially for its free concerts.

The park is surrounded by big, lush trees, which gives more shaded areas.

Preservation Park has running trails as well as play equipment for your children.

There are also a lot of benches situated within the park, which you can use if you want to take a rest.

You can also bring food and have a snack while appreciating the beauty of the surroundings.

Appreciate Various Plant and Animal Species at Hadley Valley

Hadley Valley is an 855-acre natural area on Gougar Road.

This land was acquired between 2000 and 2014.

Hadley Valley is home to natural habitats like forests, wetlands, savanna, and a part of Pring Creek.

It serves as a haven for various plants and animals.

As you explore this area, you’ll easily spot hundreds of insects, birds, mammals, aquatic invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibian species.

Hadley Valley also has wahoo, yellow avens, shingle oak, swamp marigold, and other amazing plant species.

Horseback riding is allowed in this valley.

After all these fun activities, you can rest and eat in one of its two picnic shelters.

Book a Tour at Sugar Creek Administration Center

Sugar Creek Administration Center is located within the Sugar Creek Reserve on Laraway Road.

It offers free camping, picnic, and dog park permits.

You can book a tour of this administration center to explore the preserve, which serves as home to wildlife, various plant species, and habitats.

Sugar Creek Reserve measures 317 acres and is an ideal spot for hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Horseback riding and biking are also allowed at Sugar Creek Administration Center.

Some exciting animals you can see during the tour are the northern harrier, mink, and dickcissel.

Meanwhile, the plant species you can spot are downy sunflower and cream wild indigo.

Other Things to Do Nearby

See Endangered Butterfly at Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve

Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve is a 320-acre preserve on Broadway Street, Lockport.

You can reach it via a 10-minute drive from Joliet.

A portion of Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve was dedicated to the Illinois Nature Preserve in 1983.

This is where you can find the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

Other kinds of wildlife also live here.

Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve has several diverse habitats like forests, savanna, wetland, and prairie, like any other nature preserve in the county.

This area features a 0.43-mile trail perfect for biking and hiking.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning your next vacation, make sure to consider Joliet and everything that it has to offer.

You’re guaranteed to feel relaxed and revitalized after exploring its parks, nature reserves, lively districts, and more.

So what are you waiting for?

Bookmark this page and try out all these free things to do in Joliet, Illinois.

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