This village in the Chicago suburbs grew up in the late 19th century around a stop on the Chicago and Pacific Railway.
People who donated the land for these railroad depots were allowed to have the depot named after them, which is how Bartlett got its name from one Luther Bartlett.
Bartlett is also at the meeting point of three counties, and something you’ll notice right away is the surfeit of public natural space.
The forest preserves of Cook, DuPage and Kane county are all waiting for walks, bike rides and nature spotting.
The village also stands out for its sizable Asian community, which has grown exponentially since the completion of the magnificent BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in 2004.
1. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Driving along Illinois Route 59 through Bartlett a spectacular monument will hove into view.
Consecrated in 2004, this is a place of worship for the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Sanstha Hindu denomination, and the largest of its kind in the state.
The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is composed of intricately carved Italian marble and Turkish limestone, with designed ancient Hindu texts outlining the temple architecture.
Before being brought here and pieced together like a giant puzzle, the stone was shipped to Rajasthan where it was worked by some 2,000 traditional craftsmen.
You have to visit to marvel at the artistry and workmanship on show at the mandir and its gateway, domes, pillars, arches and columns. Tours can be booked seven days a week, while the temple is open for daily Hindu rituals (artis).
2. Bartlett History Museum
For those curious about life in Bartlett down the years there’s a well researched exhibition at the Village Hall on Main Street.
Open Monday to Saturday, the Bartlett History Museum hosts compelling exhibits, documenting many aspects of the village’s past, from agriculture to sports and politics, enriched with interesting artifacts from a large collection donated by local residents for decades.
When we wrote this article there was an exhibit to mark Illinois’ 200th birthday, viewing the history of the state through the prism of this village.
3. Bartlett Aquatic Center
To look at this outdoor pool complex in Bartlett it’s hard to believe that it’s a public amenity, managed by the local park district.
Embedded in greenery, the Bartlett Aquatic Center has an eight-lane lap pool, with zero-depth entry at one end.
To go with this you’ll find a lazy river weaving through the complex, as well as a diving pool, spray playground, sand play area, a choice of slides and an aquatic zip line.
Open Memorial Day weekend to the Sunday on Labor Day weekend this attraction is a cost-effective day out for families and also hosts a range of programs throughout the season, such as children’s swim lessons.
4. James Pate Philip State Park
Owned by the state but managed by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District, this 500-acre park is on a parcel of restored farmland that had been tilled and grazed for generations.
Since 1991 native prairie has been allowed to take over once more, giving a habitat to an abundance of plant and animal species, many of which are threatened.
One of the interesting things about this environment is that the restoration is a long-term, ongoing process, and with each visit you may notice a new aspect to the transformation.
Head for Brewster Creek Bridge to spot warblers, waterfowl and beavers in the wetlands, while white-tailed deer are commonly sighted in the prairie early and late in the day.
5. Bartlett Nature Center
At James Pate Philip State Park you can call in at the Bartlett Nature Center, which hosts a wide variety of educational programs for all ages, but especially children.
There’s a class room and auditorium inside, both of which can be rented, while casual visitors can peruse the excellent seasonal exhibits.
You’ll see an array of bones and pelts relevant to the surrounding habitat, but also live exhibits including native reptiles, amphibians and insects.
Outside in summer there’s a lovely butterfly garden, and you can visit the center in winter if you need to rent snowshoes for the park’s extensive trail network.
6. Leiseberg Park
Close to all the shops and restaurants in the center of Bartlett is a community park loaded with facilities.
Leiseberg Park attracts people after snowfall in winter thanks to one of the best local sledding hills.
In summer families with younger children flock to the spray playground on the west side, accompanied by other play equipment including a trampoline and a sand area.
There’s a baseball field on the north side, as well as tennis courts and walking trails for a gentle stroll close to downtown.
7. Bartlett Gazebo Park
Purely for passive recreation this little park north of Bartlett Train Station is an idyllic place to pass an hour or two on a summer’s day.
Bartlett Gazebo Park has neatly tended lawns traced by many impressive mature trees that offer a lot of shade in summer.
The park is laced with winding paths and there’s a playground for wee ones on the northwest side. Of course the centerpiece, and a prop for many photo sessions in summer, is the charming gazebo. This was erected in 1991 to celebrate the centenary of Bartlett’s incorporation.
8. Bartlett Depot Museum
A former railroad station, this humble looking clapboard building has an interesting story to tell.
The Bartlett Railroad Depot went up in 1873 and was financed by local man Luther Bartlett, who also gave up a portion of his woodlot for the construction.
This station is the reason why the village is called Bartlett today. Free to enter, the depot museum has a changing array of interactive exhibits informing you about local railroading heritage.
At the time of writing, the Bartlett Depot Station was open Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and on the 1st and 3rd Saturday mornings of the month.
9. Hawk Hollow
If you’d like to escape to nature, there are forest preserves in every direction. In the south of Bartlett you’ve got the 1,172-acre Hawk Hollow, which sits on both banks of the West Branch DuPage River.
This preserve can be explored on 5.6 miles of walking trails, also connecting with the neighboring Mallard Lake, which we’ll talk about later.
On your adventure you’ll pass by or through a tapestry of habitats, among them mature woodlands, fens and grassy meadows dappled with wildflowers in summer.
That grassland is vital for bird species not commonly sighted in the Chicago suburbs, including grasshopper sparrows, savanna sparrows and Henslow’s sparrows.
For dog owners living in the area there’s a popular off-leash dog area on the preserve’s north side, though you’ll need to bring your Forest Preserve District permit.
10. Mallard Lake Forest Preserve
Directly east of Hawk Hollow is the water-rich Mallard Lake Forest Preserve on the site for a former landfill.
In a landscape of scattered woodlands, open water, meadows and wetlands you can go boating, fishing, hiking and picnicking.
There are four miles of trails here, and one excellent section for nature lovers includes a 2.5-mile system with a wheelchair accessible boardwalk, perfect for birdwatching.
Great blue herons, kestrels, bobolinks, eastern meadowlarks and red-tailed hawks are just a handful of the bird species inhabiting the preserve.
The 85-acre Mallard Lake is a local fishing hotspot, brimming with bluegill, crappie, channel and flathead catfish, muskie, northern pike and largemouth bass.
11. Bluff Spring Fen
This Cook County forest preserve on Bartlett’s northwest shoulder is a natural enclave surrounded by light industry. Bluff Spring Fen is also a former industrial site, where a gravel quarry and dumping ground used to be.
You wouldn’t know it today as this 160-acre preserve contains a rare kind of wetland fed by mineral-rich springs. The alkaline water stays at a steady 50° year round, so there’s always water flowing in the streams around the fen.
Surrounding is a mosaic of woodlands, savannas and prairies, as well as kames, gravel hills deposited by glaciers.
The preserve is a haven for vibrant wildlife, including more than 100 different species of migratory and nesting birds, 450 plants, 20 kinds of dragonfly and 57 butterfly species.
12. Sunrise Park
The main draw at this neighborhood park in Bartlett is a disc golf course that was laid out in 2005. This has 18 holes, mostly on open, rolling terrain, but there are a few holes tucked into the woodland.
In the open areas, you’ll need to take the wind into account while a large pond comes into play on three holes.
If you lose your disc in the pond you’re advised not to try to retrieve it. Other amenities at Sunrise Park include walking paths and bike trails, a basketball court and soccer fields at the adjoining Sunset Park to the south.
13. Apple Orchard Golf Course
The Bartlett Park District owns and operates a couple of golf courses in the village. One that will appeal to families and newcomers is Apple Orchard Golf Course, a nine-hole par three.
Open in daylight hours, April through October, this is a fun place for regular golfers to hone their precision play, but also somewhere less accomplished players will feel welcome.
For a more challenging round of golf you’ve got the public Villa Olivia Golf Course, dating back to 1926 amid a backdrop of mature trees, rolling hills and elegant landscaping.
You can book a round up to 14 days in advance, via the website, by phone or through the GolfNow app.
14. Wintrust Field
You don’t have to travel more than a couple of Metra stops to watch some live professional sports. Wintrust Field (1999) is the plush, brick-built home field of the Schaumburg Boomers.
Formed in 2012, the Boomers play in the Midwestern Conference of the Frontier League, an official MLB Partner League.
The Boomers have been pretty successful, taking two division championships and three league championships. Wintrust Field, with a capacity of 7,365, is a great, family-friendly place to spend a summer afternoon or evening.
Seats are affordable, the hot dogs are tasty and there’s a slew of promotions throughout the season, including fireworks on weekend games.
15. Streets of Bartlett Shopping Plaza
Previously called Bartlett Plaza, this newly revamped shopping center is conveniently located in the heart of the village, between Leiseberg Park to the southeast and Bartlett Train Station to the north.
On hand at Streets of Bartlett is a mix of eateries, useful services and every day amenities. One tenant is Midway Landing Bowling Alley, with 14 lanes, as well as billiards/pool, an arcade and sports bar.
Food-wise you’ve got an Irish-style pub (O’Hare’s), an ice cream parlor (Cherry on Top), Italian (Pasta Mia), pan-Asian (Asia Wok) and Mexican (One Taco Dos Tequilas).