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Destination: St. Charles

By Anne Nagro

St. Charles outgrew “charming” years ago. Today, “it’s a lively urban oasis where old meets new,” says Alyssa Feulner of the city’s historic landmarks, new buildings, lovely riverwalk and eclectic dining, shopping and entertainment scene.

Even better are the many ways visitors can experience the city like a local, adds Feulner, who heads up marketing for the St. Charles Business Alliance, which is helping planners tap into the town’s unique vibe.

As such, you’ll find groups touring the city’s five microbreweries, enjoying the Fox River, listening to live music in the plaza, and strolling through large-scale art installations in the park, among other must-dos.  

Just as plentiful are options for private dining, high-tech meetings and places to stay. And did we mention St. Charles is a 45-minute, hassle-free drive from O’Hare International Airport and has more than 1,000 free downtown parking spaces?  


“Our facilities and venues come in all shapes and sizes,” says Michelle Cianferri, the Alliance’s tourism development manager, of the many meeting spots available to planners. 

Large groups are drawn to the all-inclusive Q Center, which has 1,043 guest rooms, more than 150,000 square feet of IACC-certified meeting space on 95 acres and is known for its creative A/V, tech and events teams. “Having a successful meeting or training event is just as important to us as the client. We realize it is an investment in people,” says Jeanne Hahn, sales and marketing director for the center.  

Another go-to spot is Pheasant Run Resort, with 80,000 square feet of meeting space, an expo center and 293 guest rooms. The resort’s 250-acre campus boasts championship golf courses, a theater, comedy club and more. “This is an advantage we have over other meeting facilities,” says Sales and Marketing Director Hal Barth of the resort’s vast options for on-site group activities and team-building. 

A newer spot for small groups is 210 Cedar, a renovated historic house with exposed wood beams, natural light and outdoor patio. Bring in food and beverages or stroll to nearby restaurants postmeeting. “It’s just something a little different,” says owner Karen Ramella of the space that’s ideal for workshops, planning sessions and receptions for up to 40 attendees.


A VIP favorite is the historic Hotel Baker, which mixes Old World elegance and modern amenities.  

“The hotel is privately owned and takes pride of its team, whose Midwestern hospitality is clearly and immediately noted by guests,” says General Manager Rowena Salas, an owner of the boutique property.

Celebrities Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg married here in 2014. And for the past three years, it has hosted the star-studded Golf.Give.Gala, which raises money for the Michael Phelps Foundation and local charities.

The elegant riverside hotel has 53 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and a contemporary grill and lounge, as well as rose garden, outdoor patio and boathouse. It’s a short walk to downtown fun. 


Club Arcada, a “secret” speakeasy located on the third floor of the Arcada Theatre, is an iconic 900-seat performing arts center built in 1926. It offers private dining for groups of up to 150. 

“Without a doubt, we offer the best experience for parties and special events,” says Dana Petrie, marketing director of The Onesti Entertainment Corporation, which operates both the club and theater. “From the moment guests enter the Club Arcada, they are amazed by our one-of-a-kind atmosphere with the complete club decorated with 1920s décor,” she says.  

Staff members dress in period flapper attire; the menu features distinctive dishes and Prohibition-era drinks. Live jazz and blues (or magic or comedy) adds to the experience. (The entire theater can be rented out for private functions, as well.) 


Unwind from meetings and explore the natural beauty of the Fox River by hopping on one of the town’s two paddleboats for a private cruise, reception or meal.

The St. Charles Belle II and Fox River Queen operate May to mid-October and offer one- to three-hour excursions, including sunset tours, for 36 on meal charters to 100 on scenic excursions. Larger groups can commandeer both vessels.

“It’s a different type of experience that you really cannot find anywhere else in this area,” says Tera Harvey, who manages cruise operations for the St. Charles Park District. “It’s a very smooth ride on the Fox River, which I think is an added bonus, too,” she says.

Boats are moored at Pottawatomie Park, a two-minute drive (or 10-minute walk) from downtown. 

Get Connected

210 Cedar 

Club Arcada 

Hotel Baker 

Paddlewheel Riverboats 

Pheasant Run Resort 

Q Center 

St. Charles Business Alliance