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Travel in Illinois

Does anyone have any advice in traveling to Illinois? Any favorite restaurants or places you might recommend? All I know well is the city of Chicago, IL and I want to branch out to other parts. I found this site here: https://www.enjoyillinois.com/ with a few good tips but I wondered if anyone on this forum has a specific spot in Illinois to recommend where I can take mini-vacation and travel 150+ miles away from Chicago, IL to other parts. I did a road trip to Madison, Wisconsin last week to see a concert over the weekend and I would like to do a similar road trip this weekend. My goal is to spend no more than two days on the road and get at least 20 hours of exploring in when I arrive to my destination but be able to return to my work on Monday.

Posted by
7990 posts

When we lived in Chicago we only did one trip within Illinois, to Galena. It is historic but we were done in a few hours. Better get always were to Door County, WI and Harbor Country across Lake Michigan.

Posted by
6792 posts

Galena has a museum for US Grant and a home that was gifted to him by the town after the war.

Posted by
198 posts

Starved Rock State Park in Utica, IL ( recommend an old-style Central Illinois supper club called Anne's Hideaway in Naplatte). Southern Michigan -- visit the Indiana Dunes en route. Shipshewana Indiana. Milwaukee. Indianapolis. Frank Lloyd Wright homes and tours in Oak Park. St Louis. Southern Illinois around Cairo.

Check out this thread from a local food chat site. It has lots of interesting ideas. And PS -- this site has a section "Beyond Chicagoland" with lots of restaurant reports from around the world.

Enjoy!

Posted by
1486 posts

I would certainly recommend visiting Starved Rock: https://www.starvedrockstatepark.org/

Allerton Park at University of Illinois in Champaign: https://allerton.illinois.edu/

Springfield (state capital plus Lincoln sites) (maybe a little far)

I lived in central Illinois for almost 12 years, but to be honest, beyond Chicago, I don't think of it as a travel destination. I had to stretch to come up with a few recommendations. I wish you the best finding some things to see.

Posted by
1277 posts

I'd advocate for st Louis (for longer than a weekend)
The quad city area (Moline on Illinois side) would have enough for a weekend, esp if you also planned it around a concert. A couple of neat museums, includes a German-american immigration museum I visited last yr.

Madison Wisconsin is pretty cool, I have dear friends who just left Chicago-land and retired up there.
Edited to add: another fine fall circuit would be mineral point Wisconsin (Welsh heritage), new glarus (swiss heritage) and a couple of other villages up there.... added benefit of lands ends factory seconds available up there at a string of Hogan Shops...... sort of like a local goodwill.

Posted by
3172 posts

I really like the enjoyillinois.com link you listed. I think you could find a lot to explore by imagining and prepping for themed weekends.

River drives to scenic towns and/or wildlife areas and hiking (i.e. Starved Rock)
A Lincoln trail and towns--Springfield, New Salem
US Grant trail and towns--Galena (mining history too)
Architectural trails beyond Chicago (prairie style, FL Wright)
Charming whiskey, wine and microbrewery venues
Route 66 kitsch (my least favorite trail)

I grew up in central Illinois and still have family there. Just spent 2 weeks exploring from St. Louis to Springfield. Maybe next year we'll try Springfield to Chicago.

Posted by
1236 posts

As a born and raised Chicago-you could always go out to Oak Park which has some original Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and yes Galena could be another getaway weekend. I would also suggest Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It's a bit of a resort town, has a quaint downtown and a nice recreational lake. We went there every summer growing up.

Other than that, there isn't a lot around which is why I moved Eastward.

Posted by
4535 posts

It depends greatly on what interests you. There are lots of different options in Illinois itself, not counting Wisconsin and Indiana. A few to consider:

Galena: Very intact historic river town (preserved because the river silted up) filled with shops, galleries, B&Bs and some historic sites. A popular weekend destination.

Springfield: The Lincoln house, museum and several sites (nearby is New Salem). Plus the Wright designed Dana House, one of his best and fully furnished.

Quincy/Hannibal: Hannibal, MO is famous for Mark Twain but nearby is underrated Quincy, a great historic river town filled with historic architecture and several museums. Just north of Quincy is Navoo, the original Mormon settlement before they fled to Utah.

Starved Rock: About the only natural landscape Illinois has outside the far southern reaches and the river drive north of St. Louis. A VERY popular weekend destination, so expect crowds. Nearby in LaSalle is the Hegler/Carus Mansion, an amazing historic house museum. Nearby Ottawa has a Lincoln/Douglas site.

St. Louis is only a 5 hour drive, so it makes a great weekend destination. Good chance to see some REAL baseball...

In Indiana, there are the Dunes for some beach time. Indianapolis is an underrated city with a good food scene and vibrant downtown. Columbus, IN 45 minutes south of Indy is a town filled with modern architecture, much open for tours. Brown County is a beautiful area of rolling hills Illinois lacks.

The Lake Michigan coast in Michigan is a popular getaway for Chicagoans. Lots of small towns, galleries, restaurants and B&Bs.

That doesn't even cover Wisconsin...

Posted by
489 posts

Visiting the great state of Michigan should be on your list. The small towns along Lake Michigan have much beauty and quaintness. The beaches are awesome as well as the dunes. Come in summer when the cherries or blueberries are in season! And I can't tell you how many love our sunsets! We have more micro breweries (we grow hops!) and more very good wineries. Saugatuck has amazing galleries, but so does many other small towns.
My town, St. Joseph will be hosting the Krasl Art Fair, one of the top 20 in the nation. It is the second weekend in July, Sat and Sun. and is a juried art fair of 200 artists. Free admission and held on the beautiful bluff of St. Joseph overlooking Lake Michigan.

Posted by
996 posts

Another vote for Michigan. I saw somebody above had recommended St. Joe. It's wonderful! South Haven is beautiful, too, with a great lighthouse, Sherman Dairy Bar, and sailing on the Friends Good Will.

I highly recommend both places which are close to each other and an easy drive from Chicago.

Posted by
1745 posts

You’d need at least 3-4 days, but if you like nature Giant City State Park near Carbondale is wonderful. It has many great hikes and rock formations. The beautiful CCC lodge has a fun dining room, famous for their chicken dinners. You can rent cabins, some with kitchens. The surrounding area has many other great state parks.

Posted by
15045 posts

I'm late to the party, but maybe for your next jaunt . . . I'm planning a 3-night weekend in Galena in August. Besides the history and (hopefully) charming quaint, we hope to explore some of the natural beauty - known as the land the glaciers forgot. I spent a weekend in southern WI with friends 4 years ago - House on the Rock, Taliesen (which we all liked more) and visted a winery.

Posted by
15045 posts

Douglas - did a Chicagoan really urge someone to go to another city for REAL baseball? LOL

BTW I'll be in your neck of the woods soon and will get in touch. I hope we can meet, maybe for lunch.

Posted by
4535 posts

did a Chicagoan really urge someone to go to another city for REAL
baseball?

YEP! I may live in Chicago-land, but grew up outside St. Louis and am a Cardinals fan. Now that's REAL baseball...