Take the entire family for an easy day trip to these amazing must-see places and cross them off your bucket list!
1. Starved Rock State Park
Seasonal waterfalls, awe-inspiring bluffs and rugged canyons dominate the storied landscape at Starved Rock. Rich with history and beauty, Starved Rock’s hiking trails meander through towering trees and scenic overlooks along the Illinois River. Outdoor activities include hiking, canoeing, paddle boat cruises, cross-country skiing, trolley rides, fishing and picnicking. Visitors can stay at the historic Starved Rock Lodge or in one of its cozy cabins.
2. Garden of the Gods
Explore the dramatic rock formations, cliffs and trails of the most visited site in the Shawnee National Forest. Millions of years in the making, the Garden of the Gods provides spectacular views unlike anywhere in the Midwest. See Camel Rock, Anvil Rock, Devil’s Smoke Stack and other magnificent rock formations in this hiker’s and photographer’s wonderland.
3. Galena, IL
Galena’s historic Main Street — named “Best Main Street in the Midwest” by Midwest Living magazine and one of America’s Best Main Streets by Fodor’s — curves past nearly 100 19th-century storefronts. Galena looks much as it did during the time of the Civil War, although now the historic red brick buildings are home to charming boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Galena is also known for its cozy lodgings, with quaint bed and breakfasts dotting the picturesque hillsides surrounding the town.
4. Shawnee National Forest
The Shawnee National Forest is famed for its awesome Garden of the Gods, and is home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail (the forest has a system of 403 miles of equestrian/hiking trails). Hikers are greeted by magnificent jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss, and paths that meander through canyons under the forest canopy. Nestled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the stunning Shawnee National Forest landscape features rolling hills, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs. If you’re into climbing than a must-see is Jackson Falls, located near the town of Ozark in the Hidden Springs Ranger District in Shawnee National Forest. The climb takes place on 60 feet of sandstone cliffs and boulders that include numerous freestanding towers.
5. Tunnel Hill State Trail
Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one, but one not to pass up, as long as you’re up for the challenge. The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.
6. Navy Pier
The Midwest’s number-one attraction is the place in Chicago for lakefront fun. Take an exhilarating ride on the sky-high Ferris wheel, board a sightseeing or dinner cruise boat, and see a live performance at the outdoor Skyline Stage or acclaimed Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Dine at one of Navy Pier’s many boardwalk restaurants and browse the unique shops and stands (a great place to pick up a souvenir).
7. Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive
The Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Associates invite you to come to Fulton County, Illinois and enjoy the natural wonders of the Spoon River Valley. Spoon River has carved a wide scenic valley through Fulton County as it flows from London Mills to the south and east where it joins the Illinois River near the southeastern corner of the county. The Spoon River became nationally known from the work of Edgar Lee Masters, author of the noted Spoon River Anthology. Come on out the first two full weekends in October. There are over one hundred miles of scenic routes on the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive to be enjoyed on this driving tour with beautiful fall colors. There will be food, arts, crafts, entertainment and flea market. Visit 17 villages and historic sites!
8. Chicago Botanic Gardens
The Chicago Botanic Garden opened a little more than 40 years ago as a beautiful place to visit, and it has matured into one of the world’s great living museums and conservation science centers. Each year, nearly one million people visit the Garden’s 26 gardens and four natural areas, uniquely situated on 385 acres of land on and around nine islands. Six miles of shoreline extend along 81 acres of water, including the Great Basin, North Lake, and Skokie River Corridor. The Garden also has a renowned Bonsai Collection.
9. Illinois Amish Country
The town of Arthur is located in the heart of Amish country, home to more than 2,000 Amish residents and hundreds of charming countryside businesses, Illinois’ Amish Country offers shopping, dining, special events and guided educational tours (some of which feature meals in actual Amish homes).
10. Anderson Japanese Gardens
Anderson Japanese Gardens has been named one of the highest quality Japanese gardens in North America by Sukiya Living Magazine since 2004. Inspired by calm and tranquility, this 12 acre award winning landscape is comprised of koi-filled ponds, winding paths, gentle streams, cascading waterfalls, raked gravel gardens, beautifully trained pines, and more. Master craftsmanship and 16th century traditional architecture is found throughout the garden.
via Enjoy Illinois