8 Illinois Day Trips for When You Just Need to Get Away

We get it. Sometimes you need a trip but all you have is a day. We have you covered.

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starved rock

1. Illinois Beach State Park

Courtesy of Sergei Gussev under a CC 2.0 license.

You don’t have to head to Florida to get your beach fill. Illinois Beach State Park stretches along Lake Michigan for six and a half miles in Zion, Illinois, giving visitors plenty of room to bike, walk and camp. The beautiful park is known for its wide variety of plants, and more than 650 different plant species have been observed.

2. Anderson Japanese Gardens

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If you’re looking for a serene getaway from everything, this is your place. These Rochford, Illinois gardens have been ranked as some of the country’s most beautiful and authentic Japanese gardens, and we can see why. Grab a map, buy some fish food for $1 and take in the beauty away from the hustle and bustle of Chicago.

3. Galena, Illinois

Courtesy of Dave Herholz under a CC 2.0 license.

This charming, historic town is known for its extremely well-preserved 19th century houses and buildings. Walk the streets that Ulysses S. Grant once walked on your way to a tour at the Blaum Bros Distillery. Afterwards, catch a magic show at the P.T. Murphy Magic Theater.

4. Starved Rock

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Voted Illinois’ number one attraction, Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois offers some incredible views unlike anything else in the Midwest. Thirteen miles of hiking trails allow visitors to wind their way through 18 different canyons, viewing waterfalls, overhangs and incredible overlooks along the way. Feeling more adventurous? Whitewater rafting is offered on the Vermillion River just four miles south of the park.

5. Illinois Railway Museum

Courtesy of H. Michael Miley under a CC 2.0 license.

As America’s largest railroad museum, this spot is great for both train lovers and non-train lovers alike. It’s located in Union, Illinois, about 55 miles north of Chicago. The best time to visit? From April to October, visitors can actually ride on some of the trains, so plan accordingly!

6. Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Courtesy of Jason Dean under a CC 2.0 license.

While it might be impossible to hit all of the wineries in one day, if you’re of legal drinking age, visiting a few of the 12 award-winning wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail makes for a great day trip. If you can only try a few, Pomona and Owl Creek are some favorites.

7. Cahokia Mounds

Courtesy of Michael Dolan under a CC 2.0 license.

Located in southern Illinois right outside Collinsville, the Cahokia Mounds are a unique part of Illinois’ history. The park’s approximately 80 mounds represent the site of a pre-Columbian Native American city from around 600 CE. The park covers 2,200 acres, so guests can spend hours exploring what has been called “the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico.”

8. Urbana’s Market

Courtesy of Gemma Billings under a CC 2.0 license.

Illinois is known for its many farmer’s markets, but perhaps the best one is Urbana’s Market, located in Downtown Urbana. Just a two-hour drive south of Chicago, Urbana’s offers one of the best selections of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy as well as artisan breads and pastries. This market happens only on Saturdays from May through November, so make sure you buy enough to last you through the week!


Emily Handy is a writer and editor from Nashville. She loves all things food; is hopelessly addicted to Diet Coke; sees way too many movies; and when she’s not writing, you can fin... more
Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55