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Kid-friendly weekend trips from Chicago

Embark on a journey to discover the best weekend getaways near Chicago that promise unforgettable adventures for families.

September 19, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Jan 12
A view of the Chicago, IL skyline, with the Chicago river in the foreground.

While the Windy City is brimming with attractions, sometimes a short escape can offer fresh perspectives and new memories. Here are some top picks that are just a drive away.

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Starved Rock State Park, located along the serene Illinois River, is a haven for those seeking nature's embrace. Spanning over 13 miles of trails, families can wander through lush forests, marvel at cascading waterfalls, and enjoy panoramic views from scenic overlooks. The park's diverse landscape offers a playground for young adventurers, with canyons, wildlife, and the ever-changing beauty of the seasons. It's a place where imaginations run wild, and the bond between nature and family strengthens. 

Indiana Dunes, Indiana

A stone's throw from Chicago, Indiana Dunes offers a coastal retreat unlike any other. The vast sandy shores provide an ideal canvas for kids to unleash their creativity, be it through sandcastle building, seashell hunting, or simply playing by the waves. The towering dunes, shaped by the hands of time, offer challenging hikes and breathtaking views. As the sun sets, families can gather around a campfire, roast marshmallows, and share stories, making it a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure. 

Galena, Illinois

The quaint town of Galena is like stepping into a time capsule. As you wander its cobblestone streets, you're transported to an era where horse-drawn carriages were the norm, and life moved at a gentler pace. The town's rich history is evident in its well-preserved architecture, museums, and historic sites. Kids will be fascinated by tales of old, while parents can indulge in boutique shopping or savor local delicacies. It's a destination that offers a wholesome experience, blending education with leisure. 

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

If water fun is on the agenda, look no further than Wisconsin Dells. Dubbed the "Waterpark Capital of the World," this vibrant destination is a mecca for thrill-seekers and relaxation enthusiasts alike. Beyond the exhilarating water slides and lazy rivers, the area boasts a plethora of attractions, from mini-golf courses to magic shows. The natural beauty of the Dells, with its rock formations and river tours, adds another layer of allure. It's a place where laughter is contagious, and joy is in abundance. 

Brookfield Zoo, Illinois

At Brookfield Zoo, the wonders of the animal kingdom come to life. Spanning vast landscapes, the zoo is home to creatures from the African savannah, the depths of the ocean, and everything in between. Interactive exhibits allow kids to learn about diverse habitats, conservation efforts, and the unique behaviors of animals. Special events, workshops, and animal encounters further enhance the experience, making each visit unique. It's not just a zoo; it's a journey into the heart of nature. 

Peoria, Illinois

Peoria, perched along the Illinois River, is a blend of urban charm and natural splendor. The city's riverfront is a hub of activity, with events, festivals, and boat tours. The Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum offers hands-on exhibits that ignite curiosity, while the Peoria Zoo showcases a diverse range of animals. Nature trails, parks, and gardens provide ample space for relaxation and play, making Peoria a well-rounded destination for families. 

Rockford, Illinois

Rockford, often dubbed the "City of Gardens," is a treasure trove of attractions. The Anderson Japanese Gardens, with its tranquil ponds and manicured landscapes, offers a peaceful retreat. The Discovery Center Museum, on the other hand, is a realm of exploration, with interactive exhibits that challenge the mind. Outdoor enthusiasts can revel in the beauty of Sinnissippi Park or embark on river adventures. Rockford seamlessly marries the arts, nature, and science, ensuring a fulfilling experience for all. 

Springfield, Illinois

Springfield, the land of Lincoln, is steeped in history. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site offers a glimpse into the life of the 16th president, while the Illinois State Museum delves into the state's rich heritage. Kids can engage in interactive exhibits, participate in workshops, and even embark on themed trails. The city's culinary scene, with its classic diners and modern eateries, ensures that every palate is catered to. Springfield is where the past meets the present, offering lessons and leisure in equal measure. 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, a vibrant city on the shores of Lake Michigan, is a hub of culture and creativity. The Milwaukee Public Museum brings history to life, while Discovery World fuels the imagination with its hands-on exhibits. The city's rich brewing heritage can be explored through guided tours, and its arts scene is evident in its theaters, galleries, and street art. Parks, beaches, and festivals add to the city's allure, making it a diverse destination that promises endless fun. 

Champaign, Illinois

Champaign, while renowned as a university town, has much more to offer. The Orpheum Children's Science Museum is a realm of wonder, where kids can experiment, learn, and play. The city's parks, with their sprawling green spaces, playgrounds, and recreational facilities, are perfect for picnics, games, and relaxation. Cultural events, theaters, and local eateries add to the city's charm, ensuring that every visit is packed with memories.

As you look forward to your next family getaway, remember that each of these destinations holds its own magic. They promise not just a break from routine, but a chance to create stories, share moments, and grow together. So, embrace the journey, cherish the moments, and let the adventures begin!


*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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