20 Best Day Trips From Chicago
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3rd Feb | 39 min read

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    Chicago has enough cloud-poking towers, rockin’ live-music clubs, and world-class museums to keep you occupied for weeks. Looking to leave Chicago for the day or even a few hours? Perhaps you'd like to go somewhere else for the day or maybe a few hours? Luckily, there are numerous wonderful locations that are within easy reach whether you enjoy the great outdoors, ocean beaches, urban centers, or small towns. But outside the city boundaries, you may also do all kinds of things, like ride a motorcycle across the sand dunes, or get back to nature and walk around a vineyard.

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    Milwaukee city, located on the shores of Lake Michigan, will provide you with all of the warm and pleasant feelings that you are seeking in a day trip. Milwaukee's history begins in 1818 when a French-Canadian named Solomon Juneau established a community in the area. The city saw a huge proportion of German immigrants arrive and find a place to reside in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and the repercussions can still be felt today because Milwaukee is renowned for its beer.

    There's no better way to begin your one day in Milwaukee than by strolling down the city's Riverwalk and simply relaxing and taking in the atmosphere. This is the city's beating heart and a wonderful part of town, and Hyatt Place Milwaukee Downtown is nearby, so you can easily get a taste of how things work in Milwaukee.

    The Milwaukee Art Museum, one of the city's most well-known, if not the most well-known, institutions, is located along the Riverwalk. The structure itself is stunning, but it's the thousands of paintings within that really make it stand out, including works by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Andy Warhol.

    The Harley Davidson Museum is at the top of almost everyone's list of things to do in Milwaukee. Even if you aren't a motorcycle aficionado, it is one of the top things to do in Milwaukee, located just west of Third Ward and over the Menomonee River. It teaches you a lot about US history through interactive exhibits and various models that have changed dramatically over time, and the guided tour is excellent, so you'd be wise to take it.

    Best time to visit: Milwaukee's climate is heavily impacted by the surrounding Lake Michigan, as evidenced by the lovely mild wind that may be felt around noon in the spring. If that's a concern for you, the months of May and September offer a wonderful balance of weather, but otherwise, summer is the ideal time to visit Milwaukee.

    1 hour and 38 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 93 miles


    Lake Geneva is a resort city on Geneva Lake in southeastern Wisconsin. It is one of the best weekend getaways with fun and exciting activities like zip-lining, boat cruises, hot air balloon rides, magic shows in a renowned theatre, hiking, camping and skiing! Bathe under the sun at the beach, go swimming, play beachside volleyball, and have a picnic with your family.

    Lake Geneva Canopy Tours allows you to zip through the jungle without ever leaving Wisconsin. Lake Geneva Canopy Tours is a thrilling adventure for group vacations, offering guided tours across eight zip lines, five Sky Bridges, four spiral staircases constructed into the trees, and a 1,200 foot-long racing zip line. Reservations are strongly advised.

    The original magic theatre of Lake Geneva! In an exciting 60-minute performance starring award-winning illusionist Tristin Crist, the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre combines magic, humor, and illusions. On TripAdvisor, it is regarded as Geneva's Top Attraction and #1 Show.

    Choose from a range of unique sightseeing trips that all offer a close-up look of the stunning estates and mansions that border the coastline. Lake Geneva Cruise Line has something for everyone, whether it's a history tour that teaches about the renowned names that settled in the area or a pleasant sit-down evening dinner cruise. Don't miss the world-famous US Mailboat Tour or the Ice Cream Social Tour, where you can enjoy a delicious ice cream sundae. From April through November, tours are available.

    Climb on one of the custom-designed safari trucks or wagons for a guided tour or a rolling savanna with animals from all over the world. Many of them will approach the vehicles, where you can feed them for an unforgettable up-close experience. Each tour lasts around an hour, and you will have the opportunity to walk among some of the smaller animal inhabitants both before and after.

    Best time to visit: The best times to visit Lake Geneva for ideal weather are May 21st  to September 30th.

    1 hour and 37 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 83 miles

    3. HOLLAND, MI

    Holland is a Michigan city on the shores of Lake Macatawa. The Big Red Lighthouse, which is frequently photographed, is in the waterway that connects this lake to Lake Michigan. The city's ethnic and cultural identity is shaped in significant part by its Dutch heritage, which is evident at every turn, from the gorgeous historic center to the vibrant May tulip festival. Climb the ever-changing sand dunes or sail on Lake Michigan while visiting an original 250-year-old Dutch windmill or one of the numerous great museums.

    The huge sandy beach on Lake Michigan and Lake Macatawa at Holland State Park is well-known. The beach, which is popular with both locals and tourists, is ideal for any beach activity, from sunbathing and volleyball to sandcastle building, surfing or simply relaxing. Two large campgrounds, as well as a number of picnic tables, grills, and fire pits, are available at Holland State Park.

    You could think you've been transported to the Netherlands after visiting the Windmill Island Gardens and seeing the 251-year-old windmill De Zwaan. It is, in fact, the only functioning Dutch windmill in the United States, having been moved from the Netherlands to Holland in 1964. It is now the focal point of a spectacular garden on Windmill Island, which transforms into a wonderful location in May when more than 100,000 tulips blossom in every rainbow color.

    It will be a great photo opportunity to watch your kids try on Dutch wooden shoes. In fact, your entire visit to Nelis' Dutch Village will consist of one enjoyable activity after another, all of which will be worthy of being photographed. This 10-acre “authentic” Dutch village from the 1800s, complete with strange buildings, is a joy for both adults and children.

    Vern Veldheer started a hobby farm in 1950 with 100 red tulips and 300 white tulips. The Veldheer Tulip Garden, which has over five million tulips planted, is Holland's only tulip farm and perennial garden. Guests can stroll through the lovely garden and soak in its floral beauty, as well as purchase bulbs and bouquets to take home and transform their own homes and gardens.

    Best time to visit: During Tulip Time Festival, the city is flooded with millions of brightly colored tulips, making it one of the best times to visit our parks, gardens, and Dutch attractions. The tulips bloom in late April and early May, and the celebration takes place every year on the first and second Saturdays in May.

    2 hour and 35 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 152 miles


    Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine State Forest is 30,000 acres of forested area. Eleven designated-use trails wind their way through the 30-mile-wide forest, providing opportunities for equestrian riding, hiking, biking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive was created expressly for visitors from nearby cities to enjoy a day excursion through the forest's most spectacular vistas.

    Mountain Biking Heaven in the Kettles! They have 60 miles of single track designed specifically for visitors! There is something for everyone in the John Muir-Connector-Emma Carlin Trail System. The Emma Carlin routes are more tough and challenging than the John Muir trails, which offer a wide selection of beginner to advanced routes. The Connector Loop connects the two trails in a one-way loop. At the John Muir, you can ride the 40-mile "Full Monty" or the 1.5-mile Brown Loop.

    The IA Trail stretches over 1200 miles from St. Croix Falls to Sturgeon Bay. From Lapham Peak State Park to Whitewater Lake State Park, 42 miles of those miles pass through the Southern Kettles. In the Southern Kettles, there are numerous access sites from which you can go for a trek or organize an overnight backpacking trip. Two nationally-acclaimed Ultra Marathons take place on the IA Trail.

    The Henry S. Reuss Ice Age Visitor Center, which is named after a United States Representative from Milwaukee who helped establish the Ice Age Pathway as a national scenic trail, has displays on the glaciers that helped shape the Kettle Moraine as well as naturalist events throughout the year.

    Although Holy Hill isn't technically part of the state forest, the 1,300-foot kame, which is one of the area's highest points, is a great place to get a birds-eye perspective of the rolling countryside. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians has 178 steps to the summit of one of its magnificent towers. The tower is open daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. From May 1 until October 31.

    Best time to visit: September/early October is a perfect time for this visit.

    2-hour drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 104 miles


    Six Flags America, located in Gurnee, Illinois, inside the Chicago metropolitan region, is undoubtedly one of the most well-known themed amusement parks. This year, all visitors must make an online reservation prior to visiting. The 2021 season at Six Flags Great America began on April 24. The hours and dates of the park are subject to change. On certain dates, regular one-day tickets start at $29.99. There are also season passes and memberships available. 1 Great America Parkway, Gurnee is the location of the park. Parking is available for an extra cost; you can pre-pay for your daily parking for $25 online.

    Six Flags Great America has rides for people of all ages. The minimum height requirement for thrill rides ranges from 42 to 54 inches. Some rides need a minor to ride with an adult, depending on their height. The following are some of our favorite thrill rides:

    Maxx Force, one of Six Flags Great America's newest rides, is noted for rocketing riders from 0 to 78 mph in less than two seconds. That was quick.

    The world's first "hyper-twister" roller coaster takes you on a one-of-a-kind ride that takes you up 20 stories before plunging into the first 65-degree dip.

    There are lots of water rides to get your family soaked on a hot summer day. Logger's Run, which culminates in a steep, plunge, is one of the most popular. Six Flags Great America is just next door to this 20-acre water park. Hurricane Harbor will open as a standalone attraction with its own entrance gate for the first time this year. Prior to going, guests can purchase single-day tickets online.

    Welcome aboard! Take a 15-minute train ride around the park when you need a break. It's also a stroller-friendly destination.

    Best time to visit: The best time to visit Six Flags is from early April to late May. In the morning, the lines will be short, but in the afternoon, they will be longer. To get a parking spot closest to the entrance, get at the park around 9:30 or 12 an hour before it opens.

    1 hour and 13 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 46 miles


    Harbor Country is a region of Southwestern Michigan just north of the Indiana state line. It is well-known as a popular, upscale weekend getaway destination, especially for Chicagoans interested in the region's beaches, bed & breakfasts, and vineyards.

    The vibrant arts and entertainment scenes serve as the backdrop for a variety of activities. Look for one-of-a-kind art and antiques, or talk to local shopkeepers about finding the right present.

    There are energetic tours of nationally famous vineyards, craft breweries, and distilleries, as well as gastronomic delights to delight every pallet.

    At one of the many museums in Harbor Country, learn about the history of the area. Visit a farmer's market or a family farm to get a sense of our deep agricultural origins.

    Looking for a fun night out? Attend a concert at the Silver Creek Event Center at the Acorn Theater. At Vickers Theatre, you can see a movie or try your luck at the Four Winds Casino.

    Best time to visit: In the fall, Harbor Country is a wonderful place to visit. You'll find plenty to do as the days get shorter and the nights become longer, whether it's a fast day trip or a weekend escape. Because the lake water remains warm and the beaches are less busy in September, you can still get your beach fix. The fall colors are at their finest in October, making it an ideal time for long hikes in the woods or along the beach.

    1 hour and 17 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 73 miles


    Indiana Dunes National Park hugs 15 miles of the southern shore of Lake Michigan and has much to offer. One of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country may be found at Indiana Dunes. The national park's 15,000 acres will enchant you whether you're looking for rare bird species or flying kites on the sandy beach. At Indiana Dunes National Park, you could enjoy the outdoors all year. Each season offers visitors the opportunity to experience this unique park, from swimming and sunbathing in the summer to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.

    Migrating birds use this national park as a feeding and resting layover. Bird migration patterns are influenced by Lake Michigan. During the fall migration, southbound birds are funneled into the Indiana Dunes by the north-south coast. Wintering birds flock to the area because of the wide expanse of open ocean and miles of shoreline.

    Hikers will be able to explore 50 miles of paths that pass through craggy dunes, fascinating wetlands, sunny plains, meandering rivers, and tranquil woodlands. Hiking is enjoyable in any season. In April and May, the Little Calumet River is awash in spring wildflowers. Summer is a great time to visit the 15 miles of beaches and watch the sunset over Lake Michigan. In the late summer and early fall, the Calumet and Porter Brickyard Bike Trails are exceptionally lovely. Fall colors are best appreciated from late September to mid-October, with peak color around mid-October. During the spring and fall migrations, bird watching is very intriguing. After a recent snowfall, animal tracks are frequently evident.

    At the dunes, camping and fishing are common pastimes. The Dunewood Campground is open for overnight camping from April 1 to October 31. The summer steelhead run on the Little Calumet River is a worthy challenge, and the Portage Lakefront fishing pier offers lakeside fishing.

    Best time to visit: Do you want to avoid crowds? To avoid the summer crowds, visit the national lakeshore in the spring or fall. On the Heron Rookery Trail in the spring, look for wildflowers, and on the Glenwood Dunes Trail in the fall, look for fall colors. Throughout any season of the year, there are normally fewer tourists during the week.

    A 44-minute drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 40 miles


    Anderson Japanese Gardens is a twelve-acre landscape of streams, waterfalls, winding pathways, and koi-filled ponds that has been rated one of North America’s highest quality Japanese gardens for more than a decade and is recognized as one of the premier Japanese gardens in North America. Anderson Japanese Gardens is a beautiful, outdoor setting that inspires the mind and energizes the soul.

    Master craftsmanship and 16th-century traditional architecture are found throughout the garden. Anderson Japanese Gardens is a popular tourist destination for groups of all ages. Tours are tailored to meet the individual requirements of each group, including groups with limited mobility. Advanced reservations are required for group tours. Anderson Japanese Gardens also provides a breathtaking setting for an unforgettable wedding ceremony. Whether an intimate gathering or a large celebration, the Gardens provide several extraordinary ceremony settings that are fitting to your occasion. Enjoy breakfast and lunch at Fresco at the Gardens, which features fresh, organic, and locally grown food.

    Adults $10 |Seniors (62+) $9 | Students $8 | Anderson Japanese Gardens members and children age 5 and under are always free.

    Best time to visit: Each season has its beauty. In spring the new growth and spring flowers are wonderful. In summer the structure and form are more evident. In fall, the color will be gorgeous. In winter, the snow drapes the trees and shrubs to show off the different styles of evergreens.

    1 hour and 23 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 85 miles


    Naperville is one of the largest and most popular suburbs to visit outside of Chicago. In Naperville, visitors are more likely to witness covered bridges, public art, and colorful local stores and restaurants, rather than congested city traffic and skyscraper views.

    The Naperville Riverwalk is the city's principal source of leisure and leisure activities. The Naperville Riverwalk is a nearly two-mile linear park near downtown that runs through the center of the city. With a manicured pedestrian route and attractive bridge crossings, the Riverwalk follows the banks of the DuPage River. This public plaza in Naperville's downtown area integrates other cultural attractions with aesthetic delights.

    The Millennium Carillon, a 72-bell melodic tower that rises more than 16 floors above the Riverwalk, may be seen and heard from all along the Riverwalk. The historic Centennial Beach, located on the other bank of the river from the Carillon, is a unique swimming location that is popular throughout the summer season. A significant feature of the Riverwalk, aside from the scenic locations near the water, is the slower pace it gives while still being in view of downtown and the rest of the city.

    Colonel Robert R. McCormick, a long-time editor of the Chicago Tribune, originally owned Cantigny Park, which is located less than 10 miles north of downtown. The expansive grounds first opened to the public in 1958 and now encompass more than 500 acres of natural, educational, and just lovely land. The park's visitor center is a fantastic place to start, with a three-dimensional, scale map of the entire estate embedded into the glass-plated floor. The on-site First Division Museum is one of the top military museums in the country and a must-see for any Cantigny Park visit. The 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army's history is highlighted via various battlegrounds.

    Best time to visit: The best time to visit Naperville, Illinois is from May through September, when temperatures are pleasant to warm, and rainfall is minimal.

    A 39-minute drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 33 miles


    Starved Rock State Park is a wilderness area on the Illinois River in the state of Illinois, United States of America. The steep sandstone canyons created by glacial meltwater are well-known. The Prairie State's crown jewel of outdoor excursions is Illinois' Starved Rock. Although Illinois is known for being flat, Starved Rock has canyons, waterfalls, and river vistas that will make you forget you're still in the state.

    Because of the canyons, this area was designated as a state park. Several creeks and streams run through the Illinois River Valley, descending from the hills and flowing into the river. Because of the area's soft sandstone, those torrents and streams have cut deep canyons in the river bluffs over time.

    There are 13 miles of hiking routes connecting all of the canyons, including one of the most scenic hikes in Northern Illinois. Get a map from the visitor's center (or print it out here before you go). This will assist you in determining the length of the trail you want to go on your canyon-viewing journey. Your hike can be as short as a quarter-mile from the parking lot to Aurora Canyon or as lengthy as the 4.7-mile route all the way to Illinois Canyon (9.5 miles round trip). There are additional loop trails that allow you to visit various canyons; the nicest of them leads from the upper parking lot (near the lodge) to French Canyon and Pontiac Canyon.

    Another “main attraction” at Starved Rock is the Historic Lodge. It's a historic stone lodge erected in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Everything you'd expect to see in a Hallmark movie situated in an old lodge on top of a hill or mountain? At Starved Rock State Park Lodge, you'll find just that.

    Best time to visit: The best months to see the eagles at Starved Rock State Park are January and February. Between April and September, the weather conditions are the most pleasant. Starved Rock, on the other hand, is a magnificent year-round hiking and tourism site.

    1 hour and 30 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 93 miles


    Nothing compares to the beauty of a sunset. Imagine ending off a good day with a trip to the local beach and catching a glimpse of the most beautiful sunset the Earth has to offer. You can make this possible by visiting Fennville, Michigan’s West Side County Park. West Side County Park is a beach right in front of the iconic Lake Michigan.

    Are you a wine fan? If that's the case, you're in for a treat. Fennville, Michigan, has a wine-tasting community. Fennville is well-known for making excellent wine. Drop by Fenn Valley Vineyards to try them all and learn about the process of creating them. This is the county's community wine tasting estate, which also offers educational events and wine excursions. After your tour, unwind on one of the estate's pleasant terraces with a glass of wine. Spend the afternoon relaxing and socializing with the wine community of the county.

    Saugatuck HydroBikes is ideal for anyone seeking a thrill while visiting the charming town of Fennville, Michigan. Tourists can ride their bikes along the Kalamazoo River at Saugatuck HydroBikes. The bikes are simple to operate and extremely safe. To guarantee that everyone is safe, they supply life vests.

    You may go swimming along the gorgeous river with the entire Fennville neighborhood and have a great time. Take a photograph beside the river and look at the beautiful marine life that the entire community has to offer tourists to the county.

    Best time to visit: The best time to visit Fennville is September-November.

    2 hour and 24 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 143 miles

    12. MADISON, WI

    Madison, Wisconsin's state capital, is considered one of the most typically American cities. It also has a thriving cultural life, with events like the fantastic Rhythm and Booms and the massive yearly firework and music festival, which features fly-pasts by air force jets. It also has a number of decent museums and art galleries, as well as a variety of tourist attractions.

    The city's huge bike route network is packed with cyclists during the summer months. Others (including locals) choose to sail on the Mendota, Monona, and Waubesa lakes. Skating, hockey, Nordic skiing, and ice fishing are just a few of the wintertime pastimes.

    Madison's five lakes cover over 15,000 acres, and there are plenty of opportunities to get out on—and in—the water. It's simple to live like a local and adore our lakes, from being active with water activities you've never tried (but should!) to waterfront cuisine that puts our destination on the map.

    Madison's bike and hiking path system is more than 200 miles long, and USA Today has named Madison as one of the top cycling towns in the country. Rent a bike from BCycle, an urban bike-sharing program that makes getting around Madison on two wheels quick, easy, and convenient. Renting a bike or picking up a lock or helmet is likewise easy at Machinery Row Bicycles and Budget Bicycle Center.

    Madison is renowned for amazing summertime traditions that are worth returning to year after year. Start your journey on Saturday mornings at the Dane County Farmer's Market on Capitol Square, where locals and visitors alike congregate. As the country's largest producer-only market, you'll get the chance to speak with vendors who are eager to tell you about their products and the stories behind them.

    Best time to visit: The best times to visit Madison are from May to August and September to November. Madison, like other Midwestern cities, has four distinct seasons. If you don't enjoy cold weather and a lot of snow, you'll want to stay away from the city from December to April.

    2 hour and 22 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 148 miles


    The Lincoln Home National Historic Site in Springfield, Illinois, preserves Abraham Lincoln's home and surrounding historic area, where he lived from 1844 to 1861 before becoming the 16th President of the United States. The four blocks around the White House, as well as a visitor center, make up the presidential memorial.

    Lincoln Home National Historic Site has a lot to offer with nearly two centuries of history, over a dozen historical structures, and a 4-square-block walking neighborhood. Lincoln Home National Historic Site has something for everyone, whether you only have thirty minutes or several hours.

    At our Visitor Center, visitors can enjoy two complimentary films, including one on Abraham Lincoln's time in Springfield and a virtual tour of the Lincoln Home. On the hour and half-hour, films are shown. Each film is roughly 20-25 minutes long. The first film will be shown at 8:30 a.m., and the last film will be shown at 4:30 p.m.

    Visitors are also encouraged to roam around the four-block historic area and learn about the history of the Lincoln neighborhood by exploring our numerous exhibits and displays.

    Best time to visit: Any time of year, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site is a terrific place to visit.

    3 hour and 9 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 202 miles


    Michigan City, Indiana's spectacular city, is one of the most delightful locations for any nature lover, as it rests along the beaches of the hypnotic Lake Michigan. It offers a variety of activities tailored specifically for you. The cultural side is also fairly interesting, with its varied lake scenes. Connoisseurs of wine and beer will fall in love with the city. There are numerous trails to put your biking talents to the test.

    Trail Creek, which was formerly a tributary of Lake Michigan, is now one of Michigan City's most beautiful spots. It stretches for over 7.3 miles and eventually meets the vast lake. The Trail Creek, on the other hand, is a work of art. This tributary is an excellent place to spend an afternoon. The Calumet Bike Trail and the Heron Rookery Trail, both wonderful places for birding and animal watching, will appeal to bicyclists and hikers alike. Central Avenue Beach, which is part of the Indiana Dunes National Park, is ideal for beachgoers.

    Wetlands make up the majority of the ecology surrounding the water body. There's also a lot of animals in the area. Rare species, such as the bald eagle, can easily be seen flying around. The waters are dominated by trout and salmon. In this tributary, you can even go fishing. In reality, this is one of the top spots for salmon fishing.

    Because there are no other operational lighthouses in the city, the Michigan City East Lighthouse remains one of the most important characteristics of the city. It is now more of an Indiana landmark that must be seen while visiting the city. While standing in the waterfront area, you may admire this magnificent structure. In the same area, there used to be another lighthouse. However, that was on the verge of collapsing. As a result, the community decided to construct a new lighthouse in 1858 that was an exact replica of the old one.

    Best time to visit: The best times to visit Michigan City for ideal weather are April 23rd to July 1st.

    1 hour and 5 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 59 miles

    15. OAK PARK, IL

    Village of Oak Park provides the perfect getaway from Chicago and allows access to the city with just a short drive or hopping onboard one of the many forms of public transportation. It’s a dream spot for any history or architecture buff, having been home to Frank Lloyd Wright as well as other famous people, such as Ernest Hemingway and Betty White.

    Whether you’re planning on going to mass or not, Unity Temple is one of the buildings in Oak Park that you can’t forget to see. Designed by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who lived in Oak Park, the building has been called the first modern building in the world. It is built entirely of reinforced concrete and mixes superb aesthetic, structural, and functional elements for both churchgoers and passersby. The building was built between 1905 and 1908, which also makes it part of the national historic register.

    Vacations can mean you’re constantly on the go. Especially in Oak Park, where there’s so much to see, you’ll most likely need a nice, relaxing movie night. Instead of heading to a cookie-cutter corporate movie theater, buy your tickets at Lake Theater, which is one of the several theaters that the family-owned Classic Cinemas shows movies in Illinois. Like the rest of their theaters, Lake Theatre was refurbished by them and now offers a top-notch movie-going experience inside a historical building. It has all of the latest movie technology, but you’ll feel like you’re in the golden age of movies.

    The Oak Park Conservatory is one of the top three historical sites in Oak Park, and you know it’s a great place to visit when more than 30,000 visitors head there each year. What’s best is the conservatory is free, so it’s the perfect place to spend the day with the whole family. You can marvel at three different showrooms, which are the Mediterranean, Tropical, and Desert rooms. You’re sure to discover a new plant species you haven’t seen before. The conservatory’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

    Austin Gardens is a beautiful respite for many Oak Park and Chicago citizens. It’s tucked away in a residential neighborhood and provides the perfect amount of peace and tranquility for those who are usually used to a bustling city. The park is only 1.5 hectares (3.6 acres), but it offers about 285 trees to walk amongst and relax underneath. The park also offers the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center, which hosts educational programs, kids’ camps, and other community events. The park is open every day from sunrise to 10 p.m.

    Best time to visit: The best time to visit Oak Park is probably during the summer or fall.

    A 14-minute drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 9 miles

    16. SOUTH BEND, IN

    South Bend, Indiana's fourth-largest city, is located on the southernmost bend of the St. Joseph River and is a permanent fixture in American history and culture. Due to industry leaders like the Studebaker Corporation, the city became synonymous with manufacturing at the turn of the century. At the same time, the University of Notre Dame, a modest Catholic university in South Bend, was rapidly expanding to become the world-renowned institution it is today.

    The National Studebaker Museum in South Bend has a lengthy history with the American automotive company Studebaker, most of which is on exhibit. Except for significant holidays, this respected museum and the educational venue are open seven days a week. The museum houses classic Studebaker models, military vehicles, and the world's largest collection of US Presidential Carriages.

    The University of Notre Dame, founded in 1842 and chartered by the state government in 1844, has had a physical and cultural presence in South Bend since its foundation. It's impossible not to feel the scholarly and spiritual powers at work when visiting Notre Dame today, with its collegiate Gothic architecture and huge campus often full of backpack-clad students. On-campus, residents, and visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, including free entry to the spectacular Snite Museum of Art. On Saturdays in the late summer and fall in South Bend, practically the entire city may be found at Notre Dame Stadium, home of the Fighting Irish football team, enjoying the sporting environment. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a majestic Roman Catholic church that may take your breath away, is a must-see for many on campus, particularly those who admire the excellent architecture. The Compton Family Ice Arena, which offers daily public skating periods, is another family-friendly activity on campus.

    Potawatomi Park, located on the city's eastern outskirts and across the St. Joseph River from downtown, is home to a diverse range of cultural attractions. Potawatomi Park has a lot of large, shade trees that provide plenty of sitting room for a picnic or a day in the park. A splash pad, a performing arts stage, and universally accessible playground equipment are also available to Potawatomi visitors. The Potawatomi Zoo, Indiana's oldest animal park, is located next to the park and houses almost 500 species. Rides on the Zoo Train and a tour around the Endangered Species Carousel are two of the zoo's fun activities. The Potawatomi Conservatory, located on the southeast side of Potawatomi Park, has year-round tropical plants and waterfalls.

    Best time to visit: The best times to visit South Bend for ideal weather are April 30th to September 30th

    1 hour and 38 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 96 miles

    17.  CEDARBURG, WI

    Cedarburg's natural beauty and ancient architecture make it a favored small-town escape for visitors. It's the ideal location for a day of shopping, dining, and touring specialized boutiques and art galleries, as well as comfortable eateries and historic inns. Visit a charming winery or plan a trip to one of their entertaining festivals. The community has a fairytale feel to it, with tree-lined avenues and limestone buildings in one of America's favorite little towns.

    The Cedarburg Covered Bridge is one of Wisconsin's few remaining historic covered bridges. The bridge, which spans 120 feet and crosses Cedar Creek, was built in 1876. The pine and oak bridge, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, is still open to pedestrians. Visitors can observe the Cedarburg Covered Bridge by driving across a more recent bridge erected just a few yards distantly. In 1997, Waushara County created a replica of this iconic bridge. When visiting the bridge, visitors can rest in Covered Bridge Park and enjoy fishing, bird watching, canoeing, and picnicking.

    Cedar Creek Winery, founded in 1864 as a woolen mill, is an award-winning, family-owned winery. The mill operated for 105 years until closing due to the popularity of synthetic materials. In 1972, a local winemaker bought the mill and transformed it into a vineyard known for its cherry wines. The wines are now grape-focused and matured in stone wine cellars in barrels. On the main floor, tours and tastings are given every day. Guests can purchase bottles of award-winning pink, white, and red grape wines from the on-site wine shop.

    The Ozaukee Interurban Pathway is a 30-mile paved trail that runs the length of Ozaukee County. The pathway connects the towns of Belgium, Cedarburg, Grafton, Mequon, Port Washington, and Thiensville and is mostly off-road. The walk is one of the few year-round recreational pathways in the state that is open to all pedestrians. This family-friendly pathway has been dubbed "The Great Wisconsin Birding Trail" because of the abundance of wildlife observations along the woodlands, marshes, creeks, rivers, and Lake Michigan. Biking, skating, running, walking, and even cross-country skiing are popular activities.

    Best time to visit: The best time of year to visit Cedarburg for warm-weather activities is from late June to early September.

    1 hour and 50 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 113 miles

    18. ROCKFORD, IL

    Rockford, located in the northern section of the state near the Wisconsin border, is one of the state's major cities outside of Chicago. Rockford has the charm of a small town while simultaneously offering the cultural and natural attractions of a larger city. Rockford is known as the City of Gardens for a reason. It is steeped in regional history and is defined in large part by the Rock River, which separates the city and downtown. There is usually something in bloom somewhere in the city, thanks to landscaped places like Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Nicholas Conservatory.

    Aside from the city's vibrant gardens, there are various more family-friendly activities. The Riverfront Museum Park, which includes the Burpee Museum of Natural History, is a favorite family adventure, as is the nearby Coronado Performing Arts Center, which is located on the western side of the Rock River.

    Rockford Art Museum consists of a century-old art collection, located along the Rock River in the city's center, concentrating mostly on regional exhibits. The Rockford Art Museum has about 1,900 pieces of art in its collection, with a focus on works from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The collection includes everything from Impressionist paintings to multi-media projects.

    The Burpee Museum of Natural History, which is part of the Riverfront Museum Park, has been attracting visitors since 1942. Fully restored dinosaur skeletons, an immersive Carboniferous Coal Forest, and exhibitions relating to the region's local people and fauna are among the museum's permanent exhibits. The museum's permanent exhibit, Windows to Wilderness, delves deep into the Rock River Valley ecosystem. The Jay and Barbara Brost PaleoLab at Burpee gives visitors a look inside the labs that produce the museum's fossil displays.

    Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens is Illinois' third largest conservatory, with over 11,000 square feet of botanical space. Throughout the year, the sunlight conservatory is alive with tropical and vibrant plants, including an annual orchid exhibit in the winter. Walking through this lush environment is usually a colorful and enjoyable experience.

    Best time to visit: When spring and fall visit Rockford's world-class gardens, that's when you'll find it most beautiful. The months of April and May are typically a time of flower and leaf bloom, and fall foliage is at its peak from September until October. Rockford has on average the warmest month in the year being July, while the coldest month is January. It is not unusual for the wettest month for precipitation to be June.

    1 hour and 27 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 89 miles

    19. MONROE, WI

    The city of Monroe, Wisconsin is a unique destination that’s “all about cheese.” The art and business of cheese manufacturing have played a key role in keeping Monroe going for over one hundred years, and the National Historic Cheesemaking Center is home to this vibrant enterprise. It's true that cheese is far from the only thing to be found in a city, but. The list of nearby places where visitors can have a wonderful time is very long, including possibilities to get out into nature on the Badger State Trail, outstanding restaurants providing amazing food, and refreshing craft beer from the Minhas Craft Brewery.

    The Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin is the second-oldest brewery in the United States and the Midwest's oldest brewery. Although the brewery, one of the country's top ten largest brewers, has been through two big fires, brushes with the mafia, prohibition, and the Great Depression, it is still around today. Visitors can relax and perform a beer tasting in the Lazy Mutt Lounge, which is located in the visitor center, and they can take a tour of the Minhas Brewery. There are guided tours that can take you through the entire brewing process, as well as explanations of what is an IPA, and more, on a daily basis. These tours are conducted on various days, and different tours times are offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

    At the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, tourists and locals alike in the Monroe region have the opportunity to learn more about the Dairyland of America, which is located smack dab in the middle of the country's cheese nation. The town is known to the rest of the United States as the “Cheese Capital of the United States” or the “Gateway to Cheese Country.” The National Historic Cheesemaking Center and Museum and also the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory are all open to the public, and a variety of tour options are available, like learning about the cheesemaking process through a video presentation, visiting the farmstead cheese factory, and possibly watching Master Cheesemakers make a giant wheel of Swiss cheese, just like how cheese was made several decades ago.

    Roth Cheese identifies itself as being based in the gorgeous rolling hills of the state of Wisconsin, as it was established by a Swiss immigrant. People have been noticing a cheese made by hand that has gained notoriety in the area, and it is made by a group of skilled and informed cheesemakers and their support staff. Swiss-inspired, alpine-style cheeses, Havarti, Gouda, and Dutch-style Gouda are just a few of the alpine-style cheeses that Roth Cheese specializes in, and in addition to these, Roth Cheese makes “American Originals.” If you love cheese, be sure to visit the Roth Creamery in Monroe, which houses the world's largest cheese production, where you can explore the plant, eat several samples of wonderful cheese, and purchase some for your own consumption.

    Green County Courthouse in Monroe, Wisconsin, which was constructed in 1891, served as the seat of the Green County government for over a century. This building, originally completed in 1855, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in March of 1978, and now it's open to the general public for self-guided tours. Visitors who have signed up in advance for the guided tour of the Romanesque architectural style building might choose to stay behind after the tour.

    Best time to visit: The best times to visit Monroe for ideal weather are May 7th to September 30th.

    2 hour and 24 minutes drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 130 miles

    20. EVANSTON, IL

    Evanston, geographically located just north of Chicago, offers a variety of charming community-oriented services as well as those of a larger city – vibrant downtown activity, a creative arts scene, and an extensive selection of distinctive boutiques and galleries. Despite Northwestern University being considered the center of academic learning in the entire country, Evanston is not a typical college town. As a matter of fact, this culturally and environmentally diverse neighborhood was recently awarded the title of “Coolest Suburb in America,” with the explanation being that it has vast natural spaces, accessible public transit, and rich cultural activities.

    With the ease of access to the gorgeous waters of Lake Michigan, Evanston resembles many other North Shore suburbs in Chicagoland. This particular stretch of Evanston's lakefront is packed with people in the warmer months because of all the students, locals, and visitors who come to spend time on the water and enjoy the gentle waves.

    In the heart of Evanston, Northwestern University is widely recognized as one of the country's most distinguished educational institutions. A breathtaking campus and a number of unique cultural activities are further drawn for those who decide to enroll. If you travel throughout the grounds of Northwestern University, you're sure to see several wonderful sites, such as the quiet Shakespeare Garden, which provides beautiful views of the Chicago cityscape, and the Northwestern Lakefill, which offers striking views of the city. A further perk of living in the university district is having one of the area's most beloved free museums, the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

    How about sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal in the outside seating area? The Evanston area is one of Chicago's top gastronomic destinations and has a plethora of fantastic eateries to choose from while sipping a good cocktail or having a good meal on a pleasant summer evening. Many of Evanston's best restaurants have outdoor settings as spectacular as their interior dining rooms, including Five & Dime, Peckish Pig, Found Kitchen, and Social House, to name a few.

    For better or worse, the city of Chicago has plenty of gorgeous vistas, but it's not the best spot for stargazing, as you must know where to look. Step into the Dearborn Observatory. The institution, known as the observatory, always opens its doors to the public on Friday nights so they can observe the stars and galaxies using the observatory's famous 18.5″ refracting telescope. Other than regular astronomy-related activities, the Observatory organizes special events and “astronomer evenings” throughout the year.

    Have you ever wanted to go on a real encounter with local history? One of the famous symbols of the Chicago metropolitan area is the Grosse Point Lighthouse, which has been standing since the 1870s. The majestic lighthouse was built to assist boats as they safely made their way to the shore in Lake Michigan following a series of tragic shipwrecks and maritime disasters. The lighthouse was mechanized in the 1930s and continued to serve the local community until the 1940s. To make way for modern needs, this building was razed. It now belongs to the National Register of Historic Places, which makes it available for pictures and tours.

    Best time to visit: Based on the tourism score, the best time of year to visit Evanston for warm-weather activities is from mid-June to mid-September.

    A 26-minute drive from Chicago

    Distance from Chicago: 20 miles

    Have more time? Check out these guides to learn more about other popular day trips in the United States!

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