We love our city and are proud to call ourselves Chicago natives, but sometimes it’s essential to get away from the hustle and bustle for a breath of fresh air, even just for a day. Whether you are ready to jump back into the summer crowds after last year or you’re looking for more socially distanced summer fun, there is plenty of opportunity for memories this summer. We’ve put together a list of 5 beautiful, exciting, and fun places to visit that are just a stone’s throw away from the city limits. So grab your calendar and start planning your summer of road trips!
Only an hour and change outside the heart of Chicago this gorgeous state park is an excellent place to recharge and soak up all that nature has to offer. Escape the usual crowds of summer in the city and unwind for a while in nature. The park offers scenic trails, abundant fishing opportunities, great canoeing, and camping. And for a unique experience, visit the Kankakee River State Park Riding Stables for some horseback or pony riding through the park! You can even sign up for recurring riding lessons to hone your horsemanship skills.
A little further of a drive (2 ½ hours), this gem of a town is the perfect option for a romantic weekend getaway. The city describes itself beautifully, “a place where the white sandy beaches meet the Lake Michigan coastline. Where the spirit of adventure collides with an inviting mix of history and hospitality. A place where we explore, shop, eat, drink, play, and relax. A place where a culture of craft inspires our breweries, restaurants, and people. A place with small-town charm and big-city amenities.” In addition to being known for the Tulip Festival, May 1st – 9th, this lovely place is filled with exciting, artistic, and engaging events to enjoy! Perhaps you can make it out to the Summer Street Performing Series happening June 17th through August 19th, where musicians, caricature artists, face painters, jugglers, magicians, and even aerial acrobats come out to entertain visitors!
Two words, ROLLER COASTERS. Do we need to say more? There is no more iconic summer fun than roller coasters, theme park attractions, and carnivalesque games! This theme park is only an hour outside of the city, perfect for a day trip with the family or grabbing your friends to change up the usual Saturday chill hangs. If the kids are out of school for the summer, plan a weekday visit and skip the weekend crowds!
This gorgeous river town is only an hour and a half away from Chicago. It is filled with history, art, and that hometown warmth you can’t find within city limits. Visit the famous Canal Market, an open-air flea market packed with antiques, artisan items, and more every Sunday, June-September. Or maybe a wine tasting at the August Hill Winery will be more your style? Utica is nestled next to Starved Rock State Park, which boasts breath-taking rock formations, waterfalls, and charming wildflowers. A visit to Utica will be one full of magical memories no matter how you spend your time.
It is berry picking season, but that’s not all you can pick at Stade’s Farm and Market, which is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from the city. They have a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from, such as peppers, sugar snap peas, strawberries, apples, and more! This farm offers an abundance of activities in addition to pick-your-own fun! They host a “large entertainment area, including a petting zoo, corn maze, giant slides, hayrides, and a large variety of unique attractions.” Spend an entire day soaking up the wholesome, family-friendly fun and return home with a car full of fresh fruits and veggies for the week.
We hope that this list helps you plan some memorable getaways this summer. One of the reasons that Chicago is the best place to live (sorry, not sorry) is that it is so close to many amazing opportunities! Whether you’ve got a huge family to entertain or just in the mood for fun things to do with your partner or friends, there are no limits to the experiences you can have inside this city or just a short drive away.