Fun Things to do Around Chicago

The windy city is covered with sights and attractions that it would take nearly a lifetime to cover them all. There’s just so much to do in Chicago, but sometimes you just can’t stay in town. So instead, gather the family, friends, or both and hit the road for just a day. Illinois has a world of opportunity and fun just within a day trip from Chicago, so don’t limit yourself to the same streets. Take a trip to one of the nearby state parks, or for more adventure, try Six Flags. The only thing limiting you is how long you can stand having fun.

Six Flags Great America is an exciting destination for someone not trying to stray too far from Chicago. This iteration of the Six Flags is 5th in line for the most rollercoasters in any theme park in the world, boasting 15 of them as of 2017. You can easily hit this theme park in just one day, because it’s only about an hour out of Chicago. There’s no stress of a full-feature road trip in it, so feel free to bring the family and friends in just a short drive. Even if the group you take isn’t a fan of rollercoasters, the park has other rides and attractions to keep everyone entertained. Bring plenty of spending money and grab some gifts and souvenirs for everyone that didn’t have the chance to join you, because Six Flags Great America is the place to shop.

If you’re not feeling for the thrill of rollercoasters and rides, there’s several other places to go, including one of Indiana’s many state parks. Breathtaking canyons, rivers, and waterfalls populate Starved Rock State Park, which is a stark contrast from the usual shallow hills and flatlands across the rest of the state. Starving Rock has trails to trek and the opportunity to kayak through it, allowing you to really experience nature not far from the bustle of the big city. There’s even horseback riding offered within the park itself. If you’re feeling more adventurous than Starved Rock, Apple River Canyon State Park is a bit farther from the city but offers a bit more in the world of excitement. While it’s a destination for both fishing and picnics, Apple River Canyon has rugged hiking trails that traverse the entirety of the park. If you like what you’ve seen on your day trip, you can even come back for a camping stay, as the park has full-service campsites all spring, summer, and fall.

You’ve been all over the city and you’ve seen the Lincoln Park Zoo. Probably more than once, given that it’s always open and free. But just some distance away from the city proper, the Brookfield Zoo is the big, exciting trip to see exotic animals in Illinois. Brookfield is home to dolphins that performed regularly, in a both entertaining and educational experience. But the most enticing part of Brookfield Zoo is the hands-on encounters with animals like red pandas, alpacas, wallabies, and reindeer that they offer in-house. You’re able to pet, feed, and learn about each of those animals and many more.

If you’re looking for sights to see and more on the educational front, there’s places like the History Museum in South Bend. It’s built in a stately mansion and filled to the brim with interesting pieces from the history of the United States and even things predating it. You and the family can learn about the French settling the Great Lakes area with the fur trade and how cities like Chicago were born in the Midwest. More peculiar spots from the History Museum include a chronicle of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The History Museum is only about an hour and half out of the city, so it’s perfect for a quiet day trip off.

If you’ve got the weekend to spend, consider a trip around the shore of Lake Michigan. Towns like Michigan City, Indiana have more things to do, if you’ve got the time to spend. The Indiana Dunes National Lake Shore is about as close to a beach you’ll find for hundreds of miles, so it’s the best opportunity to feel the sand between your toes and let the surf wash over you. There’s even one of Lake Michigan’s oldest lighthouse, Old Light, to tour. The shoreline is also home to the aptly named Shoreline Brewery, a local beerhouse with flights of locally-brewed beers and delicious food. Even further up the coast, in Michigan proper, are even more places to visit, if you have the time to stay for it.

Hopefully these ideas will get you going on out of the city and onto a new adventure. Chicago is filled to the brim with excitement and possibilities, but sometimes you want a destination, not familiarity.

Guest Blogger : Matt Lawler