Ok…. so you have spent a few days in Chicago and your looking for a new adventure or side trip. Or maybe you live in the Chicago area and you are looking for an awesome weekend getaway.
Either way, there is plenty to do outside of Chicago if you have an extra day, weekend, a week, or more.
Really Fun Side Trips from Chicago
While there are plenty more ideas, here are my absolute favorites in order of distance. Obviously stick with the closer ones if you have less time.
Six Flags Great America – A daredevil’s paradise with several thrill seeking roller coasters as well as family fun rides that the whole family can enjoy. The park features the world’s largest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the world. It is located about an hour outside of Chicago, and can be a nice day trip for a family. If coming in the summertime keep in mind that the water park Hurricane Harbor is open as well. A lot of fun with all kinds of water slides, and a nice break from the hot and humid summers.
Lake Geneva – Situated on the beautiful Geneva Lake, it can be a nice calm getaway from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Stay at a nice hotel right on the lake, and enjoy water sports or a relaxing boat ride. If you are a golfer, you will be in awe of the golf courses in the town. Just a nice, chill getaway.
Starved Rock State Park – Only about an hour and a half outside the city. It has been voted the #1 attraction in the state of Illinois. If you are a nature or outdoorsy person, you will love it here especially in the fall. Beautiful waterfalls and canyons, picturesque bridges, lush gardens, you name it! You can stay in a beautiful lodge right in the park with access to the park by bus.
Milwaukee, WI – If you are a beer lover you will LOVE Milwaukee. Milwaukee has the highest pub per capita rate in the entire US. If you want a brew, it doesn’t take long to find a place, and they are dang good! The microbreweries are awesome and fun too! Motorcycle enthusiasts will appreciate knowing that Harley Davidson was founded in Milwaukee and you can enjoy a tour of the Harley Davidson Museum. If you are here in July you can go to Summerfest, which is the largest music festival in the world. It is a good time!
Sound Bend, Indiana – Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Chicago. Less then 2 hours away! If your a college football fan, or even just a sports fan in general, a visit to Notre Dame is a must do! One of the oldest, more prestigious universities in the country. Going to a game and seeing touchdown Jesus would be a wish come true for so many people.
Madison, WI – A little over two hours from Chicago. A really fun, energetic capital city. Madison has a huge college population that is very noticeable. The city is extremely lively, and active. Go to a Beavers game, or enjoy a walk down State Street. A visit to the Capitol building is a good time as well. A very beautiful city completely different from Chicago or Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Dells – Over 3 hours away from Chicago, but very popular for families. This place is literally a dream come true for millions of kids! Some of the best water parks, amusement rides, and activities for kids anywhere around! If you bring kids here, you will be their favorite parent. Trust me 🙂
Indianapolis, Indiana – Over 3 and a half hours from Chicago. Indianapolis is a nice, calm city featuring some really great food and events. One of those events of course is the Indy 500.
Door County Wisconsin – Beautiful northern Wisconsin spot for recreational activities. You can enjoy beautiful spots on Lake Michigan or enjoy the wonderful small communities scattered throughout the county. Plenty to do and to see. You can even stop in Green Bay and go to the iconic Lambeau field on your way up!
Amish Country, Indiana – If you looking for something COMPLETELY different from Chicago, Amish Country in Indiana can provide that. If you have never experienced Amish Country in any state, it is definitely a fun and different experience. In Elkhart County, Indiana you will find plenty of small shops and beautiful rollings hills while getting some insight on how the Amish live. It is quite fascinating.
Michigan’s Sunset Coast – If you are looking for some of the best beaches on Lake Michigan, visit the Sunset Coast. It can be a drive, as you as drive around the Lake over the Michigan border. But going through the beautiful towns on the Sunset Coast can make the time go much quicker! The most popular of all the towns is Traverse City.
St Louis – Yes another city! This one can be quite a distance from Chicago. About 4 and a half hours. You can visit the Gateway Arch or go to Busch Stadium and see a Cardinals game. You can also visit the St Louis Zoo, which is one of the best free zoos in the country. There is plenty to do and eat in St Louis, the question is just whether the drive is worth it for you.
Here are just a few of the awesome side trips you can take from Chicago. Am I missing some obvious ones? Very likely. Tell me in the replies below! Or tell me your favorite side trip from Chicago.
Shawnee National Forest, Illinois – Even though located in Wisconsin, this is the furthest destination from Chicago. Located at the Southern part of Illinois, very close to the Kentucky border. At the forest, you can either camp or stay at a beautiful lodge. It is regarded as one of the premiere hiking spots and camp grounds in all of the Midwest. It is HUGE with over 1300 miles of trails. If hiking, the outdoors or camping is your thing, Shawnee will be a fun, exhilarating experience.