Things To Do In Northern Illinois This Weekend – Enjoy a wonderful family trip exploring the best places in Northern Illinois for families to visit! Families looking for a road trip stop, a scenic day trip, or a weekend getaway with the kids will find something for everyone in Northern Illinois. Of course, if you’re visiting Northern Illinois with kids, there’s something you’ll need to do. In this list, we’ve rounded up the best places to visit in Northern Illinois for families, including quaint towns, museums, state parks, and more adventures. If you need hotel suggestions, we’ve also covered where to stay in Illinois with kids. Read our list of the best places for families in Northern Illinois!
We have limited information about Chicago in this article to highlight other great parts of Northern Illinois for families. If you’re looking for information about Chicago, read Fun Things to Do in Chicago with Kids.
Things To Do In Northern Illinois This Weekend
Looking for an urban experience that any age can enjoy? In this list of the best places for families in Northern Illinois, look no further than the cities below for great options from Chicago to Galena to Woodstock and more!
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Start your Illinois vacation with a trip to Chicago, the state’s largest and most popular city. From enjoying pizza at Lou Malnati’s to visiting museums, parks, or sports games, you’ll find endless ways to entertain your kids. Visit the Museum of Science and Industry, then stop at the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, or the Children’s Museum of Chicago. Or enjoy a sunny day wandering Chinatown Square, Pilsen’s 16th Street Murals, and Navy Pier.
Seasonal activities vary depending on when you visit, from a boat trip to a day at Chicago Beach. Of course, if you want an adventure with animals, don’t miss Brookfield Zoo, Lincoln Park Zoo, or the Shedd Aquarium. Save time for Millennium Park, home to the famous Bean sculpture, also known as the Cloud Gate!
Looking for a place to stay with kids in Chicago? Check out the 10 best family hotels in Chicago!
Galena is one of the best places to visit for families in Northern Illinois! Just a three-hour drive from Chicago, it offers a mix of historic attractions and family fun. Stroll down the main street to find charming shops, including children’s sweets and ice cream. History buffs can’t miss the Apple River Fort, an important site during the 1832 War of Independence. Black Hawk War between settlers and the local Sauk tribe.
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Families can visit Chestnut Mountain Resort for downhill slides, Segways and more. Or rent kayaks, paddleboards or e-bikes at Fever River Outfitters. Excited kids will love a canopy tour with Long Hollow Canopy Tours or a unique goat trekking tour with Hoof It!
Peoria is one of the best places to visit in Illinois for families. Located in central Illinois along the Illinois River, this sprawling city combines historic attractions with culture, art and the great outdoors. In the center of the center, families can explore the Peoria Riverfront Museum, which features rotating exhibits of math, science and art.
Animal lovers can visit the Peoria Zoo or head out of town to Wildlife Prairie Park to see wildlife from Illinois. The Luty Botanical Garden is located next to the zoo in Glen Oak Park and is perfect for an afternoon stroll among the flora and fauna. Forest Park Nature Center, Laura Bradley Park, and Grand View Drive Park also offer great views and hiking opportunities.
There are several cities we recommend adding to your Northern Illinois itinerary for families. Read on to find the best one for your trip.
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Spend an afternoon strolling through historic Woodstock, 40 miles outside of Chicago, with a Victorian town square complete with a beautiful gazebo. It also has kid-friendly boutiques, restaurants, antique shops and art galleries. Outside of the city, families can visit the Hackmat National Wildlife Refuge on the Wisconsin border. Or, if you have a train-obsessed kid in the family, head to the Illinois Railroad Museum. In the summer, kids love to cool off on the exciting rides at the Woodstock Waterworks!
Located in northern Illinois, near the Wisconsin border, this beautiful city sits on the banks of the Rock River. Families can enjoy recreational activities at Hononega Forest Preserve, a wetlands area that overlooks the river. Pack a picnic lunch, bring a ball to play sports, or take a boat ride to see Rockton from a new perspective! Bird watchers will also enjoy the trails at the nearby Carl and Myrna Nygren Wetland Preserve. To learn more about Rockton’s history, kids can visit the Mactown Living History Education Center. This living history museum tells the story of one of America’s first settlements!
Bartlett is a small town in Illinois with lots of family-friendly things to do. If you’re visiting in the summer, the kids will love hanging out at the Bartlett Aquatic Center, which has a zero-entry pool, lazy river, splash zone and more fun activities. Leesburg Park is another popular spot in the summer because it has a playground with a water feature. To get closer to nature, families can check out the Bartlett Nature Center at James Pate Phillip State Park. The park is a great place to see warblers, waterfowl, beavers and white-tailed deer. For indoor activities, visit the Bartlett History Museum or the Bartlett Depot Museum, located in a former train station.
Elmhurst is not just a suburb of Chicago. With its vibrant city center, numerous city parks and family-friendly activities, this exciting destination offers a wonderful holiday with children, especially in summer. Stroll downtown and check out the shops, restaurants, and vintage architecture, then stop at Wilder Park. This beautiful green space is home to two of Elmhurst’s best museums: the Lissadro Lapidary Art Museum and the Elmhurst Art Museum. Outdoor families enjoy hiking the Illinois Prairie Trail or the Great Prairie West. Of course, if you’re visiting Elmhurst with kids, don’t miss Safari Land. This indoor entertainment center has fun, roller coasters and a bowling alley!
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Families looking to enjoy the outdoors have plenty of great family-friendly places in Northern Illinois. From beautiful lakes to state parks and more scenic spots, you’ll love the options on this list. Read on to learn more!
Evergreen Lake offers a beautiful getaway for families in central Illinois. Located in COMLARA Park, it is away from the hustle and bustle of the neighboring towns and is small enough to manage without bothering small children. From camping to hiking to swimming on the divided beach, there are many ways to enjoy the park in warm weather.
The lake is also good for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and paddle boats, which can be rented from the bait shop. During the summer, families can enjoy scheduled events around the lake, including a summer fishing tournament for kids and several festivals. Need an activity on a rainy day? Consider the Children’s Discovery Museum in nearby Bloomington/Normal.
Experience the natural beauty of Illinois at Starved Rock State Park, one of the state’s most popular destinations. Located along the Illinois River less than two hours from Chicago, it is easily accessible by car and is one of the best state parks in the Midwest for families.
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In summer, you can hike among cascading waterfalls, beautiful canyons, and rugged bluffs overlooking the Illinois River. Kids will love seeing relatives, eagles or migrating birds! Some kid-friendly trails include the sometimes steep Starved Rock Overlook Trail or the St. Louis Canyon for Beginners. If you want to spend more than one day, book a room at Starved Rock Lodge, which offers a daily list of family-friendly activities.
Mathisen State Park is less well known than nearby Starved Rock State Park, but still worth a visit! Located in LaSalle County, it features a typical Midwestern woodland landscape with trails winding through lush trees, waterfalls, marshy ponds and home to warblers, herons, ducks and geese. With over 5 miles of trails, it’s easy to take in the beautiful views.
Try the Mathisen State Park River Trail, which winds around the Vermilion River and isn’t too steep for small children. Other activities for families include mountain biking and horseback riding with dedicated trails. You can bring a picnic and enjoy a great lunch. This is one of the best places for families to visit in Northern Illinois!
Families exploring Illinois in the summer should include Illinois Beach State Park on their itinerary. Located on Lake Michigan, this massive state park stretches 6.5 miles of sandy shores. There are also plenty of opportunities for swimming, boating, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor activities. While parents relax on the soft sand, kids love splashing in the calm waters of Zion Beach.
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At the southern and northern ends of the beach, you’ll find calm water for swimming and kayaking. Or go boating on Lake Michigan.
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