Travel News 10 best day trips from Chicago

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10 best day trips from Chicago

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Chicago residents who are itching to get away – or visitors looking for side adventures – have plenty of options for day trips from Chicago.

Whether you’re heading 45 minutes outside the city by train to visit the Botanic Garden or renting a car to head an hour or two away and check out Milwaukee’s famous Art Museum, these day trips from Chicago include something for every adventurer.

These are our favorite day trips from Chicago:

  1. Chicago Botanic Garden, Illinois
  2. Lemont, Illinois
  3. Madison, Wisconsin
  4. Chain O’Lakes State Park, Illinois
  5. Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
  6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  7. Cedarburg, Wisconsin
  8. Holland, Michigan
  9. Rockford, Illinois
  10. Springfield, Illinois

Day trips from Chicago

1. Chicago Botanic Garden, Illinois

Just 25 miles outside the city, the Chicago Botanic Garden is the perfect getaway for those seeking a bit of nature, fresh air, and plenty of space across the garden’s 385 open acres.

Entrance to the Chicago Botanic Garden is free, making it a great day trip. You can either pay for parking or take the Pacific North Line from Chicago OTC to Braeside and walk the leisurely .8 miles to the Garden.

close up pink flowers in Chicago

2. Lemont, Illinois

The Forge: Lemont Quarries is an adventure park located in Lemont, Illinois, about a 30-minute drive outside downtown Chicago. The Forge features ropes courses, climbing walls, ziplines, mountain biking, hiking trails, and adventurous dining options. There’s something at The Forge to entertain guests of all abilities, ages, and interests.

3. Madison, Wisconsin

Head to Madison and enjoy the freedom its lakes have to offer. Bring your bike and enjoy the miles of lakeside cycling or bring your rod and fish off the shores of Monona Bay. Kayaking, paddle boarding, canoeing, and boating are all popular actives on the lakes of Madison. Afterward, enjoy a bite to eat from one of the many great restaurants in the city.

Want to extend your stay? Search hotels in Madison and use our Hotel Cleanliness Filter to read reviews on safety from recent guests!

Madison skyline lit up over the water at dusk

4. Chain O’Lakes State Park, Illinois

Less than 1.5 hours north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin border, is Chain O’Lakes State Park. This stunning state park is a popular recreational area situated on 11 beautiful lakes. The park has everything you could want out of a nature getaway including campgrounds, boat rentals, kayaking, and lakeside picnic spots.

5. Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Thirteen miles of trails wind through 18 canyons in Starved Rock State Park, an easy day trip from Chicago at just 1.5 hours away. The trails are open year-round and are equally as beautiful when coated with fresh snow as they are when they’re lined with seasonal waterfalls in the springtime. They also have 133 Class A premium camping sites with showers and electricity.

waterfall at starved rock state park, a day trip from Chicago

6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

There’s plenty to do in Milwaukee that is worth a short drive out of Chicago. Milwaukee County Zoo is a great place to bring the kids for a day that everyone (adults too!) will enjoy.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s stunning architectural design is home to works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and many, many more. In fact, with over 25,000 works housed inside, it’s one of the biggest art museums in the entire world.

Milwaukee is only an hour and a half drive from Chicago. Amtrak is also available and takes about the same amount of time.

day trip to Milwaukee skyline at dusk over the water

7. Cedarburg, Wisconsin

Feeling like you simply need a break from the big city for a day? Check out Cedarburg, an adorable small town 2.5 hours from Chicago.

Cedarburg’s adorable covered bridge is an Instagram-worthy photo op. The small town even has its own winery and the Cedarburg Creek Farm hosts fun seasonal activities for visitors. All together, Cedarburg is a breath of fresh air for city-dwellers who need a quick escape.

8. Holland, Michigan

For those longing for the tulip fields of The Netherlands, you don’t have to cross the ocean to find them. Visit Holland, Michigan, 2.5 hours outside of Chicago and you’ll find small-town charm reminiscent of a decades-past European village.

Windmills, clog shops, and the annual Tulip Festival will all quench your thirst for European travel if you can’t make it all the way to the real Holland yet.

close up of dutch clogs hanging

9. Rockford, Illinois

Rockford is one of the best day trips from Chicago for a family getaway with children. The Discovery Center Museum in Rockford will keep kids entertained for hours on end. Exhibits include fun, interactive explorations on flight, the body, space, light, machines, weather, and much more.

There’s also the Burpee Museum of Natural History and the Andersen Japanese Gardens which are well worth the day trip from Chicago to Rockford!

10. Springfield, Illinois

Head to the state capital and discover why this MidWest state is known as The Land of Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Get to know our beloved 16th president through hands-on exhibits, civil war artifacts, and a journey through his younger years.

Beyond the museum, take a visit to Lincoln’s home or to his resting place beneath an impressive obelisk. If you have time, visit the Illinois State Museum for a more comprehensive history of the Prairie State.

Day trip from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois

Enjoy your day trips from Chicago and stay safe!

Make sure to explore your staycations safely by always checking local government restrictions and guidelines before booking.

For many of the businesses listed above, advance reservations are required due to COVID-19 precautions. Please always check specific rules before planning or setting out on your travels.

Where should I go on a road trip from Chicago?

In summary, here are some of the best places that are a short drive from Chicago:

1. Chicago Botanic Garden, Illinois
2. Lemont, Illinois
3. Madison, Wisconsin
4. Chain O’Lakes State Park, Illinois
5. Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
6. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
7. Cedarburg, Wisconsin
8. Holland, Michigan
9. Rockford, Illinois
10. Springfield, Illinois

Where can I drive to from Chicago?

There are several great day trip destinations that are between a 1.5 to 3-hour drive from Chicago. Most can be found within Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin!

How many days in Chicago is enough?

Usually, about three to five days in Chicago will allow you to see most of the highlights of the city. It can also give you a day to take a trip to one of the surrounding attractions in Illinois!

Discover where you can go

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