If you’re looking to get out of the city for a minute, whether for nature, small town living, or just a different city, here’s where to go.
Even though the city’s beginning to reopen, with more and more parks, bars, and restaurants available at your disposal, you might feel like you need a little extra space to stretch out your legs.
Be that the case, or you just want to get outside of the city for a couple days, here are 10 places that would make for superb weekend destinations.
1. Starved Rock State Park
98 miles outside Chicago.
If being cooped up inside for the last three months has made you want to escape out into nature for a fresh breath of air, look no further than Starved Rock State Park in Illinois. Less than two hours outside Chicago, this National Historic Landmark is home to 13 miles of trails, 14 waterfall, and 18 glorious sandstone canyons.
At this moment both the Starved Rock State Park and Starved Rock Lodge are open, in addition to the Veranda, The Starved Rock Cafe and Trailheads Concessions for food and drinks. That said, visitors are expected to adhere to social distancing of six feet, wear face masks (in indoor public areas), and abide by state regulations.
2. Madison, Wisconsin
147 miles outside Chicago
Madison, Wisconsin is a colorful scene that is home to a motley mixture of bohemia and midwestern living. With the city just having entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan, you’ll be able to enjoy nearly all the fun activities and attractions this eclectic city has to offer, including: museums, theaters, zoos, amusement parks, concerts (up to 100 people), parks and more! For more information on what is available in Madison, visit here.
3. Indiana Dunes State Park
50 miles outside Chicago
With 2,000 acres of sand, shore, and space, social distancing won’t be much of a problem at the Indiana Dunes State Park. While public outdoor swimming pools remain closed, all of the park’s inns, restaurants, all nature preserves, forest, fish, and wildlife areas remain open for you to explore. Meaning you can bound up mountainous dunes (and then roll back down them), go spelunking in one of its many caves, take a moment to relax on the beaches of Lake Michigan, and much more.
For real-time updates on what’s available at the Indiana Dunes State Park, follow Indiana State Parks on Twitter.
4. Gary, Indiana
29.4 miles outside Chicago
We’d be remiss not to mention the statewide reopening of casinos in Indiana. If you ready to roll the dice, drive on down to Gary, Indiana to visit the Majestic Star Casino. There you’ll find six floors packed with all the classic casino games — poker, blackjack, baccarat, and roulette and a wide — in a whirling atmosphere of bright blinking lights, buzzing slots, and high-rolling energy.
The casino has since been revamped with added safety and sanitary measures, including frequent disinfecting, distribution of PPE, physical distancing measures, and added touch-free hand sanitization stations.
5. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
80 miles outside Chicago
Lake Geneva has long been a vacation haven for Chicagoans. The resort city features a 21 miles of beautiful shoreline complete with amazing beaches and a sea of water activities to boot. Whether you’re looking to kick back and relax at a resort, gear up for the many outdoor activities the city has on hand, or relish in its variety of restaurants, retailers, and nightlife attractions, Lake Geneva has what you’re looking for.
6. Holland, Michigan
150 miles outside Chicago
While you might’ve just missed the town’s dazzling display of 4.5 million blooming tulips, there’s still much to see and do in Holland, Michigan. The town is rich in Dutch culture. Throughout the year the town regularly holds a variety of parades in honor of its Dutch heritage. While those might be on hold for now, visitors can still explore wonderful Dutch cuisine, architecture, windmills, and art collection all around the city. If you visit Holland, be sure to stomp by the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory for the ultimate experience.
7. Door County, Wisconsin
244 miles outside Chicago
Take you partner on a romantic getaway to Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is home to 300 miles of shoreline, acres of orchards, five state parks, and 11 historic lighthouses. Choose your lodgings in a bed & breakfast, log cabin, a cozy cottage, or do it big at a resort. Wherever you hang your hat at night, know that there’s much to do during the day. Explore the county’s beautiful parks, caves, and forestry, or voyage out to one of its islands by sea — whether by boat, kayak, or paddle board — though the latter might take a minute. Go cherry picking and finish off the day with a fine wine, local brew or cider while dining down on some home-cooked cuisine.
8. Rockford, Illinois
88.6 miles outside Chicago
With the exception of Gary, Indiana — every one of these destinations will give you a chance to step back and relax. If relaxation is you’re intention, Rockford might be your best bet. The city is flush with blooming gardens and a network of streaming rivers. Like Chicago, its eateries are currently open for outdoor dining. Additionally, most of the city’s amenities and attractions are open to the public, including the sublime Anderson Japanese Gardens — an award-winning landscape that was named one of the highest quality Japanese Gardens in North America by Sukiya Living Magazine.
9. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
92.4 miles outside Chicago
While bars and breweries have just now opened in Chicago for outdoor service, you might be longing for the full taproom experience. Take a drive up to Milwaukee and take your pick from the plethora of top-notch breweries around the city. See what else is on tap in the city by checking out all their amazing food, scenic drives, outdoor art, beaches, parks, and, of course, their famous Riverwalk.
10. The House on the Rock, Wisconsin
197 miles outside Chicago
While House on the Rock might initially come off as an oddity — a house built on a rock tower floating among treetops — the imaginative museum, inn, resort is so much more. Don’t get us wrong, its themed room and exquisite exhibits are filled to the brim with exotic oddities that are both dazzling and bizarre.
For example: a mechanically operated orchestra, (one of) the world’s largest fireplace, a massive (totally not creepy) dollhouse collection, an infinity room that looks out over a sweeping landscape, the world’s largest indoor carousel, and oh so much more.
But if that’s a little too out there for your taste, you can strike a balance with their family-friendly Inn, complete with swimming pool and lounge, or their resort which features a wide variety of fine cuisines as well as a 27-hole golf course. I mean, what else could you really ask for?