12 Chicago Day Trip Ideas: Top Destinations for Day Trips from Chicago

April 28, 2023
Liz Arnold

Need a little break from city life? Thankfully, the city is perfectly located for day trips from Chicago, with just a short trip taking you out of the busy city atmosphere to a beautiful spot nearby.

Whether you have never been to Lake Geneva or would love a closer getaway at the Chicago Botanic Garden, some destinations make for great Chicago day trip ideas.

To help you plan your next trip outside the city, we are sharing some of the best Chicago day trips with group tour charter bus transportation to get a break from city life and explore the great outdoors. Let's dive right in!

#1. Indiana Dunes National Park

day trips from chicago

When it comes to day trips in Chicago, the Indiana Dunes are a top pick.

The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore features some of the most beautiful, sweeping sand dunes just a short distance from Chicago. One of the best day trips from Chicago in the summertime, the Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan is open year-round and offers some activities. From hiking and swimming to relaxing beside the dunes, it's a popular activity that can be done on a warm day.

With a stunning view of the Lake Michigan coastline and a calming getaway outside the city in a small group, this is the perfect calm outdoor adventure destination.

#2. White River State Park

Another of the short trips around Chicago is the White River State Park. White River State Park is a large waterfront park in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. With a stunning park design and concert venue opportunities, the large green space is a beautiful place to explore or see live music.

In addition, White River State Park has some historical features, including the Old Washington Street Pedestrian Bridge, the Historic Central Canal, and the Historic Pumphouse. Plus, located in downtown Indianapolis, there are several other attractions the city has to offer visitors.

#3. Anderson Japanese Gardens

day trip chicago

The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois is another great day trip Chicago residents can look into. The gardens, designed by Hoichhi Kurisu on behalf of businessman John Anderson, are a stunning oasis just under two hours outside the city.

With beautiful water elements, stone, and, of course, plants, the Japanese Gardens highlight nature as art, creating a tranquil space for visitors to walk through and relax, enjoying the seasonal beauty the gardens can offer. Plus, guests can take guided tours too, to further understand the principles and history behind the space.

#4. Peoria

Just a few hours outside downtown Chicago is Peoria, a beautiful town in the center of Illinois with some elements to explore. This classic river town was named the whiskey capital of the world in the 19th century, and with that in mind, it has a vast range of beer, wine, and whiskey options. Plus, with a vibrant arts and cultural scene, there are other attractions to explore, including the Peoria Civic Center and other great sites.

#5. National Historic Cheesemaking Center

For some ideas for Wisconsin road trips from Chicago, it's all about the National Historic Cheesemaking Center.

Wisconsin is known for its cheese, and it's no surprise that Monro is the head Swiss cheese capital.

Located in Central Wisconsin, the National Historic Cheesemaking Center offers tours to explore the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory, where you can pick up cheese and explore over. Hundred varieties, along with the perfect accompaniments like beer, wine, and sausage.

The center is located in the downtown area, which is also great for a nice stroll, and is home to the historic Green County Courthouse, another thing to see in this charming small town.

#6. Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva

Another of the top places to drive from Chicago is Lake Geneva. Just an hour and a half outside the windy city, Lake Geneva is a resort town perfect for unwinding. With its unique small-town charm, Lake Geneva, Illinois offers many relaxation and outdoor activity opportunities for visitors.

The charming small town downtown area is perfect for a stroll, plus there are great shops and restaurants to explore too. In addition, there is a 26-mile pather with lakefront views, allowing visitors to enjoy the gilded mansions built along the lake back in the 1870s. Plus, there are hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding opportunities for the perfect getaway for the whole family.

#7. Galena

Located 3 hours' distance from Chicago is the town of Galena - a beautiful historic site with a cozy small-town charm. This destination in northwestern Illinois is perfect for families and couples, offering a quaint getaway outside the city.

The town is also rich in history. It is home to Ulysses S. Grant's home, the Belvedere Mansion, and Dowling House, to name a few historic sites. It's also a go-to destination for outdoor activities. With the Apple River Canyon State Park, plus Horseshoe Mound Preserve, there is no shortage of sites to explore.

#8. Michigan City

Another of the top day trips from Chicago in Michigan City. While you may be quick to think this is a trip to Michigan, Michigan City is located in Indiana, just an hour outside the city, making it the perfect quick getaway.

In Michigan City, exploring the Old Lighthouse Museum is a must, plus, there are tours at the Michigan City Lighthouse and pier, too, that are a must-see.

In addition to the lighthouse and beautiful beaches, Washington Park Zoo is also located in Michigan City. It not only features an array of animals, but unique architecture, too.

#9. Starved Rock State Park

best chicago day trips

Did you know Illinois features some beautiful waterfalls? Believe it! At Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois, there are beautiful hiking trails and waterfalls along the Illinois River, just southwest of Chicago.

On one of the best day trips from Chicago in the springtime, the canyon waterfalls flow as a result of the heavy rain and melted snow after a rough winter. This family-friendly attraction is perfect for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty that Illinois has to offer, with stunning trails and geographical features to enjoy.

#10. Six Flags Great America

For a bit of a thrill, Six Flags Great America is a must. Likely one of the fastest day trips available, sitting just one hour outside the city in Gurnee, Six Flags is a great place to ride rollercoasters and spend the day with friends. It's a great destination during the warmer months, with all rides sitting outside, and even has special events for Halloween that are worth checking out for an extra spooky evening.

#11. Oak Park

places to drive from chicago

Located just 9 miles outside the Loop is Oak Park, a historic neighborhood known for some attractions. Most notably, Oak Park is home to two iconic American figures, architect Frank Lloyd Wright and writer Ernest Hemingway.

With these two famous men, there is lots to see. For architectural lovers, the Frank Lloyd Wright Home is a great storm, plus Ernest Hemingway's Birthplace Museum for lovers of literature. These two sites are located within just blocks of each other, making it easy to see both. Plus, there are great shopping opportunities and restaurants to enjoy a full Chicago day tour.

#12. Mammoth Cave National Park

One of the more overlooked destinations near the city is Mammoth Cave, National Park.

Featuring over 400 miles of naturally formed underground passageways, this destination is six hours outside the city, but worth a weekend trip.

Offering cave tours, visitors can get a look inside unlike any other. Other than the 51 man-made steps, the cave has formed naturally over millions of years, creating a stunning sightseeing opportunity into the earth's upper crust. It's worth the drive!

Ready for Your Chicago Day Trip?

Whether you need a quiet getaway visiting the Lake Geneva Shore Path, want to explore an outdoor sculpture park, or shop around downtown Oak Park, there is no shortage of day trips available outside Chicago. But why stress about how to get there?

With Infinity Transportation, our charter bus rental company will handle the logistics of your group trip, getting you and your friends or family to the desired location on schedule so you don't have to worry about who is driving. To plan your next getaway, contact us today.

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