As promised, I thought I’d do a quick post about a few of the things you can do if you’re willing to venture outside of Chicago. Chicago is a beautiful city, but there’s so much you can do out in the countryside! So here’s a few things to do if you have access to a car and a few dollars (for the toll!)
Starved Rock State Park
Located approximately 2 hours south/west of Chicago, Starved Rock is an excellent place to go hiking.The area acquired its name after some native Indians were said to have been driven up the rock and starved to death. Not a pretty tale, but truly a pretty place. The Park has approximately 18 canyons from memory, some of which you view from above and some of which you can clamber up and along and see the waterfall in its mouth. There are also some incredible views from atop Starved Rock itself, as well as its sister outcrop, Lover’s Leap. There’s a circular route around the Park which takes around 2 hours to walk, though the more adventurous have plenty of opportunities to branch off or do longer walks along the river. The second best part? It’s completely free to enter!
As the name would suggest, Indiana Dunes is situated in Indiana, not Illinois. However, given Chicago is only c.30 minutes inside of the Illinois border from the south, Indiana Dunes is extremely accessible. It takes about 1 ½ hours to reach by car, but is a lovely escape away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Dunes comprises of 3 very large sand dunes, forested areas, marsh land and a long stretch of sandy beach, making it an ideal all-day destination. You can hike up and over the Dunes, the largest of which stands at nearly 200 feet tall. We accidentally did the circular route backwards, but were glad in the end as it meant we didn’t have to climb an incredibly steep hill at the beginning! Bring trainers, but you will end up with more sand then feet in them! But then you can say you have done the 3 Dunes Challenge! Then you can take a wonder through the forest on the way back to a relaxing afternoon at the beach. Be warned though, it’s $14 dollars entry per car (or $7 if you are an Indiana resident).
An hour ½ north west of Chicago, Lake Geneva is commonly referred to as Chicago’s playground. The lake itself is very large – it’s a 20 mile trip around its edge – and a beautiful place to come on a sumer’s day. You can enjoy various boat trips and tours as well as renting sail boats. There is a small beach to the south and a handful of shops and restaurants and overall it very much has that holiday feeling. You can walk around the entire lake on the Lake Trail, though this does go through the back garden of many (posh) houses fronting the lake, so don’t wander off the path onto private properties.
If you have a bit more time , you could venture further north to Milwaukee, and on to Green Bay. Take a picnic and enjoy the countryside!
Illinois is a lovely state, flat as far as the eye can see with large parts of it put to agricultural use outside of the city. It has a calm, more reserved vibe to it compared with Winsconsin which is a bit more rough and ready in my opinion (I like that though).
Hope this is useful if any of you happen to visit!