Illinois Office of Tourism Ten Ways to Enjoy Illinois this Summer
Illinois offers a range of ways to embrace outdoor adventures this summer. Chicago may be known for its skyscrapers and deep-dish pizza, but the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan that stretch along the 28 miles of freshwater shoreline, and the waterways that traverse the city, offer respite in summer when temperatures average a pleasant 28’C. Venture beyond the city where nature parks and water parks are waiting to be explored and enjoyed.
Ten ways to make the most of summer in Illinois:
1.Bike along the scenic 606 trail
Experience the revitalization of an abandoned railway on Chicago’s northwest side at The 606 trail. This 2.7-mile elevated park and trail boast a chain of street-level parks, scenic lookout points, an observatory, and captivating public art installations. Pedal your way through this urban gem and relish the city’s beauty from a unique perspective. Renting a Divvy classic bike or scooter is an easy, affordable, and super-fun way to explore Chicago. Visitors can download the app, hire their mode of transport, and be on their way.
2.Soak up the sun on the beaches of Lake Michigan
Join locals and visitors at Oak Street Beach, one of Chicago’s favourite destinations for soaking up the sun along Lake Michigan. Easily accessible via the Lakefront Trail, this spot is part of an 18.5-mile-long path that winds along the western shore of Lake Michigan, passing by various landmarks. Whispers at Oak Street Beach is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal and a drink while taking in the beautiful view of the Chicago skyline. North Avenue Beach is a lively hotspot known for its beach house and vibrant atmosphere. Engage in beach volleyball and people-watching as you soak in the summertime energy. For families seeking a more relaxed setting, Montrose Beach is perfect, offering playgrounds and picnic areas for a delightful afternoon.
3.Live your best Barbie life
With 27 spectacular gardens on 385 acres of blooming landscape, Chicago Botanic Garden is one of the largest public gardens in the world. Walk among wildflowers and native plants while crisscrossing the arching bridges of nine interconnected islands and follow ‘Barbie’s Real-World Day Out’ path as it weaves its way around the garden and through the perfectly pink roses. Electric Garden in West Loop has debuted their Malibu Barbie Cafe, a pop-up tribute to Mattel’s iconic doll, which will delight fans until October 15th. Expect pops of Barbie’s trademark Rosco fluorescent pink colour and a human-sized Barbie doll box alongside a pop-up’s menu, created by Master Chef semi-finalist Becky Brown, with brunch served all day. Look out for rainbow pancakes, a wedge salad, and a cauliflower bowl.
4.Take a Chicago River cruise or kayak tour
Take to the water on a guided kayak tour on the Chicago River or one of the many Architecture River Cruises available, taking in all the major Chicago landmarks as you navigate right through the city.
5.Experience the thrills at Six Flags Great America & Hurricane Harbor
Six Flags Great America & Hurricane Harbor are two great parks you can experience at one destination. Home to seventeen heart-stopping roller coasters and a 20-acre water park to keep the family busy all summer.
6.The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park
Stretching across 300-acres of historically significant land, The Forge: Lemont Quarries is ranked by USA Today as one of the ‘10 Best Aerial Adventure Parks in the USA’ and features the largest aerial challenge course, tallest climbing towers, and longest ziplines in the tri-state area. They offer mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boat excursions that feed the appetite of adventure enthusiasts looking for unique challenges.
7.Explore the trails at Starved Rock State Park
Located less than two hours from Chicago, embark on an unforgettable hiking adventure at Starved Rock State Park, where 13 miles of well-marked trails await. No matter the skill level, there are trails to suit all preferences as you explore the breathtaking bluffs and canyons near the Illinois River. Stay at Starved Rock State Park and Lodge – listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this authentic log-built lodge exudes a mix of rustic luxury, Midwestern hospitality and comfortable amenities where guests can relax in the comfort of the historic lodge accommodations, charming log cabins and spacious hotel rooms set among the pines, canyons and waterfalls of the park. Nearby in Utica is Matthiessen State Park, where a mile-long canyon leads to Lake Falls, a waterfall cascading 45 feet into the Lower Dells. This park offers a blend of geological wonders and recreational opportunities for all nature lovers.
8.Step back in time in The Land of Lincoln
Springfield, the capital of Illinois, was Abraham Lincoln’s home for the 17 years leading up to his election as the 16th president of the United States and for its strong connection to historic Route 66, which runs right through town. Start by taking a free tour of Lincoln’s home, led by knowledgeable park rangers. At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, visitors can see the world’s largest collection of Lincoln-related materials, incredibly realistic holographic presentations and other interactive exhibits. Situated in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Lincoln’s Tomb is the second most-visited grave in the country where a gold bust stands guard outside and it is believed to bring good luck to those who rub its nose.
9.Walk the Route 66 Experience at the historic Illinois State Fairgrounds
The Route 66 Experience is a new year-round, free experience on the outskirts of Springfield, where you can walk the entire Illinois Route 66 corridor in microform. Marvel at the Legends Neon Sign Park with new and restored neon signs, lit nightly from dusk, a paved brick road, a 25-foot tall grey steel Route 66 Giant, drive-in theatre replica and interpretive signs highlighting each Route 66 community from Chicago to the Chain of Rocks bridge.
10.Get your adrenalin pumping at Aerie’s Resort
Aerie’s Resort in Grafton is known for its spectacular views of the unique bluffs along the Great River Road overlooking the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The Grafton SkyTour scenic aerial lift provides a unique way to reach Aerie’s Resort and showcases those breathtaking views. The Alpine Coaster, a thrilling new ride and the first of its kind in Illinois, sends riders travelling down the hillside over 3,000 feet of track at speeds up to twenty-five miles per hour through the foliage that Grafton is known for. The Grafton Zipline offers four zip lines, two suspension bridges, walking trails in between, and an ATV ride through the woods.