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8 Illinois Family Getaways | Family Vacation Critic

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All Ages

8 Illinois Family Getaways

See recent posts by Courtney Elko

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A Midwest family getaway to Illinois offers families so many options, from the skyscrapers of Chicago to “Lincoln Land” in Springfield. The scenic beaches along Lake Michigan and the numberous winter sports atop Chestnut Mountain (yes, there is skiing in Illinois) are not to be missed either.

Check out our picks for Illinois family getaways.

Written by Courtney Elko


Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort

Located near the border of Wisconsin and about three hours from Chicago, Chestnut Mountain Ski Resort overlooks the Mississippi River. Skiiers and boarders, no matter the age, will love the slopes at Chestnut Mountain. Children"s ski programs starting as young as 4 years old are also available.

But Chestnut Mountain offers more than a ski getaway. In the summer months, families will love to rent a bicycle and ride the trails, take a Segway tour, or a river cruise down the Mississippi. If your family seeks some thrills and adventure, the alpine slide, where you hop on a sled and race down 2,050 feet of track, or the zip-line that soars above the mountain peak, are definitely something to check out.

Don"t forget to take a stroll down Main Street in historic Galena, which offers a glimpse into the olden days as the architecture dates back to before the Civil War. President Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena before he was a General in the Civil War and the people of Galena gave him a mansion after his success in the war. The mansion, with its original furnishings, is now open to the public to tour. Ghost tours, trolley tours and tours of other historic homes, like Galena"s oldest home built in 1826, are also available.

See Chestnut Mountain Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa


Situated on Lake Michigan, families who enjoy sports, architecture, food and fun will love a getaway to the Windy City.

Start your trip to Chicago at the top with a visit to 360 Chicago (formerly the John Hancock building) and get the ultimate view of the city"s unique skyscrapers. The Chicago History Museum offers families a glimpse into the city"s past with everything from exhibits from the “Great Fire” to legendary sports teams. Spend a day shopping on the Magnificent Mile or playing in Millennium Park. The natural playground, fountains kids can run through, seasonal ice skating rink and outdoor art galleries will keep kids" attention in Millennium Park.

In July or August, visit Lake Michigan and sink your toes into the nearly 15 miles of beach. The Ohio Street Beach offers less crowds and the Navy Pier, for amusements and boat rides, is nearby. A Chicago getaway would not be complete without a deep dish pizza either. So make sure to arrive hungry at Gino"s East of Chicago, where families will find the best deep dish. Kids will also love to leave their mark alongside all of the graffiti that covers the walls and tables at Gino"s.

See Chicago Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Springfield, IL

Springfield, Illinois is a fun little destination with all things Abraham Lincoln.

The kids will not be bored on a getaway to Lincoln Land as the Lincoln Home and Museum are interactive while also being educational. Kids will love the short films inside the museum, which bring Lincoln to life and will literally have you shaking in your chair.

About a three-hour drive from Chicago, Springfield has more than history to offer families on a weekend getaway. Knights Action Park and Caribbean Water Adventure features roller coasters, bumper boats, go-karts and mini-golf. The water park is open during the summer months so if you visit during the winter, make a stop at Scheels, an over-the-top sporting good store. Kids will love the giant Ferris wheel in the center of the store, the aquarium and NASCAR driving simulator.

If you"re looking for some local cuisine, the Horseshoe is Springfield"s claim to fame. A horseshoe is an open face sandwich with your choice of meat (hamburger patty, chicken, corn beef, etc.), topped with French fries and drizzled in cheese sauce. It"s delicious.

See Springfield, IL Family Hotels.

Recommended Hotel: President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel


This Chicago suburb is less than an hour from the Windy City and offers a quiet place for families to hang out. Families will love strolling along the downtown Riverwalk, where kids will find small covered bridges, a volleyball court and playground. The playground has climbers, slides and swings and inline skates or skateboards are welcome at the Centennial Skate Park.

In the summer months, the Riverwalk comes even more to life with the Centennial Beach and Grill. That"s right -- there"s a “beach” with zero-entry into the water, a splash pad, diving board and waterslide, and the grill or picnic areas are available when it"s time for lunch. There are several fountains throughout the Riverwalk and paddleboats can be found at the Quarry with the fishing pier nearby.

But what if you"d rather fly than stroll the Riverwalk? Then stop by iFly Indoor Skydiving, where kids can actually take flight! iFly simulates skydiving as visitors enter into a vertical wind tunnel that allows you to feel like you are truly freefalling without jumping out of a plane. Fliers must be at least 3 years old to fly.

Recommended Hotel: Chicago Marriott Naperville


Situated next to Naperville and about an hour from Chicago, Aurora offers families museums, farms and water parks for things to do on an Aurora getaway. The Aurora Regional Fire Museum is perfect for kiddos with a fascination for the big red trucks. It"s situated inside an old fire house and visitors can actually pass an old leather water bucket, check out the former horse stalls and squeal at the loud modern-day fire sirens and horns.

Visit Aurora between May and October and kids will love the pioneer life at Blackberry Farm. Kids can ride the carousel, ponies, tractors, wagons, paddleboats and the train, which are all included in the admission fee. A day at Blackberry Farm wouldn"t be complete without visiting with some farm animals either, so make sure to say hello to the chickens, sheep, pigs and goats on your Aurora getaway to Blackberry Farm.

When the family is ready to cool off, visit Splash Country Waterpark, Vaughan Aquatic Center or Phillips Park Family Aquatic Center, which are all great for a splashing good time. Zero-entry pools, waterslides and lazy rivers fill these parks with aqua fun. The Vaughan Aquatic Center is indoors too, so don"t worry if it"s a chilly or rainy day -- the kids can still have a blast on an Aurora getaway.

Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn and Suites Chicago/Aurora

KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort

Visit KeyLime Cove Indoor WaterPark Resort for a fun family getaway no matter the time of year. Situated along Lake Michigan and about an hour north of Chicago, KeyLime Cove is a full resort water park. Families can stay and play at KeyLime, with special packages available.

Inside the 65,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, it"s always 84 degrees. The park features body and tube slides, a wave pool, splash playground, lazy river and a little kids play pond.

The accommodations at KeyLime Cove include guestrooms and one- or two-bedroom suites, too, which are great for larger families seeking a getaway. The guestroom and suites feature a sleeper sofa, microwave and refrigerator. Complimentary Wi-Fi is also available.

A bonus for parents is that the resort is cashless. All guests wear a wristband while visiting and that wristband is a room key, grants waterpark access and is used as a charge card. Make sure to remind kids to ask before using the wristband at the vending machines or paying for other items in order not to have any big ticket surprises on your bill at check out!

Starved Rock State Park

About two hours north of Springfield, Illinois, families will find Starved Rock State Park, which is ideal for a nature-filled family getaway. Families can camp, hike, go horseback riding or admire the picturesque waterfalls.

The state park features a “kids" corner” that provides kids with worksheets and activities to complete while touring the park. There is a fishing guide, eagle or bat finger puppets that kids can color and create, or grab the tree identification worksheet and try to find each one.

The fun doesn"t have to stop after a day of hiking in Starved Rock State Park if you stay at Jack"s Grand Bear Resort where the family suites can fit up to eight people. Kids will have fun at the indoor water park and there"s also laser tag, mini-golf and ziplining at Grizzly Jack"s! The four onsite dining options serving lunch and dinner make a family getaway convenient, too.

Recommended Hotel: Grizzly Jack"s Grand Bear Resort


About 90 minutes west of Chicago, Rockford, Illinois is known for minor league baseball, museums, and gorgeous gardens.

In fact, it"s dubbed the “City of Gardens,” offering numerous public and private gardens in different neighborhoods. The world-renowned Anderson Japanese Gardens is 12 acres of waterfalls, ponds and lanterns, and is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. So start your garden tour there, then wander through Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Gardens and Sinnissippi Gardens and trail. Rockford features 25 miles of interconnecting trails so bike, hike or stroll through the numerous gardens or trails on your getaway.

Kids will also love a visit to the Burpee Museum of Natural History. Open seven days a week, the Burpee also hosts PaleoFest each year, where dino enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy interactive activities and learning stations.

Catch a Rockford Rivets minor league baseball, too. Single-game tickets run anywhere from $8 to $25 so families won"t have to break the bank in order to catch a game.

Recommended Hotel: Cliffbreakers Riverside Hotel & Conference Center

Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.

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