Family Vacation In Illinois

For those that have never heard of the state of Illinois, you might be surprised to learn that this state was home to the world’s first skyscraper and one of the largest man made lakes by surface area. Whether your travels desire taking you to what Wikipedia describes as “the birthplace of the skyscraper,” or a place where you can take part in thousands of activities, such as canoeing, hiking, swimming and more, Illinois also features a wealth of history. It was also here where a bunch of folks came together in 1818 and decided on creating a state which they named Illinois.

Families in the US all have different tastes for their vacations. Some, who have always dreamed of seeing the world and all it has to offer them, pack up and embark on the journey. Others have spouses and children –they search for family friendly activities that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. In yet others, there is so much to see and do at home that they just stay where they are.

Family Vacation In Illinois

The family vacation has been a time-honored tradition for generations in America. But what about that state you’ve never traveled to, the midwest? What does it have to offer? There are hundreds of family vacation destinations throughout the country, but what is the best destination for your family? Ah, family vacations – they’re supposed to be relaxing, structured and a lot of fun. And let’s be honest, family vacations are typically a series of conflicting mishaps, crossed wires and unmet expectations. Unless you have minimalistic parents who would never dream of trying to plan anything. Or unless you’re like most people who have to plan every minute detail on their own (read: Mom).

Recommended: The Best Family Weekend Getaways In Illinois

posted byJAMES BROCKBANKon DECEMBER 5, 2021// last updated on APRIL 13, 2022

Everyone needs a little vacation once in a while. While there’s nothing wrong with escaping with your partner or by yourself, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a family vacation. The best thing about getting away with the family is that you don’t need to take long trips to make wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. 

Sometimes all you and your family need is a weekend getaway. If you live in the Midwest, Illinois, or are interested in visiting Illinois, there’s plenty of destinations to choose from. The best thing about Illinois is that there are many choices between large cities, remote destinations, and plenty of parks to visit. 

If you’re stuck on choosing where to take your family for the weekend, we can help. Check out these best family weekend getaways in Illinois before you load up the car or head to the airport. 

Table of Contents:

12 Top Family Weekend Getaways in Illinois

Are you not too sure about where to start with planning your next family adventure to Illinois? No need to worry! Check out this list of our top choices for family weekend getaways in Illinois.


When discussing the perfect weekend getaway in Illinois, we can’t leave Chicago off the list. Nestled on the vast Lake Michigan, Chicago is the most populated city in the state. With such a large population and more than enough to do, it’s no wonder people choose this as a weekend destination. 

Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States and is known for its stunning architecture. Even spending hours wandering around the city and looking at all the buildings will be exciting for you and the family. 

If you’re not scared of heights, visiting the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is a fun experience. You’ll ride an elevator up to the 108th floor, where you can see the city from a new perspective. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can step onto their glass floors, where you’ll be able to see the ground over 1,000 feet below you. 

You can’t leave Chicago without seeing The Bean. This massive metallic structure is commonly known as the Chicago Bean, but the real name is Cloud Gate. It’s a beautiful art piece in the middle of a park. It’s the perfect photo spot, and you’ll have some great views of the city from here. 

Two other fantastic things you may want to do with your family are to visit Navy Pier and the Shedd Aquarium. The pier is flooded with rides, games, and restaurants to eat at during the summer. 

If you’re looking for places to stay in the city, Palmer House A Hilton is right near Cloud Gate in the city. Another option we love is the Best Western at Grant Park. For more recommendations, why not check out our guide to the best family hotels in Chicago?


Approximately 40 miles north of Chicago is the smaller city of Gurnee, Illinois. Gurnee is a popular weekend destination for those living in Chicago or for a day trip while visiting the major city. Even though this is a smaller area of the state, there’s still plenty to do. 

One of the main reasons families love visiting Gurnee is to check out the Six Flags amusement park. The best part about Six Flags is that they have rides and attractions for everyone. They have thrill rides for the adrenaline junkies, family rides, and even rides for the youngest visitors. 

If you’re planning on heading to Gurnee for Six Flags, keep in mind that they’re only open on Saturday and Sunday. If you’re going to be in town for a long weekend, you’ll want to find other activities to do. 

One of the best activities for families is to visit the Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark in Gurnee during the summer. You can choose to spend a day at the waterpark only, or you can stay at the resort for the entire weekend. If you stay at the resort, you’ll love the game rooms, family-friendly activities, and fantastic staff that will make your getaway memorable. 

If you don’t want to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge, there’s plenty of other lodging options for you. One that we recommend is the Baymont by Wyndham, which is close to Six Flags and the waterpark. 


In central Illinois, you’ll find the state capital, Springfield. Springfield is another excellent destination for a weekend getaway. There’s plenty of history in this city that you and your family will love learning about. 

You and your family can explore downtown, where you’ll see the Illinois capitol building. Another historical site you’ll want to try and see is the Lincoln Home. This building is the restored site where our 16th president used to live. There’s also a museum and library in the city showcasing his life and significance in the nation’s history. 

If you want, you can head to Oak Ridge Cemetery to see where the 16th president is resting. For even more history, more specifically about Illinois, the Illinois State Museum is a must-see. The museum was founded in 1877 as a natural history museum and has been open ever since. 

For something more relaxing and outdoors, spending time at Southwind Park may be a great idea. The park is situated near Lake Springfield and is 80-acres in size. There’s plenty of grassy fields for you and your family to play games, playgrounds, and picnic areas so you can enjoy a meal outside when the weather is nice. 

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We love the trampoline park in the city. It’s a great way for everyone to burn some energy and have a great time. Plus, this adventurous activity helps break up all the museums and history you’ll spend time seeing. 

For places to stay for the weekend, you should check out the Crowne Plaza Springfield. It’s at the convention center. The Drury Inn and Suites are other terrific options for families. 


Along the Mississippi River is the town of Quincy. This adorable little town makes for the perfect and quiet family getaway for the weekend. Also known as The Gem City, Quincy was once famous for riverboats transporting people across the Mississippi. 

If you and your family are museum buffs, you’ll love Quincy. There’s a handful of unique and fascinating museums where you can spend your time. The first one worth mentioning is the All Wars Museum. As you walk through this museum, you and your family can see over 5,000 artifacts from the wars the nation participated in since the Revolutionary War. 

This next activity isn’t exactly a museum, but it showcases some exciting parts of our nation’s history. The Lincoln-Era Log Cabin Village is a near place to see. They offer self-guided tours where you can walk around four log cabins, a log corn crib, a log church, and a stone smokehouse. 

Right near the Log Cabin Village, there’s Lincoln Park. This little waterfront park has a beautiful walking trail. It’s perfect for people of all ages too, so everyone in the family can enjoy it. There’s also a nice playground that the little ones will love playing on while you read a book, play games, or eventually enjoy a picnic with everyone. 

The Microtel Inn and Suites by Wyndham are popular lodging choices for families visiting Quincy. That’s because it’s right on the Mississippi River. Another great option is the Stoney Creek Inn, which is closer to the town center. 

Shawnee National Forest

Are you looking for the perfect nature getaway for your family? Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is a great location, and it is near the town of Herod. The forest is nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, creating some beautiful landscapes for your family to explore. 

There are lakes, hills, waterfalls, and sandstone cliffs throughout that make this a beautiful forest for people of all ages. If you’re ready to go on a long hike, there’s the River to River trail. It spans 160 miles and takes you from the Ohio River to the Mississippi or vice versa. 

That trail length can seem daunting and not suitable for all families. Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of other beautiful trails in the forest. The Rim Rock Recreational Trail is very popular with families of hikers of all skill levels. The trail is less than a mile long, making it an easy day hike. 

There are also plenty of places to go fishing in the forest. There are 11 lakes and over 50 ponds for you to cast and land some fish. There are other water activities you can participate in when the weather is warm, like boating, swimming, tubing, and water skiing. 

The obvious place to stay if you’re going to be spending time at Shawnee National Forest is to stay at one of their several campsites. It’s a great way to bond and enjoy as much of the great outdoors as possible. If you want to stay in a hotel, there’s a Quality Inn in Herod.


Galena is a small town in northwestern Illinois. This town is charming and perfect for a quiet getaway with the entire family. Galena is known for having plenty of well-preserved 19th-century buildings. One of the most famous of these buildings is the 1826 Dowling House.

The Dowling House is the oldest residential property in Galena. Restorations to the property mimic what the original house looked like, and every effort goes into ensuring it stays that way. It’s now a museum that you and your family can tour while visiting Galena. 

Something you may or may not know about Galena is that it was the former home of the 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant. Just like you can visit Lincoln’s home in Springfield, you can visit Grant’s home. It’s a beautiful 18th century home that’s now a small museum showcasing Grant’s life.

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