By Elisa Reamer
When leaving Illinois for college, there are a lot of things here that you will never get to experience again. Either it’s because your entire family is moving with you, or you are going to move to that state after college. This A-Z list has everything you need to do or places to go before you leave the state. Every day of your summer will be full of fun if you follow this list.
This is the perfect place for everyone interested in space. They have nine different exhibits that all future astronauts can enjoy. Walk through space and pretend you are experiencing zero gravity.
There is so much to do in this town in Will and Dupage County. Enjoy their waterpark, Pelican Harbor, go shopping at the promenade, test out the beds in Ikea for no reason, pretend you’re buying a boat at Bass Pro Shop, visit their huge library (trust me, you’ll be stunned), go ice skating at Rocket Ice, enjoy breakfast at Eggs Inc., take a hike at Hidden Lakes Forest Preserve, play mini golf at Wilderness Falls, and enjoy the diversity.
Located in Wheaton, there is so much to do here. Enjoy the beautiful flowers, take a tour in the Robert R. McCormick house, experience war in the first division museum, take your senior pictures, play at their park, climb on tanks, and have a picnic. They also have activities for almost every season. During the summer, they have movies in the park every Friday evening, they have pumpkins and scarecrows set out all around the park during the fall and they have a holiday festival during the winter.
Downtown Downers Grove
Not only are the buildings beautiful, there are so many stores to go to. Anderson’s Bookshop is a must go to because it is the cutest bookstore ever and hosts many events. There is also one in Naperville and LaGrange. Check out Louisa’s and Millie’s Chocolates, which is located right near Anderson’s
Located near Chicago in Dupage County, Elmhurst takes pride in its town. Visit their art museum and take in the creative sculptures and art pieces. The outside scenery also makes it worth the visit. Take a train and experience its downtown. Make sure to visit Egg Harbor because no matter where you are, their food is always worth it. For more of the active people, Elmhurst provides many different, beautiful parks to walk or ride your bike through.
Fabyan Forest Preserve
This beautiful forest preserve in Geneva, Ill. offers their guests many things to do. They have botanical gardens that are free to walk through. There is also a museum on the property where you can learn about the people who owned the grounds before they died. The iconic giant windmill is also there. This park is perfect for pictures because the background will always be perfect.
This is definitely a town you must visit at least once in your life, but you’ll want to go more than once. I personally recommend going on the Fourth of July. Their firework show is spectacular from beginning to end. Everyone is incredibly nice there and the town is rich in history. Not only can you experience the hills of Illinois, Galena is also very close to Iowa and Wisconsin. Visit three different states on this one vacation and be prepared to be amazed by the scenery.
“Home Alone” House
(Warning: People do currently live in the house, so please do not disrupt or ruin the property in any way. Go and see it, snap a picture to make people jealous, and then leave). The address of the actual home from “Home Alone” is 671 Lincoln Ave., Winnetka, Ill.
Illinois State Museum
The museum is located in Springfield and offers residents and visitors of Illinois tons of information about the state. They currently have four permanent exhibits, one being a play area for kids, and seven temporary exhibits.
Abandoned since 2002 due to safety issues, it was featured in the iconic movie “Blues Brothers” towards the beginning. The city of Joliet has restored the surrounding area into a park for families to receive all the information you need. Though you are not allowed inside, the city does want to make it into a museum. Once you are done walking around, enjoy lunch in their picnic area.
Kuipers Family Farm
This little farm in Maple Park offers so much fun for visitors. Go during fall and you can go apple picking from a variety of different trees and enjoy their Halloween fest. Go to their store and buy delicious donuts and apple cider. During winter, you can buy freshly grown Christmas Trees.
The best lake out of all five great lakes. Spend a day at North Avenue Beach and pretend you are swimming in an ocean in California. Bury your friends, fight the waves, and build sand castles with your siblings. Whatever you choose to do, you are guaranteed to enjoy Lake Michigan.
Matthiessen State Park
This is a beautiful park in Oglesby that will provide an entire day of fun. If you enjoy photography and hiking, this place is definitely for you. It is right by Starved Rock, but I personally prefer this one. Go through caves, walk on logs over the water, go under waterfalls, and get your feet wet. There is so much to see because the land is different everywhere you go.
Naperville is a big town, so no doubt there is a lot to do there. Go to Downtown Naperville-again make sure to go to Anderson’s Bookshop, take a swim at Centennial Beach, relive your childhood at Odyssey Fun World, take a walk at Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve, relive your childhood once again at the DuPage Children’s Museum. If you go during the winter, make sure to take their Christmas Lights Trolley Tour. By going here, you will get a sense of why this was voted as America’s safest city in 2015.
This outdoor mall in Oak Brook will lure in the second you drive in their parking lot. Everywhere you go, there is something to do. When you do go, make sure to go to Stir Crazy. It is a restaurant that you get to pick all of the ingredients in your meal and they grill it up for you. If you love skin care products and bath bombs, check out Lush. They have everything you need for all types of people. Though expensive, I can guarantee you will not leave empty-handed. For when you need a snack later on, get cookies at Mrs. Field’s and coffee from Stan’s Donuts.
Honestly, there’s really nothing to do here. I just like the name of it, and I was young when my family went for the weekend. If you do go though, visit Hy-Vee. It is a grocery store where everything is basically discounted. You will be disappointed you don’t live by one because it will change your life. Also, Peru is right by Starved Rock, so you can take a trip down there while you are here.
As you’re going off to college, you may never go to places from your past again. The Harold Hall Quarry is probably going to be one of these places. Make sure to jump off the diving boards, race your friends in swimming laps, do a flip off the high dive, and bury yourself in the sand one last time the summer before you leave. Trust me, you will regret not going that one time you had the chance but chose to binge watch a show instead.
Known as Illinois’ largest waterpark, Raging Waves is located in Yorkville. It provides enjoyment for all ages and all type of thrill levels. They have a lazy river, body slides, tube slides, and an area designed for children. Go for a day with your friends, eat their popcorn chicken, and soak up the sun.
Starved Rock State Park
This is another gorgeous state park in Oglesby. Though similar to Matthiessen State Park, it does not provide a place for you to walk on water. If you are going to go here, I recommend going to both in the same day. If you spend too much time at one, stay at Starved Rock Lodge and go to the other one the next day. You will be glad you did!
The Little Traveler
An adorable house-looking store in Downtown Geneva. They have everything you need in this one store. They have holiday decorations, garden accessories, food, drinks, candy, tea, purses, clothes, shoes, jewelry, toys, and a little cafe. If you need to find a gift and don’t know where to look, this place is for you.
These are one of the towns that literally no one ever talks about, but it is actually pretty cool. The most popular attraction it has is the Illinois Railway Museum. This is America’s largest railway museum and has many different types of trains. If you are not interested in trains, but still want to make a trip out to make someone that likes trains happy, they do provide free days. Union also has Donley’s Wild West Town. This is technically designed for children under 12, so make sure to grab your younger cousin and pretend you totally aren’t going for yourself. The town makes it seem you are like a real cowboy by providing attractions and old western activities.
Volo auto museum
Trust me, I know how weird it can sound to go to a museum and have to pay to see cars when you see them everywhere you look for free. The Volo Auto Museum is actually worth the price and the drive to get there. C’mon take your car to see cars! They have every type of transportation on wheels plus some extras. Whether you enjoy Disney, history, or arcade machines, this place is for you. How many people can say they met Lightning McQueen? Exactly.
I’m sure you have all heard of this since it’s that one tall skyscraper in Downtown Chicago. If you love heights, this place is for you. Experience Chicago 1,353 feet up in the air on the Skydeck. This is a glass box that pokes out of the building and looks as if you’re standing on the city. If that does not sound like an awesome time, you can always go up to the 103rd floor and look out the windows to still experience the city. If you absolutely hate heights but still want people to know you have been inside the Willis Tower, they do have restaurants and a gift shop on the main floor.
The great thing about Illinois is everything they do for the holiday seasons. Even if you do not celebrate Christmas, driving around seeing how insane people can get and experiencing how much time rich people have on their hands is always a great time. Go to the city and see everything decorated, go on the Naperville Lights Trolley Ride, take your family and drive them to a house that has lights that go along with music, or drive through a light show like the Mooseheart Holiday Lights.
Yellow brick road
Experience Wizard of Oz in Chicago. The park was created to showcase the author who lived in the city and told the neighborhood children his many stories. Follow the Yellow Brick Road through Oz Park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and see statues of the Wizard of Oz characters. There is also a playground and many sports courts that are free to the public to use.
Zion State Beach
The Illinois Beach State Park provides enjoyment for everyone of all skills. You can go swimming, hiking, fishing, and camping in the 6.5-mile long nature area. Enjoy Lake Michigan in one of the only beach shorelines left in Illinois. No matter where you live in Illinois, this is worth every second of the drive and you will want to take your kids and then their kids with you.