3 Fantastic Day Trips from Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, also known as the “Windy City,” is a bustling metropolis located in the heart of the Midwest. With its iconic architecture, world-class museums, and diverse cuisine, there is no shortage of things to see and do in Chicago. However, sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and that’s where day trips come in.

Fortunately, the area surrounding Chicago offers a wealth of opportunities for fun and adventure, from scenic drives to quaint small towns to outdoor adventures. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best day trips from Chicago, whether you’re looking for a relaxing escape or an action-packed excursion. So pack your day bag, fill up your gas tank, and get ready to explore the best that the Midwest has to offer!

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kenosha, wisconsin

3 Fun Day Trips from Chicago, Illinois

Even though there are a ton of things to do in Chicago, from visiting beautiful Lake Michigan and the variety of outdoor fun, to more unique things like taking a Chicago haunted tour sometimes you just want to get away for a day or a weekend. Here are a few day trip ideas that are under a 2-hour drive from Chicago.

Whether you are a local or on vacation, these are a few of the best day trips from Chicago.

Kenosha, Wisconsin Day Trip from Chicago

Kenosha North Pier Lighthouse

Also established on Lake Michigan, Kenosha has a charming downtown right on the water and is just a train ride away from Chicago. Most of the main attractions can be reached by walking or public transportation from the station, making this an easy day trip from the city.

Electric Streetcar in Kenosha

Electric Streetcar in Kenosha

Once you’re there, hop on a vintage electric streetcar for a unique introduction to the area.
Kenosha operates seven refurbished electric streetcars on a scenic 2-mile loop passing along the shoreline, Metro Station, downtown, and Harbor Walk.

Vertical green “streetcar” signs designate the pick-up locations and can be easily spotted.

Museums in Kenosha

Dinosaur Discovery Museum

There are five interesting museums in Kenosha to choose from and three of them are affiliated with the Smithsonian.

Even though it’s fascinating for adults, if you are traveling with kids, the Dinosaur Discovery Museum is a must. It is the only museum to focus on the link between prehistoric dinosaurs and modern-day birds with one of the most complete known fossil records. The life-size replicas will grab anyone’s attention.

The Civil War Museum is another must-do. The museum focuses on the perspective of the American Civil War from people in seven Midwest states. The exhibits examine what the average citizen’s mentality was before, during, and after the war. A 360-degree movie makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time right into the action.

The third Smithsonian affiliated museum is the Kenosha Public Museum, where you will discover the largest and most complete wooly mammoth skeleton in North America. The museum has over 80,000 pieces within its exhibits, including 1,200 works in the fine arts collection and interactive displays on Native American culture.

The Southport Light Station in Kenosha

Southport Light Station in Kenosha

Originally built in 1866 and replaced in 1906, the Southport Lighthouse guided mariners along the water when entering Wisconsin from Chicago.

Today, it is a seasonal attraction. You can climb the 72 steps to the top of the 55-foot lighthouse from May – October (must be 8 or older).

The Light Station keeper’s house, which landed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now a maritime museum. Visitors learn about Kenosha’s harbor chronicles, with information on its lighthouse keepers, and shipping and commercial fishing history.
Other Things to Do

Take a stroll along the harbor on the Sculpture Walk where you’ll pass dozens of creative artwork pieces and get a fantastic view of the North Pier Lighthouse, the iconic bright red lighthouse that overlooks Lake Michigan. If you want to get out on the water, charter a fishing boat or glide on a sailing excursion.

Getting to Kenosha from Chicago

Kenosha is a little over an hour’s drive from Chicago. Metra also operates a direct train departing five times a day from the Chicago OTC station which takes 1h 42m.
The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park, Illinois

Lemont Day Trip from Chicago

Just 29 miles outside of Chicago, is the new Forge Outdoor Adventure Park. Built around multiple former dolomite quarries and covering roughly 300 acres, the adventure park is a one-of-a-kind experience. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors and burn off some calories.

Forge Outdoor Adventure Park

Forge Outdoor Adventure Park
Photo courtesy of Forge Outdoor Adventure Park

Eight Towers Adventure

The largest aerial challenge course in the country, Eight Towers Adventure, is an adventure alright.

Five stand-alone towers, three of which are the tallest climbing, rappelling, and ziplining towers in the United States, connecting 15 aerial adventure trails with 2 miles of ziplines. This place is an adrenaline junkie’s dream!

Tactical Laser Tag

If soaring through the treetops isn’t your thing, check out the state-of-the-art tactical laser tag arena.

It’s not your typical laser tag scenario here, as you take cover and snipe your enemies outdoors with a realistic military-grade replica laser gun.

Mountain Biking

Equipped with exhilarating ramps and hairpin turns, the mountain bike skills course challenges beginners and experienced riders alike.

You can bring your own bike or rent one from the park.

Other Things to Do in Lemont

The massive park has a wide range of other activities for every age: climbing walls, yoga classes, bouldering areas, hiking trails, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and other seasonal activities like ice skating and forgefire globe dining. They also offer adventure dining, a beer garden, and a live music and event venue.

Getting to Lemont, Illinois from Chicago

Traveling to Lemont from Chicago can easily be done by car (under a 40-minute drive) or by train. Take the Heritage Corridor line from Union Station to Lemont and walk 8 blocks down Main Street to your destination.

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana Day Trip from Chicago

Indiana Dunes National Park

Did you know there’s a national park just an hour’s drive from Chicago? Nestled along 15-miles of sandy beaches on Lake Michigan, the newly designated Indiana Dunes National Park is the ideal day trip to let the hustle and bustle of the city melt away.

3 Dune Challenge

Indiana Dunes National Park

The 3 Dune Challenge, a 1.5-mile trail, is a fun way to explore Indiana Dunes National Park. Don’t let the “short” 1.5 miles fool you though, it’s tough in the sand!

The trail starts out at the Nature Center, winds through a forested area with steep slopes – almost 40 degrees in some parts – to breathtaking views that look out for miles. On the hike, you’ll conquer a trio of dunes topping two hundred feet above lake level: Mt. Tom, Mt. Holden, and Mt. Jackson.

1933 Chicago World’s Fair Century of Progress Homes

On the eastern edge of the park, five Century of Progress homes dot the shoreline. The modern houses were built for the World’s Fair which was held in Chicago from 1933 to 1934.

Technological innovation was the theme and the homes were meant to speak to the future of architecture. They demonstrated new designs, experimental materials, and ground-breaking technologies such as central air conditioning and dishwashers.

The forward-thinking homes are impressive when you consider they were designed almost a century ago.

The Beach at Indiana Dunes National Park

There are a few beaches available within the park. West Beach has the biggest parking lot and best facilities as far as a shower house, restrooms, concession stand, and picnic tables. It’s a great spot to spend the day.

If you are looking for a quieter day in the sand, head over to Kemil Beach, Lake View Beach, or Dunbar Beach. None of them have concessions so make sure to bring lunch with you.

Tip: Arrive early in the summer if you want to increase your chances of getting a parking space.

Getting to Indiana Dunes from Chicago

Indiana Dunes is under 50 miles from Chicago and by car is the easiest way to get there. Another option is by train. The South Shore Line runs from downtown Chicago to South Bend, Indiana with a stop right at the entrance to Indiana Dunes National Park. From there, you can ride the free Green Shuttle around the park.

Best Get Your Guide Chicago Tours & Day Trips

  1. Chicago Food Tasting Guided Walking Tour and sample some of Chicago’s favorite foods including pizza, hot dogs, Italian beef, and pastries.
  2. Chicago: Gangsters and Ghosts 2-Hour Walking Tour and discover Chicago’s darker side as you walk through the famous Chicago Loop district.
  3. Chicago River Architecture Cruise and discover more than 40 structures and hidden architectural gems.   

More About Chicago

Check out our picks for the Best Breakfast in Chicago. Wondering what to after your day trip? How about a Bike Ride Around Chicago? Or check out our list of the Top Things to Do in Chicago!

If you haven’t booked your accommodations, check out these 6 Cool and Unique Airbnbs in Chicago.

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