What to see near Chicago, Usa
Forest preserves are prevalent on the far north, northwest, and southwest sides, and into the nearby Chicago land suburbs. They are excellent for biking, jogging, picnics, and various outdoor activities.
Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL is an outdoor stadium that hosts several sporting events and concerts including the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer. It is located on Harlem Avenue south of the Stevenson Expressway/Interstate 55. An express bus runs from the Midway station on the CTA Orange Line on event days.
The Brookfield Zoo, which is Chicago land’s other world-class zoo, is located in nearby Brookfield, IL. Though not accessible via the CTA, the Hollywood station on METRA’s Burlington Northern line is 2 blocks away. It is located on 31st Street close to the Eisenhower Expressway/Interstate 290.
Evanston is over the northern border of Chicago. In addition to Northwestern University, the city has a vibrant downtown area, some historical homes scattered about, and a lovely lakefront. Just beyond that is Wilmette, with the fascinating Baha’i Temple. Both suburbs are accessible via the CTA Purple Line.
The Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL is a 385 acre garden featuring 25 display gardens, four natural habitats, and 2.5 million plants. Though not accessible by the CTA, the Braeside station along METRA’s Union Pacific North line is nearby. It is located on Lake Cook Road near the Edens Expressway/Interstate 94 and US Route 41.
In the same category as the Chicago Botanic Garden is the Morton Arboretum in western suburb of Lisle, IL. It hosts over 186,000 catalogued plants, the largest restored Prairie in Chicago land, 16 miles (26 km) of hiking trails and nine miles (14 km) of roadways for driving/bicycling on 1700 acres. The Lisle station on METRA’s Burlington Northern line is about 2 miles away.
Naperville has a wonderful and trendy downtown area. It boasts numerous restaurants, shops, and a river walk.
Schaumburg is the shopping hub of Chicago’s Northwest Suburbs. Its home to one of the top 10 largest malls in the United States, Woodfield Mall, and has a wide range of shopping and entertainment offerings. It is located off of the Jane Adams (I-90, Kennedy from O’Hare Airport to Chicago) about 15 miles northwest of the Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
Oak Park was the home of architecture legend Frank Lloyd Wright. The village boasts many houses that were designed by him and his home and studio are now a museum. Walking tours to see his designs are a must for anyone who appreciates architecture. The museum and beautiful downtown Oak Park are located near the Oak Park CTA Green Line station or not too far from the Eisenhower Expressway/Interstate 290.
Ravinia is the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The arts and crafts style architecture coupled with a dazzling array of acts make this a classic summer destination for Chicagoans and tourists. Bring food, a blanket, wine, and a citronella candle; buy anything you forgot on-site. The Ravinia Park station on METRA’s Union Pacific North line stops at the park gates and a return train waits for late-ending concerts. It is located on Green Bay Road about a mile from the Edens Expressway/Interstate 94 and US Route 41.
Six Flags Great America has the biggest and wildest roller coasters in Illinois. It is located off of Interstate 94 in Gurnee.
Historic Galena, is great for hiking, sightseeing, and antiquing. Drive here in just over 3 hours via Interstate 90 and US Route 20.
Peoria is in some ways a miniature Chicago. It is located about 3 hours southwest of Chicago via Interstates 55 and 74.
Springfield is the Illinois state capital and a city closely tied to Abraham Lincoln. This final resting place of the 16th president of the United States is located about 3 1/2 hours south of Downtown Chicago on Interstate 55.
Starved Rock State Park, defined by its numerous canyons and waterfalls, sits on over 2600 acres. It is located near the junction of Interstates 39 and 80, about 2 hours southwest of Downtown Chicago.
The Quad Cities bridge the Mississippi River forming a unique metropolitan area on the border of Iowa and Illinois. They sit about 3 hours west of Downtown Chicago on Interstates 80 and 88.
The Indiana Dunes are a moderate drive away, and are also accessible via the South Shore commuter rail. If you’ve enjoyed the beaches in Chicago, you owe the Indiana Dunes a stop — that’s where all the sand came from. Taking the Skyway/Interstate 90 to the Indiana Toll Road is the easiest way to visit.
Gary is just over the border on the Skyway, with a skyline that rivals Chicago’s for strength of effect — industrial monstrosity, in this case — with casinos, urban ruins, and a few entries by Prairie School architects Frank Lloyd Wright and George Maher. You can drive to Gary on the Indiana Toll Road/Interstates 80/90.
South Bend is about a two hour drive to the east or a simple ride on the South Shore from Millennium Station. It is most famous as the home of the University Of Notre Dame but also has a history as the location of former automobile manufacturer Studebaker. Another half an hour drive east to Elkhart County will land you in Northern Indiana Amish country. Both are accessible via the Indiana Toll Road/Interstates 80/90. The South Shore terminates at the South Bend Airport.
Indianapolis is about a three hour drive southeast of Chicago and is worth a visit if you have time. Just follow Interstate 94 to Interstate 65.
Also just over the Skyway (before you reach Gary) is East Chicago’s bizarre 19th century planned community, Marktown, which looks like a small English village totally incongruous with the gigantic steel mills and the world’s largest oil refinery which surround it.
Further along the lake from the Indiana Dunes are Michigan’s dunes and summer resorts in Harbor Country. Keep your eyes open because notables such as former Mayor Richard M. Daley, University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer, and others summer here. This region, well-known for its wineries and fresh fruit, is about an hour and a half drive from Chicago on Interstate 94.
Saint Joseph & Benton Harbor are two towns about 2 hours northeast of Chicago. St. Joseph sits on a bluff that overlooks Silver Beach State Park and Lake Michigan. The view will knock your socks off – especially at sunset. St. Joseph has numerous shops and various festivals throughout the summer. It is easily accessible via Interstate 94.
Grand Rapids is the second-largest metro area in Michigan and is home to a thriving craft beer industry. Annual festivals such as ArtPrize and Laugh Fest draw thousands to the area. Additionally, many great restaurants and activities populate this growing city and Lake Michigan’s picturesque beaches are only 30 minutes away. Take Interstate 94 to Interstate 196.
Detroit has many of Chicago’s most hated sports rivals. Although it has fallen on hard times, it has a musical and architectural heritage comparable to the Windy City. It is a little over 4 hours away on Interstate 94.
Lake Geneva, across the Wisconsin border, is the other big summer getaway. Nearby are the Kettle Moraine state parks, with good mountain biking.
Madison is located about two and half hours from Chicago on I-90 and via Van Galder buses. It is a vibrant city home to the giant University of Wisconsin and is known for its lively downtown, thriving culture, and beautiful scenery.
Milwaukee and its venerable breweries are less than two hours from Chicago on I-94, via Amtrak, and by intercity bus services.
Spring Green is an easy weekend trip from Chicago, about three and a half hours from town on I-90. It’s the home of two unique architectural wonders: Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent estate Taliesin, and Alex Jordan’s mysterious museum The House on the Rock.
The Wisconsin Dells are another (wet) summer fun destination, just three hours north of the city by car (I-90/94), also accessible by Amtrak train.
Cedarburg is a popular festival town with a charming downtown featured on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located 20 miles north of downtown Milwaukee. Take 1-94 to Milwaukee and continue north on I-43.