Illinois is a diverse and exciting Midwestern state home to numerous sunny beaches and lakes, which includes Lake Michigan. Look forward to visiting state parks and spending the day hiking and biking. If you’re into fine arts, head to Chicago and other large metropolitan cities to admire renowned artwork. Book a stay at one of many Illinois vacation rentals for your upcoming summer getaway. Check out the top cities and towns in Illinois.

1. Chicago

Chicago

Looking for a summer getaway in the big city? Book a vacation rental in Chicago, a place that offers something for everyone. One of America’s largest cities, Chicago is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, and sandy beaches along the city’s eastern edge offer opportunities for swimming, picnicking, and other summertime fun. After a day at the beach, head over to Guaranteed Rate Field to watch the White Sox or Wrigley Field to see the Cubs.

Millennium Park is one of the top destinations here. On a warm evening you can stroll through the park and view impressive modern sculptures, including the iconic, photogenic Cloud Gate, more popularly known as “The Bean.” During the summer months the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Chorus delights audiences with performances of Beethoven, Mozart, and other masters in the parks’ outdoor Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

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2. Springfield

Springfield

Abraham Lincoln was born in Springfield, which makes this town a favorite destination of U.S. history buffs. Springfield is also a great town to take the kids during their summer break to giving them a first encounter with history. Be sure to stop by the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Lincoln’s Tomb, and the Lincoln Presidential Library.

Springfield is on the historic Route 66, and the highway’s classic-style diners are a great way to grab a quick bite in establishments that hearken back to the “good ole days.”

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3. Rockford

Rockford
Source: Flickr/vxla

Summer is perhaps the best time to visit the “City of Gardens,” because it is then that numerous kinds of beautiful flowers bloom throughout the city. The Anderson Japanese Gardens and Sinnissippi Gardens are a couple of the delightful gardens you can visit to see both native and exotic plants. Numerous trails in the city offer ample opportunity to walk, bike, or simply sit in the shade to escape the sun.

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4. Bloomington

Bloomington
Source: Flickr/Mike Maehr

Bloomington is a the perfect choice for vacation rentals if you want to combine city attractions with quaint country scenery. This central Illinois city is home to Illinois State University and its accompanying University Galleries, where you can spend some time strolling past works by Andy Warhol and other modern masters. Among the city’s great dining options is Famous Dave’s. This restaurant offers a real summer treat with its fine barbecue.

If you want to take an evening walk outside before heading back to your Bloomington vacation home, then try Barn Quilt Heritage Trail. Walk the trail past picturesque barns and scenic landscapes to take in the flavor of Illinois’s countryside. Bloomington is also home to a small zoo that is home to seals, lemurs, and big cats.

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5. Quincy

Quincy
Source: Flickr/Joanna Poe

One of the curiosities of this small Mississippi town is the 1930’s Ag Museum, home to dozens of early 20th-century John Deere farm implements. It’s a great place to let the kids experience historic farm machinery. The Washington Square Theater is a historic 20th-century theater with a classic outside look hearkening back to the early days of cinema, and is worth a visit. Enjoy the traditional German architecture of the city by taking a walk along the tree-lined streets.

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6. Galena

Galena

Galen is a small town full of old architecture. The Alice T. Virtue Water Park is the great place to take the kids on a hot afternoon for relaxing pools and water slides. Like Springfield, Galena boasts its own President. Stroll down the historic streets to see the former home of Ulysses S. Grant. Souvenirs are available at the accompanying gift shop.

Galena also offers plenty of good food and shopping destinations. Stop by Campeche Restaurant for authentic Mexican food on an outdoor patio, or try a delicious glass of wine at Galena Cellars Vineyard.

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7. Peoria

Peoria

Head to Peoria for a vacation on the picturesque banks of the Illinois River. This city is the home of Caterpillar, Inc., and the accompanying Caterpillar Visitor’s Center features displays of old machine equipment and educational videos suitable for all ages. Kids and adults alike can get up close to white rhinos, giraffes, and tigers at the Peoria Zoo.

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8. Makanda

Makanda
Source: Flickr /David Wilson

Makanda is a prime summer spot for lovers of the outdoors. Nearby Giant City State Park features interesting sandstone structures, several ponds open to fishing, and hiking trails going deep into the woods. The park allows rock climbing and rappelling, and the on-site Giant City Stables provides guided trail rides.

If you are looking for a more past-paced daytime activity, then zip lining is available through Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Also make it a point to stop by the Makanda Boardwalk to view the works of local artists.

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9. Elmhurst

Elmhurst
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Teemu08

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is one of the highlights of Elmhurst. Rocks and gemstones are the focus of this institution, with the collection featuring mosaics, gemstones, and dioramas. The museum is appropriate for all ages.

For a fun afternoon of shopping, go to the City Center Plaza Fountain area. The fountain offers a welcome place to relax, and numerous gift shops and specialty shops make it easy to buy new gifts to take back to your vacation home.

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10. Alton

Alton
Source: Wikimedia Commons/Illinois2011

Alton is big on scenery with its majestic limestone bluffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi. If you need to spend a relaxing afternoon away from your vacation home, take your car along the Great Rivers Scenic Route to experience gorgeous views of the river. The National Great Rivers Historic Museum is well worth a visit as well, being home to archaeological artifacts and displays relating to the river, its history, and its wildlife.

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