As the days grow shorter and the temperatures begin to cool off, Labor Day weekend is the one last hurrah of summer, as well as the perfect time for a holiday weekend trip with your family or friends. Whether you enjoy touring art museums or spending a restful day fishing on a dock, there’s something for everyone in this Midwestern state. Staying at an Illinois vacation rental puts you close to the most exciting attractions in big cities and small towns, depending on your preference. Here’s a look at the most notable Labor Day weekend getaway spots in Illinois.
Thrive amid the hustle and bustle of Illinois’ largest city, Chicago. Take advantage of the beautiful weather with a day at the iconic Navy Pier. Ride the rides and walk down to the end of the pier to watch the boats. Walk around Millennium Park, and see the Cloud Gate, a massive sculpture shaped like a bean with reflective surfaces for a unique look at the cityscape. Kids love the small Lincoln Park Zoo and the interactive farm exhibits.
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Small town life awaits your family in Quincy, which sits partly on a bluff along the Mighty Mississippi River. In the afternoon, walk around the Downtown Quincy Historic District to see the stunning buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Villa Kathrine, a Moroccan-style manor home is the town’s welcome center and offers stunning views of the river from the bluff. Take a tour of the Quincy Museum to learn some local history and get a look inside the stunning Romanesque mansion.
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Springfield is both the capital city and the birthplace of American president Abraham Lincoln. Learn more about this famous president at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum before taking a tour of the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. In town, you can see one of the homes designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Dana-Thomas House. Explore the city on foot by booking a tour through Springfield Walks. This group offers several tours based on your family’s interests, but all are led by a knowledgeable guide.
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Evanston is a college town with a young and hip vibe perfect for a family with kids. Pack up a picnic lunch at your vacation rental, then take the family to Lighthouse Park. With wide open green spaces, this park sits in the shadow of the Grosse Point Lighthouse that was built in the 1870s. Take a tour of the Charles G. Dawes House that has more than 20 rooms. If the Dawes name sounds familiar, he was vice president to Calvin Coolidge.
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Plan on doing a lot of walking along tree-lined sidewalks when you book a vacation rental in the small town of Galena. This town was once a booming mining town, and today, more than 80 percent of the area downtown features historic French Colonial, Greek Revival, and Italianate buildings. Book an afternoon out on the water with the Mississippi Explorer Cruises at Chestnut Mountain Resort. This old-fashion paddleboat meanders along the water, giving you plenty of time to spot birds, raccoons, and deer on the shores.
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Offering more than 20,000 acres of parks and four rivers, Rockford is a large city with plenty to offer the outdoor lover. Step back in time to Illinois’ pioneering past at the Midway Village. This living museum features staff members dressed in period costumes carrying out life in the far past. At the Burpee Museum of Natural History, you can almost hear the fearsome roar of the T-Rex as you gaze at the assembled skeleton.
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Explore the great outdoors on the last days of summer in Alton, a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River. The city’s history includes two significant events: the last debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas ahead of the presidential election of 1858 and the birth of jazz legend Miles Davis. Breathe in the fresh air and use binoculars to spot all the different species of birds at the Audubon Center at Riverlands.
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Once home to the Kickapoo Native Americans, Bloomington offers great outdoor pastimes with more than 40 parks in the city. Take a tour of the Miller Park Zoo to see some of the rare big cats, including the Amur leopard and the Samaritan tiger. Learn more about the aviation industry at the Prairie Aviation Museum, and walk past some exciting military jets. Don your sturdy shoes to go hiking on the Constitution Trail.
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Located on the shores of the Illinois River, Peoria is a vibrant city, and your vacation rental comes with amazing views. Learn more about the stars at the planetarium in the Peoria Riverfront Museum, then take a walk around the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden with the river as a backdrop. See the trees in a riot of fall colors at the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden, and go hiking at the Wildlife Prairie Park to catch sight of buffalo.
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In downtown Champaign, walk through the historic district and check out the art deco buildings. Kids love the Anita Purves Nature Center with its hands-on exhibits and nature-themed play area to learn more about the environment. Head over to the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum for more fun. While the kids check out the interactive exhibits, the adults can marvel at the architecture of the building that used to be a vaudeville theater.
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