Whether you’re visiting Chicago, Illinois or already living in the renowned metropolis, you should know there’s no shortage of exciting things to do. When you want to escape the city’s hustle and bustle to reconnect with your sweetheart, there are a variety of quaint destinations within a five hours’ drive from Chicago. After settling into your Chicago vacation rental, take a short trip to one of these fantastic nearby cities and towns for the weekend.
With more than 40 parks in the city, Bloomington offers you the chance to get out and breathe in the fresh air on a romantic picnic. This area was once settled by the Kickapoo Native Americans, and you can learn more about them while in town. Stop by the David Davis Mansion that was built in the early 1800s for a tour of this Victorian home. Climb to new heights together at the Upper Limits Climbing Gym. This climbing facility is in an old warehouse offering towering spaces, and you can encourage each other as you climb together. At the Miller Park Zoo, you can get a little wild when you see some of the rarest big cats in the world, including the Amur Leopard.
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Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Alton is a small town, where the two of you can reconnect and enjoy a slower pace of life. This town is famous for two things: being the birthplace of jazz player Miles Davis and the location of the final debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas before the presidential election. The Alton Museum of History and Art looks at the town’s history, including these events, along with a selection of artwork from regional artists. Avoid the crowds and spend some time alone at the Audubon Center at Riverlands, where you can enjoy a picnic lunch and hike the trails while using binoculars to spot the various bird species.
Soak up the sunshine and breathe in the fresh air at one of Rockford’s green spaces that cover more than 20,000 acres or along one of the four rivers that run through and past the town. Rock Cut State Park rents kayaks so the two of you can explore the hidden shores and find the perfect spot to steal a kiss. On a rainy afternoon, stop by the Burpee Museum of Natural History to see the fully assembled skeleton of a T-Rex. To learn more about life in the past, Midway Village is a living museum. Here, the staff dress in period costumes and demonstrate how pioneers completed daily chores.
Spend a weekend in Galena appreciating the gorgeous historic homes, with many of built in the French Colonial, Greek Revival, and Italianate styles. In town, almost 80 percent of the homes and buildings are historic in some way and date back to previous centuries. For a brief period, former American president Ulysses S. Grant called this town home. Mississippi Explorer Cruises at Chestnut Mountain Resort offers an afternoon out on the water on an old-fashion paddleboat. Spend an hour or so exploring the two-acre West Street Sculpture Park with its metal sculptures from a local artist.
Northwestern University calls the trendy little town of Evanston home. With a younger crowd, the historic downtown area has a trendy feel with cozy cafes, trendy eateries, and a bar scene that’s open almost around the clock. While in town, check out the Grosse Point Lighthouse that first shone its light in 1873. Below the lighthouse, Lighthouse Park offers a green space to spread a blanket and have a picnic or just admire the view. Let your romance blossom as you smell the flowers in the Merrick Rose Garden when you visit during the spring months. For a romantic dinner, The Stained Glass restaurant has a prestigious wine list and offers seasonal meals that use the freshest ingredients.
Spend a weekend in the state’s capital and birthplace to America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. On Friday afternoon, take a tour of the Illinois Capitol Building to enjoy the beauty of this stately building where laws are made. Two other must-sees are the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to learn more about this past statesman. Just so your entire weekend doesn’t include Lincoln, stop by the Dana-Thomas House. This gorgeous home was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright who struggled to balance nature with homes. Have dinner in a contemporary setting at Indigo Restaurant with its menu that includes favorites from around the world.
Sitting on a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River, Quincy is the perfect spot to unwind and rekindle your romance. With its prime location on the river, this area was a popular stopping spot along the Underground Railroad before and during the American Civil War. On your way into town, stop at the visitor’s center, Villa Kathrine. It’s a Moroccan-styled manor home that offers stunning views of the Mighty Mississippi from its position on the bluff. The Downtown Quincy Historic District is the place for strolling in the day with its collection of historic buildings, locally owned boutiques, and upscale restaurants.
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