Spring break in Illinois means great weather and plenty of free time to explore exciting areas. From seeing a young T. Rex in Rockford to soaring in a hot air balloon over Galena and riding a paddle-driven riverboat in Peoria, fun and adventure await you at every corner in The Prairie State. Book a stay at one of numerous Illinois vacation rentals today. Without further ado, take a look at the top spring break getaway spots in Illinois.

1. Chicago

chicago skyline

Chicago overflows with spring break fun. Tour the Field Museum to see mummies from ancient Egypt, or watch the Chicago Bulls run at the United Center. See the city from atop the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, or ride the “El” Red Line to Chinatown, tour the exciting neighborhood, and try Peking duck at La Beijing. At Sarah’s Pony Rides in Willow Springs, about 20 miles southwest of Chicago, treat everyone to horseback trail rides. Back in the Windy City, feast on deep-dish pizza from Gino’s East, and savor cheesesteaks and hand-packed ice cream at Taurus Flavors, favorite food destinations of local residents for decades.

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2. Rockford

dinosaur fossil at burpee museum
Source: Flickr/EarlRShumaker

Two hours northwest of the Windy City, Rockford offers Chicago-style activities at lower prices. Take the family to the Burpee Museum of Natural History for hands-on experiences, life-sized Native American dwellings, and to see Jane, the world’s largest juvenile T. Rex. Kids love the Discovery Center Museum, full of interactive exhibits about science, sports, and the human body. Midway Village Museum is rich in Rockford history, including a replica of the village in the 1800s and the history of the sock monkey. While in town, catch an IceHogs game for thrilling ice hockey, and eat at a Beef-A-Roo, locally famous for burgers, shakes, and cheese fries.

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3. Peoria

peoria il
Source: Flickr/CinCool

Situated on the Illinois River, Peoria, Illinois, offers plenty of spring break activities. Stroll through the downtown Riverfront District, or see the sights on a Segway or a Quadracycle from World on Wheels Peoria. Explore the Smithsonian-affiliated Peoria Riverfront Museum, and ride the river on the Spirit of Peoria, an old-fashioned paddle-wheel riverboat. At the Caterpillar Visitors Center, self-guided tours let you custom-design a Cat and experience a virtual ride in a Cat 797 mining truck. Kids love the Peoria Zoo and the Peoria PlayHouse, a children’s museum featuring interactive art, science, and music exhibits. Chow down on great breakfast burritos with verde sauce at Cafe 401, and get fired up over made-from-scratch wood-fired pizzas at Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro. Premium ice cream treats at Emack & Bolio’s satisfy everyone’s craving for something cold and sweet.

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4. Galena

galena il
Source: Flickr/Chad Horwedel

Spend spring break in Galena, and get an overview of the area on a heated trolley with Tri-State Travel Trolley Tours. Visit the home of President Ulysses S. Grant, picnic in Grant Park, and take a leisurely walk through its charming downtown. Experience Galena on the Fly, an awesome hot air balloon ride, or for thrills on the ground, drive up to Chestnut Mountain and see the rushing Mississippi River. Perfect your short game at the Galena Golf Club, and stop by Galena Cellars Vineyard, which offers warm apple cider on cold days. Chat with locals at Otto’s Place while enjoying grilled ham and cheddar cheese sandwiches, homemade cinnamon rolls, and great views of the town.

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5. Ottawa

lincoln douglas debate site fountain
Source: Flickr/Richie Diesterheft

A charming downtown, scenic parks, and plenty of outdoor activities await in Ottawa, Illinois, near Starved Rock State Park. Rent bikes at The Bike Shop in Ottawa, and ride to view the art sculptures in Allen Park or the Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debate site in Washington Square Park. For fun on the water, rent a canoe and gear from C & M Canoe Rentals and paddle down the Fox River. Spend a day on the links at Dayton Ridge Golf Club and enjoy a meal at the Clubhouse Bar & Grill, or get a disc and gather the family for disc golf on the free nine-hole course at Fox River Park. Enjoy indoor roller-skating fun at Paramount Skating Arena. At mealtime, enjoy a casual breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Sunfield Restaurant, which features menus for kids and seniors. Call ahead for carryout to enjoy at your Ottawa vacation rental.

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6. Moline

biking along ben butterworth parkway
Source: moline.il.us

Home of the John Deere Company, Moline sits along the Mississippi River with plenty of spring break activities. Visit the John Deere Pavilion downtown, and engage with a hands-on tractor and machine exhibits. Experience the mighty Mississippi with your family on a Channel Cat Water Taxi, a pontoon-style open-air boat. Nearby at the Niabi Zoo, see hundreds of animals, ride the Endangered Species Carousel, and take the Niabi Zoo Express, a steam engine replica. Rent bikes at Quad Cities Bike Rentals to see the city, and stop at Whitey’s Ice Cream for shakes like Banana Cream Pie. For dinner, try homemade rigatoni at Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse.

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7. Joliet

old joliet prison
Source: Flickr/Trevis Rothwell

Steeped in history, Joliet is a fascinating spring vacation destination. At the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, visitors step into a lunar landing simulator in the Apollo 11 moon landing exhibit. Travel a paved trail through the historic Joliet Iron and Steel Works, and visit the Old Joliet Prison, featured in “The Blues Brothers” movie and the “Prison Break” TV series. Pilcher Park Nature Center offers an interactive experience with local wildlife, hiking, and biking. Stop hunger pangs with Philly cheeseburgers or Latino burgers and home-cut sweet potato fries at Hamburgerseria. If you love chicken, flock to Chicken-N-Spice for chicken chunks or chicken and waffles.

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8. Champaign

mattis park champaign county
Source: Flickr/bujcich

Visit Champaign, Illinois, and enjoy the variety of exhibits, including Krannert Art Museum’s collections of ancient and modern art. Kids have interactive fun at Orpheum Children’s Science Museum downtown, housed in a converted 1914 theater. Anita Purves Nature Center offers more hands-on activities, while Mattis Park gives you an excellent place for lake fishing and outdoor grilling on a sunny day. If you don’t want to cook, order Denver omelets, loaded potato skins, or Courier Reuben sandwiches at The Courier Cafe before you head back home.

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