Leave your busy life behind and enjoy some downtime during the Thanksgiving holidays in Illinois. This Midwestern state boasts large bustling cities, such as Chicago and Joliet, and small towns, which includes Moline and Belleville. These towns celebrate the holidays with fantastic food, seasonal events and ceremonies, as well as vibrant Thanksgiving Day Parades. Visit the malls in Peoria to take advantage of great Black Friday deals. Numerous vacation rentals in Illinois put you within easy walking distance of many of these festivities. Here’s a quick peek at the nine best Thanksgiving getaways in Illinois.

1. Chicago

view of downtown Chicago
Source: Flickr/Roman Boed

The Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade through the center of the city finds you with your head thrown back gawking at the massive cartoon balloons with some of them rising 60 or more feet into the air. Tap your toes as the marching bands go by and wave at the people on the floats. Finally, your kids squeal in delight as the float with Santa and his reindeer cruises by you. Enjoy your holiday meal at the Palmer House Hilton in the Lockwood restaurant with its traditional turkey dinner.

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2. Bishop Hill

Bishop Hill night life
Source: Flickr/Mia & Steve Mestdagh

Enjoy a low-key turkey day and get a jump on your Christmas shopping when Bishop Hill is your vacation destination. Starting the day after Thanksgiving and running through the weekend, the town hosts the Julmarknad Christmas Market. Throughout town, the stores offer special sales on handmade items, and characters from Swedish folklore stop you on the street. Stop by Colony School for the Holiday Cookie Walk, where you pick up freshly baked cookies from the local families, make sure to pick up extra to eat back at your vacation rental.

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3. Alton

overlooking Alton Bridge
Source: Flickr/Paul Sableman

Alton provides you with the chance to work off those extra calories with the Great River Road Run. This yearly run starts early in the morning and offers the option of a 2 mile or 10-mile run. Stretch your legs as you quickly cover the miles to the Great River Road and back. Stay for the weekend and enjoy the opening days of the Christmas Wonderland. In Rock Spring Park, more than four million lights twinkle in a rainbow of colors while the sound of jingle bells ring in your ears.

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4. Galva

stunning fall colors spreading over the countryside
Source: Flickr/Swallowtail Garden Seeds

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, Galva is the place to be for the Ol’ Fashion Christmas. The Galva Arts Council hosts the Ol’ Fashion Christmas annually to give local artists from a variety of mediums, including dance, music, and theater, to showcase their talents. Stop by the Art Council’s building to check out the Galva’s Mini-Tree Festival with numerous artfully decorated wreaths and trees, and then enjoy a communal meal with all your favorites, including drink and dessert.

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5. Rockford

Illinois State University marching band
Source: Flickr/William Murphy

In Rockford, you’re going to have to be up and ready early the day after Thanksgiving for the annual Stroll on State. This yearly festival begins with a parade down State Street. Marching bands, dancers, Floats, and Santa Claus prance their way down the street to adoring fans. Afterwards, take the kids by Santa’s Workshop to visit the big guy and admire all the handmade decorations. Black Friday shopping is always a possibility for early risers with the large selection of shops from locally-owned to upscale chain stores.

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6. Champaign

marching band on the street
Source: Flickr/Shinya Suzuki

Your Champaign vacation rental places you in the center of some fun early holiday events over the long Thanksgiving Weekend. On Friday, check out the Season of Lights at the Planetarium and learn more about the history and cultural difference of holiday customs from around the world. Start off the Christmas season with Friday’s Christie Clinic Annual Parade of Lights with multi-colored floats featuring holiday themes. There’s a Kris Kringle Kids’ Scavenger Hunt and a horse-drawn carriage to take your family around the square.

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7. Effingham

Source: Pixabay/filmDASH_OKC

Break out your running shoes and burn off your Thanksgiving day meal at the Effingham Turkey Trot. This fun 5K run starts at the Effingham Performance Center and brings you all the way to the Effingham Park District. Enjoy the Hometown Holiday Show at Johnny and June’s with live music and a highly respected music act that changes each year. Sign up for the Heritage and Holly Tour, where you ride around viewing, and in some cases, touring some of the historic homes.

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8. Aurora

walking through a corn maze
Source: Flickr/Jim, the Photographer

Unwind over the long holiday weekend in Aurora and check out the Thanksgiving Farm festival. Watch as turkeys stroll by you and see all of the farm animals in their cages. At this local farm, try to find your way to the center of the corn maze and back out again. Kids love making their own candles at this event. Eat Thanksgiving Day brunch at the Hound Blue Moon with its complete selection of your Thanksgiving favorite or deviate with a pasta dish.

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9. Peoria

skyline behind the river
Source: Flickr/tujabro_99

In Peoria, you don’t have to cook at your vacation rental with so many restaurants open on Thanksgiving, including Famous Dave’s with its buffet and Jim’s Steak House. Order tickets for the Thanksgiving Weekend Comedy Explosion to watch some of the best acts and laugh until you feel like your sides are going to burst. The Chocolate Turkey race is a 3-mile run to get your blood pumping and some great swag.

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