Chicago, Illinois is packed with fun attractions, many of which are free! But as it turns out, there are also lots of weekend getaways from Chicago too.
People love visiting Chicago because it has so many large buildings and such a wide variety of attractions. But if you live there, it all probably seems like old news. So, a weekend getaway is just what every Chicago resident needs!
Where Should I Go for a 3-Day Vacation?
If you live in Chicago, anywhere within four hours is a great choice for a 3-day vacation. The perfect option for you and your family depends on what type of activities you enjoy.
For families that love action-packed adventures, tourist destinations like the Wisconsin Dells, Milwaukee, or Indianapolis might be your best bet. However, if you’re looking for a trip that’s more relaxing or laid-back, then places like Lake Geneva, Galena, or Rockford might be better options.
Here are 12 fun weekend getaways from Chicago that the whole family can enjoy.
#1 – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Milwaukee is another major city only an hour and a half away from Chicago. Of course, it’s not as big as Chicago, but it still has lots of historical buildings, fun attractions, and beautiful views of Lake Michigan. The city is full of one-of-a-kind museums and lots of parks and trails. Plus, Wisconsin is a state known for beer, so you’ll find lots of bars and brewery tours if that’s what you’re interested in. If you visit in the summer, you might also want to catch some of the big festivals, such as SummerFest and the State Fair.
#2 – Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana
The Indiana Dunes National Park is located in Michigan City, Indiana. It’s only an hour away from Chicago, and it’s a nice change of pace from the busy city. The park consists of 15,000 acres along the shore of Lake Michigan, and it’s a gorgeous outdoor getaway. It has miles of trails that pass wetlands, forests, prairies, and gardens. There’s an endless amount of space to explore, and it’s the perfect trip if you love spending time outside. Nearby, you’ll also find lots fun things to do, such as a zoo and a historic mansion.
#3 – Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is another city near Chicago that’s more populated than Milwaukee. It’s one of the best weekend getaways from Chicago because it has attractions that appeal to all ages. It’s home to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the Indy 500 takes place. It also has a popular children’s museum, art museum, and zoo. Plus, this city has lots of outdoor places to explore, such as parks and monuments. It’s almost three hours by car, but it’s worth it for the wide variety of attractions you’ll find.
#4 – Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Lake Geneva is a hidden treasure in Wisconsin that’s only an hour and a half away. Unlike Milwaukee, Lake Geneva is more peaceful, but still has plenty of interests for tourists. It’s a town situated along a lake, so there’s a beach, boat rentals, and a 26-mile trail along the water. The cute downtown area is full of local shops and restaurants, and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even go ziplining. While this area is best visited in the summer, it often features an amazing ice castles event in the winter.
#5 – Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Dells is likely the biggest tourist area in the state. It’s known for its indoor and outdoor waterparks, but there’s no shortage of other things to do there. Some of the popular attractions include boat rides, magic shows, haunted houses, zoos, golf courses, museums, games, shopping, and more. Plus, there are endless dining options. It’s considered an excellent family-friendly vacation because there’s something for everyone to enjoy. It’s just under three hours from Chicago, so your family should visit at least once.
#6 – Galena, Illinois
If you’re looking to stay in the state, Galena is one of the best weekend getaways from Chicago. It’s a historic downtown area that sits along the Mississippi River, and it’s just under three hours away. It’s known for its gorgeous nature sights and adorable downtown area. It also has the best ski mountain in Illinois, so you should consider visiting in the winter too. Many of the buildings in this city have a historic charm, so it gives off a much more relaxing vibe than Chicago.
#7 – Madison, Wisconsin
Wisconsin’s capital city is the second most populated city in the state after Milwaukee. It’s about two and a half hours from Chicago, and it has lots of charming features that visitors will love. The capitol building is sure to be one of your stops while you’re there, and you can check out lots of museums and historic buildings while you’re nearby. Madison is also home to many other unique attractions, including a large botanical garden space and several art museums. Best of all, the city is along the water of two lakes.
#8 – Rockford, Illinois
Rockford is Illinois’ third largest city, but it’s often overlooked by travelers. It’s about an hour and a half away, and it’s a much more peaceful experience. It’s known for its restaurants, public gardens, and cultural attractions. Some Rockford attractions you’ll want to check out are the Japanese Gardens, the art museum, and a ziplining course. Without as many busy streets, it’s much easier for Chicago natives to enjoy themselves during their weekend trip.
#9 – Gurnee, Illinois
Gurnee is one of the best weekend getaways from Chicago if you’re looking for something very close by. It’s just under an hour away, right by the Wisconsin border. It’s a smaller area, but it’s popular for one reason: Six Flags! It has lots of fun hotels nearby, so many will visit to spend a day or two at Six Flags. It also has the Gurnee Mills mall, which is a large shopping center that’s full of unique shops, restaurants, and other attractions. If you love rides, shopping, and hotels with waterparks, this could make a great weekend adventure.
#10 – Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids is just under three hours away from Chicago, but it’s a popular Michigan location. In fact, it’s the second largest city in the state. Like Milwaukee, it’s famous for beer, so bars and breweries are essential during your visit. It also has some more family-friendly attractions too, such as a zoo, sculpture garden, and a downtown market. It has the perfect balance of indoor and outdoor activities, so you’ll have a great time no matter when you visit.
#11 – Harbor Country, Michigan
Harbor Country might be smaller than Grand Rapids, but it’s much closer. It’s just over an hour away from Chicago. It’s made up of eight towns, all of which are considered charming and relaxing. Plus, it’s along Lake Michigan, so it’s known for its beaches and luxurious places to stay. Warren Dunes State Park is also a popular attraction in the area that visitors love to explore. Harbor Country even has lots of wine tasting and other alcohol options, so you might need to have a little time away from the kids.
#12 – Door County, Wisconsin
Door County is four and a half hours away from Chicago, but it’s the definition of a relaxing vacation. It takes up the 70-mile peninsula of Wisconsin, so it’s surrounded by water. Door County is full of nature sights and historic attractions. You’ll find lighthouses, harbors, wineries, cherry orchards, coves, and other quaint attractions. It gives off an adorable small town vibe while still having plenty of things to do. So, if you’re hoping to kick back and relax during your trip, Door County is the place for you.
What Cities in Michigan are Close to Chicago?
Michigan might look close to Illinois on the map, but most major Michigan cities are still a long drive away. Some of the closest Michigan destinations are about an hour and a half away since you need to drive across Indiana to get there. However, you can travel to Michigan for weekend getaways from Chicago if you don’t mind long drives.
Here are some Michigan cities close to Chicago:
- Benton Harbor – 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Niles – 1 hour, 45 minutes
- South Haven – 2 hours
- Paw Paw – 2 hours
- Portage – 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Kalamazoo – 2 hours, 30 minutes
- Battle Creek – 2 hours, 30 minutes
Most of these Michigan cities aren’t big tourist destinations, but they’re somewhat close to Chicago. The best weekend getaway in Michigan is Grand Rapids, which is about three hours away.
Is Chicago Good for Tourists?
Yes, Chicago is a great destination for tourists. It’s one of the most populated cities in the United States, and it has a wide range of attractions for all ages. While Chicago residents might be looking for a weekend destination outside of the city, there are plenty of families who would love to come visit.
What Food is Chicago Known for?
Chicago is famous for its delicious deep-dish pizza. Lou Malnati’s is known as the best place in the city to try this tasty delicacy. There are plenty of other foods labeled “Chicago-style,” but none of them are quite as iconic as deep-dish pizza. Of course, Chicago has a wide variety of restaurants with foods for everyone in your family to enjoy.
What is the Most Famous Thing in Chicago?
Chicago isn’t known for only one thing. Instead, it’s a city of many landmarks. Some of the most iconic things in Chicago are the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and “the Bean.” Of course, many visitors are drawn to its many educational attractions too, such as the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum.
Where Do Celebrities in Chicago Live?
Big cities are often popular places for celebrities to live. While you probably won’t run into them during your trip, there are a few celebrities that live in Chicago. Also, some of them only live in the city part-time.
Here are a few famous celebrities in Chicago:
- Kanye West
- Jenny McCarthy
- Jennifer Hudson
- John Cusack
- Steve Harvey
This is just a short list of celebrities who currently have homes in Chicago. There are many others who have lived there in the past, such as Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama.
Of course, the addresses for most of these celebrities’ homes aren’t public. Yet, it’s cool to think that you’ll be within close proximity to some famous individuals.
Can You Do Anything in Chicago Right Now?
With COVID-19 ruining everyone’s 2020 plans, it’s difficult to decide where to safely travel on vacation now. Luckily, most Chicago attractions are now open again and most restaurants are welcoming guests to dine in. However, many locations may still require masks, even with the vaccine. So, check the city of Chicago’s rules and mandates before planning your trip. Since Chicago is a more populated city than more areas of the U.S., they need to be extra cautious.
Where Should I Not Go in Chicago?
Like most cities, Chicago has some areas that aren’t as safe as others. While they’re not among the city’s major attractions, it’s still a good idea for tourists to know where they are.
Here are a few Chicago neighborhoods to avoid:
- West Garfield Park
- Washington Park
- East Garfield Park
- North Lawndale
Of course, many people still live in these areas, but they’re known for having the highest crime rates. So, be cautious around these areas if you’re a tourist.
What is the Nicest Beach in Chicago?
You don’t have to leave Chicago to have a relaxing weekend. There are lots of beaches in Chicago since it’s along Lake Michigan. By planning a beach day, your whole family can have a mini vacation right near your home.
Many consider North Avenue Beach to be the nicest beach in Chicago. It’s located on the beautiful shores along Lincoln Park, so it’s easy to access and great for all ages. It has a unique curved shape, clear sands and water, and a beach house along the shore.
What is the Most Kid-Friendly Beach in Chicago?
Most beaches are welcoming of kids, but the most kid-friendly Chicago beach is likely the Oak Street Beach. It’s just south of North Avenue Beach, so it has a similar appearance and feel. There’s also plenty of food and entertainment within walking distance.
However, those aren’t the only great beaches in the city. Here are some other notable beaches in Chicago:
- Ohio Street Beach
- 12th Street Beach
- Rainbow Beach Park
- Margaret T. Burroughs Beach
- Kathy Osterman Beach
- Montrose Beach
It might be tempting to leave Chicago when looking for a vacation, but Chicago is great for some time away too. Not only does it have a lot of popular attractions, but it has lots of beaches to relax at. So, if you don’t have time for a road trip, consider having a trip with the family right there in your home city.
Planning Your Getaway
Of course, Chicago is fun! But it’s okay to want a change of scenery. These 12 weekend getaways from Chicago are fun and a great change of pace. Some are different city settings while others are more for a relaxing experience. There are plenty of fun places in every direction from Chicago, so don’t be afraid to check them out when you have some free time.