Day Trips From Chicago: 11 Family-Friendly Ideas Near The Windy City

Chicago, Illinois. The Windy City. The third-largest city in the USA. Home of the Chicago Cubs, incredible architecture, deep-dish pizza, and Al Capone (to name a few).

The city is a place Chicagoans and visitors truly treasure. A Midwest hub for business, art, music, and more, there is a reason that the big city is home to almost 3 million residents.

Whether you are having a road trip through the area or planning a weekend getaway with the family, Chicago has almost endless options when it comes to family-friendly day trips for any occasion. From brewpubs (with sodas for the kids) to waterparks, lakeshores, and dunes, check out our favorite day trips from Chicago.

11 Best Day Trips From Chicago

1. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Nestled 45 miles away on the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan near Michigan City, the Indiana Dunes National Park is composed of recently-reclaimed Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The park features 15 miles of the southern shores of the lake, 50 miles of trails, rugged dunes, wetlands, prairies, forests, and rivers.

2. Milwaukee

For a quick getaway from Chicago, drive 92 miles north to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is ideal for a fun adventure, craft beers, and lakeside attractions for a half-day or a weekend. Favorite interests in Milwaukee include the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Harley-Davidson Museum, and notable brewing companies like Lakefront Brewery, Miller Brewing, and Milwaukee Brewing Co.

3. Madison

A fantastic idea for a day trip from Chicago is to spend a weekend from the city is to take the 3-hour drive to Madison, Wisconsin. With Lake Mendota and Lake Monona bordering the town, Madison is an excellent place for boating, kayaking, and having some fun in the sun.

4. Starved Rock State Park

If you are looking for a way to spend the best day, head to Starved Rock State Park. Explore the hiking trails to seasonal waterfalls, spend a day rafting or fishing on the Illinois River, and partake in other outdoor activities!

5. Rockford

Situated just under 2 hours from Chicago, Rockford offers a beautiful getaway full of gardens, museums, and historic sites. Enjoy a trip to the 12-acre Anderson Japanese Gardens, rated one of North American's best quality Japanese gardens. Or take the kids to the Discovery Center Museum. You can even check out Frank Lloyd Wright's Laurent House.

6. Apple River Canyon State Park

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Located near the Wisconsin border in the hills of northwest Illinois, Apple River Canyon State Park presents springs, streams, wildlife, and incredible limestone bluffs. You can camp, hike, hunt, picnic, and hike on the miles of trails.

7. Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright is a celebrated architectural and design figure and an icon of the Chicago and Wisconsin area. His works live on through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and his timeless buildings that still stand. While you can find most of his works in Chicago, you can also take day trips to discover more of his legacy. Head to Oak Park and River Forest for the annual Wright Plus Housewalk or take a Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio tour.

8. Matthiessen State Park

Just outside of the small town of Oglesby in central LaSalle County, you can visit Matthiessen State Park. An outdoor hub for geologists, nature lovers, and those looking to escape the city buzz, Matthiessen is an excellent option for a weekend of camping, hiking, or even horseback riding.

9. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

A 2-hour drive from Chicago, Lake Geneva offers a lakeside haven with trails, spas, ziplining, unique shops, and fabulous restaurants for the foodies in the group. If you visit between mid-April to mid-May, you can catch the Richardson Farm Tulip Festival, where 5 acres and 300,000 bulbs tulips feature an incredibly colorful array for you to enjoy!

10. Six Flags Great America Waterpark

For a day of rollercoasters and water rides, plan a day at Six Flags Great America and waterpark in Gurnee. There is something for all ages at this exciting theme park, from thrill rides to family rides to experiences to kids rides.

11. Holland, Michigan

Nestled on the shores of Lake Macatawa in Michigan, Holland is home to the famous Big Red Lighthouse, Holland State Park, and Windmill Island Gardens. You can witness more tulips in bloom at the May's Tulip Time Festival or explore Holland's Dutch roots for a day trip from Chicago.

Did we miss any memorable Chicago day trips? Please share your favorite on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!

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