10 Nature Retreats to Escape Chicago



Saugatuck by Robert Moore from Wikimedia Commons

Chicago has a lot to offer tourists and residents alike, with amazing architecture, wonderful museums, and tons of delicious local cuisine (deep dish pizza, anyone?). However, we could all need a break from the bustle of the Windy City now and then, so we’ve compiled a list of the finest weekend getaways from Chicago.

This weekend travels from Chicago are likely to suit every sort of tourist, whether they’re seeking gorgeous vistas or small-town charm. Our top ten weekend escapes from Chicago are listed below.

1. Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Aurora Canyon Beauty

Aurora Canyon Beauty by B3thedw from Wikimedia Commons

Wander through towering trees to find waterfalls and wildlife at Starved Rock State Park. This park, located on the Illinois River, is situated about an hour and a half from Chicago, making it the perfect choice when you want to trade skyscrapers for the great outdoors for the weekend. In the spring, the waterfalls are especially active, thanks to heavy rains, and in the fall, the leaves turn beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow.

Stay within the state park at the Starved Rock Lodge, or opt to spend the night in nearby Ottawa, a charming little town with restaurants, shops, and more.

2. Indianapolis, Indiana


Indianapolis by Chris Bowman from Wikimedia Commons

Indianapolis, popularly known as “Indy” by locals, is only a three-hour trip from Chicago and provides much to do. Children will enjoy the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo, while sports lovers will enjoy the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Massachusetts Avenue Arts District contains theatres, galleries, and independent boutiques, while the Broad Ripple area provides nightlife, dining, and shopping. History buffs should rent one of the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis Downtown-Union Station’s 1920s Pullman train car accommodations.

3. Saugatuck, Michigan


Saugatuck by tb2bfit from Wikimedia Commons

Summer is the best time to explore this lakeside town, which is less than two hours from Chicago. Relax on the sands of Oval Beach or Saugatuck Dunes State Park, hire a boat and explore the lake, visit local art galleries, or sample the local brews. Rest your head at one of the charming inns or bed-and-breakfasts in town after a day of exploring Lake Michigan’s most beautiful beaches.

4. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva by Dmitry A. Mottl from Wikimedia Commons

Head to picturesque Lake Geneva, about an hour and a half from Chicago, for another local seaside retreat. During the summer, you may swim in the lake, relax on its beaches, and participate in other outdoor activities such as zipline. In the winter, see the Ice Castles, a spectacular display of icicles.

5. Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Milwaukee

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Milwaukee by Asher Heimermann from Wikimedia Commons

Milwaukee, an hour and a half north of Chicago on Lake Michigan, is a city brimming with wonderful museums and even better beer. Milwaukee is home to Pabst Brewing Company and Miller Brewing Company, two of the largest breweries in the United States. Today, you may celebrate the city’s brewing history by sampling these classics or visiting one of the numerous local craft brewers.

The Milwaukee Public Museum is a must-see, including fossils, a European town, a full-scale replica of Milwaukee’s streets in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a butterfly garden, and more. The Milwaukee Art Museum, the Harley-Davidson Museum, and the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory are all worthwhile stops.

6. Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan by Steevven1 from Wikimedia Commons

Indiana Dunes National Park is a fast weekend escape from Chicago that is only an hour away. If you’re short on time, you can even fit it in as a day trip (it’s accessible from the South Shore Line, so you won’t have to drive).

This national park spans 15 miles of Lake Michigan’s shoreline, giving it a great getaway from the city. Hike the dunes, throw a kite on the beach, go horseback riding, or see the Century of Progress Homes from the 1933 World’s Fair.

7. Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s capital city is a little over two hours and a half from Chicago, and it has plenty to offer everyone. The National Mustard Museum and the Sassy Cow Creamery, both located 20 miles from Madison, are also worth visiting for foodies.

Meanwhile, in the summer, outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy kayaking or enjoying a lake tour, and in the winter, snowshoeing. For kid-friendly entertainment, families should visit the Madison Children’s Museum and the Children’s Theater of Madison.

8. Holland, Michigan

Holland Michigan Train Station

Holland Michigan Train Station by Team Traveller from Wikimedia Commons

Holland, Michigan, is a unique weekend vacation spot about three hours from Chicago. The city’s Dutch ancestry is reflected in popular attractions such as the Windmill Island Gardens, De Klomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory, and Nelis’ Dutch Village, which takes their names from a Dutch area.

Another excellent incentive to visit Holland is the annual Tulip Time Festival – millions of tulips have been planted around the country, so come in the spring to see the gorgeous blooms in bloom.

9. Wisconsin Dells


WisconsinDells by Royalbroil from Wikimedia Commons

A weekend vacation to Wisconsin Dells, just a three-hour drive from Chicago, is ideal for a family retreat.

This location, dubbed the “water park capital of the world,” is jam-packed with family-friendly activities including Noah’s Ark Water Park, the country’s largest water park. Take a picturesque boat ride through the Dells or pay a visit to one of the area’s wineries or breweries to unwind.

10. Geneva, Illinois

Geneva, Illinois, is located about an hour outside of Chicago and is ideal for anyone searching for a small-town retreat.

Wander the city, looking for murals and outdoor sculptures, strolling through the Fabyan Forest Preserve, and browsing local, independent stores providing coffee, tea, chocolate, gelato, ice cream, popcorn, baked goods, and more.

A weekend vacation provides a two-day respite as well as the opportunity to meet new and fascinating people. You are not required to meet them again, nor are you have to add them to your Facebook friends list. It’s just great to relate your tale to someone who isn’t familiar with it.