30 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Chicago - Narcity

30 Spontaneous Day Trips That Are Less Than 3 Hours Away From Chicago

Add these to your summer bucket list ASAP!

Now that summer is upon us, that means it's officially road trip season! The weather is nice, and there's no time like the present to get outside and make the absolute most of it before winter hits again.

Sure, there's plenty to do in Chicago. But if we're being honest, sometimes you just want to get out of the city and see what else the world has to offer you. Lucky for you, we've scoped out some seriously amazing spots that are just a short drive away!

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Next time you're feeling spontaneous, hop in your car, pack some food, maybe a beach bag, and some hiking shoes! Pick one of these amazing destinations to visit, and have the time of your life making memories with your friends:

1. Check out the canyons of Starved Rock State Park

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Starved Rock Park has been named the #1 attraction in Illinois, so it's definitely worth checking out at least once or twice! There are more than 15 canyons to be explored, as well as multiple hiking trails for you to venture on!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 35 minutes


2. Explore the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens

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If you want to go on an adventure without really leaving the state, the Nicholas Conservatory is the perfect option! It's got over 11,000 square feet of tropical plants, flowers, and trees just waiting to be explored! It's also a great spot for an impromptu photoshoot.

Time from Chicago: 2 hours


3. Have a picnic in Cantigny Park

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If you're looking for the perfect spot to take a date, or even just hang out with friends on a hot summer day, we highly recommend you try Cantigny Park! There's three miles of trails to be explored, as well as a 27 hole golf course among other amazing things!

Time from Chicago: 40 minutes


4. Take some photos of the Anderson Japanese Gardens

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If you're looking to up your IG game, the Anderson Japanese Gardens is the place to go! Whether you snap some pictures of the scenery or strike a pose or two, you'll definitely end up with some amazing shots!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 40 minutes


5. Soak up the sun at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

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A day at the beach is just a short road trip away! The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore boasts 15 miles of beach, as well as 50 miles of trails for those of you who want to do some adventuring!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour


6. Admire the beauty of the Chicago Botanic Garden

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There's so much beauty to admire in the Chicago Botanic Garden, you probably won't want to leave! It's home to more than 30 unique gardens which you can explore via walking or bike trails! Don't forget your camera!

Time from Chicago: 35 minutes


7. Go people watching in Oak Park

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Oak Park is just a brief drive from Chicago, and is known as being the home to "free thinking rebels and risk takers". The city prides itself on its diversity of all sorts, including ethnic, religious, and socio-economic! Definitely, the perfect place to lay down a blanket and do some people watching!

Time from Chicago: 15 minutes


8. Learn more about Dutch culture in Holland

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Holland, Michigan, that is! Holland is home to some seriously beautiful sites, particularly in the month of May when the Tulip Time Festival is going on. During the other months though, there's still plenty fo amazing Dutch culture to soak up!

Distance from Chicago: 2 hours and 30 minutes


9. Visit the South Bend History Museum

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If you're fascinated by culture, the South Bend History Museum is definitely worth a visit. The Museum isn't the only spot that should be on your radar though! People also recommend checking out the Farmer's Market.

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 30 minutes


10. Check out the small town vibes of Cedarburg

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Cedarburg is one of those quaint, small towns that make you forget about life for awhile. If you need somewhere to explore when you're feeling stressed out, we recommend you come here to take a stroll, and grab some delicious local food!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 20 minutes


11. Go floating down the Kankakee River

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Floating down the river is a favourite summer activity for many, so why not make a trip to the Kankakee?! Grab all your friends, and hop in a boat or on a floatie and spend the day soaking up the sun on the water!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour


12. Try the craft beer in Grand Rapids

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Who doesn't love a cold drink on a hot summer day!? It's no secret that Grand Rapids has an insane craft beer scene, and we highly encourage you to check it out! Fan favourite spots include Brewery Vivant and Founder's Brewing!

Time from Chicago: 3 hours


13. Go rafting down Oglesby's Vermillion River

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If you want an experience that's full of adrenaline, head down to the Vermillion River in Oglesby! Here you can go white water rafting over 14 rapids for just $30! Reservations are recommended, but the experience is worth every penny!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 30 minutes


14. Have a beach day in Michigan City

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We may not be able to get to California in under 3 hours, but we can get to Michigan City, and that's close enough! Pack a towel, some SPF, and snacks, of course, and make the trip down for an epic beach day with your squad!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 10 minutes


15. Go boating on Lake Geneva

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Lake Geneva is the perfect vacation spot for a weekend getaway.Geneva Lake is practically begging for you to go boating, kayaking, or paddleboarding, and there's plenty of historical sites and amazing food to be enjoyed as well!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 30 minutes


16. Explore the canyons of Matthiessen State Park

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By far one of the coolest places that Illinois has to offer is Matthiessen State Park. The waterfalls and canyons offer a great refuge from the summer heat, and not to mention they're seriously stunning to look at!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours


17. Explore the museums of Madison

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The city of Madison has so much to offer culturally. It's home to both the Chazen Museum of Art as well as the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art! Apart from museums, you can also visit the Olbrich Botanic Gardens or dine at one of over 600 restaurants.

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 35 minutes


18. Go for a bike ride around Crystal Lake

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Crystal Lake is a gorgeous little spot that's definitely worth a visit! Take your bike along with you to explore the town while you ride, or pack some running shoes so you can walk through and take in all the gorgeous sites.

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 40 minutes


19. Check out the University of Illinois Arboretum

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The University of Illinois isn't just for studying, it's also home to a gorgeous Arboretum that you NEED to check out! It's particularly great in the summer when most of the uni students have gone home and things are a lot quieter.

Time from Chicago: 2 hours


20. Get away from the busy city in Evanston

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Evanston is a lot like Chicago, it's just more laid back and lowkey! If you want to get out and explore the city, but don't want to deal with the crowds or noise, we recommend you head to Evanston for a similar, more relaxed experience.

Time from Chicago: 50 minutes


21. Admire the Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids

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If you're a big fan of contemporary art, and the great outdoors then you'll absolutely love the Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Take a walk around and you'll come across so many IG worthy shots, better not forget your camera!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 55 minutes


22. Spend a weekend relaxing at Elkheart Lake

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If you're planning a weekend getaway, Elkhart Lake should definitely be on your radar! You can enjoy a weekend of soaking up the sun on the beach, boating, or if you're feeling extra adventurous, you can check out the Road America race car track!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 35 minutes


23. Go on a hike through Kettle Moraine State Forest

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There's nothing quite like a hike to help clear your mind! Kettle Moraine State Park boasts some amazing hiking trails and camping spot, so you can make a weekend out of your day trip if you want!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 20 minutes


24. Conquer the Glacial Drumlin State Trail

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Whether you choose to walk, run, rollerblade, bike, or anything in between, the Glacial Drumlin State Trail is a great spot to get some cardio in! Challenge a friend to conquer it with you, or pop in your headphones while you run to take a break from the outside world.

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 50 minutes


25. Visit Apple River Canyon State Park

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Apple River Canyon State Park is a hidden gem that many people tend to forget about. It's a great spot for hiking, fossil hunting, wildlife watching, and fishing, among other things!

Time from Chicago: 2 hours and 20 minutes


26. Taste the restaurants of Beloit

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Beloit is known for their insane restaurant scene so if you're looking to REALLY treat yourself we recommend you make the drive out there and find some new favourite spots!

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 45 minutes


27. Tour the breweries of Milwaukee

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Even decades after its peak, the Milwaukee brewing industry is still alive and well! If you're looking for a place to grab a drink in this city, you'll find one on basically every street corner! 

Time from Chicago: 1 hour and 35 minutes


28. Go on a nature walk through Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

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Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is home to 19,000 acres of nature. With all that land to explore, you better get started ASAP! Go animal watching, take a stroll, or bring your bike; your options are limitless.

Time from Chicago: 1 hour


29. Visit the Indianapolis Zoo

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What better way to spend a day than with a trip to the zoo? Hop in your car, pack some snacks, and make the journey to the Indianapolis Zoo in White River State Park! While you're there you can also visit Victory Field and the NCAA Hall of Champions.

Time from Chicago: 3 hours


30. Feel the adrenaline at Six Flags Great America

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It may not be Disneyland, but it's still a ton of fun! Six Flags is just a short drive from Chicago, and it's the perfect place to make memories this summer! As one of the best-known theme parks in the country, there's definitely no shortage of things to do and see.

Time from Chicago: 1 hour

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Hayley Hynes content creator + hedgehog mom + third year journalism student at mount royal university. i have an affinity for rap music, pop culture, makeup, fashion, writing, animals, travelling, and much more. i’m not a kardashian, but you can keep up with me @hayleyhynes 🌻