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The 5 Best Day Trips From Chicago

The 5 Best Day Trips From Chicago

Picture of Elizabeth Newhart
Updated: 30 August 2016
You may call Chicago home, but it doesn’t hurt to branch out and visit a new town every once in a while. This list of perfect Midwest day trips involve less than three hours of driving from the Windy City – and the chance to make an afternoon escape or a well-deserved weekend getaway.

Milwaukee, WI

It may seem like the obvious choice, but Milwaukee offers an entire city’s worth of attractions to the day-tripper at just 90 minutes from Chicago – and its status as the largest city in Wisconsin means you won’t soon run out of things to do. In July it welcomes Summerfest, the largest music festival in the country, and throughout the fall you can enjoy its many concert venues, museums, brewing companies and college campuses for days filled with endless activities. Try MillerCoors, the Pabst Theater or Marquette University for an enlightening afternoon.


Milwaukee River, courtesy of Wikipedia

Milwaukee River | © Wikipedia

South Bend, IN

Gear up for fall in the best way by heading 90 minutes east to South Bend for a Saturday of Notre Dame football. The feeling of rich history coincides with an infectious buzz about campus during home game weekends, making Notre Dame a bucket-list destination. Fans have flocked to the stadium for over one hundred years, and this year will surely be no different with the upcoming 2016 home season kicking off on September 10th; the University of Nevada will be its inaugural opponents. Notre Dame is technically adjacent to South Bend but has become the biggest attraction of the area. On a non-game day, explore the town and visit the Studebaker National Museum or the Morris Performing Arts Center.

Notre Dame Stadium, courtesy of Wikipedia

Notre Dame Stadium | © Wikipedia

Springfield, IL

If you grew up in Illinois, there’s a good chance you took a field trip or two down to the state capital to learn about Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. government. But no matter how many times you have or haven’t been, it’s always worth a visit. Springfield is a small town that has witnessed so many important American historical events, and it’s roughly only a three-hour drive from Chicago. Be sure to check out the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois State Capitol building. And if you need a break to process all the history you’re learning, reflect during a walk through the 100-acre Lincoln Memorial Garden.


Illinois State Capitol, courtesy of Flickr: Patrick Emerson

Illinois State Capitol | © Patrick Emerson/Flickr

Madison, WI

There’s a lot in Madison that makes it more than just a busy college town. It’s certainly worth a visit to the university’s campus for beautiful views of fall foliage and college football, but Madison also speaks to your nature-loving side. You can arrive in just under three hours and choose between a bevy of activities. Try renting two wheels and cycling around this bike-friendly town. Or take a kayak out on Lake Mendota to soak up the remaining summer air. To cap off your day, wander around downtown and stop in at the Memorial Union Terrace after taking in a show at the Overture Center for the Arts.

Madison, courtesy of Pixabay

Madison | © Pixabay

Holland, MI

Celebrate America’s Dutch heritage by visiting Holland, Michigan for a little taste of rest and relaxation. It’s become a classic lakeside vacation town, meaning it will work for your day trip or your planned week off with the family. At just two-and-a-half hours from Chicago, you will nevertheless feel like you’ve escaped to the getaway of your dreams. Holland is popular in the spring for its annual tulip festival, but it maintains a year-round appeal. Take a stroll around Nelis’ Dutch Village to experience authentic highlights straight from the Netherlands, such as a wooden shoe factory and cheese shops.

Holland, courtesy of Wikipedia

Holland | © Wikipedia