Chicago is an easy day trip from Aurora and seems to have endless options of things to do. Even if it’s cold outside, the amazing museums and world class restaurants will keep you busy and warm. Visit The Art Institute or the Field Museum before heading to Fulton Market for the best restaurants around including Little Goat Diner, Girl and the Goat, Au Cheval, Publican and so much more. Going to Chicago on a nice day? Make sure to visit the famous Cloud Gate aka The Bean and take a stroll along the Lake Shore trail to take in the gorgeous lake.
Schaumburg makes an excellent shopping day trip – visit Woodfield Mall for hours of shopping to your heart’s content. If you have children, check out Legoland and Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground, a free outdoor playground to encourage children to interact with nature. If you don’t have children, then take in a comedy night at The Improv to enjoy local and headlining standup comedians and tasty cocktails that make the night even more fun.
Kenosha is just over the border in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan – it provides a beautiful and quiet lakeside retreat that is only a two-hour drive away from Aurora. This day trip isn’t just about hanging out at the lake though. Kenosha has a fascinating Civil War History museum on the shore, as well as a Dinosaur Discovery Museum which is perfect for those looking to learn a thing or two while enjoying peace and beauty in Kenosha. Don’t forget to stop at the famous Mars Cheese Castle when you drive back to Aurora to load up on local Wisconsin dairy products. Who could ever have enough Wisconsin cheese?
Starved Rock, Oglesby
There are so many state parks in Illinois, but one of the finest is a short drive from Aurora. Drive to Oglesby to spend hours on a beautiful day at Starved Rock. Starved Rock is one of the most stunning places to visit in the Midwest, offering acres of woods and camping grounds. Hike, bike, and picnic in this scenic state park that has plenty to explore. Make sure to visit its steep sandstone canyons that have formed waterfalls that make visitors forget they are in the middle of the Midwest. Bring you camera and binoculars and make this a bird-watching day trip that will end in gorgeous photographs and wonderful memories.
Joliet is an underrated gem for a day trip – there is so much to do in this gorgeous city that is only an hour’s drive from Chicago. Avoid the traffic of Chicago and spend a day in this calmer city that offers casinos, fantastic restaurants and bars, museums and celebrated local history. Bring a camera and have a historical photoshoot in the fascinating Iron Works ruins which have been turned into a public park. Get your kicks on Route 66 while in Joliet by driving down the Joliet stem of this historic road trip route and eating at the delicious Route 66 Diner for classic comfort food. Still feel the need to explore? After you’re done eating head over to the Midewin Prairie for acres of gorgeous grass prairie and free-roaming bison. Joliet has the best of all worlds!
Evanston is a beautiful Chicago suburb that is worth a visit for its beautiful architecture and unique claims to fame. Northwestern University’s campus is in Evanston, which gives this suburb a peaceful college town feel. Evanston has a lot of lakeside green available for picnics, naps, frisbee, dog walking and other outdoor activities. The best thing about Evanston’s relationship with Northwestern University is that plenty of the on-campus museums and programs are open to the public. Explore free art at Mary and Leigh Block Museum and catch one of their film retrospectives which often includes indie, student, foreign and classic films. Visit the many Evanston bakeries for fresh and local sweets like Bennison’s and Great Harvest. No trip to Evanston is complete without visiting the Bahai Temple in Wilmette (just north of Evanston) which is currently the only Bahai Temple in North America. The temple is open for public visits and encourages visitors to walk around in the city’s beautiful gardens.
Much like Joliet, Rockford is an underrated city for tourists that offers as much as Chicago for a cool day trip. Rockford is home to the Anderson Japanese Gardens, a 12-acre Japanese garden that is artistically designed to make visitors feel like they are walking through a zen garden in Kyoto. Come for flower gardens, tea ceremonies, and an opportunity to learn more about Japanese culture in this Rockford gem. A short walk away is the Nicholas Conservatory which has plenty of beautiful plants and butterflies floating around. Feeling hungry after all of this natural beauty? Have a meal at Pig Minds Brewery, the only vegan brewery around, that offers craft brews made in house and several options for vegan burgers and sandwiches.