The perfect Illinois Pit Stops for the Explorer in you

As you may know, I love to find all the little pit stops along my travels. Well, I compiled a list of my favorite Pit Stops throughout the state of Illinois. Enjoy!

Pit Stops in Northwestern Illinois

Galena

Just take a look at those 19th century buildings! Holy crap…

Galena is great for literally anyone who likes the outdoors. The list is endless when it comes to things do do here.

An adventurers dream! You can speed through the streets on a segway or race down an Alpine slide. There is Hot Air Balloons, Shopping, Historical sites, Distilleries, and horseback riding… Just to name a few! I suggest spending as must time as you can seeing all there is to see and do, no matter what the season. It’ll be a trip full of adventure, for sure!

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Visit the twelve acre garden known as the Anderson Japanese Gardens, located in Rockford, Illinois. Walking through this garden is like walking through a huge life size Zen Garden. I have no words for the views you will see while here. It is truly amazing!

You have the option to walk through yourself, or take a guided tour. Either way is sure to impress!

All that being said, get your cameras charged up for this one!

Pit Stops in Northeastern Illinois

Fabyan Windmill

Check out this working Dutch Windmill located in Geneva, Illinois. Tours are free but donations are appreciated. The windmill has some awesome history and the views are just as great. This is a must-do stop if you’re in the area. This windmill sits up on a hill and has views that are to die for!

Starved Rock State Park

Canyons and waterfalls, trails, fishing, wildlife, and plants. You get it all here at Starved Rock State Park. This is an Adventurer’s dream!

For those of you who like to spend some time at wineries and breweries, this State Park hits the mark for you as well!

Chicago

If you have not spent at least a day exploring Chicago, you should! I am not kidding, there are so many fun things to do here!

There are always events happening, so you are bound to catch some fireworks from the Hancock Building, or a festival of some sort during the warmer months. Not only that but there is also plays and the Shedd aquarium, which are must do’s when in Chicago.

If you are like me and love the sand between your toes, spend the afternoon laying on the Beach of Lake Michigan or hop on a boat tour from Navy Pier.

Got the kiddos? There is the Lincoln Park Zoo which is a hit for the little ones as well as the animal lovers.

Pit Stops in Western Illinois

Nauvoo

You name it, Nauvoo has it! A sure spot to spend an entire day exploring more and more!

History and temples, shows and live music, shopping, a ton of kids activities, as well as wine, walking and history tours. There is something for everyone!

Pit Stops in Central Illinois

Springfield

Abraham Lincolns Tomb – Make sure to rub his nose for good luck!

If you are driving through Illinois, Springfield is pretty much as must. It is the Capital of Illinois, so you know the History is very rich here. Springfield is also the Home of Abraham Lincoln, before moving to the White House as our 16th President of the United States. Not only did Abraham and his family live here, but they almost all were buried here at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Abraham Lincoln’s Home

I have spent a ton of time in Springfield and I always find more things to do! It is also home to several parks and trails, as well as a portion of the world famous Route 66.

Pit Stops in Southwestern Illinois

Grafton/Alton

Another of my favorite pit stops in Illinois for sightseeing, plus you get great views all year around! Eagles migrate through Grafton and Alton in January each year so if you know where to look, you can see the most beautiful bird in the world, the Bald Eagle. In fall you get the most incredible views of the colorful trees on the cliffs of the Great River road on one side, and a view of the ginormous Mississippi River on the other.

Alton is home of the World Famous Fast Eddies Bon Air, and the most beautiful victorian style homes I’ve ever seen. A drive through the neighborhoods will take you back in time!

If you take a pit stop through Grafton, be sure to visit Pere Marquette State Park! The views, are once again, ahhhhmazng. Plus they have the Pere Marquette Lodge which is a great lodging spot as well as has an awesome restaurant and shop. Oh, can’t forget about the kids! Pere Marquette Lodge has a huge, life sized, chess board right in the center of their enormous lobby!

Want to read more about other Grafton and Alton Pit Stops? Click here!

Cahokia Mounds

This is personally one of my favorite sites on the list. I have been multiple times throughout my life. Cahokia Mounds is a pre-Columbian native american city that once spanned 6 square miles. The city is home to 120 man made mounds of many shapes, sizes and functions. The ancient city now spans across 3.5 square miles and is considered a National Historic Landmark and protected by the state of Illinois. The mounds are incredible in themselves, but the history of this place is a history buff’s dream!

Carlyle Lake

Sail Boating on Carlyle Lake

This is the largest man made lake as well as the largest lake wholly contained in the state. The lake is managed for flood purposes so the depth varies throughout the seasons.

The lake is great for boating, fishing and a ton of sailing. Carlyle lake filled with sailboats on a summer Saturday is a most beautiful sight! I am fortunate enough to have spent many days on the lake and many nights sitting outside the beautiful glass sailboat marina, listening to a few locals singing and strumming a guitar around a fire.

Pit Stops in Southeastern Illinois

Olney

Home of the White Squirrels!

Olney, Illinois is a great pit stop to enjoy early morning or late afternoon, this is when you are most likely to see one of the white squirrels that reside here. They are very loved and well protected here.

Olney also has a lot more to offer, such as East Fork State Park trails, and history, lakes and parks. If you are a Bass Fisherman, you better check out one of the several Bass Tournaments hosted here every year!

Pit Stops in Southern Illinois

Shawnee National Forest

The things to do here are endless, and the views are to die for! If you’re in the area, this is a pit stop you need to make! This is a place the entire family will enjoy. The history buffs, sightseers, the hikers, fishers, and hunters. The campers and horseback riders, rock climbers, and wine-os. Pack a day pack and a picnic basket and hit the road!

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods is actually located inside Shawnee National Forest but I wanted to put it into its own category because it is a Pit Stop all in itself!

It is an uplifted sandstone plateau that is morphed very steep and high in Garden of the Gods. There are awesome rock formations here, such as Buzzards Point, Anvid Rock, Camel Rock and Table Rock.

Cave-In-Rock State Park

Next to Cave-In-Rock, formerly named Cave and Rock, lies the bank of the Ohio River. It is also located in Shawnee National Forest, but I really feel this Pit Stop deserves a spot of its own just as the previous did.

Learn about the rich history of the town, as well as of the River Pirates that used to hideout here. From the views to the history, this is a perfect place to spend an afternoon!

There you have it! I hope this has helped you find a few adventurous Pit Stops to make while driving through Illinois! If you have been to any of these places or aspire to go to any of these places, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!


Are you traveling through Iowa anytime soon? Check out this post on 10 Pit Stops on a road trip through Iowa.

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