Oh, the Places You’ll Go (but not too far) – Hennacornoelidays presents the Top Covid-19 Friendly Day Trips from Chicago

Want to see the great outdoors but don’t want to fly or spend a night on the road? Live in Chicago? Well we have the guide for you. Although not necessarily the most wild places to go, they are fun and will keep your family outside (where it’s much safer than the scary indoors).

Starved Rock State Park in Winter
Skokie Lagoons (part of the Cook County Forest Preserve)
  1. Starved Rock State Park. Why is Starved Rock the number one destination on pretty much every person’s Chicago-centric nature to do list? Credit the state park’s abundance of sheer cliffs, circling bald eagles and cooling canyons that beg to be explored on a hot mid-western day. Honestly, winter is a better time to go as the crowds are low and the eagles more. One way though to avoid the summer crowds is to park at Council Overhangs which is located near Ottawa. Another pro-tip is to head to Muffy’s Tap for a late lunch/early dinner on their patio before heading home.
  2. Indiana Dunes State Beach. Again, not exactly breaking any ground here as the Dunes have been sucking up the Chicago crowds for generations. Choices on a sunny day are a very crowded beach with very suspect social-distancing going on or hiking one of the park’s many trails which snake around several wetland areas before climbing up the dunes to epic Lake Michigan views. Many of these trails, including the mountainous 3 Dune Challenge, lead directly from the visitor’s center.
  3. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Located on the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant, Midewin offers up a lot of trails that wind in between bison pastures and abandoned military relics which include several small silo looking things once used to store ammo. Trails were filled with bikes last time we were there, but maybe call ahead to make sure this is still a thing (815) 423 – 6370.
  4. Palos Township. Quite a lot to hike here. Our favorite small hike is located adjacent to the Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs. Other nearby hikes include Swallow Cliff Woods North (Palos Hills) which involves many stairs up to a pretty impressive view and then less crowded trails beyond.  Afterwards check out the Imperial Oaks Brewery.
  5. Blue Mound State Park. Even more Midwestern elevation can be found at Blue Mound State Park. Actually not a lot of trails here, but it is really a beautiful spot well worth the three hour drive from Chicago. Make it even more worthwhile and spend a little extra time at the New Glarus Brewery (and if you do, bring me back a six pack of Spotted Cow). Call ahead of time though to see if open (a quick search by me just now suggests that it is not).
  6. Devil’s Lake State Park (a bit north of Madison, WI). More Wisconsin fun can be found here beginning with a “mountain” ringed lake that stays shallow well past the shore line. Things to do include rock climbing (use a guide if you have never done this before), hiking the aforementioned “mountains,” boating and, of course, taking a dip in the lake. Stop for a bite in Madison before heading back to the city.
  7. Kenosha, WI. On the last birthday before the pandemic, my awesome family brought me to Kenosha for the day. Kenosha is a beautiful little town with an even more beautiful and incredibly Frisbee friendly harbor area. Lots of museums too (which even if they are open you should probably skip until a vaccine is developed.) The Kenosha Sand Dunes are a lot more virus friendly to explore but are a bit difficult to find as some of the trail heads are embedded within a small housing development.
  8. North Park Nature Center:  Close to home and a longtime Hennacornoelidays favorite. Opened in 1915, the 160-acre Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium Complex was once one of the country’s largest sanitariums back when tuberculosis was ravaging the land (more things change the more things stay the same). An architectural gem, the complex has eleven surviving buildings dating from 1911 to 1931 designed by the architectural firm Otis and Clark.There are also several lovely trails as well as a small man-made waterfall originally designed and landscaped by Jens Jensen. On your way home stop at Mee Mah’s for some yummy Chinese food. If you see Bob there, tell him we say hi.
  9. The North Branch Trail System (Cook County Forest Preserve). Start at Super Dawg and end at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. In between are endless side trips with one favorite being renting kayaks at the Skokie Lagoon. Hike it, bike it, even ride horses on it. So close to home and never anywhere near as crowded as the lakefront trail.
  10. Kankakee River State Park (in Kankakee) and Rock Cut State Park (Rockford). Never been to the first one and only saw a little bit of the latter. Both places though are about an hour or two from Chicago and boast miles and miles of trails. Rock Cut State Park also has a swimming beach. If you go, please drop a line to let us know if it is worth the drive.

3 thoughts on “Oh, the Places You’ll Go (but not too far) – Hennacornoelidays presents the Top Covid-19 Friendly Day Trips from Chicago

  1. Hello ! Loved the post. We have been doing several of these the past few months and even day tripped up to Viroqua WI, which is part of the Driftless, since it is the fly fishing capital of the Midwest. Who knew? Eddie is totally into it since Colorado a few years back. He has even started tying his own flies over the quarantine. Can you recommend what places to go to in the Indiana Dunes? We went Monday and I believe the first place we stopped at was “West Beach”. Can’t climb on any dunes, lots of stairs to climb to look at the dunes however, and the second was “Dunbar” and it is only a beach. Thanks. The kids want to go back soon. Love reading you posts! Julie
    On Fri, Jun 19, 2020 at 10:48 AM Hennacornoeli Days wrote:
    > hennacornoelidays posted: ” Want to see the great outdoors but don’t want > to fly or spend a night on the road? Live in Chicago? Well we have the > guide for you. Although not necessarily the most wild places to go, they > are fun and will keep your family outside (where it’s much safer” >

    • Hi Julie! So funny, last night over cocktails we told Jean D how much we miss having you and your family in the neighborhood. Anyways glad to hear your still reading the blog. Wish we had more advice about the Dunes but sadly we do not. Each time we go we think we will do something different but always end up hiking from the visitor’s center. Only thing I can think of is heading to the Shelbourne Farm area for a nice and very level hike that starts from a restored farm.

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