Written By: Olivia Forgette

Traveling is one of life’s most treasured escapes (for me anyway!). It’s something that many of us missed during 2020, and now that life is trending toward normal, weekend getaways are likely on your radar.

Using our expert local knowledge on northern Illinois, and the help of internet research, we have come up with our top five best drivable Chicago weekend getaway destinations. All the highlighted locations are within driving distance from Chicago and / or the Chicago suburbs. We hope you enjoy learning about new places and that this blog inspires you to travel and explore locally.

1) Lake Geneva, Wisconsin


Distance from Chicago: 83 miles

Distance from McHenry: 22 miles

Population: 8,105 (2019)

Courtesy of www.visitlakegeneva.com

Lake Geneva is a close-to-home spot that is near-and-dear to my heart, and in my biased opinion a must-see place. The picturesque resort town sits on the beautiful crystal clear Geneva Lake. This large, freshwater lake offers depths up to 135 feet, and is a desired for water activities and boating.

The town of Lake Geneva is also home to Big Foot State Park, which features wonderful hiking, beaches and of course water activities. A perfect place to camp and enjoy nature, Big Foot State Park is a perfect weekend getaway stay that won’t break the bank.

Things To Do:

The sleepy little town of Lake Geneva becomes alive in the summertime, offering tourists and locals endless fun in the sun. Check out a list of the best things to do while visiting!

  • Geneva Lake Shore Path: Take a stroll down the lake shore and enjoy the gorgeous views and mesmerizing clear blue water. Soak in the sail boats floating by, and marvel at the beautiful lakeside estates and gardens.
  • Shopping: Quaint shops line the darling streets of downtown Lake Geneva. Perfect for searching for a keepsake, a nice piece of art, or boutique clothing pieces.
  • Lake Geneva Cruise Line: Take a sightseeing boat cruise to learn about the historic homes surrounding the lake and enjoy the fresh lake air! A must-do tour for those new to the area.
  • Lake Geneva Zip Lines & Adventure: Looking for a bit more thrill? Take a zip through the trees for endless family fun!

Places To Stay:

  • The Geneva Inn: The Geneva Inn easily offers the best views of the lake over any resort or hotel available. We have personally stayed here and LOVED it. Cannot recommend enough!
  • The Grand Geneva: The Grand Geneva offers a relaxing retreat to guests. Plus, there is a gorgeous golf course, spa and more!
  • Airbnb: Looking for a more local feel? There are loads of Airbnb options in Lake Geneva for guests to enjoy!

2) Galena, Illinois


Distance from Chicago: 164 miles

Distance from McHenry: 129 miles

Population: 3,120 (2021)

Courtesy of www.visitgalena.org

The darling town of Galena Illinois delivers an unplugged feeling to allow your mind to recharge. Sprawling sights of hills and greenery amaze guests as they soak in nature and relax. With just a few hours drive, you can escape to Jo Daviess County for a vibe all its own. Watch the sunset over the Mississippi River and enjoy an expansive tree line as far as the eye can see.

Things To Do:

  • Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery: Galena Cellars is an essential spot to stop if you enjoy wine and relaxing. Offering delicious flights of wine and unparalleled views of the vineyard (seriously, take a look at the pictures I took here on my last trip), Galena Cellars is the perfect place to unwind.

  • Shopping: Interested in wandering into quaint shops? Downtown Galena offers unique finds and a charming atmosphere.
  • Outdoor Adventures: The sprawling landscape in Galena offers endless fun with outdoor adventures. Enjoy biking, boating, hiking and more!
  • Hot Air Balloon Ride: Galena offers a unique and popular way to see the sights with an enchanting hot air balloon ride!

Places To Stay:

  • Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa: Surrounded by gorgeous views Galena promises, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa is one of the most popular stays available. They offer wonderful accommodations and amenities to make your stay comfortable and relaxing.
  • Airbnb: There are countless vacation rental homes to check out in Galena Territory! Perfect for larger groups or a more local feel to your weekend getaway.

3) Put-In-Bay, Ohio


Distance from Chicago: 292 miles

Distance from McHenry: 346 miles

Population: 612 (2021)

Courtesy of www.visitputinbay.org

Put-In-Bay Ohio is a charming island getaway located in Lake Erie on South Bass Island. An easy day road trip from the Chicago area, Put-In-Bay offers relaxed beachy vibes. Available only to visit by ferry, the island offers fun golf carts to get around. Enjoy relaxing beaches, shopping, and nightlife in Put-In-Bay.

Put-In-Bay is also home to South Bass Island State Park, which offers gorgeous views of Great Lake Erie, and camping for a more affordable stay option!

Things To Do:

  • Butterfly House: A butterfly house may seem like an odd place to start, but trust me when I say this is a unique experience you won’t want to miss! The house offers over 50 kinds of exotic butterflies that flutter all around you for a magical experience.
  • Put-In-Bay Winery: The winery exhibit follows the grape from seed to glass with spectacular flavors in the peaceful wine tasting room.
  • Shopping: Wander into playful, beachy shops for an island feel you’ll adore!
  • Nightlife: Put-In-Bay offers sleepy, relaxing days and exciting nightlife! In particular, the island is home to the world’s longest bar located at the Beer Barrel Saloon. Another must-see watering hole is the Mojito Bay Tiki Bar. Sit with your toes in the sand on a playful swing bar stool for a true island feel.
Courtesy of Mojito Bay Facebook

Places To Stay:

Check out a list of stays here! There are multiple hotel options that all offer different amenities on the island. Head over to a swim up bar or relax near the hustle of town with shopping and family entertainment nearby. Whatever your needs, Put-In-Bay has you covered.

4) Indiana Dunes National Park


Distance from Chicago: 36 miles

Distance from McHenry: 95 miles

Courtesy of www.indianadunes.com

The Indiana Dunes National Park delivers enthralling adventure, stunning views, and effortless relaxation. Step your toes into glacial sands with dunes nearly 250 feet high! This hilly haven location is perfect for exploring the beauty of nature, both in the dunes and on the 15 miles of Great Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

Things To Do:

  • Beaches: The Indiana Sand Dunes is known for gorgeous beaches along the shore of Lake Michigan.
  • Dunes 101: Explore the beauty and ecological wonder of the sand dunes!
  • Shopping: Aside from breathtaking views and adventure, the Indiana Sand Dunes offers fun shopping for leisure and relaxation. Treat yourself to some local produce at the farmer’s market or explore one-of-a-kind vintage items.
  • Dune Buggy Rentals: Up the action by renting a fun dune buggy to cruise around in for the afternoon. See the dunes in a thrilling and exciting way!

Places To Stay:

Whether you’re interested in a quaint bed and breakfast, a vacation rental home or a more traditional hotel stay, the Indiana Sand Dunes offers something for everyone. Click here to see a list of great accommodation options for you weekend getaway!

5) Starved Rock State Park, Illinois


Distance from Chicago: 93 miles

Distance from McHenry: 111 miles

Courtesy of www.starvedrocklodge.com

Voted the number one attraction in the state of Illinois, Starved Rock State Park is an essential weekend getaway to consider. Sitting on the Illinois River Bluff in La Salle County, the park offers 18 canyons with large vertical walls of moss-covered stone. Over 13 miles of trails deliver guests access to waterfalls, sandstone overhangs, lush vegetation, natural springs and much more!

Things To Do:

  • Hiking: As mentioned above, hiking is the number one thing guests want to do when they visit Starved Rock. It delivers beautiful scenery and time to relax in breathtaking nature.
  • Kayak: Rent a kayak for a day exploring the beautiful water surrounded by stunning bluffs and cliffs.
  • Camping: Set up camp and surround yourself in nature! This is an affordable way to visit the park, and also the best way to become one with the gorgeous views and environment.

Places To Stay:

  • Starved Rock Lodge: Offering both lodge and cabin stays, the Starved Rock Lodge is a no-brainer choice if you want to be emersed in the beauty of Starved Rock with a wilderness vibe.
  • Airbnb: Another wonderful stay accommodation option is renting an Airbnb home! Perfect for a local feel and offering lots of fun cabin-style options, Airbnb is always a great choice!


We hope that this post has been helpful to you and that it has inspired you to explore your local area! Don’t forget, everyone needs a recharge every now and then.


Maureen Forgette, CENTURY 21 Roberts & Andrews

815.354.4236 | mforgette@comcast.net