A list of destinations and events within 60 miles of the Illinois Valley
The following is a list of 60 destinations and events in and around the Illinois Valley. Many are nearby and well known to residents, and there’s also likely a few that might entice you to take a trip toward something new, enjoyable and exciting.
1. Dixon Waterfowl Refuge
This 3,000-acre refuge with hiking trails is one of the premier natural areas in the state and is open to the public 365 days a year. Where once only corn and soybeans grew, a mosaic of lakes, marshes, seeps, savannas, and prairies now supports native flora and fauna. For more information, visit www.wetlands-initiative.org/dixon-waterfowl-refuge-hh/.
2. Illinois River Road
Drive or bike all or portions of the Illinois River Road, which enters Bureau County on U.S. Route 6, just east of St. Bede Academy. It runs through Spring Valley, and once west of the city, switches onto state Route 29, moving through DePue and Bureau. Although Princeton is not on the Illinois River, the city is designated a gateway community, and the scenic route pathway loops through town. Visit www.illinoisriverroad.org for more information.
3. Owen Lovejoy Homestead
An important stop on the Underground Railroad, this site includes tours of the historic home, and visitors can also learn what education was like back then by visiting the nearby one-room schoolhouse. For more information, visit www.owenlovejoyhomestead.com.
4. Hennepin Canal
Bike, hike, walk or paddle some or all of the Hennepin Canal and its more than 104 miles of surfaced, equestrian or hiking trails. For more information, visit www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/HennepinCanal.aspx.
5. Starved Rock State Park
Seasonal waterfalls, inspiring bluffs and canyons dominate the landscape at Starved Rock. Activities include hiking, canoeing, cross-country ski trails, fishing, picnicking and lodging. Visit www.starvedrockstatepark.org for more information.
6. Seneca Shipyard Days Festival
The annual Shipyard Days Festival, held in June, is a celebration of Seneca’s role in World War II as the home of the Prairie LST Shipyards. They work with the Illinois LST Association to bring history and education to visitors each year in addition to great entertainment, a carnival, music, fireworks, food, a beer tent, vendors and more. Visit www.enjoylasallecounty.com for more information.
7. Bishop Hill State Historic Site
A restored 19th-century Swedish communal settlement, Bishop Hill is a National Historic Landmark, and the village has five museums, three restaurants and 20 gift shops. Visit www.bishophill.com for more information.
8. Wildlife Prairie State Park
This 2,000-acre native species park, located just west of Peoria, hosts ambassadors of all five vertebrate animal groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Visit www.wildlifeprairiepark.org more information.
9. Illinois Lincoln Highway — Take the Illinois Lincoln Highway, a scenic 179-mile journey across northern Illinois. This trip lets visitors discover each of the communities along the way and enjoy their culture and special offerings. Visit www.drivelincolnhighway.com for more information.
10. Stage 212 — The Illinois Valley’s community theater has been pleasing its audiences with a wide variety of performances since 1968. Visit www.stage212.org for more information.
11. Putnam County Conservation District — This site near Hennepin offers parks and recreation, hiking, camping, shelter rentals, educational programs, arts and crafts, and horseback riding. Visit www.facebook.com/Pcconservationdistrict.org for more information.
12. Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center — Tour the restored Dixon home the Reagan family resided in from 1920-23. The tour includes the four-room presidential time line exhibit and a viewing of his biographical video. For more information, visit www.reaganhome.org.
13. Engle Lane Theatre — Since 1958, Streator’s community theater has presented a wide variety of performances for its audiences. Visit www.englelane.org for more information.
14. Weber House and Garden — The Weber House in Streator is a storybook Tudor cottage sitting in an English garden. The tour includes a children’s playhouse, ponds, fountains, statues and hundreds of shrubs and flowers, ending at Luther Hall and the Historic Weber House. Visit www.weberhouseandgarden.com for more information.
15. Captain Swift Covered Bridge — Located one mile west of Princeton, this 2006 bridge is made entirely of wood using 1800’s concepts and is the only two-lane covered bridge in Illinois. It spans Bureau Creek, and the area is a popular launching point for kayakers. Visit www.enjoyillinois.com/explore/listing/captain-swift-covered-bridge for more information.
16. Hidden Paradise Alpacas — This small, wooded farm outside Granville lets guests visit with and learn about alpacas, as well as meeting the other residents, which include llamas, donkeys, rabbits, a tortoise, goats, sheep, dogs, cats and birds. For more information, visit www.chicagoalpacas.com.
17. Barn quilts of Bureau County — More than 60 brightly colored barn quilts have been hung throughout Bureau County’s countryside, and the public art tour makes for pleasant drive. Visit www.bureaucounty-il.com/Barn-Quilts for more information.
18. 3rd Annual TBM Avenger Gathering — May 19 will see Peru’s Illinois Valley Regional Airport host a large gathering of World War II Avenger torpedo bombers and several other vintage and interesting aircraft. For more information, visit www.tbmreunion.org.
19. LaMoille’s Buffalo Days — LaMoille’s community celebration is held in early June and regularly features plenty of food, music, games, vendors and other attractions.
20. Art in the Park — This annual Princeton event is held in early June and is hosted in downtown’s Soldiers and Sailors Park. It offers a wide variety of arts, crafts, music, food, shopping, a sidewalk chalk art contest and more. For more information, visit www.princetonchamber-il.com.
21. More on 34 — This annual weekend of community garage sales will be held in June and stretches more than 100 miles along Route 34, from Galesburg to Yorkville. Visit www.moreon34.com for more information.
22. Illinois Valley Symphony Orchestra — For nearly seven decades, this orchestra has offered residents live orchestral music from all time periods and with an array of talented featured performers. Visit www.ivso.org for more information.
23. Cedar Creek Ranch — This heavily wooded ranch is more than 60 acres and is located near Starved Rock. They offer horseback riding, Gator creek cruises, motorized tours, a petting zoo and boarding services. Visit www.ccrstables.com for more information.
24. IVCC Disc Golf — This nine-hole course is mostly flat and moderately wooded and has the unusual distinction of also being a nesting area for bald eagles. For more information, visit www.ivccdiscgolfcourse.blogspot.com.
25. Illinois Waterway Visitor Center — Located directly across the river from Starved Rock State Park, the center offers visitors the opportunity to see the operation of the lock and dam, learn about local history and wildlife, and enjoy the area’s famous bald eagles from the center’s viewing area. Visit www.mvr.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Illinois-Waterway for more information.
26. Rumble For The Kids — This high-energy, live-in-the-ring wrestling fundraiser is an annual event the whole family will enjoy. Hosted in the gymnasium of Princeton’s Logan Junior High, the bell rings at 5 p.m. on April 21. For more information, visit www.rumbleforthekids.com.
27. 2 Rivers Wine Festival — This festival offers the best of Illinois wine, plus lobsters, live jazz, downtown shopping, beautiful parks, arts, crafts, antiques and more from June 1-3. For more information, visit www.ottawa2riverswinefest.com.
28. Midwest Morel Fest — On May 5, you can learn about, buy, hunt and eat morel mushrooms at Ottawa’s annual festival celebrating their favorite fungus. Visit www.pickusottawail.com/event/midwest-morel-fest for more information.
29. Geneseo Music and Fine Arts — The 50th annual Music & Fine Arts Festival will be held on June 15-17. Fine arts, food vendors and a beer garden will fill City Park with a wide variety of handmade products. Musical performances will be held throughout the day on Saturday. For more information, visit www.geneseo.org/music-festival.
30. McCune Sand Prairie — The McCune Sand Prairie sits on porous glacial moraine soils, which results in a collection of prickly pear cactus, dry-country grasses, wildflowers and small trees. Visit www.bureaucounty-il.com/parks for more information.
31. The Witness Tree — Located about three miles south of Mineral, this giant burr oak tree is more than 250 years old. It was used as a meeting place by the various Native American tribes of the area, as well as a reference point by surveyors during the construction of the railroad. For more information, visit www.bureaucounty-il.com/Parks.
32. Red Covered Bridge — Located 1.5 miles north of Princeton on state Route 26, the Red Covered Bridge is one of the few remaining covered bridges in Illinois The bridge was built in 1863 to cross Big Bureau Creek and was once part of the Peoria-Galena Trail. For more information, visit www.enjoyillinois.com/explore/listing/red-covered-bridge.
33. St. Peter’s Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church — This historic Danish Church in Sheffield, built in 1880, is preserved to the 1880-90 period, and was visited by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. The church is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is located at 121 S. Church St. in Sheffield.
34. Barto Landing — Enjoy the Illinois River from this public boat launch. Ample parking available for both vehicles and trailers. For more information, visit www.www.spring-valley.il.us/recreation/barto_landing.
35. Matthiessen State Park — While Starved Rock is often filled to capacity on the weekends, nearby Matthiessen State Park also offers beautiful hiking opportunities complete with streams, canyons, seasonal waterfalls and impressive canyons. For more information, visit www.dnr.illinois.gov/Parks/Pages/Matthiessen.aspx.
36. Sunset Ridge — North Central Illinois’ nationally recognized motocross facility, located near Walnut, offers AMA-sanctioned motocross events April-November. Visit www.sunsetridgemx for more information.
37. Skydive Chicago — This world-class skydiving facility on the outskirts of Ottawa offers anything and everything either an amateur or a seasoned pro could ask for. Visit www.skydivechicago.com for more information.
38. LaSalle Canal Boat — Board the LaSalle Canal Boat in LaSalle, and enjoy a mule-pulled ride on the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal. The one-hour, round trip journey on a full-size replica canal boat will take riders on the same hand-dug waterway that 19th-century pioneers traveled. Guides, dressed as canal-era crew and passengers, will relate what life was like on the American frontier and the Illinois prairie. Visit www.lasallecanalboat.org for more information.
39. Ottawa Mural Walking Tour — The tour is a “Brush with History” public art program that was developed to help revitalize Ottawa’s downtown and create a cultural attraction for tourists and residents of the community. Walkers can view six murals located throughout downtown Ottawa. Tours begin from Reddick Mansion. For more information, visit www.pickusottawail.com/murals/name/ottawa-murals.
39. Hegeler Carus Mansion — The Hegeler Carus Mansion is a National Historic Landmark. This architectural masterpiece, built from 1874-76, was awarded national status for its architecture by W.W. Boyington, August Fiedler’s interior design, and being the birthplace of Open Court Publishing Co., which was dedicated to publishing philosophical and religious works by the great thinkers of the era. Visit www.hegelercarus.org for more information.
40. Belle of the Rock — There’s no better way to explore the Illinois River than on an authentic paddlewheel boat. The narrated excursion is approximately an hour and leaves from Starved Rock State Park. Visit www.belleoftherock.com for more information.
41. Ottawa Scouting Museum — The museum promotes and preserves the colorful and proud traditions of Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and Camp Fire, and features a vast exhibition of memorabilia from these organizations. Visit www.ottawascoutingmuseum.org for more information.
42. Norsk Scandinavian Museum — The museum in Norway is open year-round to visiting groups of students, teachers and international visitors; and is open to the public on weekends between the months of June and September from 1-5 p.m.. Volunteers staff the two-building museum dedicated to the Scandinavian settlers of the area, and it contains items of Scandinavian life, such as dishes, clothing, furniture and spinning wheels. Visit www.norskmuseum.org for more information.
43. LaSalle County Historical Society — Located in Utica, the LaSalle County Historical Society museum is in a stone warehouse built in 1848 to serve the Illinois and Michigan Canal. There is also an 1865 one-room schoolhouse furnished with authentic fixtures and accessories; a blacksmith shop with a working forge and blacksmithing demonstrations; and an 1875 barn spotlighting agrarian life on the Illinois prairie. Visit www.lasallecountymuseum.org for more information.
44. Niabi Zoo — The grounds of the Coal Valley zoo cover more than 230 acres, and are home to more than 900 animals representing 160 different species. Asian elephants, large cats, tropical birds and zebras are just a few of the exciting animals that you will find at Niabi Zoo. Special attractions include the Mel McKay Express, a miniature steam engine replica, and the Endangered Species Carousel. Visit www.niabizoo.com for more information.
45. Riverwalk and Fox River Park — A paved walking path begins in Ottawa’s Fox River Park at Superior and Champlain Streets and continues along the Fox River. The park includes a splash-pad, a nine-hole disc golf course, a playground, shelter, docks, boat launch, fishing area and more. Visit www.pickusottawail.com/attractions/name/riverwalk for more information.
46. The Westclox Museum — Westclox was the world’s largest manufacturer of keywound clocks for nearly a century, and they once employed more than 4,000 people. See a collection of a wide array of Westclox clocks and watches and learn the stories of their many employees and their impact on the Illinois Valley. Visit www.westcloxmuseum.com for more information.
47. Francis Park Woodland Palace — This Kewanee home was built way ahead of its time and is full of engineering wonders. Francis started to build the home in 1890, worked on it for the next 36 years. It features hand-carved molding, not run on a mill or with a stamp process. This is the first house in the state to have air conditioning even before there was electricity. With disappearing windows and doors, it seems everything in the home works in harmony. For more information, visit www.enjoyillinois.com/explore/listing/woodland-palace-at-francis-park.
48. Black Hawk State Historic Site — The Rock Island location is most closely identified with the Sauk nation and its great warrior, Black Hawk. Voted one of the “7 Wonders of Illinois,” this pristine park offers beautiful trails for hiking and walking only. Picnic areas are also available. While at the park, be sure to visit the Watch Tower Lodge that houses the John Hauberg Indian Museum. Visit www.blackhawkpark.org for more information.
49. Summer Camp Music Festival — Since 2001, this multi-day, multi-stage Memorial Day weekend music festival has annually drawn tens of thousands of music fans to Chillicothe’s Three Sisters Park. This year’s headliners include moe and Umphrey’s McGee. For more information, visit www.summercampfestival.com.
50. Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences — This Peoria museum is the largest private downstate museum and features art and science exhibitions, children’s Discovery Center, Planetarium, Illinois Folk Art Gallery, Illinois River Decoy and Illinois Jacquard Coverlet exhibitions, the Museum Store, and more. Visit www.lakeview-museum.org for more information.
51. Peoria Chiefs — The Peoria Chiefs are the Midwest League Single A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and Central Illinois’ only Minor League Baseball team. Visit www.peoriachiefs.com for more information.
52. Hume Carnegie Museum — This Mendota museum features a Wild Bill Hickok exhibit, an extensive photo display of area’s past, and memorabilia from throughout the years. Visit www.mendotamuseums.org for more information.
53. Blackhawk Chocolate Trail/Barn Tour — This self-guided tour through Carroll, Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties features businesses that sell everything chocolate. Visit www.thechocolatetrail.com for more information.
54. Sandwich Opera House — Built in 1878 and restored in 1986, the opera house provides a setting for the performing arts from classical to country, student recitals, summer theatre workshops and more. Visit www.sandwichoperahouse.org for more information.
55. Celebrate LaSalle — This annual community celebration will be held in June and includes fireworks, a car show, a beer garden, a carnival, live music, a craft and vendor fair and more. For more information, visit www.lasalle-il.gov.
56. Midwest Museum of Natural History — Get up close to an African elephant, a hippo, a pride of lions and much more as you acquire an appreciation of the world’s diverse natural environment and human culture. Many exhibits and interactive learning experiences for children and adults at this Somonauk museum. Visit www.mmnh.org for more information.
57. Echo Bluff — Echo Bluff Park and Recreational Area, located off state Route 29 between Spring Valley and DePue, provides many opportunities for the young and old alike. Come take a walk on over 7,000 yards of trails, play a game of paintball, picnic in the newly restored shelter, or roast marshmallows over one of the two fire pits. Visit www.echobluff.org for more information.
58. Putnam County Historical Society and Ag Museum — Open by appointment, the museum contains antique farm equipment, a wildlife exhibit, a history of corn in the state, a re-creation of a one-room school, antique post office equipment, a re-creation of a general store and much more. For more information, visit www.putnamcountyhistoricalsociety.org.
59. Bureau County Historical Society Museum — Items on display include fossils, Native American artifacts, pioneer utensils, tools, farming equipment, Civil War and military memorabilia, clothing, early settlers composite, Cherry Mine Disaster display, children’s toys and games, period furniture and pictures, musical instruments, arts and crafts, glassware and china, and a research library. Visit www.bureaucountymuseum.com for more information.
60. Mautino Fish and Wildlife Area — Located south of Buda, the Mautino State Fish and Wildlife Area offers 911 acres of mostly unclaimed stripmining land, 15 stocked lakes for fishing, restrooms, boating, boat launch ramp, canoe access, fishing, hiking and hunting. For more information, visit www.enjoyillinois.com/explore/listing/mautino-state-fish-and-wildlife-area.
Editor’s note: The previous 60 entries are not meant to be a complete guide of things to do within the Illinois Valley, but rather a sampling of activities in and around the area.