Picturesque Fall Destinations a Short Drive from Chicago

Lincoln Park | Image source:

While the end of summer is met with some sadness, autumn is a beautiful time across Illinois. The leaves begin to change, pumpkin spice flavors pop up at your favorite coffee shops, and the weather turns crisp but mild. It is a beautiful season for exploring all that Illinois offers, a time when fall festivals and events create an unmatched family-friendly atmosphere.

In Chicago, there’s much to do throughout the fall. However, many Chicago residents want to leave the city this autumn and see some of the appealing attractions nearby. Let’s look at some destinations near Chicago that make for excellent spots for a fall getaway.


Galena is a small community surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery. It is located near the Iowa border, roughly a three-hour drive from Chicago. Galena is an excellent place to visit for those seeking a quiet getaway in a pristine setting. Galena is home to less than 4,000 people but has historic attractions, excellent outdoor recreation, and numerous shopping and dining options.

Visiting Galena in the fall is an excellent time to explore this quaint community. The stunning fall foliage gives this town a dramatic look that compliments its historical buildings, such as the Ulysses S. Grant Home. Those bright colors also make the hikes and views this town is famed for all the more appealing. To enjoy Galena’s best views, hike up to the Horseshoe Mound. This preserved natural area offers expansive views of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, which is particularly gorgeous in the fall. Galena is a picturesque community with much to enjoy, particularly for history and outdoor recreation lovers.

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Illinois’s state capital is worth a visit any time of the year. It is a prominent city home to more than 115,000 and a busy place with fine dining, excellent museums, and busy commercial districts. Springfield is around a three-hour drive from Chicago. Springfield is best known for its history and architecture, with a famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. These attractions are available throughout the year, but autumn may be the ideal time to explore Springfield.

Springfield’s seasonal traditions in the fall make it especially lively. There are pumpkin patches, hay rides, haunted trails, and more. The Fall Harvest Festival is an annual tradition at the Lincoln Memorial Garden, which provides family-friendly entertainment. Even when there is no festival, walking around the picturesque Lincoln Memorial Garden is best done in the fall. The trees burn an incredible shade of yellow, orange, and red, and the bridges and creeks make it a deeply appealing setting.

Oak Ridge Cemetery, Lincoln's tomb


Peoria is a scenic city in Central Illinois, based along the waters of the Illinois River. Peoria is a big city, home to more than 112,000, but its natural beauty is a big part of what makes it stand out. Peoria is surrounded by rivers, lakes, parks, and forests, which are all surrounded by gorgeous fall foliage. Peoria is around a two-hour-and-forty-five-minute drive from Chicago and is well worth the journey.

There’s much to see in Peoria, including renowned museums like the Peoria Riverfront Museum and Wildlife Prairie Park, which houses native Illinois wildlife in a zoological setting. Enjoy Grandview Drive, a winding drive that overlooks forests and the Illinois River, to catch the best fall foliage in Peoria. Also, walking along the Peoria riverfront is an ideal way to spend a fall day. You can sample flavors from local breweries, pop into the many restaurants that line the shore, and enjoy the natural beauty of Peoria’s setting.

Soderstrom Castle, Peoria | Image source:
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