16 Family-Friendly Summer Destinations in Illinois

This summer, many families are planning their trips across the country. But why leave Illinois when you can spend your summer enjoying the beauty, thrills, and educational opportunities our state has to offer?

Below is an extensive list of activities that families can enjoy right here in the Land of Lincoln.  

Thrills & Adventure

The Forge: Lemont Quarries Adventure Park | Lemont

This 300-acre adventure park offers numerous thrill-seeking activities for the whole family. Some of their activities include ziplining, kayaking, laser tag, aerial adventure courses, and more.

The Forge offers opportunities for adventure and education, as this adventure park is built on a reclaimed natural landscape.

This site is free to enter and requires individual tickets for each adventure.

Raging Waves Waterpark | Yorkville

As the largest waterpark in Illinois, Raging Waves has more than enough to offer for a full day of family fun. Boasting over 32 waterslides, a lazy river, and a wave pool, this waterpark is sure to keep kids and adults entertained all day long.

For a more relaxing and exclusive experience, consider booking one of the dozens of private cabanas.

Raging Waves opens for the summer season on June 3rd. Ticket prices vary based on date, click here for updated daily ticket prices.

Great Wolf Lodge | Gurnee

Great Wolf Lodge is a getaway designed for families. Located just North of Chicago, this lodge offers waterparks, rock climbing, bowling, mini-golf, and more.

If you are looking for even more thrills and adventure, Six Flags Great America is less than a 5-minute drive away.

Six Flags Great America | Gurnee

Located just across I-94 from Great Wolf Lodge, Six Flags Great America is the largest theme park in Illinois. This 304-acre amusement park offers 52 attractions, including the waterpark Hurricane Harbor located next door.

Six Flags Great America is already open for the 2023 season.

Hiking & Camping

Starved Rock State Park | Oglesby

Starved Rock is one of the most popular hiking and camping destinations in the state of Illinois. Hiking trails span 13 miles, dotted with waterfalls, canyons, and bluffs.

This site also offers various activities, such as canoeing, biking, fishing, and hiking.

Camping sites are available for tents and RVs.

Shawnee National Forest | Harrisburg

This national forest offers miles of incredible hiking trails. These trails are a great opportunity to see wildlife, along with unique scenery such as caves, canyons, and waterfalls.

Fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and boating are also available.

Adults can also enjoy one of six local vineyards and wineries.

Matthiessen State Park | Utica

This 1,938-acre state park is known for the unique geology of rock formations and the vibrant flora and fauna. The park can be explored on five miles of hiking trails.

Various outdoor activities are available here, including horseback riding, archery, geocaching, and more. These activities, along with the popular picnic spots, make Matthiessen State Park a popular summer destination.

Outdoor Experiences & Activities

Morton Arboretum | Lisle

The Morton Arboretum is a public garden and outdoor museum dedicated to the research and conservation of trees and plants. Some features include a Children’s Garden, a Maze Garden, and over 16 miles of hiking trails. In addition, families can also enjoy a variety of activities, events, and classes.

Tickets are $17 for adults and $12 for kids and is open from 7 am to sunset every day.

Anderson Japanese Gardens | Rockford

Anderson Japanese Gardens is a 12-acre Japanese garden that offers a peaceful and tranquil spot to enjoy. Filled with streams, waterfalls, and koi ponds, this top-rated garden is a family-friend outdoor experience. 

The Garden is open daily (including holidays) from May 1st through October 31st.

Monday – Friday 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM | Saturday & Sunday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Adults $11.00 | Seniors (62+) $10.00 | Students $9.00

Brookfield Zoo | Brookfield

Brookfield Zoo houses over 450 species of animals across 216 acres of land. From penguins to polar bears to big cats, Brookfield Zoo has it all.

Home to the Chicago Zoological Society, this zoo has the unique opportunity to not only educate visitors about animals but to also explain their global conservation efforts.

Tickets are $29.95 for adults and $20.95 for children ages 3-11.

Grandview Drive | Peoria

This two-and-a-half-mile scenic drive runs through Peoria and Peoria Heights. This free experience gives drivers views of the Illinois River and valley, along with historical homes and sites in the area.

Grandview Drive stretches from Prospect Road to Illinois Route 29.

While in town, do not miss out on the wonderful exhibits just down the road at one of downstate Illinois’ world-class museums, the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Educational Experiences

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library And Museum | Springfield

Experience the history of one of America’s most notable Presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Various significant artifacts and educational performances make this museum an exciting and immersive way to learn about the life and legacy of President Lincoln. The museum also hosts numerous special events and exhibits throughout the summer.

Tickets for adults are $15 and children ages 5-15 are $6. The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Museum Of Science And Industry | Chicago

The Museum of Science and Industry is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere. Three floors of interactive and educational exhibits keep visitors engaged and entertained while learning about science, engineering, and American industry.

Tickets are $25.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids.

The museum also offers free days for Illinois residents. Click here to see the updated schedule.

Field Museum | Chicago

The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. The most notable attraction in this museum is the 40-foot-tall T. Rex fossil named Sue. Other exhibits include halls with artifacts from Africa, China, Native American tribes, and more.

The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Click here to see the current schedule of free admission days for Illinois residents.

Art Institute Of Chicago | Chicago

Located in Downtown Chicago, the Art Institute attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year. The museum contains over 300,000 pieces of art, including works from notable artists such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Vincent Van Gogh.

Illinois residents can enjoy free admission on Thursday evenings, 5–8 p.m., May 18–August 31, 2023.