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Best Of Chicago

Best Holiday Escapes Near Chicago

December 8, 2012 6:00 AM



By Meredith Lyons

Although a sunny vacation in the dead of a Chicago winter seems like the incarnation of bliss, sometimes it’s nice to get away but still be near home during the holidays. You may not escape the temperatures, but you can enjoy an escape from the city with these nearby destinations.



Grand Geneva
7036 Grand Geneva Way
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(800) 558-3417

Most go to Lake Geneva in the summer months to enjoy the lake and water activities, however Lake Geneva can be just as beautiful in the colder seasons, and typically prices are down as well as crowds. It’s just a 90-minute trip up I-94 which makes it a convenient getaway. Charming small-town shops along the lakefront can hold original and beautiful Christmas gifts. Stay at the Grand Geneva and enjoy its Christmas in the Country celebration which goes all the way through December. Grand Geneva will host breakfast with Santa, afternoon teas, a holiday musical in its Forum Theatre as well as dances, gingerbread house competitions and one of the largest lighting displays on the grounds of the hotel in the region. For more information on things to do in Lake Geneva, check out this article here.



Galena, IL
Galena Welcome Center
123 N. Commerce St.
Galena, IL 61036
(815) 776-9200

If you prefer an active getaway, look no further than Galena. A little over three hours up I-88 from Chicago, Galena is host to a number of bed and breakfasts and ski resorts. Unlike other resort and tourist towns in the area, Galena is very active in the winter due to its ski season. Countless Christmas activities and celebrations are available in Galena during the entire holiday season. Click here for a list of holiday fun.

Related: Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip to Oak Park

(Credit: / Stacy Hanna)

(Credit: / Stacy Hanna)

Peoria, IL
Riverfront Visitors Center
110 N.E. Water St.
Peoria, IL 61602
(309) 672-2860

About a 2.5-hour drive from Chicago, Peoria hosts the United States’ longest-running Santa Claus parade. Starting on November 25 and running through the end of December is the East Peoria Festival of Lights. Large objects and floats are comprised entirely of millions of lights. Visitors can take a walking tour of the light festival which includes Santa’s village and participate in other events such as an indoor holiday-themed laser light show or a narrated Nativity scene. A fun event for the entire family might be a holiday cruise on The Spirit of Peoria. The cruises last two hours and include dinner (or a homemade buffet if you choose a matinee) and musical entertainment.



Door County, WI
Door County Visitor Bureau
1015 Green Bay Road
Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
(920) 743-4456

Although typically a summer destination, Door County can be quaint, charming and beautiful in the winter months. Depending on the route you choose, the drive to Door County can take five hours or even a little more. But why not drive along the Lake Michigan Circle Tour route and make a scenic road trip out of it? Fewer tourists mean less expensive hotels. Stay at one on the lake and cozy up and watch the water.

Related: Getaway Guide: One-Tank Trip to Naperville

Meredith Lyons is an actor, competitive fighter and fitness instructor in Chicago who also owns an amazing cat named Jake. Meredith has been writing on Examiner as the Chicago Martial Arts Examiner since 2008. Her work can be found at


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