By Rachael Dabkey
Chicago might be a big city, but its wilderness isn’t far away. Campgrounds in the area offer amenities beyond the raked dirt patch of your childhood — they’re offering wireless Internet, planned children’s activities and swimming pools. These are the area’s best, boasting everything from ball courts to air conditioned cabins. Oh, and they’ve got places for your tent, too.
756 N 3150th Rd
North Utica, IL 61373
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Take a weekend trip outside of the city this weekend, and take a two-hour drive southwest to North Utica where campgrounds are lined with unusual rock formations. The site itself also has trails that lead off to a small canyon, with waterfalls and other hidden delights. Perfect for an affordable family getaway! For more outdoors fun check out this list of the 15 best places for campfire in Chicago.
Kankakee South KOA
425 E. 6000 South Rd.
Chebanse, IL 60922
(800) 562-4192 Reservations
(815) 939-4603 Information
Price: (per night) tent sites: $26 to $31; RV sites: $34 to $37; cabins: $50 to $100
Located just about an hour south of Chicago, the Kankakee South KOA’s season runs from April 1 to Oct. 31. However, there are sites available year-round. Check-in station hours vary, but self-registration is available 24/7. Sites offer electricity up to 50 max amp, a space up to 75 feet long and wireless Internet. There is a propane station, firewood available for purchase and a pavilion as well. Services include garbage pick-up and an escort to your site. On-site activities include a playground, swimming pool (open May 27 to Sept. 5), game room, basketball and volleyball courts as well as scheduled activities during the summer on the weekends. If you’re looking for a more modernized camping experience, cabins with air conditioning are available as well. Kankakee River State Park is just a short drive away for hiking, horseback riding or canoeing. Bourbonnais, the summer home of Chicago Bears, is about 10 minutes away as well.
Starved Rock State Park
Routes 178 and 71
Utica, IL 61373
Price: $35 per night
Starved Rock State Park sits less than a two-hour drive from the Chicago area. This year-round campground offers more than 125 campsites equipped with electricity, shower facilities, flush toilets and a playground. Obtain a camping permit from the booth within the campground or at the park office. Pets are allowed as long as they are leashed, but alcohol is prohibited. The big draw of the area is the 13 miles of well-marked, easy-to-navigate hiking trails with more than 15 canyons to explore. Also in the area, visit nearby wineries, take a paddle boat tour, visit a historical museum and go horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking or jet skiing.
Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp-Resort
5300 Old Porter Rd.
Portage, IN 46368
Price: (per night) tent sites: $33 to $46; RV sites: $45 to $56; cabins: $65 to $95
Rent a golf cart and jet around Jellystone campground, just across the Illinois border about an hour from Chicago. Area activities include three family pools, an adult-only pool, sandy beaches, miniature golf, a movie theater, playground, arcade, and tennis, basketball and volleyball courts. Jellystone’s camping season runs May 1 to Oct. 31. It boasts a full recreation schedule including themed weekends, shows, bands and DJs. Camp sites include water and electricity, and guests enjoy on-site laundry facilities, a propane station and firewood.
Chicago Northwest KOA
8404 S. Union Rd.
Union, IL 60180
(800) 562-2827 Reservations
(815) 923-4206 Information
Price: (per night) tent sites: $33 to $38; RV sites: $47 to $54; cabins $73
Located a little more than an hour from Chicago, this 24/7, year-round gated campground offers a little bit of everything. Enjoy amenities including wireless Internet, an enclosed pavilion, firewood for purchase, a propane station and sites with up to 50 max amp hook-ups. Play at the pool (open from May 27 to Sept. 5), playground, basketball and volleyball courts, or rent a bike to explore. Better still, drop in for a round of mini golf at the course here. During the summer weekends, it offers planned activities such as hay wagon rides, ice cream socials and movies on a big screen. For nearby attractions, check out the Illinois Railroad Museum, Donley’s Wild West Town or Magic Waters Water Park. Check-in times vary so call shortly before your trip for the latest hours.
Illinois Beach State Park
1 Lakefront Dr.
Zion, IL 60099
Price: $25 to $35 per night
The campground at Illinois Beach State Park is open year-round, but its peak season is May 1 to Sept. 30. Although sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, make a reservation on summer weekends. Camp at more than 240 sites with showers, firewood and electricity. You must obtain a permit to from park staff to camp at Illinois Beach State Park. For entertainment, go swimming and relax on the beach, go fishing, hiking through the marshes and dunes, or take advantage of the bike trails.
Related: Escape to the Tropics in Chicago
Rachael Dabkey has lived in the Chicago area her entire life. As a self-proclaimed foodie, she loves exploring the city to find good eats. Thanks to her savvy research and planning skills, she has snagged unbelievable deals on travel, including airfare, all-inclusive resorts and cruises. Rachael knows how to enjoy the best of life for less and loves to share this knowledge with her readers. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.