Day trips allow families to make memories that last forever, and there are plenty of wonderful places to explore that are within easy driving distance from Chicago. For purposes of consistency, the starting point for measuring distance and time to the following destinations from downtown Chicago is State Street and Madison. Each destination is within 175 miles, or approximately three hours, from Chicago. These amazing day trips from Chicago are listed by approximate distance from closest to furthest.
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Starved Rock State Park
2668 E. 875th Road
Oglesby, IL 61348
(815) 667-4726

Starved Rock State Park is located approximately 83 miles, or one hour and 26 minutes from Chicago. Starved Rock State Park is a top attraction in the state of Illinois and was, in fact, voted No. 1. Although Starved Rock Park is in Illinois, it gives the vibe of a remote, pristine wilderness! There are 13 miles of trails to hike, plus the Illinois River offers great fishing in warm weather, ice fishing in cold weather, boating, incredible views and great places to sit down and relax.

Ottawa is considered the entryway to Starved Rock State Park and it is an historic town, located at the intersection of the Fox and Illinois rivers. There are beautiful, tall hills and waterfalls in the canyon that provide a great outdoor experience. The town of Ottawa is an excellent destination to visit, there is a hangout called Tracy’s Boat House located on the waterfront that is a must visit.  Buffalo Rock State Park is also nearby, and it has lovely scenery and trails .This trip is definitely worth the drive.

Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva Area Convention & Visitors Bureau
201 Wrigley Drive
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
(262) 248-4416

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is located approximately 84 miles, or one hour and 31 minutes from Chicago. Lake Geneva is one of Chicago’s most popular  get-away destinations because it is close to Chicago, yet feels like it is worlds apart. There are many historic downtown buildings and things to see in Lake Geneva; including the 1885 Victorian mansion Baker House, which is right across the street from the lake. There are a many boutique shops, restaurants and bars that are all great places to stop while in Lake Geneva. Lake Geneva also has a  Lake Shore Path, which is a 21-miile walking path that goes all around the lake and literally takes walkers through the backyards of the large estates. There are also numerous boat tours on the lake, an excellent way to see the beautiful homes and scenery.

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Kettle Moraine State Forest
N1765 Highway G
Campbellsport, WI 53010
(262) 626-2116

Kettle Moraine State Forest is located approximately 109 miles, or one hour and 59 minutes from Chicago. Mountain biking is a great way to tour the trails at Kettle Moraine State Forest, and trails are available for everyone form beginners to highly skilled bikers. There are 30 miles of trails that offer some of the best off-road biking in the Midwest. The trails are normally open from mid-April to mid-February, but are closed during wet conditions after a rainfall. Another great way to explore Kettle Moraine State Forest is by driving; there is a 115 mile-route that joins the two Kettle Moraines. Also check out the farms and small-town buildings that were brought in from throughout the state to re-create the old town Wisconsin feel.

Related: Best Day Trips For Under $100 In The Chicago Area

New Glarus
New Glarus Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 713
418 Railroad St.
New Glarus, WI 53574
(608) 527-2095

New Glarus, Wisconsin, also known as America’s Little Switzerland, is located approximately 147 miles, or two hours and 38 minutes from Chicago. The New Glarus Brewing Company offers free self-guided tours of the brewery from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week, and this is year round excluding some holidays. The Beer Depot offers visitors New Glarus beer that can be purchased and enjoyed at home.
Visitors can learn about New Glarus by exploring the Swiss Historical Village, where there is a museum with 14 different buildings that gives in-depth information about the story of New Glarus.

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

Galena, Illinois is located approximately 163 miles, or two hours and 56 minutes from Chicago. There are wonderful sight seeing tours available, and the town has a museum visitors can learn about all the interesting places and facts about Galena. The Ulysses S. Grant home is in Galena and it is a must-visit—the furnishings at this historical site make visitors feel as if they are living back in time.

Related: Best Day Trips On a Budget Near Chicago

Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner living in Chicago, Illinois. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of and Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chicago, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found on