August is a great time to visit Northern Illinois before the summer travel season ends. This 280-mile loop route heading west from Chicago has something for every interest, from hiking to architecture. Research other destinations along the way at www.EnjoyIllinois.com.
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
This site in Oak Park, IL., served as Wright’s private home and workplace for the first 20 years of his career, between 1889 and 1909. He used this home to experiment on the design concepts that became his signature architectural style. Entry is by guided tour only, and advanced tickets are recommended due to tour group size restrictions. While you’re in the area, take a guided tour of the neighborhood historic district that houses 22 structures designed by Wright.
Starved Rock State Park
Head over to Oglesby to experience the first recreational park in the state of Illinois. Starved Rock State Park celebrates its centennial this year, and boasts beautiful scenery as well as a rich cultural history. Hike 13 miles of trails, see 18 canyons (many with waterfalls), fish the “Sauger Capital” of the world, canoe the Illinois River, rent bikes on the Utica towpath, and enjoy other special events throughout the year.
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center
The Reagan Family moved into a big white house in Dixon, IL., in December 1920, just two months shy of Ron turning 10. There our nation’s 40th president shared a room with elder brother Neil until the family moved in 1923. The home has been restored with period furnishings, transporting visitors back in time. The Reagan Boyhood Home is open daily between April 1 and November 15. A $5 entrance fee includes a video presentation, guided tour and access to the visitors center.
Anderson Japanese Gardens
Take time out for quiet reflection and meditation at this authentic Japanese garden in Rockford, IL. Explore 12 acres of lush landscape foliage, spring-fed pond, walking paths, carefully placed stones, bridges and pavilions. A visitor center, restaurant and special events make for a well-rounded experience for all ages. The garden is open daily between May 1 and October 31. Admission ranges from $5 for students to $7 for adults or $6 for seniors 62+.
Illinois Railway Museum
The museum purpose built a demonstration rail line between Union and Kishwaukee Grove to share railway history about the 1930-1960 era. This Museum in Motion operates vintage rail cars and engines so that visitors can experience the artifacts and exhibits in action. America’s largest railway museum will operate a Leviathan 63 steam locomotive on select dates in August and September. Don’t miss the West End Jazz Band performance during Labor Day weekend for the “Music at the Museum” event.
Long Grove Fine Art & Wine Festival
The 23rd annual art fest takes place August 20-21 and offers free admission, free parking, and handicap access. Admire works from 90 juried artists in various media, including paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry and more. Many artists take commissions during the fair, allowing visitors to purchase a piece of personalized, original art. Live music and delicious food all weekend make this a must-see event.
On your next visit to Chicago don’t miss this side trip through Northern Illinois for a lovely tour of historic sites, lush gardens, and other attractions.