1. Galena, 2. Arcola, 3. Nauvoo, 4. Quincy, 5. Woodstock, 6. Mount Carroll, 7. Sycamore, 8. Greenville. If you've been to Chicago and thought about crossing Illinois off your bucket list, you're not alone. However, Illinois is much more than just Chicago. While the Chicagoland area has a lot to offer, consider visiting some of Illinois's small towns. These charming Illinois small towns have a lot to offer, including access to some of the state's most beautiful national parks. Read on for more information.
This small town in Illinois has a rich history with a strong indigenous influence. If you enjoy shopping, dining at excellent restaurants, and visiting spas and ice cream parlors, you’ll enjoy strolling down Galena’s main street. Its vibrant downtown is home to over 125 shops and restaurants, the majority of which are housed in 19th-century structures. You will also have access to the beautiful Galena Grant Park, which is reached via a bridge across the Galena River. Your taste buds will enjoy exploring Galena’s culinary and libation scene. With several restaurants serving exquisite meals, a winery with a tasting room, and two craft breweries (Blaum Brothers and Galena Brewing Company), there are plenty of reasons to visit this cool small town.
Galena is steeped in history and was once home to former President Ulysses S. Grant. In addition, 85% of the town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Dowling House, pictured here in 1826, was originally a trading post. It is the town’s oldest structure and is now a museum. The Belvedere Mansion is another historical structure worth mentioning. This 22-room Italianate mansion, built in 1857, is surrounded by lovely gardens that beg to be explored. The Galena Stairs are well-known throughout town. The 154-step staircase leads from downtown to the top of a hill, where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the area surrounding this cool small town.
Photo by Austin Goode on Unsplash
Photo by Colin Maynard on Pixabay
Arcola, located just off Interstate 57, serves as the gateway to Illinois Amish Country. This peaceful central location is just over two hours from St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Chicago. This quaint community, nestled between the University of Illinois and Eastern Illinois University, provides residents and visitors with a variety of opportunities for working, relaxing, dining, shopping, and learning. Arcola’s heritage as the “broomcorn capital of the world” is celebrated with the renowned Broom Corn Festival. Every year on the weekend following Labor Day, visitors pour in. They come for the numerous broom activities, one-of-a-kind arts and crafts, free entertainment, and delicious food. The festival’s parade is the largest in Central Illinois and features the world-famous Lawn Rangers, who twirl and toss their brooms.
With companies like the Thomas Monahan Company and the Libman Company, the community still has ties to broomcorn and the broom industry. The historic downtown of Arcola is lined with stately buildings and its original brick street. There are numerous unique shops where shoppers can purchase art, antiques, locally made Amish baked goods, and handcrafted Amish furniture. If you’re looking for something a little more active, Aikman Wildlife Adventure is right around the corner. The family-owned park, which is new to the Arcola area, includes a drive-thru habitat, a walk-thru park, and a petting zoo with a wide variety of species from around the world. The park occupies the former Rockome Gardens site. You can also learn about Amish culture and see the Amish countryside. Raggedy Ann and Andy are Arcola’s main claim to fame. This is the birthplace of the creator of those dolls.
Photo by islandworks on Pixabay
Nauvoo, Illinois was once one of the most important towns in the state. It was the town to which Joseph Smith and other Mormons fled religious persecution. In 1844, the population surpassed 12,000, rivaling that of Chicago. The history is so well preserved today. It is, in fact, one of the most historically significant towns in the United States. From 1839 to 1846, you can visit 30 historic sites. There are relics of the past everywhere you look. You can go exploring restored homes and public buildings. While this town will show you what life was like back then, it will focus on what it was like to be a Mormon.
This is the historic Carthage jail, where Joseph Smith was imprisoned and martyred. Today, there is a lovely Mormon temple. Even today, you can see why this great town was so appealing to its forefathers. Visit the Quarry Art Gallery or the Temple House Art Gallery, both of which are historically significant. Nauvoo Glassworks is an excellent place to learn the art of glassblowing. The Flood Museum, the Family Search Center, and the Joseph Smith Historic Site are all worthwhile stops. Visit the Tourism Office or the Historic Visitor’s Center to learn more about these options. You can even pay a visit to one of the Historic Society’s museums. They are still taking part in archaeological digs to learn more about their rich history.
Photo by Own Rodriguez on Unsplash
Photo by Shaik Sheezan on Pixabay
Quincy, which was founded in 1825, is located across the Mississippi River from Missouri. The Great River Road National Scenic Byway runs through town as well. Quincy has been dubbed the “Gem City” of Illinois due to its success in industry, commerce, and hospitality since its inception. It served as a hub for riverboats and trains in the nineteenth century. Quincy is now known for its welcoming community and friendly, down-to-earth residents. It also has a charming downtown area, 3,600 historic buildings, and four National Register of Historic Places.
This 40,000-person town also has 28 parks, 10 museums, five wineries, and 70 locally owned restaurants. It’s a wonderful place with plenty to see and do for both locals and tourists. There is a fine arts gallery in town, as well as numerous festivals throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, all of which promote a strong sense of community, which is all too rare nowadays. With so much history in Quincy, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, a trip to a historic site is a must. Washington Park, which hosted the sixth Lincoln-Douglas Debate on October 13, 1858, is one option. Come to Quincy, a small city that embodies Midwest values, and discover why it is known as the “Gem City” of Illinois.
Photo by Andrew Heald on Unsplash
There’s a reason why all Hallmark movies take place in small towns. Small towns, which are cozy, intimate, and quiet, offer a slower pace of life that is difficult to resist. Consider Woodstock, Illinois, if you’re looking for the ultimate Midwest small town. Woodstock has small-town charm and character, as well as a high quality of life that makes residents happy to call it home. Woodstock is in McHenry County, about an hour outside of Chicago. The city was founded in 1844 and was originally known as Centerville, referring to its central location and role as county seat. Centerville was renamed Woodstock in 1845. Woodstock has gained a lot of attention as a wonderful place to live over the years.
This 40,000-person town also has 28 parks, 10 museums, five wineries, and 70 locally owned restaurants. It’s a wonderful place with plenty to see and do for both locals and tourists. There is a fine arts gallery in town, as well as numerous festivals throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, all of which promote a strong sense of community, which is all too rare nowadays. With so much history in Quincy, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, a trip to a historic site is a must. Washington Park, which hosted the sixth Lincoln-Douglas Debate on October 13, 1858, is one option.
Photo by Patrick Bald on Unsplash
Photo by Theodor Vasile on Unsplash
A day trip provides a much-needed break that allows people to explore somewhere new while remaining close to home. Consider a small town with a lot to offer for your next unique day trip adventure. Mount Carroll, located in the northwest corner of Illinois, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and nature, making it ideal for a quick getaway. A trip to Mount Carroll is like taking a trip back in time. It began as a mill town in the 1840s, was incorporated as a town in 1855, and was incorporated as a city in 1867. Despite the fact that it is technically a city, it has retained its small-town charm.
Mount Carroll, with a population of just under 1,600 people, has a thriving business district and has preserved the majority of the historic buildings and homes in town. It’s a great place to visit if you enjoy both history and architecture. Brick streets have also been preserved throughout the town. Mount Carroll is an excellent location for antiquing in Illinois. Visitors will enjoy searching for their next treasure in the area’s antique stores. Raven’s Grin Inn has long been a popular destination for those who enjoy the strange, unusual, haunted, and macabre.
Visit the 25-acre Point Rock Park along the Waukarusha River if you want to spend time in nature. It has a large rock at the entrance that inspired the park’s name, and it’s a beautiful place to spend time outdoors relaxing, hiking, picnicking, and letting the kids play on the playground. Consider staying at one of Mount Carroll’s historic properties if you’re looking for a place to stay. The Bridgewater Inn, built as a luxury hotel in 1886, is a wonderful place to stay if you want some peace and quiet on a historic property.
Photo by Andrew Charney on Unsplash
Photo by Allie Reefer on Unsplash
Discover Sycamore, Illinois’s historic charm and see for yourself why everyone in America will adore this cool town. The coolest small town in Illinois is mostly unknown due to its location between two major cities, Rockford and Chicago. It has a charming downtown that is rich in history and Midwest culture. The Kishwaukee River, which is frequently crowded with canoes, runs right through town. Vintage community buildings, such as this library, are local favorites that contribute to the town’s appeal. The town’s historic district contains over 200 beautiful homes, making it one of the coolest small towns to walk through. Learn about Abraham Lincoln and Illinois’ role in the abolition of slavery at the Civil War Memorial.
The Midwest Museum of Natural History, which displays live animals and North American foliage, is also located in Sycamore. There are also over 100 mounted animals from all over the world. Nats on Maple, a local eatery specializing in trendy comfort food, offers the full Sycamore experience. Try this bacon and pimento cheese burger or something else delicious from their diverse menu. Sycamore also has the most beautiful wedding venue. A seven-acre garden, a chapel, and a banquet hall are all part of Chapel in the Pines, a private estate. Don’t miss out on the famous Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. The 10K Pumpkin Run, where locals dress up and jog around downtown, is one of the coolest events.
Photo by Jonnelle Yankovich on Unsplash
Photo by Madison Oren on Unsplash
This small town in Illinois, not to be confused with Greenville, South Carolina, is the ideal peaceful escape from busy city life. Greenville, Illinois, is one of the state’s oldest communities. Spend a quiet weekend exploring the heritage and historical sites of this town. Greenville, Missouri, is located in Bond County and is only 51 miles east of St. Louis. The small town has 7,000 residents who are proud of their history and farming culture. Take a break from city life by visiting Greenville’s Marcoot Jersey Dairy & Creamery working dairy farm and try your hand at farming. Marcoot produces and sells artisan cheese.
The best part is that visitors are welcome to observe various farm activities such as feeding and milking the cows. After you’ve finished farming, visit some of Greenville’s historical sites. The Greenville Public Library was built in 1905 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 4, 1995. It’s one of several on the list. Among other things, Greenville is home to the Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan Historical Sites. Many cross-country bikers and hikers will pass through Greenville on their way to other destinations. This town is also close to Governor Bond Lake, which is ideal for water sports. Go to Gateway Skydiving Center if you want something a little more exciting.
Photo by Colin Maynard on Unsplash
Photo by Cristina Anne Costello on Unsplash