Other enteries in this series:
This is my second installment in the series “The Top 5 Chicago 4th of July Road Trip Destinations.” Each entry in this series will focus on one great vacation spot that you can pack up the kids and head to for the long holiday weekend.
Make the 4th of July 2014 one that your family remembers forever with a visit to one of these family-friendly midwest hotspots. Each spot will be kid friendly and focus on needing little planning to enjoy. If you plan to stay in a hotel, you can use priceline or one of those sites to find a cheap room nearby. If you want to camp, you will want to start calling nearby campgrounds ASAP as campgrounds fill up much quicker than hotel rooms.
Top 5 Chicago 4th of July Roadtrip Destinations: #4: Peoria, IL
Peoria is one of the hidden gems of Illinois. Depending on what part of Chicago you are leaving from, it is about a 2 to 3 hour drive. Central Illinois may not strike you as a tourist destination, but you will be surprised by all there is to see and do in this quaint small-town city. First, there is the Peoria Zoo. While it may not be as renowned as the Brookfield Zoo or Lincoln Park, this zoo is one of the best in the state. It opened a new Africa exhibit in 2009, which features a boardwalk offering views of the entire enclosure. The animals housed include giraffes, gazelles, zebras, rhinos, lions and monkeys. More recently, the zoo opened an Australia Walk-About exhibit, that allows you to walk through an area that emus and wallabies freely roam through. Coming from Chicago, you will also experience some sticker shock at the entrance fees- it is only $9 for adults and $5.25 for kids 3-12. Kids 2 and under are free. During the summer, they also have an aviary where you can purchase a seed-stick and have birds fly up to you to eat the seeds. For more information, check out: www.peoriazoo.org
While the zoo is awesome it is not the only unique wildlife experience in the Peoria area. There is also the Wildlife Prairie State Park nearby. Admission starts at $8 for adults and is reduced for kids and seniors. This scenic wooded park includes a nature trail that houses exhibits for bison, wolves, black bears, elk, cougar, otters, and a variety of birds. The nature center is excellent and has fun, yet educational displays. For $10 a person, you can also board the Adventure Trek and ride a safari vehicle through the park. Riders get to feed bison and elk from the vehicle.
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay, the park also offers an interesting variety of lodging options, including converted train cars. The cabooses sleep five and start at $100 a night on weekends. For more information, check out www.wildlifeprairiepark.org