Whether you’re new to the area or you’ve lived here awhile, chances are you haven’t truly seen all that the Greater Peoria region has to offer. From fun activities to breathtaking views, it can be hard to determine just where to go. So, we’ve compiled a list of the top 12 places for you to go to explore in the area.
The RiverFront offers magnificent views of the water from the safety of land. Located in downtown Peoria, you can take a walk along side the water on the river trail, enjoy a meal at some nearby restaurants, visit the Peoria Riverfront Museum, and maybe even catch a live performance. Plus, for a limited time (May 19th-September 20th), stock up on fresh produce at Riverfront Market, a farmer’s market open on Saturday mornings. (photo from visitdowntonpeoria.com/Peoria Riverfront Association)
Located around 20 minutes outside of downtown Peoria, Hanna City’s Wildlife Prairie Park spans 2,000 acres and is home to over 150 animals of different species. Visiting this zoological park is perfect for anyone who wants to reconnect with nature or see some animals. The park itself features lots of different recreational activities from animal trails, a railroad, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, and much more. For those who want to see a different side of the park, be sure to check out their Old English Faire in late June and Wildlife Scary Park in October. (photo from EnjoyPeoria and Wildlife Prairie Park Facebook page, featured image)
This Pekin park sits alongside a lagoon and offers lots of enjoyable activities. The lagoon itself offers paddle boat rentals, fishing, and walking trails for those looking for a more relaxed experience. The park also is home to DragonLand Water Park, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a skate park, and a bike trail for those looking to burn some calories. The park also features some picnic areas and grilling stations, so make sure to pack ahead. (photo from Pekin Park District Facebook page)
Former President Teddy Roosevelt referred to this 2.52 mile stretch of road as “The world’s most beautiful drive” during a visit in 1910. A century later, this drive still holds up, showcasing scenic views of nature and a variety of historic homes. To really make the most of your experience, be sure to visit during autumn to watch the leaves change colors. (photo from EnjoyIllinois)
Our historic downtown Warehouse District offers plenty to do in repurposed warehouse buildings from the 1880s to 1920s. If you’re looking for coffee or a bite to eat, head over to Zion Coffee, Thyme Kitchen & Craft Beer, or Sugar Wood-Fired Bistro. If you’re looking for something more hands on, create some art at Wheel Art Pottery or solve a puzzle at Gone in 60 Escape Games. This district also contains Dozer Park, the home of the Peoria Chiefs, so make sure to catch a game or two during their season!
If you’re looking for some seclusion and a place to unplug, this wooded prairie area located just outside Lincoln, IL is the place for you. Both sides of the creek include hiking trails, and the footbridge makes it simple to get from one side to another. Or, if you want to explore the creek from within, feel free to bring your canoe and fishing rod. If you’re looking for a more unique experience here at the park, come during the winter for some cross-country skiing down one of the hiking trails. (photo from Lincoln Courier)
While this experience may not be for those who are afraid of heights, the Tower Park Observation deck in Peoria Heights offers a unique experience, as this is the only water tower of its kind in the US. Ride 200 feet up the glass elevator to one of the tower’s 3 observation decks to get an amazing view of the region. On a very clear day, you can see for 20 miles, so be sure to stop by when the weather’s nice. (photo from peoriaheights.org)
Another creative way to see our area is to take a look at it from the Illinois River itself! Whether you’re on the Spirit of Peoria Riverboat or a more intimate private cruise from Sail Peoria, getting a glimpse of the city from the water will offer a unique experience. Bonus points if you venture onto the water during sunset! (photo from SailPeoria.com)
Obviously, the best pumpkin patch to visit would be in the Pumpkin Capital of the World! Yes, Morton produces almost 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin, but there’s plenty of pumpkins to spare, especially at Roth’s Pumpkin Patch. There’s tons to do- including hay rides, train rides, the chance to meet some farm animals, slides, and of course, lots of delicious fall goodies. (photo from Roth Pumpkin Patch Facebook page)
Most people wouldn’t believe you if you told them that Illinois had a sand prairie home to cacti and badgers, but that’s exactly what Sand Ridge State Forest has to offer! To truly see this different side of Illinois, head over to Mason County and explore the campgrounds, equestrian trails, hiking trails, and hunting grounds. Make sure to watch your step though, as you never know where a cactus might be hiding! (photo from EnjoyIllinois.com)
This small 112-acre campus located in Woodford county contains a variety of experiences within itself, depending on when you visit. Most times you visit campus, you’ll be able to check out the Ronald Reagan Museum & Peace Garden, dedicated to the former President that attended Eureka. If the weather’s nice, you’ll be able to walk around campus and see the labyrinth and lilac arboretum. And, if you’re around on the weekends, be sure to head into the Undergrounds, a weekend-only cafe located in the basement of Ben Major Hall. (photo from Woodford Chronicle)
Spread over 5 acres, these gardens are the perfect backdrop for your new profile picture or a great spot to stop and smell the roses (literally!). The land itself houses 15 different themed gardens, a tropical conservatory, and floral shows depending on the season. If you’re looking for a truly magical experience, stop by during the month of October when it turns into Hogwarts’ Garden of Botanical Wonders. (photo from Enjoy Illinois)
Have you visited any spots on our list yet? What were your thoughts? Are there any places we forgot to include on the list? What places in our region are you looking to explore next? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!