Winter Travel Ideas in Illinois

December 30, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The snow is on the ground so it's the perfect time to get out and experience winter in Illinois! Today we have Illinois State Travel Director, Jen Hoelzle here to tell us about some unique winter getaway ideas to enjoy throughout Illinois.

It may be chilly, but there are so many great outdoor activities that you do to create your own Winter Adventure in Illinois.

Frozen Waterfalls – Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Park – just an hour or so outside of Chicago, you can still explore these beautiful state parks in the winter. Take a winter hike on the well-marked trails and the scenery is something out of an Ansel Adams photograph – stunning. You'll be rewarded with one of the most spectacular sites of the season, the frozen waterfalls. Your friends will be so jealous of your instagram pictures!

Skiing and Snowshoe Hikes - Chestnut Mountain, Galena – aside from being one of the Midwest's top-rated ski destinations, Chestnut Mountain also offers a Twilight Snowshoe Hike. Right at dusk, you can take a beautiful 1.5-mile hike along the Galena River Trail. It's scenic and it's a great workout!

Bald Eagle Safari – Rock Island – Our nation's own majestic symbol – the Bald Eagle is the star of show. Expert eagle watchers will provide spotting scopes to help safari-goers get closer to bald eagles than they ever have before – and provide tips to ensure a successful eagle watching experience. Binoculars will be provided!

Winter horseback riding – Shawnee National Forest – one of the best ways to see the famous bluffs and rock formations in Southern Illinois is a guided or unguided horseback ride. The milder winters in Southern Illinois allow several stables to offer this unique opportunity to see the Shawnee National Forest in the winter.

Winter Festivals
Illinois loves its festivals – and winter doesn't stop us from heading out to enjoy them!

Central Illinois Jazz Festival (Decatur) – Jan 31 – Feb 2. Recognized as the Midwest's premier jazz event of the season, the musical weekend offers intimate performances from musicians across the region. Some of the sessions include a Clarinet Clambake, a Sunday Gospel service and a Jazz Brunch.

Galesburg Historical Society Chocolate Festival – Feb 15-16 – Indulge your sweet tooth right after Valentine's Day in this endless buffet of tortes, cakes, pies, cookies, candies and more. It's at the Galesburg Antique Mall, so visitors can peruse the mall for antiques after getting their chocolate fix!

Snow Days Chicago at Navy Pier – Feb 8-9 – Right here in Chicago, families can enjoy a winter wonderland inside! There's snow sculpting competitions featuring professional sculptors from around the world as well as snow painting, snow boarding and much more.

There's so much to do in this state. You can find a list of hotels and B&Bs on!. But one thing I love to do is combine my two favorite things – wine and relaxation. Many of our Illinois wineries offer charming onsite accommodations – like the Kite Hill Vineyards Bed & Breakfast in Carbondale. Great location for a quiet escape in Southern Illinois!

For more information on Illinois travel, visit!

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