Exploring Beyond the City Limits

Sites Outside the City

Discover a whole different world beyond the city limits. Marvel at the amazing architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, stroll through formal Japanese gardens, and tour Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home

Day 1: Arts & Culture in the Chicago Suburbs

Architecture, History, and More

See the surprises of the suburbs, starting with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's Home and Studio in Oak Park.

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Marvel at amazing architecture in Oak Park’s Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District, where the legendary architect perfected his Prairie style of design in the late 1800s. Tours include a fascinating look inside the preserved Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Next, take a nature walk through the Morton Arboretum, home to 1,700 acres of gardens and world-renowned plant collections.

Have lunch at the Arboretum’s Ginkgo Restaurant, which overlooks the lovely Meadow Lake. Afterwards, experience nineteenth-century frontier life at Naperville’s Naper Settlement, a living history museum with costumed villagers and working businesses.

Or head to Brookfield Zoo, where you can catch a dolphin show at the Seven Seas. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a show at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

Day 2: Gardens and Rustic Cottages

The Hidden History Outside Chicago

Start the day with a tour of one of the world's greatest Japanese gardens.

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Take a morning stroll through the lovely Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, boasting tumbling waterfalls, formal Japanese gardens, koi ponds and a teahouse modeled after sixteenth-century Sukiya-style architecture. Next, come face to face with Jane, one of the 10 most important dinosaur discoveries of the past 100 years, at the Burpee Museum of Natural History. For lunch, celebrate Rockford's Swedish heritage in the Scandinavian-inspired environs of the Stockholm Inn, known for its Swedish pancakes with lingonberries (called Swedes). Then head over to the Midway Village Museum, featuring a living history Victorian village and a museum that traces Rockford’s past.
Afterwards, wander through the stunning 20-room Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum. Built on a bluff for a prominent Rockford family in 1865, the home features amazing woodwork and beautiful murals. Have dinner at the hip Abreo in the downtown River District, which offers an innovative seasonal menu. After dinner, relax on the outdoor garden patio with a glass of wine.

Day 3: Northwest Illinois

History Abounds

Catch more historical sites outside the city, from a 48-foot-tall statue of Black Hawk to a President's Boyhood Home

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Follow the Blackhawk Chocolate Trail as you travel through Northwest Illinois, where several chocolate shops dot the trail. Marvel at the 48-foot-tall Black Hawk Statue that towers over the Rock River in Oregon's Lowden State Park. Nearby, enjoy a two-hour lunch cruise on the river aboard the Pride of Oregon paddle wheel riverboat.

Then travel to Grand Detour to see the John Deere Historic Site, located on the site of Deere's original blacksmith shop. Walk through Deere’s home, view exhibits and watch a resident blacksmith at work in a replica of Deere's blacksmith shop.

Afterwards, visit the little river town of Dixon to tour the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home & Visitors Center, restored to the days when the president and his family lived there.