9 easy must-do weekend trips from Chicago

Published by: BouncePosted
Weekend trips from Chicago

Chicago is blessed with world-class museums, an amazing food scene, some of the best breweries in the country, and everything else you’d ever want to do. But even the most passionate Chicagoans need to escape the city every now and then. Luckily, there are dozens of superb weekend getaway destinations, all within a few hours’ drive of the Windy City. 

There are miles upon miles of Lake Michigan coastline to explore, there are national and state parks with gorgeous nature, and there are charming cities and towns all over the Great Lakes region where you can find a little bit of quaint comfort. Planning will go a long way to ensure a successful weekend trip. So research where to go, find luggage storage in Chicago if you need to drop the bags off, book lodging, plan where to eat and what to do, and hit the road. 

Here are the best weekend getaways from Chicago: 

Weekend trip to Dubuque from Chicago

Dubuque, Iowa 

Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, Dubuque is the ideal weekend getaway for history buffs and older tourists. Baseball fans will want to visit the famous “Field of Dreams” ballpark, which is now the home of special events hosted by Major League Baseball. 

The town itself has been revitalized somewhat in recent years, with art galleries, breweries, murals, and restaurants opening in downtown Dubuque. Dubuque is heavy on the small-town charm and well worth a visit. 

Distance from Chicago 

It takes just under three hours to reach Dubuque from Chicago. Driving is the only option for transit. 

Our activity recommendations

This historic town is a delightful change from downtown Chicago, with a picturesque old-school Main street with many pre-Civil War buildings, like the Black Horse Inn. There’s also the Febekon Place Elevator, which is a scenic railway that overlooks the city and provides a spectacular aerial view. 

Best season to visit

Summer, fall, and spring are the best times of year to visit Dubuque. 

Holland, Michigan 

Western Michigan has a ton of delightful towns for weekend getaways, and Holland is one of the best family-friendly options. Located less than a mile from the stunning Lake Michigan coastline, Holland is famous for its large Dutch immigrant population and its furniture-making industry. 

Distance from Chicago

You’ll have to drive south and east for about two and a half hours to get to Holland. Driving really is the best way to get there, although Amtrak runs a train as well. 

Our activity recommendations

Explore Holland’s (aptly-named) Dutch heritage by exploring delightfully kitschy attractions like Nelis’ Dutch Village, De Klomp Wooden Shoe, and the Windmill Island Gardens. 

Best season to visit

In proper Dutch fashion, Holland (Michigan) celebrates the annual blooming of tulips every springtime. With millions of tulips planted across the area, it’s a gorgeous time of year to visit. Summer is also ideal, with the Lake Michigan shore and beaches only a mile away from town and gorgeous Lake Macatawa providing plenty of outdoor recreation. 

Chicago weekend trip to Grand Rapids, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan 

While far from the largest city in the country, Grand Rapids has a massive beer scene. Since the industry’s boom in the past two decades, Grand Rapids has quickly become one of the craft beer meccas, drawing thousands of beer nerds to its taprooms and breweries. 

Distance from Chicago 

It’s a three-hour drive from Chicago to Grand Rapids, probably less if you miss Friday traffic. Amtrak also runs a service from Union Station directly into downtown Grand Rapids, the train ride is about four hours. 

Our activity recommendations

Beer truly is the main draw for visitors, with companies like Founders, Brewery Vivant, Saugatuck Brewing, and Grand Rapids Brewing all operating popular taprooms. The food isn’t bad at all either, with local favorites Forty Acres Soul Kitchen and Terra GR being high-end dining options.

When you’re not drinking, renting kayaks or bikes to enjoy the riverfront are great ways to stay active. Lake Michigan is less than 30 minutes away by car too.

Best season to visit

Summer and fall are perfect for enjoying some time outdoors, especially if you’re looking at kayaking and swimming along the river or Lake Michigan. Winter is also a great time to do a long weekend because you can hit the slopes at the nearby Cannonsburg Ski Resort. Also, the many Grand Rapids breweries are great for a cozy pint to warm up.

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana

The sandy dunes overlooking Lake Michigan have finally gotten their due and were made into a national park. Indiana Dunes National Park is the closest conservation and recreation area of its kind to Chicago and the perfect weekend getaway (or day trip) for outdoor enthusiasts.  

Distance from Chicago 

It’s only about 90 minutes by car (which is the most convenient way to get there) from downtown Chicago. Unless you want to explore the whole area and stay in a cabin, Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the best day trips from Chicago. The South Shore Line will also take you to the Indiana Dunes, but driving is easier and more flexible. 

Our activity recommendations

There are over 15 miles of beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline to explore and enjoy. You can enjoy the beach, go for a swim, hike the trails along the dunes, and even go horseback riding. 

Best season to visit

Summer and fall are the best times to go. Visiting during winter is absolutely inadvisable because of lake effect weather. Spring is better, but the weather brings frequent rain that impacts the hiking trails and terrain.

Weekend trips from Chicago to Lake Geneva

Kohler, Wisconsin 

Located north of Milwaukee along Lake Michigan, Kohler is famous for its resorts and golf courses. The American Club is a bucket-list course for golfers, and there are a number of spas and restaurants that make Kohler a relaxing destination. 

Distance from Chicago

Kohler is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago. A great way to break up the trip is to stop in Milwaukee for lunch.

Our activity recommendations 

The upscale resorts and golf courses are the main draw at Kohler, which makes them frequent weekend getaway destinations for older travelers. The Kohler Waters Spa is the perfect place to unwind, and the American Club boasts one of the best golf courses in the country. 

Best season to visit

For weekend getaways based around golf, summer and fall are the best times of year to head up to Kohler. Kohler is also a wonderful destination for spas and resorts during the winter. 

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin 

Of all the weekend getaways from Chicago, this one has to be the most popular. Lake Geneva is Chicago’s equivalent of The Hamptons. Basically, everyone knows someone with a house up there. This makes sense, given it’s only a 90-minute drive from Chicago, just over the Wisconsin border. There are plenty of hotels, like The Abbey and Grand Geneva Resort. Multiple golf courses surround the lake as well. But the main reason to head to Lake Geneva is to appreciate the natural beauty with friends and family. 

Distance from Chicago

Lake Geneva is about as close to Illinois as you get, and it only takes about 90 minutes to get there from Chicago by car, which is the only real way to get there. 

Our activity recommendations

All the best activities in Lake Geneva are based around the water. Renting a boat from one of the marinas is a great way to get the family out on the water. There are multiple public beaches as well. 

During the winter, there is a village of ice castles made by expert sculptors that’s worth checking out. Alpine Valley Ski resort is nearby, which also hosts concerts during the summer. 

Best season to visit

Summer is the best time to take a weekend trip to Lake Geneva, but it does get busy during this time of year. During the fall, Lake Geneva gets a boost when the leaves change color, despite it being too cold for boating and swimming. 

Trip for the weekend from Chicago to Madison

Madison, Wisconsin 

Wisconsin’s capital city is one of the most popular weekend getaways from Chicago. All the best Wisconsin culture is represented in Madison, which mostly consists of beer, brats, and Badger Football. The University of Wisconsin’s gorgeous campus is located right in Madison, which gives the city energy when students are on campus. But there’s a nice variety of outdoor activities and culture in the city as well. 

Distance from Chicago

Madison is a three-hour drive from Chicago. There are also bus routes between downtown and Madison that take about three hours and 30 minutes. 

Our activity recommendations 

For such a small city, there’s plenty to do in Madison. Snowshoeing in the winter, hiking in the summer, appreciating the leaves in the fall, and drinking all year long. 

Just outside of Madison is the Wisconsin Dells area, which has indoor and outdoor water parks and other outdoor activities. It’s a great excursion from Madison and less than an hour’s drive from the capital. 

Best season to visit

Summer and fall are the best times to visit, especially when the leaves change and the University is in full swing.

Milwaukee weekend trips from Chicago

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Chicago’s neighbor to the north is an obvious choice for weekend getaways. There is culture, there’s beer (and plenty of it), there are several pro sports teams, and there’s a lot of character. Milwaukee has all the amenities of a larger city, just without all the inconvenience of getting around a place like Chicago. 

If you’re driving up to Door County or Kohler, it’s well worth it to stop in Milwaukee for lunch. 

Distance from Chicago

There is a train from Union Station that lands you right in downtown Milwaukee. This takes less than two hours and can save you some traffic headaches. The drive up to Beer City only takes about 90 minutes. 

Our activity recommendations

There are a number of amazing museums to visit, including the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is a gorgeous modern building along the lakefront. There’s also the Harley Davidson museum which details the story of how Milwaukee became the largest builder of motorcycles in the world. 

Outside of that, there are world-class breweries, restaurants, and bars. Definitely make sure to try a famous Bloody Mary dressed up Wisconsin-style. 

Best season to visit

The Milwaukee lakefront is incredible, and there are frequent festivals and events going on, so summer is an amazing time for a weekend trip. But there is enough culture that visiting Milwaukee is fun year-round. If you’re free during the first few weeks of July, hit up Milwaukee Summerfest, which is the largest music festival in the world. 

Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

As far as outdoor activities go, Chicago is hardly the best city in the world. But the area’s best hiking area is absolutely worth visiting. Starved Rock State Park, with waterfalls and topography (rare in a painfully flat state like Illinois), makes for a perfect weekend getaway for outdoorsy types.  

Distance from Chicago 

It’s only a two-hour drive from Chicago, but you’ll want to leave early to beat traffic and have a head start on the other hikers. Leaving yourself a full day to explore the nooks and crannies of this park is the best way to go. 

Our activity recommendations

Essentially, there’s really only one thing to do at Starved Rock, and that’s hiking. With 13 miles of trails winding through glacier-carved canyons and terrain, it’s the best hiking Illinois has to offer. There are gorgeous waterfalls and winding streams to take a dip in if you’re hiking during the sweltering Illinois summer. 

Best season to visit

Late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times of year to explore Starved Rock. Winter is basically out of the question. Early spring and late fall are entirely weather-dependent.

Easy weekend trips from Chicago


It’s hard for locals and transplants to find a place they love more than Chicago because there is a lot to love. But getting out of the city for a weekend getaway is a necessary way to recharge and reset. You’ll be more in tune with nature, you’ll feel a little more relaxed after taking a break from traffic, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the gorgeous region surrounding Chicago. If you’re short on time, you can always opt for a fun day trip from Chicago as well, and if you only have a limited time in the city itself, check out our guide on how to spend 3 days in Chicago to maximize your itinerary.

Planning one of the many fun weekend getaways from Chicago is a great way to find a new appreciation for not only the Midwest but also Chicago. Because you can only stay away from that deep dish for so long… 

Get the
bounce app

Instantly find locations nearby to drop off your luggage wherever you go.