From outdoor adventures and fine cuisine to rollercoasters and beautiful state park, Lake County Illinois offers groups plenty of entertaining activities
The itinerary at a glance
Situated in the northeastern corner of Illinois, along the shores of Lake Michigan, Lake County features beautiful lakes and beaches, hundreds of miles of trails to walk and bike on, breathtaking forest preserves, unique downtowns and terrific shopping centers. The county, which was primarily unsettled prairie and was still home to its native Potawatomi Indians, was created by the Illinois State Legislature in 1839. It is the second-largest county in Illinois by total area and the only one that has more water area than land area.
Duration: 4 Days
This itinerary is ideal for: All ages
Not-to-be-missed Lake County Illinois Things to Do:
- Chicago Botanic Garden
- Tempel Lipizzans
- Genesee Theatre
- Deerfield Historic Village
- Ravinia Festival
- Illinois Beach State Park
Day 1: An iconic amusement park, shopping galore and a beautiful garden in Lake County Illinois
Groups seeking excitement can visit the renowned amusement park Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. Pack a pair of comfortable sneakers and explore Six Flags’ numerous roller coasters including the legendary American Eagle, which celebrates 40 years of classic American thrills, BATMAN The Ride, the giant coaster Goliath and much more. Groups can also ride the world’s tallest carousel, the Columbia Carousel, a double-decker merry-go-round that has embraced crowds since the opening day of Six Flags in 1976. Those seeking a more relaxing outing can enjoy an entire day filled with live shows at the park that will entertain all ages.
Another Gurnee option is the ultimate shopping experience: Gurnee Mills, Illinois’ largest shopping and dining destination is newly renovated and has more than 200 stores including outlet, discount and specialty retailers.
One of the most beautiful destinations in Illinois, the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe is situated on 385 acres and consists of 28 gardens that will stimulate your senses. With its world-renowned plant collection and displays, it is one of the country’s most visited public gardens and a pre-eminent center for learning and scientific research. In the summers, they feature beer gardens. In autumn, stunning colors can be found everywhere. In winter, there’s the light and orchid show. Groups can enjoy the picturesque surroundings.
With hundreds of restaurants in Lake County, groups can enjoy a dining experience that satiates their appetite. Whether groups savor the beloved culinary cuts of Wildfire Restaurant in Lincolnshire, a glass of Merlot and a delectable cut of beef at 129 Center Cut in Grayslake or flaming saganaki at Chrissoulas in Libertyville, Lake County has a perfect dining experience for everyone.
If you are part of a family tour, consider spending a night or two at Great Wolf Lodge. This 80,000-square-foot waterpark features a completely renovated indoor water park with water slides, a crooked creek, a water playground and more. If your travels take you elsewhere in Lake County, there are more than 60 hotels and 2 resorts where you can rest your head.
Day 2: Hiking in Illinois, spectacular horses, world-class theater and more things to do in Illinois
Kick-off your day with an exceptional cup of joe. Besides serving award-winning coffee, the Egg Harbor Cafe in Lake Forest is known by locals as a friendly country restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, or brunch. Its unique, rich egg dishes make up the Midwest’s most creative (and spontaneous) brunch menu.
Lake County also happens to be where one of America’s greatest authors went from scribbling to writing Pulitzer-winning sci-fi, fantasy, horror and mystery stories. Ray Bradbury based the fictional town of Green Town on his real childhood home in Waukegan. Start your day with a walk on Dandelion Trail at Ray Bradbury Park in Waukegan. The trail, named after his semiautobiographical book Dandelion Wine, offers spectacular sights of nature including the Waukegan River and is a playground for your imagination.
Old Mill Creek is home to the spectacular Tempel Lipizzans. The Lipizzans’ history spans more than six decades while the story of the Lipizzan and classical riding spans more than five centuries. Each performance, to music, is a study in classical horsemanship as the horse and rider display impressive athleticism that will wow your group. Groups can visit the stables where individual care of the stallions is a high priority.
Tonight’s big show takes place at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. This historic theater has been putting on world-class performances since its opening in 1927. Your group can catch such performances as Night Ranger (April 1), Alton Brown (April 2), The World’s Greatest Pink Floyd Tribute Show (April 22) and Dionne Warwick (April 24). Lake County is also home to other excellent playhouses, including the Northlight Theatre in Skokie (one of the largest nonprofit theaters in the Chicago area with audiences totaling more than 50,000 each season) and the Writers Theatre in Glencoe (which has been deemed America’s No. 1 theater company by the Wall Street Journal).
Day 3: An interactive museum, outdoor activities and an historic village
For those seeking to stretch their legs on an early morning walk, Lake County features more than 31,000 acres of outdoor fun where groups can go swimming, boating, hiking, fishing or pack a picnic at the Lake County Forest Preserves. Lake County also boasts more than 75 inland lakes, 37 public golf courses and two state parks.
The Bess Bower Dunn Museum in Libertyville is an interactive museum of history, art and popular culture. Be led through time among life-size dinosaurs, fossils and more. The museum’s wigwam, like those made by the Potawatomi tribe, is large enough to hold 30 guests and hosts educational classes.
Another great stop is the Deerfield Historic Village, which has been preserved and modified since its establishment in 1837. Groups can visit historic houses in an authentic, 18th-century New England village. Founded in 1952, this outdoor museum interprets the history and culture of early New England and the Connecticut River Valley. Groups can tour 12 carefully-preserved antique houses dating from 1730 to 1850 and explore world-class collections of regional furniture, silver, textiles and other decorative arts on display.
Long Grove Historic Village houses more than 80 specialty shops and restaurants set within historic buildings, amid colorful gardens and alongside cobblestone walks. As Illinois’ first historic district, Long Grove’s charm is distinctively real. Come experience for yourself the array of shops and boutiques Long Grove has to offer including the Long Grove Apple Haus, Buffalo Creek Brewing, Broken Earth Winery and Bella Donna Boutique.
The spectacular Ravinia Festival in Highland Park is an outdoor music venue that hosts a series of outdoor concerts and performances every June to September. Ravinia is an internationally renowned, not-for-profit music festival that presents incredible performances by the world’s greatest artists. This enchanting 36-acre park features three venues and a popular lawn area where picnicking while watching a show is an art form.
Day 4: Relax at an Illinois State Park
Pack some sandwiches and put on sunblock as your group heads to Illinois Beach State Park. Stretching 6.5 miles along the sandy shore of Lake Michigan, the park offers a full range of recreation opportunities as one of the most unique and beautiful settings in America. Illinois Beach is the only remaining beach ridge shoreline left in the state, with dunes and swales, sprawling marshes, forests of oak and vast arrays of animal life and vegetation. More than 650 species of plants have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers.
Tour an opulent Venetian-style mansion, private chapel and 75 acres of formal gardens at Cuneo Museum and Gardens in Vernon Hills. Cuneo stands as a monument to old-world elegance amid country life. As a living museum, the building and gardens preserve in vivid detail the grace of an era and way of life. The grand spaces of the Venetian-style architecture, filled with antique furnishings and artwork and the quiet paths through the manicured grounds allow guests to savor the elegant splendor of the “gilded age.”
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