Friday, September 30, 2022

Things To Do In Peoria, Illinois & 25 Best Places to Explore

If you think Peoria is just another medium-sized American city, think again. The ‘Gem City,’ as they call it, has a massive presence on the tourism landscape. The rich history and culture coupled with abounding natural beauty and multiplicity of things to do in Peoria, IL draw visitors all year round.

Peoria makes sense for you too, no matter what’s on your mind – a solo getaway, a family vacation or a honeymoon trip. Let’s put it firmly on your radar with a detailed list of what to do in Peoria Il. Armed with the information we have rounded up for you, planning is quick and hassle-free. 

Unlimited Things To Do In Peoria, Illinois [Best Places]

Things To Do In Peoria, IL: Explore Parks

With several parks and hundreds of miles of trails, Peoria affords abounding avenues for hiking, walking and biking. Even visitors with mobility issues will find some of them quite friendly.

1. Forest Park Nature Reserve

Forest Park Nature Reserve

  • Address: 5809 N Forest Park Dr, Peoria Heights, IL 61616, United States
  • Open: Tuesday to Sunday (Monday closed)
  • Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
  • Phone: +1 309-686-3360
  • Website: https://peoriaparks.org/

Different people have different reasons to frequent Forest Park Nature Reserve. For hikers and nature lovers, the 500-acre reserve offers 7 miles of trails winding through old-growth woods, trickling streams, ridges and prairie openings. From tough, steep inclines to flatter, easier and ADA-friendly ones, there’s a trail for every age and fitness level. Guided hiking tours are also on offer.

Birders visit the reserve for a glimpse of over 150 bird species, depending on the season. Think Warblers, Nesting hawks, American Redstart, Tanagers, Ovenbird, and Louisiana Waterthrush. Wish to beef up your knowledge of nature and all it entails? Well, classes are available on topics from bats to bugs. Also, don’t forget to visit the natural history museum located on the A-frame trailhead.

If you are looking for a souvenir to commemorate your visit, head straight to the nature store in the Forest Park Nature Center. Alongside gifts, it sells bird feeding and hiking essentials. If you plan a visit in spring, the brilliant wildflower show will flabbergast you. Moreover, no fees are applicable to access the park and trails. On the downside, the reserve doesn’t allow dogs in its premises.

Amenities and more:
  • Interpretive displays
  • Natural history museum
  • Bird observation room
  • Nature Shop
  • Private parking
  • Bathrooms

2. Sandridge State Forest

Sandridge State Forest

  • Established: 1939
  • Address: P.O. Box 111, Forest City, Illinois 61532
  • Coordinates: 40°24′41″N 89°51′58″W
  • Phone: 309-597-2212
  • Reservations: 309-597-2212
  • Area: 29.14 sq.km
  • Management: Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Website: https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/SandRidge.aspx

A 45-minute (31-mile) drive from Peoria Illinois downtown will get you to Sandridge State Forest, where nature unfolds at its unspoiled best. Head deep into the 7,200 acres of wilderness through 44 miles of trails, and you’ll come across some breathtaking forests, open fields and sand prairies. The reserve derives its name from the sand ridges carved by the Kankakee Torrents about 19,000 calibrated years ago. It originated from Lake Chicago after the geological upheaval.

What to do?

Sandridge State Park offers ample opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

  • Flora and fauna: Explore the fascinating flora and fauna that you won’t find elsewhere in IL, which include silvery bladderpod, pocket gopher, badger, and so on.
  • Birding: As a key nesting site for some exotic bird species like ovenbird, indigo bunting, and scarlet tanager, the park is a birder’s delight.
  • Hunting: Hunting certain animals in certain areas of the park is legal. Your options include turkey, pheasant, coyote, red and gray fox, deer, quail, dove, and squirrel.
  • Shooting Trap: Try your hand at trap shooting and archery at a dedicated facility located within the reserve.
  • Picnicking: Pack a picnic and enjoy some quality time with family and friends at a dedicated picnic area replete with picnic tables, grills, shelter and restrooms.
  • Camping: With 27 sites, the Pine Campground invites you to a memorable tent camping experience. The amenities like restrooms, water, fire pads and parking lot cater to your convenience. Equestrian camping is also possible at Horseman’s Park with a staging area, hitching rails, water, bathrooms and shelter readily available.
  • Hiking: When it comes to hiking, the options are abounding. With 44 miles of trails, there’s something for your unique requirements whether you are a hiker, a nature walker or a backpacker. The trails range from one and a half miles to fifteen miles.
  • Equestrian Trails: Explore the reserve on the horseback through 50 miles of equestrian trails and over 120 miles of fire lanes. Picket-line posts, bathrooms, fire pads, hitching rails, a day-use shelter and other amenities are on offer.
  • Snowmobiling: Even if snowmobiling is your idea of indulgence, the park keeps you covered with 26 miles of trails blanketed by a minimum of 4 inches of snow.

3. Jubilee College State Park

Jubilee College State Park

  • Established: 1933
  • Area: 12.95 sq. km
  • Address: W Fussner Rd, Brimfield, IL 61517, United States
  • Coordinates: 40°49′26″N 89°47′56″W
  • Phone: +1 309-446-3758
  • Reservations: 309-446-3758
  • Management: Illinois Department of Natural Resources
  • Website: https://www2.illinois.gov/dnr/Parks/Pages/JubileeCollege.aspx

Cradled in Peoria County, the 3,200-acre state park treats you to stunning topography, quaint ambience, old hickory woods, and a meandering Jubilee River. Speaking of the topography, you’ll come across an intricate network of valleys, from almost flat ridge crests to steep chasms. Add to it the diverse bedrock exposures and a river – the park is a hotbed of flora and fauna.

The park is a part of an eponymous college founded by Episcopal Bishop Philander Chase in 1839. Come 1933, the state of Illinois took over the entire property spread over 93 acres. Under the aegis of the Department of Natural Resources, the acreage went up to 3200. In 1972, the property made its way into the National Register of Historic Places. The concerned authority restored the building to its former glory in subsequent years, making it one of the coveted historical sights in Peoria.

What to Do?

With recreational options galore, a fun-filled day is on the cards at the Jubilee College State Park.

  • Picnicking: The park hosts a bevy of picnicking areas featuring a shelter with power, tables, grills, bathrooms, hydrants and other facilities. However, since certain picnic areas aren’t available in winter, it’s advisable to stay updated before planning.
  • Camping: From mid-April through September end, tent and RV camping is a prime attraction here. Showers, restrooms, graveled pads, grills, hydrants, RV dump station and other amenities are available. Small groups are entertained as well. The sites are allotted first come first serve.
  • Fishing: if you have the skill and patience, fishing is a good option. Your catch could be bass, bluegill, catfish, or carp. Mind you, fishing is restricted to two ponds only.
  • Horseback Riding: Exploring the park on a horseback is possible on over 45 miles of trails. Alongside an equestrian camping site, the park ensures your convenience with potable water, restrooms, picnic tables, grills, shelter and other amenities.
  • Nature Exploration: Vouch for the park for diverse flora and fauna. In the woods, you might spot deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, coyotes and raccoons in their natural habitat. When walking along the river, mink, muskrat and beaver can be spotted.
  • Winter Sports: Attribute it to the rolling terrain, the park makes for an exciting winter sports avenue for skiing, sledging and snowmobiling among others.
  • Hunting: Feel free to embark on a hunting spree in 2900 acres of the park. However, restrictions apply. Reach out to the park office for more information.
  • Birding: With over 160 bird species, the reserve is a vantage point for birding.

4. Rocky Glen Park

Rocky Glen Park

  • Established: 1886
  • Area: 126 acres
  • Address: 525 N Kickapoo Creek Rd, Peoria, IL 61604, United States
  • Hours: 6 am to 10 pm (all days)
  • Phone: +1 309-682-1200
  • Google Map Location: 40.6943559, -89.6517752
  • Latitude/Longitude: 40.6943688, -89.6517784
  • Entry Fee: Zero
  • Website: https://friendsofrockyglen.org/

Your hunt for the best trail in Peoria, IL ends at Rocky Glen Park. Nestled at the edge of the city on Kickapoo Creek, the 126-acre park is locally referred to as a “Miniature Starved Rock.” What emerged as a picnic park in 1886 went on to become a popular amusement park in 1904 with multiple rides and arcades available. Come 1987, the park suffered a closure. Since its reopening in 2018, it has been keeping a steady stream of hikers, backpackers, picnickers or anyone seeking a great time.

What to Do?
  • Hiking: A well-developed, shady 1.8-km out-and-back trail is waiting to take you through thick forests, rivulets and meadows in 30 minutes or so. Certain stops on the way would offer you expansive views of Peoria. Despite the dramatic elevation changes, the trail is accessible for all.
  • Waterfall Chasing: Should you visit in winter, expect to witness a stunning, frozen waterfall. Guess what? The gigantic icicle is a sight to behold and worth the difficult hike.
  • Explore Rock Formations: Even if you aren’t a geologist, the famed horseshoe bottoms and other rock formations will interest you. A closer inspection of these fascinating formations is one of the best things to do in Peoria, IL.
  • Others: The trail is conducive to birding and nature walks while the meadows are ideal for picnics.

5. Donovan Park

Donovan Park

  • Address: 5805 N Knoxville Ave, Peoria, IL 61614​
  • Latitude / Longitude: 40.757639, -89.597700
  • Digital Address: QC42+WM Peoria, IL, USA
  • Google Map Location: 40.7573178, -89.598373
  • Open: Seven days a week
  • Hours: 6 am to 11 pm
  • Phone: +1 309-682-6684
  • E-Mail: jkuban@peoriaparks.org
  • Website: https://peoriaparks.org/park/donovan-park/

Head to Donovan Park for plenty of seclusion and nature right in the heart of busy, urban Peoria. Cradled in the Peoria Park District, it has a fair share of trails winding through open green spaces conducive to hiking, walking, running and if weather permits, snowshoeing and skiing.

The trees dotting the park are a tell-tale sign of its history as it transformed from a savannah habitat into a plantation and then into a golf course before becoming a public park. And, if a certain group has its way, it could well be converted into a pavilion. And, with that, we’ll lose a gem.

Donovan Park has more to it than wilderness and tranquility. It’s home to the first public observatory in IL, the Northmoor Observatory, along with an expansive sculpture garden. To its credit, the park is the only park in the city to boast of the “Level 1 Arboretum” accreditation.

5.1. Northmoor Observatory

Northmoor Observatory

The 9-inch refractor telescope housed in the observatory allows you a closer look at our celestial neighbors, including the moon and some distant stars and planets. It’s a learning experience for all but more so for kids. Whatever they study in their science textbooks will be unfolding in front of them, leading to hands-on, stickier learning. So, if your kid picks stargazing as a hobby, don’t be surprised. And, if they face problems discovering the cosmos, the volunteers are happy to help.

Managed by the Peoria Astronomical Society (PAS), it received a facelift in 2009 with the old dome giving way to a new, friendlier rotating dome. Even the warm-up room was upgraded for a better experience. On the downside, the observatory welcomes visitors only 6 months a year, from May through October, only on Saturdays. Also, since a cloudy night can prevent viewing, it’s wise to check for cancellations on the PAS Facebook page to avoid disappointments.

5.2. Donovan Sculpture Garden

Donovan Sculpture Garden

The lure of the Donovan Sculpture Garden holds strong among lovers of landscape sculptures and fine arts. The garden blends nature and art, as deftly chiseled sculptures from abstract and realistic genres are placed amidst open green spaces. New additions are being constantly made to enrich the selection. The latest additions include “Sweet Like Lemonade,” “Nike,” “Surge,” and “Prometheus 1.” The former two are stainless steel abstracts and the latter two are bronze artifacts.

Donovan Sculpture Garden has collaborated with BUILD PEORIA to create installations and lease sculptures. That will amplify the collection, thereby catering to wider audiences and interests. It also plans to deliver educational programs to promote fine arts. The entry is free but donations are accepted.

5.3. Cyd’s in the Park 

Once you are done exploring Donovan Park and its offerings, it’s time to try out some delicacies in the locally owned eatery located in the heart of the park. With a coffee bar, bakery, and takeaway café, the restaurant supports every palate. The soothing environment is just a bonus.

Donovan Park Amenities

Donovan Park Amenities

  • Cyd’s Gourmet Kitchen
  • Lake Access
  • Parking Lot
  • Picnic Tables
  • Restrooms
  • Shelter
  • Trails
  • Pets Allowed
What to do in Donovan Park?
  • Make the most of the trail for short hikes, nature walking and biking.
  • Should you plan a visit in winter, feel free to indulge in snowshoeing & skiing.
  • A restaurant on the premises delights your taste buds with gourmet meals
  • Thanks to three dedicated ponds, fishing opportunities are galore
  • Opt for an educational program offered by the observatory.
  • A designated area with tables makes for a wonderful family & group picnic

6. Wildlife Prairie Park

Wildlife Prairie Park

  • Established: 5 Sep 2000
  • Type: Zoological Park
  • Address: 3826 N Taylor Rd, Hanna City, IL 61536, United States
  • Open: All days of the week, all year round
  • Hours: 9 am to 6:30 pm
  • Phone: +1 309-676-0998
  • Website: https://wildlifeprairiepark.org/

It’s official. This secluded sanctuary, located just 10 miles west of downtown Peoria, is the “Best Hidden Gem And Best Place For Family Fun.” With 60 species and 150 plus animals, mesmerizing landscapes and a variety of recreational things to do in Peoria IL, it’s easy to guess why. A majority of animals populating this 1800-acre zoological park are rescued and cannot be released back into the wild. It welcomes visitors six days a week (Tuesday to Saturday), all year round, save for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

What to do?

The recreational avenues are galore for all ages, making it a daylong destination

Animal Trails: Hike the 1.5-mile animal trail to get a glimpse of Bison, Elk, Black Bears, Fox, Bobcats, Crane, Eagles, Otters, Owls, Snakes, Turtles, and more in their natural habitat. The quaint and verdant environment is just a bonus.

Prairie Zephyr: Get onboard the Prairie Zephyr for a joyride into the wilderness and back. Can’t get enough of it? Well, unlimited rides and reboarding options are available with a $5 ‘All Day Pass.’ Mind you, the ride is subject to weather.

Disc Golf: Unleash the sportsman in you in the championship level 18-hole disc golf course. However, the spectacular vistas of the lakes and hilly, verdant terrain can be distracting. The entry costs an adult $9 and a child $6. Pets are welcome but only on a leash.

Mountain Biking: With 12 miles of trails meandering through varied terrain and a network of water bodies, the options are plenty for mountain biking. Take your pick as per your skills – 2-track beginner trail, 8-mile intermediate trail, & many pro-trails. Even fat biking avenues are available, where you navigate sand, ice and snow trails.

Fishing: Go for the catch in 5 lakes replete with Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, Crappie, and Muskie among others. Daily catch limits apply.

Kayaking: The five lakes also afford kayaking opportunities for pros and newbies alike. Ensure to bring your own kayak because rentals aren’t available as yet.

Sculpture Walk: Love fine arts? Well, the park keeps you covered with a sculpture walk. Walk past an array of magnificent statues to be overawed by their charm.

Educational Programs: Don’t forget to partake in onsite programs on wildlife and more involving field trips, camps and classes.

Celebrations: Plan your weddings, showers, parties, reunions, corporate events, school events and quarterly retreats in the fairytale settings of Wildlife Prairie Park.

7. Glen Oak Park

Glen Oak Park

  • Area: 117 acres
  • Address: 2218 North Prospect Road, Peoria, IL
  • Phone: 309-682-1200, 309-682-6684

Glen Oak Park should be your port of call when in Peoria. Spend a day exploring the Peoria Zoo, PlayHouse Children’s Museum, Rotary Adventure Grove, Glen Park Lagoon, Glen Oak Amphitheater, and Luthy Botanical Garden. Add to it some hiking trails, the reserve caters to every visitor, young or old.

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7.1. Luthy Botanical Garden

Luthy Botanical Garden

The George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden makes sense even if you aren’t a botanist or a naturalist. Nestled right next to Prospect Avenue in the heart of Peoria, this secluded sanctuary packs more than 300 genera in 12+ themed gardens within 4.5 acres. With each season, the floral displays change and so do the colors and vibes. It lends the name from George Littlewood Luthy, the former president of Peoria’s Commercial National Bank.

What to Expect?
  • The facility also houses a conservatory spread over 230 sq. mts. displaying orchids, tropical and seasonal varieties. The entry entails a fee with credit cards accepted. It is also host to the Spring Show, Orchid Show, Poinsettia Show, and other events.
  • Explore unique varieties in 12+ categories, including all-season garden, rose garden, herb garden, viburnum collection, perennial garden, wildlife garden, woodland garden, hosta glade and more. They are open all year round and entry is free.
  • Buy plant-related books, gardening tools and accessories, souvenirs, gifts, jewelry, collectibles and more from the gift shop located within the premises.
  • The garden serves as a heavenly backdrop for fairytale weddings and showers. Also, feel free to schedule your next corporate event here, if visiting Peoria for work.
  • Feast your eyes on the revolving sculpture exhibit.
  • A variety of educational programs are also there for the taking.
  • With a tapestry of vibrant hues, the garden is a godsend for shutterbugs.

7.2. Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum

Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum

  • Established: 2015
  • Address: 2218 N Prospect Rd, Peoria, IL 61603, United States
  • Phone: +1 309-323-6900
  • Open: Tuesday to Sunday (Monday closed)
  • Hours: Tues: (Members Only) 9 am – noon; Wed to Sat (9 am to 4 pm); Sun (12 pm –5 pm)

If you are traveling with a kid aged 2 or above, Peoria Playhouse Children’s Museum has to be on your bucket list. Since 2015, the playhouse has been providing an array of programs and exhibits to help develop a lifelong passion for learning among kids.

Exhibits: Let your kid explore 6 permanent exhibits for an enriching learning experience on a topic of interest. Designed for different age groups, these exhibits include topics like:

  1. FOSSILS ROCK
  2. PEORIA, THEN AND NOW
  3. MOTION COMMOTION
  4. FAMILY FARM
  5. BY YOUR RIVER GENTLY FLOWING, ILLINOIS
  6. ALL CONSTRUCTION GREAT AND SMALL

Field Trips: Let your kid take an age-specific field trip designed to broaden perspectives. The trips are based on the STEAM approach to learning, elaborating on subjects, including Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Typically, the trips are scheduled on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. If students exceed 60, Monday can be considered.

Toys for Sale: Head to the gift shop within the playhouse premises to fetch a variety of engaging toys in categories like Building Systems, Imaginative Play, Tools for Exploration, and Infant Toys. The toys are designed for different age groups, helping them achieve different age-specific developmental goals. Credit cards are accepted, besides cash.

Birthday Parties: Celebrate your kid’s birthday in a designated room within the museum. The porch and picnic tables also come by default with each booking. Standard and deluxe packages are available to suit all budgets. Also, feel free to pair the party with workshops for an additional $25. Bring snacks for the party along or order it here, it’s up to you.

Bookings: Email: kklaus@peoriaparks.org / Phone: 309.323.6893

Note that the bookings for birthday parties should be made at least two weeks prior.

Entry Fees:
  • Ages 1-64: $9.00
  • 65+: $8.00
  • Active Military: $8.00
  • Under 1: Free
  • Active WIC/Link: $3

7.3. Peoria Zoo

Peoria Zoo

  • Established: 1955
  • AKA: Glen Oak Zoo
  • Address: 2320 N. Prospect Rd., Peoria, IL 61603
  • Phone: 309-686-3365
  • Open: Daily (10:00 am to 5:00 pm)
  • Area: 6 hectares
  • Number of species: Less than 100
  • Number of animals: 232

The Peoria Zoo is more than just a place to breed, protect and study animals. Rather, it’s a daylong destination for awareness, preservation and recreation. It came up in the 1880s as an unassuming rearing ground for elks gifted to the Peoria Park District. By the 1970s, the facility emerged into a full-fledged zoo with a steady increase in area, animals and exhibits. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association membership came in 1976.

Presently, the six-hectare zoo houses six exhibits, close to a hundred species and over 232 animals. The zoo is open all year round, save for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For the rest of the year, the zoo is one of the best things to do in Peoria, IL.

Things to Do?

Exhibits: Explore the six wonderfully curated exhibits, namely Tropics Building, Africa!, Australia Walk-About, Contact Barn and Asian Trail. You would be coming across Tigers, Rhinos, Chinese Muntjac, Takin, tortoises, boa constrictors and other species in a simulated environment. It’s a lifetime experience, not to be missed.

Events: Exciting and enriching events are a permanent fixture at the zoo. Your participation is recommended. Check for the schedule calendar before planning.

Daily Presentations: Want to interact with the resident animals? Well, in that case, the daily presentations make sense.

Programs: Feel free to enroll into camps and programs to beef up your knowledge on a vast array of animal-related topics.

Safari Store: Round off the trip to the zoo with a visit to the safari store, offering clothing, toys, home decor items and more.

Live Entertainment: The section near the Zambezi River Lodge comes alive each day with live entertainment in African style.

Zambezi River Village: Plan your celebrations and corporate events in a surreal ambience of the Zambezi River Village while savoring stunning views of the “Africa!” Exhibit. The facility can accommodate about 200 guests but in conjunction with the nearby Zambezi River Lodge, the capacity skyrockets to over 1000 guests.

Entry Charges:
  • Adult (13 and over): $10.50
  • Child (2 – 12): $7.50
  • Child (1 and Under): FREE
  • Senior (65+): $9.50
  • Active Military: $9.50

7.4. Glen Oak Amphitheater

Glen Oak Amphitheater

  • Address: 2218 N Prospect Rd., 61603 Peoria, IL, US
  • Phone: +1 309-688-3667
  • Coordinate: 40.714574, -89.573307
  • Type: Open air venue for live concerts and events

Head straight to the Glen Oak Amphitheater for a great outdoor time in Peoria. Call it one of the leading performance and event venues within the confines of Glen Oak Park. From municipal Band concerts to parades and community celebrations, there’s always an event on the cards here. Witness local, national and international artists ply their craft while you sit on the tiered beams having a clear, unobstructed view of the stage. The amphitheater can also serve as a venue for your next private or corporate event with food available.

Amenities & Services:
  • Park-bench and lawn seating
  • Food and rentals
  • No Contact Services
  • Sneeze Guards/Contact Barriers
  • Virtual Events
Dining Options:
  • Curbside Pick Up
  • Online Orders
  • Drive Thru

Sadly, Peoria Park District is contemplating a major facelift of Glen Oak Park. And, if that comes to pass, the amphitheater will give way to a playground and a couple of shelters.

7.5. Peoria Rotary Adventure Grove

Peoria Rotary Adventure Grove

  • Established: October 2014
  • Address: 60 State St 1ST FLOOR, Peoria, IL 61602, United States
  • Phone: +1 309-676-5432
  • Open: Daily (10:00 am to 5:00 pm)
  • Latitude / Longitude: 40.71516° N, -89.57372° W
  • Open Location Code: 86 GGPC 8G+3G
  • Open­Street­Map ID: way 964471095

The Peoria Rotary Adventure Grove isn’t just another playground. Rather, it’s a full-fledged fun destination for kids and adults alike. Officially, it’s the “extension of Glen Oak Zoo and Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum,” meant to raise awareness and educate. For you and your tiny tots, it’s an opportunity to learn about animal habitats and measures to conserve them in the confines of interactive play areas. A significant percentage was donated by the Rotary Club of Peoria-Downtown. And, state grants accounted for the rest.

Nearby Attractions:

When done exploring Adventure Grove, feel free to visit nearby heritage sites (Illinois Waterway Project Office), hamlets (Peoria Heights and West Peoria) and other attractions.

7.6. Glen Oak Park Lagoon

Glen Oak Park Lagoon

  • Established: 1901
  • Type: Spring-fed Pond
  • Size: 3 acres
  • Depth: 7 feet
  • Address: 2218 North Prospect Road Peoria, IL.
  • Latitude / Longitude: 40° 42′ 48″ north, 89° 34′ 27″ west
  • Open Location Code: 86GGPC7G+88
  • Open­Street­Map ID: way 40435869

If fishing is your idea of recreation, Glen Oak Park Lagoon is tailor-made for you. Situated right next to the Glen Oak Amphitheater, the 3-acre spring-fed pond is just 7 feet deep but replete with a bevy of fish varieties, depending on the season. In summers, it’s populated by hybrid bluegill, bullheads and channel catfish. And, expect to catch largemouth bass, bluegill and carp in winters. The paved shoreline is designed for your convenience. While boat fishing and swimming aren’t allowed, picnicking is a popular activity here.

Events: Clyde West Fishing Derby

If you are longing to showcase your fishing skills, participation in the annual Clyde West Fishing Derby is recommended. The pond is replenished with thousands of pounds of fish, mainly hybrid bluegill for the contestants to catch. The highest catch attracts a prize. Kids with their first catch can also expect prizes. Also, the event is perfect for socializing.

With parks out of the way, it’s time to explore more of the city for more things to do in Peoria, IL.

Things to do in Peoria, IL: Explore Peoria Riverfront Park

Peoria Riverfront is the heart of Peoria, pulsating with the best sights, sounds, and smells. Regardless of your age or taste, there’s something to interest you and keep you coming back for more, year after year. Savor arts, entertainment, learning, shopping, and food in a festive ambiance accentuated by the flowing water and views of the Peoria skyline. From music festivals and fine art fairs to museums and breweries, there’s much to cherish and admire. Even educational programs are there for the taking of kids and adults alike.

Peoria Riverfront has a long, prolific history to it dating back to the middle ages. The area hosted the first European settlers in the mid-1600s and gradually emerged as the business and industry hub of the city in later years. The accessibility to water and rail transportation helped its emergence. Even today, it is the fastest growing district in Peoria, attracting the biggest corporations, brightest minds, and a deluge of tourists from across the US.

Here’s what to explore in the Riverfront Park District.

8. Peoria Riverfront Museum

Peoria Riverfront Museum

  • Since: 2012
  • Area: 87,000 Sq. feet
  • Address: 222 SW Washington St, Peoria, IL 61602, United States
  • Coordinates: 40.6894°N, 89.5899°W
  • Type: Art, science, history, achievement
  • Open: Tues to Sun (Mon closed)
  • Hours: Tues to Sat (10 am to 5 pm), Sun (12 pm to 5 pm)
  • Phone: +1 309-686-7000
  • Website: http://www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org/

Designated among the 200 must-visit destinations in Illinois, the museum celebrates art, culture, science and history. The museum has been around since 2012, built on the site where the Lakeview Museum of Arts & Sciences once stood. It has 5 permanent and scores of rotating exhibits, along with a 12-meter dome planetarium and a 22-meter giant screen theater. Add to it the diverse educational programs on offer, it comes across as one of a kind multidisciplinary museum for learning and recreation.

Exhibits:

The premises boasts an extensive collection of over 15,000 displayables curated under 20 exhibits. A vast variety of touring Smithsonian exhibits are showcased, which change yearly. So, if you need a reason to frequent the museum year upon year, this is it. The exhibits are as diverse as they get, from Da Vinci installations and railroaders to Mangleson, Guitar and more. Don’t forget to visit permanent exhibits like “Bronzeville to Harlem: An American Story”, Center for American Decoys, and Duryea Experience among others.

Display Categories:
  • Fine Arts
  • Decorative art
  • Folk Art
  • Ethnographic Art
  • Natural Science Artifacts
  • Historic Artifacts
  • Decoy Carvings & more
Solar System Model:

The solar system model perched on the premises shouldn’t skip your radar either. No other solar system model in the world compares to its scale. A 46 feet sphere sitting pretty in the center represents the sun, while the 5-inch representation of our Earth is one and a half kilometers away. Representations of dwarf planets and comets are also featured.

Programs:

Make the most of the 200-plus Smithsonian-affiliated classes and lectures on offer. An equally impressive variety of camps travel programs are also there for the taking.

8.1. Peoria Riverfront Planetarium

Step inside the dome Digistar 7 planetarium to be enamored by the representation of a night sky on the dome-shaped roof. With 30 celestial shows and real-sky experiences available, you and your tiny tots have a lot to learn and get inspired by. Let the planetarium be transformed into a spaceship as you soar into deep space in real-time on a guided tour. Space exploration couldn’t be any more engaging, educational and thrilling than this.

The leading-edge ‘SCISS Uniview’ technology coupled with NASA’s flagship Zeiss real-sky projector creates immersive views of 7 thousand stars and other celestial bodies across galaxies. This level of clarity, detail and sophistication remains unmatched by any other planetarium around the world. With special live shows for schools provided alongside regular ones for families, it has to be on your checklist of things to do in Peoria, IL.

8.2. Giant Screen Theater

Enjoy a great screen time at the Giant Screen Theater (GST) featuring a 52-ft high and 70-ft wide screen. While the leading-edge 3D technology brings images to life, the sound system (with 14 surround loudspeakers that generate 14,000 watts of power collectively) amplifies your experience. Let the dizziness associated with giant screens be a thing of the past as you enjoy summer blockbusters and 3D documentaries in exceptional clarity and detail.

Annual film festivals are a regular fixture here, bringing in plenty of movie buffs. Also, the GST has a stage in place for multimedia and live performances. You are better off checking the movie and event calendar beforehand for an interest-based viewing. For ticket bookings, click https://cart.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org/performancecalendar.aspx.

18. Peoria Holocaust Memorial

Peoria Holocaust Memorial

  • Established: 2001
  • Open: 24 hours
  • Phone: +1 309-677-3900
  • Website: PeoriaHolocaustMemorial.org

Revisit the horrors of the holocaust to be reminded of the extent of miseries that hate and bigotry can inflict. Managed by the Jewish Federation of Peoria, the Holocaust Museum is one of a kind facility built to document the human toll in Nazi Germany during WW2. The 18 star-shaped glass columns greet you as you make your way into the premises. They carry six million buttons, each representing each Jew who faced genocide.

Take a few more steps until five triangles make themselves visible to you, featuring 5 million more buttons. Each button is a stark reminder of the “undesirables” killed by Nazis in WW2. A presentation is followed by a guided tour of the facility. Both are donor sponsored, hence free for all.

Riverfront Museum Entry Fees:
  • Members: Free
  • Adults: $15
  • Seniors (60+): $13
  • Students with ID: $13
  • Youth (3 – 17): $11

The charges are applicable for all galleries, exhibits and daytime planetarium shows

19. Caterpillar Visitors Center & Museum

Caterpillar Visitors Center & Museum

Right next to the Riverfront Museum, stands tall the Caterpillar Visitors Center & Museum. The 50,000 sq.ft. complex traces the journey of Caterpillar Inc., from humble origins to one of the world’s top construction and mining equipment brands. The company’s present and future are also deftly elaborated upon – all through eight galleries that engage and inform.

What to Do?

Walk through the “Heritage Gallery” to go back in time with the exhibits detailing the remarkable feats of engineering the company has helped accomplish across the globe. And, that includes the Panama Canal widening project as well. The extensive collection of Caterpillar machines, some of which can be mounted, is lined up for you to admire. The virtual ride of an imposing 2.½-story mining truck is an experience you can’t let pass up.

The “Immersive Visualization” center takes a sneak peek into the future, allowing you to operate equipment that are likely to change the way construction and mining are done for good. The “Future Theater” explores the seemingly endless possibilities the future has in store. Get up close and personal with the Caterpillar workforce toiling hard in their work stations globally. The possibility of creating your very own Cat machine is also there.

When done exploring the galleries, head to the on-site merchandise center for some cool scale-model CAT equipment, apparel, calendars, bags, eyewear, shoes, and more for him, her and kids. Plan your visit on any working day, from Monday to Saturday. Your under 12 children qualify for free entry with a limit of four kids per adult ticket.

Entry Fee:
  • General admission: $7
  • Elderly (55+): $6
  • Veterans and active military: $6
  • Children (12 and under): Free
  • Group rate (25 or more): $6

20. Peoria Civic Center

Peoria Civic Center

  • Established: 1982
  • Address: 201 SW Jefferson Ave, Peoria, IL 61602, United States
  • Phone: +1 309-673-8900
  • Capacity: 11,442
  • Previously: Peoria Civic Center Arena (1982-2001)
  • Architect: Philip Johnson & John Burgee
  • Website: https://www.peoriaciviccenter.com/

This entertainment complex on Jefferson Avenue scores a high fun factor with hundreds of live entertainment, sports and educational events yearly. Open for the public since 1982, the extensive campus houses an arena, theater, ballroom, exhibit hall, meeting room, lexus club, and outdoor spaces. Just before entering the main building, feast your eyes on Ronald Bladen’s “Sonar Tide,” which stands tall as one of the finest works of abstract minimalism.

The Theater:

With over 2100 seats arranged on three levels, the well-equipped theater hosts concerts, family shows, stand-up comics, dance recitals, lectures and more. Don’t forget to venture into the massive 7000 sq.ft. lobby featuring ceiling artworks, glass elevators and a spiral staircase. Feel free to book it for a corporate or private event involving up to 250 guests.

The Arena:

From Eagles and Elton John to WWE and top-notch sports events, the Carver Arena has hosted them all in its glorious four-decade history. A hockey or football match here can be viewed by over 9000 attendees while the capacity for concerts and basketball is 11500 and 12000 respectively. In winters, it is converted into an ice rink for the PNC Winterfest.

21. Pettengill-Morron House Museum

Pettengill-Morron House Museum

  • Established: 1868
  • Area: > 1 acre
  • Open: Every Thursday
  • Hours: 10 am to 2 pm
  • Address: 1212 W. Moss Ave., Peoria, Peoria County, Illinois
  • Digital Address (Plus Code): M9VQ+H7 Peoria, IL, USA
  • Google Map Location: 40.693957, -89.6117518
  • Coordinates: 40°41′40″N 89°36′44″W
  • Phone: +1 309-674-1921
  • Architect: Charles Ulricson
  • Website: http://www.peoriahistoricalsociety.org/House-Museums/Pettengill-Morron_House_Museum

How about putting a historic house museum on the checklist of things to do in Peoria, IL? Welcome to Pettengill–Morron House, a magnificent property built for Moses Pettengill way back in 1868. Tucked away in a serene location on West Moss Avenue, the building stands on the remains of the Second Empire Style building built in 1862 and later ravaged by fire. In 1900, the colonial revival porch and porte-cochere were erected, rendering the property a truly Victorian look. The house made its way into the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and continues to be a member of the West Bluff Historic District since 1976.

The property continued to be managed by the Peoria Historical Society since 1967. The 11 rooms in the house feature a unique collection of antiques owned by different families that occupied the house at different points in time. The silverware collection is a must-see. As far as Moses Penttengli is concerned, he was born and brought up in New Hampshire and moved to Peoria in 1883. Here, he went on to establish a flourishing hardware business. The property is open only on Thursdays, from 10 am to 2 pm. Guided tours are available.

Entry Fees:
  • Adults: $10
  • Students: $5
  • Children (6-12): $3

Things to do in Peoria, IL: Annual Events & Festivals

Festivities are a year-round affair in Peoria. It’s understandable, given Peoria’s diverse cultural, ethnic and demographic makeup. The entire city comes alive whenever an event or festival is round the corner, even though downtown Peoria and the riverfront are the epicenters. Here’s your checklist of events and festivals that shouldn’t skip your radar.

1. Taste of Peoria

Taste of Peoria

  • Host: Peoria Area Community Events (PACE)
  • Venue: Festival Park and The Landing
  • Schedule: August or September
  • Duration: 7 Hours (4:00pm-11:00pm)
  • Website: www.peoriaevents.com

The annual event attracts a deluge of foodies from across the country. The local eateries offer their most coveted offerings at throw-away prices. Savor Indian, Chinese, Oriental, Italian and other popular cuisines for a few dollars. The experience is accentuated by live entertainment and Margaritaville Specialty Cocktails. However, the pandemic scare has forced the cancellation of the event for three years on the trot, from 2020 through 2022.

2. Summer Camp

Summer Camp

  • Created by: Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment
  • Venue: Three Sisters Park (17189 N State Route 29, Chillicothe, IL 61523)
  • Scheduled: End of May (Memorial Day Weekend)
  • Website: https://summercampfestival.com/

On Memorial Day weekends, a music feast awaits you in Chillicothe’s Three Sisters Park. Since 2001, the two-day music event continues to be a stomping ground for over 20,000 attendees, which is three times the population of Chillicothe. But who’s performing? Well, it could be anyone from moe. and Umphrey’s McGee to Billy Strings, The Roots, and more.

  • Insider Tip: Check for weather updates beforehand to avoid unpleasant surprises.

3. Washington Good Neighbor Days

Washington Good Neighbor Days

It’s a heady mix of food, games and live performances, scheduled annually in the summer. The 5-day event is attended by 10,000+ people seeking a great time through involvement in community activities, carnival rides, car shows, competitions, and more. The spectacular fireworks on the final night are just icing on the cake.

  • Insider tip: Purchase your Armband vouchers at slashed prices from the organizers.

4. Riverfront Farmers Market

Riverfront Farmers Market

Craving for farm-to-table produce? Well, don’t go beyond the Riverfront farmer market. From meat, poultry, bread and cheese to baked goods and flowers, everything is locally grown and farm fresh. Local artisans plying pottery, jewelry, wooden artifacts, candles, soaps and more to passing tourists and locals are also a common sight. Free parking is available in nearby lots. Carry in a few reusable bags to carry out your purchases.

5. Big Picture Festival

Big Picture Festival

For a movie buff, it’s simply unmissable. It’s a walkable film festival where local, national and international filmmakers converge to showcase their artistic creations and win “Best of” laurels in different genres. It’s also an opportunity to explore the city through a variety of events that are a part of the film festival. Visit the website for submissions.

6. Peoria Fine Art Fair

Peoria Fine Art Fair

Get ready for a weekend of creative fun at the Peoria Art Guild Fine Art Fair. Artists from across the globe flock to this art festival to showcase their works of art, including, but not limited to, jewelry, painting, sculpture, ceramics, photography, digital art, metal, wood, and more. Interactive programs are also on offer, making for an ideal family day out. While kids and members enjoy free entry, the rest need to shell out $6 per person per day.

7. India Fest

Get up close and personal with everything that defines India – from Indian music and dances to cuisines and more. Unfolding at the CEFCU Center Stage, the one-day event has been gaining traction over the years with a sharp increase in the number of attendees. Feel free to shop for handcrafted traditional souvenirs and also enjoy keenly contested cricket.

8. Unity Point Red, White & Boom!

Unity Point Red, White & Boom!

The blend of pyrotechnic displays and patriotic music defines the biggest annual event in Peoria. The night sky lit by over 2,000 shells fired per minute is already a sight to behold, rated among the top 2 per cent in the US. And, when complemented by matching music, the night comes to life. The pyrotechnic display is viewable from either side of the Illinois River and other parts of the city. You are better off carrying your portable radio and tuning it to any JMP Integrated Media stations for a more immersive, synchronized experience.

9. Pekin Marigold Festival

Pekin Marigold Festival

Head to the world’s Marigold Capital, Pekin to be a part of the annual festivities unfolding on the Labor Day weekend. The sheer variety of attractions could spoil you for choice, think carnival, fishing clinic, vendor shows, wine tasting, show choir, medallion hunt, baseball game, beauty pageant, and more. Let your tiny tots make the most of activities, freebies, and more at the Kids Experience. Don’t forget to attend the Lagoon Glow to show solidarity with firefighters. So, slip into your walking shoes and explore Pekin at its vibrant best.

10. Peoria Bach Festival

Peoria Bach Festival

  • Since: 2003
  • Organizer: Trinity Lutheran Church, Peoria
  • Venue: Trinity Lutheran Church,
  • Schedule: First week of June
  • Email: peoriabachfestival@gmail.com
  • Website: http://www.peoriabachfestival.org/

Honoring Johann Sebastian Bach, the Peoria Bach Festival continues to host national and international artists and nurture local talent since its first edition in 2003. The music festival unfolds yearly in the first week of June in the historic Trinity Lutheran Church. Think of it as your opportunity to get immersed in the soul-stirring music while being mesmerized by the church’s Gothic architecture, reverberant acoustics, spiritual vibes and prolific history.

Things to do in Peoria, IL: Camping

Even if camping is on your mind, Peoria could be the destination. Tent or RV camping, the options are galore for a night of storytelling, stargazing, and munching marshmallows. Even though the specifications may vary, these campgrounds ensure a great experience. They should be on your things to do in Peoria, IL bucket list if an offbeat vacation is a priority.

1. Carl Spindler Campground & Mari

Carl Spindler Campground & Mari

This 15-acre campground welcomes RV campers with 55 paved and 26 primitive campsites. Expect electric, sewer and water hookups, along with restrooms, shelter and fire rings. The river access opens up swimming, boating and fishing opportunities. While the playground will keep kids busy, you can take short, easy hikes or try your luck at a nearby casino.

Fees:

  • Daily: $23-$27
  • Weekly: $125-$140
  • Monthly: $270-$330

2. Mt. Hawley Mobile and RV Park

Mt. Hawley Mobile and RV Park

  • Address: Mt Hawley– 8327 N Knoxville Rd. Peoria
  • Wagon Wheel– 800 Bloomington Rd. East Peoria
  • Esquire Estates– (Rt. 150 @ 1-74) Brimfield
  • Number of RV Sites: 30
  • Phone: 309-692-2223, 888-862-5494
  • Website: https://www.mthawleyrv.com/

Despite lying within the city limits, this vacation retreat offers a quaint setting for a private RV tenting experience. A majority of campsites in this urban RV campground are shady and feature water, sewer and electric hookups, along with Wi-Fi and big rig access. Open spaces invite you to indulge in outdoor activities while premise-wide security lighting ensures your safety. It’s open 365 days a year and also entertains requests for long-term stays.

  • Hookups: Sewer, Water and Electric (30, 20 & 15 amp)
  • Amenities: Mobile Home Rentals, Pre-Owned Homes, Mobile Connectivity

3. MillPoint RV Park

MillPoint RV Park

Nestled on the panoramic Upper Peoria Lake, the campground houses 80 tent, RV and cabin sites. Primitive camping sites are also available and so are pull-thru sites for big rigs. The nearness to the lake and Spring Bay Fen Nature Reserve ensures multiple recreational avenues, from hiking, picnicking and wildlife viewing to biking, fishing and boating. Private lake and dock are available. Enjoy 3 meals a day with 20% off for registered guests.

  • Hookups: Water, Sewer and Electric (30 & 50 Amp)
  • Amenities: Free Wi-Fi, Picnic Tables, Fire Rings, ADA Toilets, Firewood

4. Chillicothe RV & Recreation Area

Chillicothe RV & Recreation Area

  • Address: 20205 State Route 29 North, Chillicothe, Illinois 61523
  • Camping Type: All RV
  • Phone: (309) 274-2000
  • Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Seven days a week)
  • Website: https://www.chillirvrecarea.com/

Located on SR 29 N, the 230-acre property has everything you need for relation and recreation. Three lakes with sandy beaches allow swimming, fishing and volleyball while the paved trails make for hiking, biking and nature walking avenues. A playground ensures tiny tots a great time under your supervision. The tidy and quaint ambience is just a bonus.

  • Amenities: Toilets, Dump Stations, Portable Pump Out, LP Gas, Firewood and Ice

5. Spring Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area

Spring Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area

The Spring Lake State Fish & Wildlife Area is home to a couple of RV campgrounds and one walk-in tent campground with 60 campsites. Campers flock to these campsites for hiking, wildlife viewing, BBQ, fishing, family and group picnicking, and other recreational options. Feel free to explore 5 trails, including the famed 2.5-mile Stage Coach Road loop. Archery hunting of certain animals is allowed in certain areas. Boat rentals are also available. On the downside, all campgrounds lack electricity and restrooms.

  • Amenities: Shelters, Picnic Tables, Boat Ramp

The Best Time to Visit Peoria, IL

Peoria is an all-year destination but July attracts the biggest crowds, followed by June and August. At this time of the year, the weather is clear, the wind speed is gentle and the temperature is pleasant, hovering around 88.4°F (31.3°C) and 66.2°F (19°C). Although these months are ideal for outdoor recreation, the accommodation and flights cost more than in the off-season. If budget is an issue, plan a visit in November for cheap hotels and flights.

Lasting three and a half months, the winters are usually windy and cold with the mercury dipping to 20°F in January. Likewise, the wet season is the longest, lasting for over six months. May and June experience the heaviest rainfall, averaging 3.7 inches while January is the driest month with precipitation being largely in the form of snow. Spread across 3 months, the winters are cold with temperatures seldom hitting 44°F or above.

Peoria Weather: Monthly Breakdown

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg Temp 26°F 29°F 41°F 53°F 63°F 72°F 76°F 74°F 67°F 54°F 42°F 30°F
Avg Rain 1.0″ 1.2″ 2.0″ 3.1″ 3.7″ 3.7″ 3.3″ 3.2″ 3.0″ 2.5″ 2.4″ 1.6″
Avg Snow 3.6″ 3.2″ 1.2″ 0.2″ 0.0″ 0.0″ 0.0″ 0.0″ 0.0″ 0.0″ 0.8″ 3.3″

Conclusion:

Peoria is a melting pot of cultures with the demographic makeup representing that of the US. Corporations treat it as the testing ground for their products believing that “if it plays in Peoria, it’ll play.” The city also has some history to it, having once headquartered Caterpillar Inc and continuing to host the oldest European settlement in Illinois. The natural splendor complements the rich history and culture, making Peoria worth visiting for all reasons and seasons. Just plan your trip and for things to do in Peoria, IL, we are here to help.

Rohit Kumar
Rohit Kumar
Passionate about content quality and attention to detail, Rohit has penned over 15,000 copies for some of the leading online and offline publications in their eight-year career. Currently heading the content team at Dunia Ka Gyan, he believes in team spirit, ingenuity, and collective growth.

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