Let's Get Away... from Chicago
April 25, 2007 2:10 PM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I want to escape Chicago for a weekend sometime soon. The caveats: we're in college and on a tight budget, and we don't want to drive more than 2-3 hours. Help us find the perfect weekend getaway!

So I've already seen this question, and most of the suggestions are either bed-and-breakfasts or state park cabins that are pricey and/or require two night stays. If we don't want to stay in a bed-and-breakfast, and only want to stay somewhere one night, what are our best options? Ideally we'd like to be near somewhere scenic (a state park), but not necessarily inside the park. A cabin/lodge would also be ideal, however, we're keeping our options open. We know that with our prices (less than 100 per night, no more than 150 total, if we do two nights), options are limited, but if anyone knows of something good, I'd much appreciate it.
posted by notswedish to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If quiet city is your thing, Galena, Illinois is a wonderful destination not too far north of Chicago. There's also nearby Eagle Ridge, which I may have been to, but I can't remember, so I can't recommend.

To the west, is the beautiful Starved Rock Lodge. Mountain hiking, lots of history, more quiet, that's about it.
posted by phaedon at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2007

Last summer I took my wife and daughter on a little getaway to - brace yourself: Oglesby, IL. Why? Because there was a Motel 6 and it was a five minute drive to three state parks. To us, it was Nirvana because it wasn't Chicago, we could sleep without the sounds of gunfire, sirens, drunks and unwind. I'm not sure of the cabin options nearby since I took all of 10 minutes in planning the trip but the motel was less than 100 for sure (for one night) but I'm sure there are some.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:32 PM on April 25, 2007

Not exactly a cabin, but Madison is 2.5-3 hours from Chicago, on a beautiful lakeshore (actually, two!), and I know people have Pricelined some perfectly nice downtown hotels lately for $50-60 a night. Come on a Friday night, hit the farmer's market Saturday morning; then you can either take in the lakeshore in town or drive a few minutes to someplace a little more secluded.
posted by escabeche at 2:36 PM on April 25, 2007

My inlaws are near Starved Rock State Park. It's really gorgeous, and less than a day's drive from Chicago. Secluded cabins will run you about $100 a night. I don't think any room at the lodge is more than $150. Staying at the Starved Rock Inn is $65 a night.
posted by boo_radley at 2:37 PM on April 25, 2007

The Wisconsin Dells! Lots of neat stuff somewhat kitschy stuff there in a pretty scenic area. Coming from Chicago, I sometimes like to stop in Madison along the way, to browse the bookstores and such.

The Warren Dunes in Michigan are also a nice choice, although I'd stay in the park, since nearby Benton Harbor is not especially safe or pleasant.
posted by washburn at 2:39 PM on April 25, 2007

I did almost exactly this same thing a while back; my girlfriend and I went up to Milwaukee for a weekend. We used Priceline and got a pretty good deal on a fancy hotel downtown (I think it was something like $40-50 a night, we stayed two nights), I asked MetaFilter for some suggestions on how to visit the city properly, and we ended up having a whole lot of fun for not much money.

(PS Just as I was dredging that link up, I see that drezdn asked me a question to which I did not respond, because I wasn't checking the thread anymore. So let me do so now, in case drezdn reads this: No, my girlfriend does not have a brother named Willy.)
posted by jacobm at 3:24 PM on April 25, 2007

Second The Dells. There's even some nature not far from all the kitsch.
posted by hypocritical ross at 3:51 PM on April 25, 2007

If you head up Dells-way, you should make sure to check out the Forevertron. It's right next to a big salvage lot, which is interesting in its own right. Highway 12.
posted by yomimono at 3:57 PM on April 25, 2007

I'll second Warren Dunes, if you like camping. I used to go there a fair bit back in high school (and some college summers, too.)

And yeah, probably best to stay out of Benton Harbor. St. Joseph, which is across the river from it, isn't a bad little town, if a bit touristy.

If you're in that neck of the woods, you might also want to check out Van Buren State Park, which is a bit farther north, toward South Haven. Also nice.
(You used to be able to swim in the exhaust wastewater of the nuclear plant near there, which was...well, really fun, actually. Not radioactive, just warm. Like a giant hot tub in the lake. I haven't tried that trick since 9/11, though--doubt you still can. I don't glow in the dark, to the best of my knowledge.)

Also, if you make it to Southwest MI, I've gotta toss out a recommendation to hit Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo. Some of the best brews around, and a great little beer garden.
posted by theoddball at 4:06 PM on April 25, 2007

*smacks forehead*
Sorry, just looked at the tags.

There are also a ton of B&Bs in South Haven which go for pretty reasonable rates, if you're looking for something more "romantic" / traditional. A fair number of reasonably priced restaurants in the same vein, too.

St. Joe, I'm not as sure about, as I haven't made it down that way much.
posted by theoddball at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2007

If you're into architecture, film or history, you might check out either http://www.tenchimneys.org/ (home of the legendary acting duo Lunt and Fontanne) or Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's retreat.
posted by nax at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2007

Closer to Chicago you may want to try Woodstock. Which is where they filmed Groundhog day and is a nice town.

Galena is lovely, but you'll get more bang for your buck if you go someplace obscure but still pretty, like Lake Carroll or Lena.

This website is useful for finding things in Northern Illinois.

I always loved Lena and Lake Le-Aqua-Na. There is a B and B called Sugar Maple Inn (B&B)
(815) 369-2786 I know you said B and B's weren't your thing, but in smaller towns it tends to be that or a motel or grandma's couch.

There is a trail system that runs through Illinois, if you enjoy walking or biking it may be something to look at for a jumping-off-point.

This is a list of all the lodges in IL state parks. others have mentioned Strarved Rock, so I'll add that White Pines seems like a nice place, and the price is right.

You say you want to get out of town. But sometimes the downtown hotels will run nice specials. Sometimes a room and room service are all you need for a getaway. Go to the top of John Hancock for one drink, be tourists in Chicago.
posted by Mozzie at 5:52 PM on April 25, 2007

Lots of nice lakes in northern Indiana. Might be more like 3-4 hours, though.
posted by salvia at 6:24 PM on April 25, 2007

Second Starved Rock. I went there 28 years ago and have never forgotten it.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 PM on April 25, 2007

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