Gas prices getting you down? Vacation days hard to come by? Do you want to do something fun this summer, and Disney World is just not in the budget?
There’s plenty of fun and educational things to do right here in north-central Illinois that won’t break your bank account!
1. DePue Boat Races - The APBA Pro National Championship Boat Races will be held July 29-31. Thousands of spectators flock to Lake DePue for high speed excitement.
2. Illinois River Road - Drive or bike all or portions of the Illinois River Road — Route of the Voyageurs — which enters Bureau County on Route 6, just east of St. Bede Academy. It runs through Spring Valley, and once west of the city, switches onto Route 29, moving through DePue and Bureau. Although Princeton is not on the Illinois River, the city is designated a gateway community, and the scenic route pathway loops through town.
3. Owen Lovejoy Homestead - Visit the Lovejoy Homestead, a former site on the Underground Railroad. In addition to touring the historic home, visitors can also learn what education was like back in the days of the one-room schoolhouse.
4. Hennepin Canal - Bike, hike, walk or paddle some or all of the Hennepin Canal and its miles of surfaced, equestrian or hiking trails.
5. Starved Rock State Park - Seasonal waterfalls, inspiring bluffs and canyons dominate the landscape at Starved Rock. Activities include hiking, canoeing, cross-country ski trails, fishing and picnicking. Visit www.starvedrockstatepark.org for more information.
6. Seneca Shipyard Days Festival - Shipyard Days Festival, held June 22-26, is a celebration of Seneca's role in World War II as the home of the Prairie LST Shipyards. They work with the Illinois LST Association to bring history and education to visitors each year in addition to great entertainment, carnival, food booths, a beer tent and a craft fair. Visit www.senecashipyarddays.com for more information.
7. Bishop Hill State Historic Site - Restored 19th Century Swedish communal settlement. Bishop Hill is a National Historic Landmark. The village has five museums, three restaurants and 20 unique gift shops.
8. Wildlife Prairie State Park - Illinois is full of biodiversity and as such, this 2,000 acre native species park, located just west of Peoria, hosts ambassadors of all five vertebrate animal groups: Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Visit www.wildlifeprairiestatepark.org for more information.
9. Illinois Lincoln Highway - Take a journey on the Illinois Lincoln Highway, a 179 mile National Scenic Byway. As you travel the Lincoln Highway route across northern Illinois, take time to discover each communities' unique culture and special offerings and find a past era woven together with the present. Visit www.drivelincolnhighway.com for more information.
10. John Deere Pavilion - The legend of John Deere lives on at the world's most comprehensive agricultural exhibit, located in Moline. Showcases vintage and modern-day equipment, interactive agricultural displays and feature film. Largest collection of John Deere merchandise anywhere.
11. Children's Discovery Museum - Head to Normal and experience three floors of unique, hands-on, larger than life exhibits! This museum is designed to create a sense of wonder that excites the love of learning in children of all ages. Be sure to discover the new Children's Discovery Museum.
12. Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center - Tour the Dixon home that the Reagan family resided in from 1920-23, which has been completely restored. President Ronald Reagan would have turned 100 years old Feb. 6, 2011, and a guided tour through his boyhood home will help visitors better identify with Reagan’s life. Your tour includes the four-room Presidential time line exhibit and a viewing of his biographical video in the presentation gallery.
13. Tampico Festival – This annual summer festival, held June 24 - 26, includes a Saturday morning fishing tournament for children, mud volleyball for adults, afternoon kids’ games, evening dancing to local bands and, the highlight of the weekend, the Sunday afternoon Reagan Parade. Visit www.tampicohistoricalsociety.com for more information.
14. Weber House and Garden - The Weber House in Streator is a storybook Tudor cottage which sits in an English garden of meandering paths. The tour begins along a gravel path that roams through the grounds past the children's play house, ponds, fountains, statues and hundreds of shrubs and flowers, ending at Luther Hall and the Historic Weber House, where cozy candlelit rooms reflect the 18th century. Visit www.weberhouseandgarden.com for more information.
15. Mendota Sweet Corn Festival - The festival is held in downtown Mendota Aug. 11 -14. Don’t miss the Crafters Market Place and flea market (with more than 200 dealers), a queen pageant, a beer garden with live bands, a grand parade, a carnival with rides and games for both adults and children and plenty of free, buttery sweet corn. Visit www.sweetcornfestival.com for more information.
16. Amboy Depot Days - Depot Days are held Aug. 25-28 throughout downtown
Amboy and at the Amboy Depot Museum. This celebration honors the town’s railroad heritage with events that include pancake breakfasts, a pork chop and chicken barbecue, arts and crafts, garage sales, live entertainment, a tractor show, a carnival, parade and the area’s largest car, truck and motorcycle show. Visit www.depotdays.com for more information.
17. Kishwaukee Fest - The festival, which runs July 23-31, features Concerts in the Park, a Friday evening parade, and Saturday Drum & Bugle Corps Show. In addition to the main events there are additional activities, entertainment and attractions to showcase DeKalb County. Visit www.kishwaukeefest.com for more information.
18. Festival 56 - Illinois’ largest summer theater festival offers six weeks of performances from June 24 — Aug. 7, ranging from free productions of Shakespeare to world premiere musicals and the masterworks of playwrights such as Tennessee Williams, starring actors from across the country. Visit www.festival56.com for more information.
19. Walnut Hometown Celebration - This community festival, which runs from July 1-3, offers activities such as a car show, 5k run, softball tournament, crafts, baseball card show, water fights, pie-baking contest, beer tent, live music and dancing, children’s activities and fireworks.
20. Ladd Summer Fest - The Ladd Summer Fest, held July 7-9, offers events such as 3-on-3 basketball tournaments, children’s games, craft and quilt shows, cake walk, bingo, and live music. Attend the dances or relax at the beer garden on Friday and Saturday nights until midnight.
21. Wyanet Summer Fest - The Wyanet Summer Fest, held July 7-9, is celebrating its 55th year. The event again features a carnival, games, food, live band, Little Miss contest, food stands, queen pageant, and street dance in Wyanet Park.
22. Music on Main - A new festival, Music on Main will be held in Sheffield July 16. Music on Main events will include a 5k run/walk, a one-mile walk, bags tournament, wine and beer tastings, live music, and food options provided from local vendors and businesses.
23. Beef and Ag Days - The 32nd annual Beef and Ag Days will be held July 16-17. The event includes a concert by the Decatur Park Singers, a tractor display, food, live music, a beer garden, a bean bag tournament and ice cream eating contest.
24. Ol’ Fashun Threshun Days - The 34th annual “Ol’ Fashun Threshun Days,” featuring Allis Chalmers tractors and Stover “K” gas engines, will be held July 16-17 just outside Ohio.
25. Spring Valley’s 125th Birthday Celebrations - Events will continue through July 16-24, and will include a concert by "The Volunteers" of the US Army Field Band, a quilt show, a volleyball and bocce ball tournaments, a vendors’ show, Cops for Cancer Cook-out, Queen, Little Miss & Mister Pageants, Big Wheel Races, an ecumenical worship service, Bingo, a carnival, a SV Municipal Band Concert, SVFD Water Fights, the Home Town Pride Parade, fireworks and much more.
26. Bureau County 4-H Fair and Horse Show - The Bureau County 4-H Fair and Horse Show will be held at the Bureau County Fairgrounds in Princeton July 21-24. The 4-H Fair features more than 3,000 exhibits, including livestock judging, arts and crafts, and more.
27. Tiskilwa Pow Wow Days - Tiskilwa Pow Wow Days will be held Aug. 4-6. Events include a petting zoo, parade, carnival rides, live music, Indian Pow Wow, Lil’ Spurs Rodeo, kid’s games, beer garden and more.
28. Bureau County Fair - The Bureau County Fair will be held Aug. 24-28 at the fairgrounds in Princeton. Events include carnival rides, a demolition derby, the country concert featuring Jerrod Niemann and Eden’s Edge, the tractor pull, talent show, garden tractor pull, Royal Bengal Tiger show, music, livestock shows, Lil’ Wrangler Rodeo, Draft Horse Show and more. Visit www.bureaucountyfair.com for more information.
29. Geneseo Music and Fine Arts - The 43rd Annual Music & Fine Arts Festival will take place June 17-19. Fine arts and food vendors will fill City Park with a wide variety of handmade products. The Rotary Queen Contest and Family Fun Night will be held on Friday followed by a concert by Ellis Kell. Musical performances will be held throughout the day on Saturday.
30. McCune Sand Prairie - The McCune Sand Prairie sits on porous glacial moraine soils, which results in a collection of prickly pear cactus, dry-country grasses, wildflowers and small trees.
31. The Witness Tree - Located about three miles south of Mineral, this tree was used by Indians of this area as a meeting place.
32. Red Covered Bridge - Located 1.5 miles north of Princeton on Route 26, the Red Covered Bridge is one of the few remaining covered bridges in Illinois The bridge was built in 1863 to cross Big Bureau Creek and was once part of the Peoria-Galena Trail.
33. St. Peter’s Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church - This historic Danish Church in Sheffield, built in 1880, is preserved to the 1880-90 period, and was visited by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.
34. Barto Landing - Enjoy the Illinois River from this public boat launch. Ample parking available for both vehicles and trailers.
35. 150th Anniversary of DePue - DePue’s sesquicentennial will take place from Aug. 23-28. It will include a performance by Al Pierson and the Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians, water fights, an ice cream social, car show and historic walk.
36. Sunset Ridge - North Central Illinois' nationally recognized motocross facility, located near Walnut, offers AMA Sanctioned motocross events April-November. Visit the website at www.sunsetridgemx for full schedule information.
37. Summerfest 11 - Get a totally different look at Illinois at Skydive Chicago’s Summerfest 11, which will be held July 23-Aug. 1. Come make your first skydive in the skies over Ottawa, or watch the professionals. Visit www.SkydiveChicago.com for more information.
38. LaSalle Canal Boat - Board the LaSalle Canal Boat in LaSalle, and enjoy a mule-pulled ride on the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal. The one-hour, round trip journey on a full-size replica canal boat will take riders on the same hand-dug waterway that 19th century pioneers traveled as guides, dressed as Canal Era crew and passengers, will relate what life was like on the American frontier and the Illinois prairie. Visit www.lasallecanalboat.org for more information.
39. Ottawa Mural Walking Tour - The tour is a Brush with History public art program that was developed to help revitalize Ottawa’s downtown and create a cultural attraction for tourists and residents of the community. Walkers can view six murals located throughout downtown Ottawa. Tours begin from Reddick Mansion. Try our cell phone tour by dialing (866) MURALS-1.
39. Hegeler Carus Mansion - The Hegeler Carus Mansion is a National Historic Landmark. This architectural masterpiece, built from 1874-1876, was awarded national status for its architecture by W.W. Boyington, August Fiedler's interior design, and being the birthplace of Open Court Publishing Co., which was dedicated to publishing philosophical and religious works by the great thinkers of the era. Visit www.hegelercarus.org for information about tours.
40. Belle of the Rock - There's no better way to explore the Illinois River than on an authentic paddlewheel boat. The narrated excursion is approximately an hour and leaves from Starved Rock State Park. Visit www.srarock.com for more information.
41. Ottawa Scouting Museum - The museum promotes and preserves the colorful and proud traditions of Boy Scouting, Girl Scouting and Camp Fire, and features a vast exhibition of memorabilia from these organizations. Visit www.ottawascoutingmuseum.org for more information.
42. Norsk Scandinavian Museum - From June through September, the Norsk Museum in Norway is open Saturdays and Sundays 1-5 p.m. The two-building museum is dedicated to the Scandinavian settlers who founded the Norway area in the 1800s, and contains articles of Scandinavian life, such as dishes, clothing, furniture and spinning wheels.
43. LaSalle County Historical Society - Located in Utica, the LaSalle County Historical Society museum is in a stone warehouse built in 1848 to serve the Illinois and Michigan Canal. There is also an 1865 one-room schoolhouse furnished with authentic fixtures and accessories; a blacksmith shop with a working forge and blacksmithing demonstrations; and an 1875 barn spotlighting agrarian life on the Illinois prairie. Visit www.lasallecountymuseum.org for more information.
44. Niabi Zoo - The grounds of the Coal Valley zoo cover more than 230 acres, and are home to more than 900 animals representing 160 different species. Asian elephants, large cats, tropical birds and zebras are just a few of the exciting animals that you will find at Niabi Zoo. Special attractions include the Mel McKay Express, a miniature steam engine replica, and the Endangered Species Carousel. Visit www.niabizoo.com for more information.
45. Petunia Festival - Dixon’s 47th annual Petunia Festival will be held June 30 - July 4. There will be a carnival, pancake breakfasts, Taste Trail, and more than 30 entertainment events for all ages. Visit www.petuniafestival.org for more information.
46. Summer Harvest Festival - The 32nd annual Franklin Grove Summer Harvest Festival and 31st annual LHAEA Antique Tractor Show will be held Aug. 6-7. The Chaplin Creek Historic Village features crafters, artisans, and a blacksmith demonstrating skills of days. The Living History Antique Equipment Association site offers two exciting days of working exhibits such as: threshing, shingle-making and rock crushing. Visit www.franklingroveil.org for more information.
47. Francis Park Woodland Palace – This Kewanee home was built way ahead of its time and is full of engineering wonders. Francis started to build the home in 1890, worked on it for the next 36 years. It features hand carved molding, not run on a mill or with a stamp process. This is the first house in the state to have air conditioning even before there was electricity. With disappearing windows and doors it seems everything in the home works in harmony.
48. Black Hawk State Historic Site - The Rock Island location is most closely identified with the Sauk nation and its great warrior, Black Hawk. Voted one of the "7 Wonders of Illinois" this pristine park offers beautiful trails for hiking and walking only. Picnic areas are also available. While at the park be sure to visit the Watch Tower Lodge that houses the John Hauberg Indian Museum. Visit www.blackhawkpark.org for more information.
49. Balloons at the Park - This event will be held July 15-17 at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe. The world class Hot Air Balloon Festival features flights & competitions, tethered hot air balloon rides, family fun activities, evening balloon glow, live concert entertainment, arts, crafts & gift vendors and food.
50. Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences - This Peoria museum is the largest private downstate museum and features art & science exhibitions, children’s Discovery Center, Planetarium, Illinois Folk Art Gallery, Illinois River Decoy and Illinois Jacquard Coverlet exhibitions, the Museum Store, and more. Visit www.lakeview-museum.org for more information.
51. Peoria Chiefs - The Peoria Chiefs are the Midwest League Single A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and Central Illinois’ only Minor League Baseball team. Visit www.peoriachiefs.com for more information.
52. Hume Carnegie Museum - This Mendota museum features a Wild Bill Hickok exhibit, an extensive photo display of area’s past and memorabilia from throughout the years. Visit www.mendotamuseums.org for more information.
53. Blackhawk Chocolate Trail/Barn Tour - This self-guided tour through Carroll, Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties features businesses that sell everything chocolate. Visit www.thechocolatetrail.com for more information.
54. Sandwich Opera House - Built in 1878 and restored in 1986, the Opera House today provides a setting for the performing arts from classical to country, student recitals, summer theatre workshops and a childrens'/senior citizens' series. Visit www.sandwichoperahouse.com for more information.
55. Blue Goose Run - Located west of Sterling, Blue Goose Run features a corn maze in the fall or formal gardens in spring and summer, outdoor activities for young and old, giant chess and checkers set, volleyball, croquet, badminton, and horse drawn wagon rides with picnic and bonfire available. Visit www.bluegooserun.com for more information.
56. Midwest Museum of Natural History - Get up close to an African elephant, a hippo, a pride of lions and much more as you acquire an appreciation of the world’s diverse natural environment and human culture. Many exhibits and interactive learning experiences for children and adults at this Somonauk museum Visit www.mmnh.org for more information.
57. Echo Bluff Echo Bluff – Echo Bluff Park and Recreational Area, located off Route 29 between Spring Valley and DePue, provides many opportunities for the young and old alike. Come take a walk on over 7,000 yards of trails, play a game of paintball, picnic in the newly restored shelter, or roast marshmallows over one of the two fire pits. Visit www.echobluff.org for more information.
58. DeKalb Corn Festival - This festival, held Aug. 26-28 at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, is one of the last remaining free summer music festivals among Illinois music festivals and summer festivals in Illinois. This festival features a carnival complete with rides and games, food booths, live music, craft show, kiddie korner with large inflatables, family entertainment and much more. Visit www.cornfest.com for more information.
59. Bureau County Historical Society and Museum - Items on display include fossils, Native American artifacts, pioneer utensils, tools, farming equipment, Civil War and military memorabilia, clothing, early settlers composite, Cherry Mine Disaster display, children’s toys and games, Period furniture and pictures, musical instruments, arts and crafts, glassware and china, and a research library. Visit www.bureaucountymuseum.com for more information.
60. Mautino Fish and Wildlife Area - Located south of Buda, the Mautino State Fish & Wildlife Area offers 911 acres of mostly unclaimed stripmining land, 15 stocked lakes for fishing, rest rooms, boating, boat launch ramp, canoe access, fishing, hiking and hunting.
Editor's note: The previous 60 entries are not meant to be a complete guide of things to do within 60 miles of Bureau County, but rather a sampling of activities in the area.
Gas prices getting you down? Vacation days hard to come by? Do you want to do something fun this summer, and Disney World is just not in the budget?