It’s Thursday night and you’re just starting to plan your weekend when your best friend shoots you a text and asks you to take a weekend escape with them. You get excited and start packing immediately. You check your bank account and it’s not as full as you might have hoped. So, sadly, you tell your friend it’s just going to have to be a “Netflix and Chill” kind of weekend.
But, what if you could take a weekend getaway in your home state and still have a fun and affordable time? What if you could travel through history or actually stop and smell the roses? Maybe even go swimming in a waterfall? Well, if you’re living in beautiful Illinois, you can accomplish all of these things and do so without hurting your wallet.
No, you didn’t read that wrong. You can vacation affordably in a variety of different ways, for a variety of different preferences. In this article, we’ll give you the tools to create your own affordable, weekend get-away in your home state of Illinois—no matter your preference.
If you like History:
There is a multitude of museums you can visit in Illinois for cheap or even for free. The key to finding the freebies is planning your visit ahead of time because you can definitely make a weekend of museum hopping for 0$ if it is planned accordingly. The Chicago Parent website has a list of when the museums in the Chicago area are offering free admission. If you’re living in the city, you don’t even have to leave your home to take this weekend get-away. You can visit the museums during the day and be home, snug as a bug in a rug, at night.
If you are from outside of the city, we suggest booking an Airbnb if you want the real Chicagoan experience. You can rent anywhere from a room in an apartment to an entire penthouse suite, it just depends on your budget. So, if you want the biggest bang for your buck, we highly recommend Airbnb.
Here is a list of Museums in the Chicago area that are having free entry days coming up:
Shedd Aquarium: Free on August 28-29 and September 6-30
The Field Museum: Free on August 10, 28, 31
The Art Institute of Chicago: Free for Illinois residents from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Kids 13 and under are always free.
Chicago History Museum: Free from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays
**If you are a Bank of America customer, the first full weekend of each month is free at certain museums when you show your BofA card at the admission desk. However, free entry is one per card member, so plan accordingly. The Bank of America benefit applies to: the Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium, the Chicago History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Shedd Aquarium.
If you like Nature:
Check out a botanic garden! These gardens are also located in the Chicago area and each includes beautiful floral displays. The best part, they’re FREE to enter! So, if you are hoping to get in touch with your nature side, MidwestLiving recommends these gardens:
Chicago Botanic Garden: They offer everything from blooming flowers to tasty coffees to educational programs at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Admission to the Garden is free, however parking is not. So, if you are planning to go for cheap, try having a friend drop you off or even consider calling an Uber. The garden is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Garfield Park Conservatory: This Conservatory is one of the largest in the nation and has been referred to as “landscape under glass.” It is free and open to the public 365 days a year. They do ask for a donation at the door, however, it is completely optional. They also have a free visitors parking lot! The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and on Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Lincoln Park Conservatory: The Conservatory is a part of the Lincoln Park Conservancy Program. Admission is free to the public and it offers a tropical experience to its visitors including four rooms housing tropical plants. The conservatory facility hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool: This is also a part of the Lincoln Park Conservancy. Through the vision of architect, Alfred Caldwell, the Lily Pool was designed to resemble a river meandering through a great Midwestern Pride. Admission is free but you can offer a donation if you want. There is public parking that costs $26 but there is also public transportation that will take you to the Lily Pool. You can schedule a private tour as well but you must call seven days in advance to schedule one. It is open April through Mid-November, weather permitting, and closed Friday, Saturday and Sunday the weekend of the Air & Water Show. Hours are subject to change in accordance with the weather.
Lurie Garden: All are welcome to Lurie Garden. It has been described as an urban oasis and it also pays homage to Chicago’s transformation into an “innovative green city.” The garden is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day and admission is free!
If you want the best of both worlds:
You can take a weekend get-away and get outside the city to visit a National forest and take an outdoor adventure with your loved ones. You will be able to learn about the rich history of the park at the visitor’s center. You will also see an array of wild life that any nature lover would enjoy. If this sounds like your ideal get-away, we recommend taking a trip to these parks:
Shawnee National Forest: There are plenty of things you can do for a weekend in this national forest. Enjoy Illinois recommends taking a trip in the winter months if you are wanting to get more intimate perspective of Southern Illinois. This is the perfect place to go if you need an outdoor escape. Shawnee National Forest has 280,000 acres of glades, barrens, prairies, streams, lakes, ponds, waterfalls, woodlands and rocky outcrops. You can do everything from picnic to horseback riding through this national forest and it is THE place to go if you want to get back into nature.
You do not need a Pass or Permit to visit the national forest and camping is allowed on site. You could also rent cabins from private vendors, not associated with the park.
Starved Rock State Park: It was voted the #1 attraction in the State of Illinois. Starved Rock State Park was created by the mark of melting glaciers that carved beautiful canyons into the St. Peter sandstone. The park includes waterfalls and 13 miles of hiking trails to explore. So, if you are an adventurous person this may be a good place to visit. There are hotel rooms, cabins and even vacation cottages you can rent if you want to stay after hours.
The Starved Rock Lodge is the national park’s sponsored hotel. A room with a king size bed vary seasonally and with demaind from $115 a night and up. You can always bring a friend to share the cost.
How to go anywhere, and get funded:
Quick get-aways can be fun, interesting and a great way to get yourself off the couch. However, there does come the time where you want to have a bigger adventure and typically, bigger adventures = bigger costs.
If you really want to get away and need help getting the cash, you could consider a personal loan. Personals loans are a great way to get quick access to funds and you can even improve your credit score in the process.
LendingPoint is a personal loan provider specializing in NearPrime consumers. Typically, NearPrime consumers are people with credit scores in the 600s. If this is you, we’d love to talk to you about how we might be able to help you meet your financial goals. We offer loans from $2,000 to $25,000, all with fixed payments and simple interest.