Greater Peoria’s got small-town vibes, but geographically, it’s a pretty big place — full of waterways, parks and prairies with fun activities and breathtaking views. We bet even residents who have lived here for years haven’t explored every place on this list. Where will you start?
1. Peoria Riverfront District
There’s no better place for a leisurely stroll than the Peoria RiverFront District. Walk alongside the Illinois River on the trail, then stop off for coffee, lunch, dinner or a drink at one of many bars and restaurants along the way. During warm weather, stock up on fresh produce, baked goods and artisan crafts at the Saturday Riverfront Market. Check the events calendar for live concerts and other events happening throughout the district.
2. Wildlife Prairie Park
Located just 20 minutes from downtown Peoria, Hanna City’s Wildlife Prairie Park spans 2,000 acres and is home to more than 150 animals of different species. It’s a great place to reconnect with nature and see native creatures in their natural environment. The park also offers recreational activities ranging from mountain biking and fat tire biking to hiking and fishing. Don’t miss events like the Old English Faire in June and Wildlife Scary Park in October.
3. Mineral Springs Park
This Pekin park sits alongside a serene lagoon stocked with fish, so bring your fishing gear or rent a paddle boat for a 30-minute ride. Mineral Springs Park is also home to DragonLand Water Park, a miniature golf course, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a skate park and a bike trail for those looking to burn some calories.
4. Grand View Drive & Park
President Teddy Roosevelt dubbed this two-and-a-half-mile stretch of roadway “The World’s Most Beautiful Drive” during a visit to Greater Peoria in 1910. A century later, this river bluff journey can still take your breath away, showcasing scenic views of nature and a variety of historic homes. Stop off at the various pull-offs for a picnic or a hike into the Illinois River Valley. To make the most of your experience, visit Grand View Drive & Park during the fall when the leaves change color.
5. Warehouse District
Peoria’s historic downtown Warehouse District offers plenty to do in repurposed buildings dating from the 1880s to 1920s. In addition to a host of coffee shops, bars and restaurants, you can do some rock climbing, take on an escape room challenge or throw some pottery — or even an axe. The Warehouse District is also home to Dozer Park. That’s where the Peoria Chiefs, the High-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, play their home games.
6. Tower Park
Skip this one if you’re afraid of heights. If not, ride the glass elevator 200 feet up the Observation Tower for a panoramic look at the Greater Peoria region. On a clear day, you can see for 20 miles, and there are telescopes available for even closer viewing. This in-use, 500,000-gallon water tower is the only structure of its kind in the U.S. Tower Park also features a beautiful fountain, playground and picnic area, along with a bronze monument of Abraham Lincoln designed by the same artist who designed Mt. Rushmore.
7. Roth Pumpkin Patch
In search of the Great Pumpkin? Linus from Peanuts should have made his way to the Pumpkin Capital of the World — Morton, Illinois. This community produces almost 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin, but there’s still plenty to spare. Pick your own at Roth Pumpkin Patch. While you’re there, enjoy a hayride or train ride, head down a combine slide, milk a cow and sample some delicious fall goodies.
8. Sand Ridge State Forest
We won’t fault you if you’re surprised to discover Illinois is home to a sand prairie filled with prickly pear cactus and badgers. Just minutes southwest of Peoria, the 7,200-acre Sand Ridge State Forest is the result of a prehistoric dry period when more desert-like conditions prevailed here. It’s a unique place to explore with no shortage of activities: camp, hike, hunt, mountain bike, horseback ride, geocache — you can even snowmobile and cross-country ski in the wintertime.
9. Eureka College
President Ronald Reagan’s college home, the 112-acre campus at Eureka College offers a variety of experiences. Visit the Ronald Reagan Museum & Peace Garden, which features a collection of more than 10,000 pieces from the 40th President’s college, Hollywood and political days. There’s even a section of the Berlin Wall on display in the garden. The rest of the tree-filled campus is also worth a stroll, including the labyrinth and lilac arboretum.
10. Luthy Botanical Garden
Spread over five acres in Peoria’s Glen Oak Park (and adjacent to the Peoria Zoo), Luthy Botanical Garden is a great spot to stop and smell the roses — literally. In addition to a rose garden, you’ll find 14 other themed gardens and borders, along with a tropical conservatory, rotating sculpture exhibit and seasonal floral shows. Watch the calendar for plant sales, yoga classes, concerts and more held in the gardens.
Original post courtesy of Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC), supporting economic development in Logan, Mason, Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford counties through business and talent development and attraction. Visit greaterpeoriaedc.org to learn more.