I sneak away from the bright, busy street and duck into the foyer of my favorite restaurant, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba. The hallway is long and dim, lined with people waiting for their tables, and I mentally high-five myself for remembering to make a reservation last week. After checking in at the host stand, I’m led out onto the all-seasons patio, which is bright and lively with vintage lights strung overhead and waiters bustling around making sure every diner has exactly what they need.
My friends and I settle into our table and, first things first, peruse the day’s house-made sangria selections. We can’t choose just one, so we go with a half-pitcher of classic red and a half-pitcher of mango. When our drinks arrive, we toast to my birthday. After this, we may try a microbrewery nearby or perhaps walk through one of Chicago’s many green parks, but for now, I am content to soak up the sweetness of my sangria and the sound of forks clinking against plates and people chattering all around me.
This, for me, represents quintessential Illinois. From sprawling cornfields to meandering rivers, from sleek skyscrapers to historical homes, from trendy restaurants to burger joints, Illinois has so many options to explore that you could spend every weekend trying something new and still never do it all.
But if you’re game to try, here are eight weekend getaways in Illinois to get you started.