Sure, Illinois is home to one of the world’s greatest large cities (you know…that one by the lake?). But you don’t have to drive far from that metropolis to experience the charm of our small towns. We’ve created a short road trip for you to undertake this fall. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of historic buildings, picturesque Main Streets, gorgeous natural scenery and wonderful community events.
This road trip is 365 miles long, and would take you about 8 hours to complete if you drove straight through.
But why would you do that? Plan to stay overnight in at least one of these charming towns, and take your time exploring each.
1. Clarendon Hills
The little village of Clarendon Hills has about 7,600 residents. Don't let its quiet demeanor fool you - every summer just about everyone in town participates in the "Dancin' In The Street" festival.
Harvard is just seven miles from the Wisconsin border, and it certainly has some dairyland traditions. Its Harvard Milk Days festival is one of the longest-running in the entire state. The approximately 9,400 people who live here love the community activities.
The largest town on our list, Woodstock is home to about 24,000 residents. The National Trust For Historic Preservation names this little town one of its "Distinctive Dozen" in the country. You'll soon see why when you explore all the wonderfully preserved historic buildings here. Pictured is the Opera House, built in 1889 and still used today for performances.
4. Cherry Valley
While many of the residents of Cherry Valley commute to Chicago, it definitely still maintains its small-town feel. The town was settled in 1835, and the 3,000 or so residents who live there today still cherish the town's history.
Galena is well-known for its charming 19th century buildings. Stroll along Main Street and peruse quaint shops and cafes. The Country Fair, with its beautiful, hand-made crafts, brings visitors from all over the state, but this little town of about 10,000 people still retains its community vibe.
6. Mount Carroll
The approximately 1,700 people who call Mount Carroll home are lucky indeed. The Historic District, with its cobblestone streets and charming facades, reminds residents of their roots, going back to 1841. This tiny town is just full of historic buildings.
Right around 3,400 people live in the picturesque community of Fulton. It's located right on the banks of the Mississippi River, and features one of just a few Dutch windmills in the country. This little town celebrates its Dutch heritage with its popular Dutch Days Festival every May.
The town of Morrison is brimming with history. You'll find many historic buildings, such as the Round Barn, a 14-sided, 100-year-old structure at the Whiteside County Fairgrounds. The town's annual Paint The Town event, held in September, is a colorful way to celebrate community, with many of its 4,100 residents participating by creating chalk art.
9. Franklin Grove
Franklin Grove is home to about 1,000 residents. This town really knows how to celebrate, with five seasonal festivals. Visit in the spring for the maple syrup boil and America Legion pancake breakfast. The Summer Harvest Festival takes place in late July, and the Autumn in the Grove festival celebrates Franklin Grove's fall foliage. Christmas in the Grove is when local businesses come together for a true holiday celebration.
You'll find about 17,500 residents in Sycamore, which was settled in 1835. The town is a wonderful place to visit, with its vibrant Historic District and annual Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, held every October.
Which of these small towns is your favorite? Are you lucky enough to live in one of these charming places?
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