The quaint, historic town of Galena tops our list of LGBT+ friendly weekend getaways in Illinois and it’s also a great opportunity to discover the state’s rich history. It’s home to a large number of gay-owned guesthouses, each with a similar tale of Chicagoans who visited one weekend, fell in love with it and wanted to set up a home that they could share with others. It’s a charming place – a nice mix of country, town and city vibes – with lovely stores and delicious restaurants on its Main Street (a staggering 130 individual businesses, in fact). You see, while there are only 3,200 residents, Galena gets nearly a million visitors each year. It is also the gateway to some fantastic natural wonders – the fields of fireflies will light up your life – and when you’re done with the great outdoors, you can always take advantage of its great wineries and distilleries.
The secrets of Starved Rock
Just a hundred miles from Chicago, there’s a place where once melting glaciers left their mark, carving a labyrinth of canyons into the sandstone. Take a visit to Starved Rock State Park and you’ll see exactly what we mean – a wonderland of tree-shrouded bluffs, 18 different canyons and seasonal waterfalls. It’s a hikers’ paradise, featuring 15 miles of walking trails; the four-mile trek to the views of Council Overhang, Ottawa and Kaskaskia canyons is our particular favourite. Staying in the park is a great experience too – try the Starved Rock Lodge. For a less strenuous trip, take a narrated tour aboard an old paddle-wheel boat, the ‘Belle of the Rock’. If that’s not enough trekking, nearby Matthiessen State Park has five more miles of picturesque hiking trails.
After the luxury hotels of Chicago and quaint inns of Galena, OutThere travellers may be tempted to look for something truly original to call their home away from home in Illinois. If you’re after some offbeat places to stay, Illinois has you covered – there are a number of very unexpected rentals that make for some great memories. Ten Acre Treehouse village in out-of-the-way Nauvoo boasts a 400-square-foot ‘Captains Quarters’ with a nautical theme. At Rocky Comfort Cabins in Makanda, Hobbit-living comes to life. On the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, close to Shawnee National Forest, OutThere families or groups of friends can take over an old barn that’s been converted into a super-stylish 3,000+ square-foot party house. There really is something for everyone.
Illinois, I do
Fancy a charming Midwestern wedding? Join the trend of same-gender couples tying the knot in Illinois. From upscale, Chicago hotel ballrooms, to designer spaces and rustic barns, Illinois has a great array of fancy and individual LGBT+ friendly venues, perfect for that party of a lifetime. For that quintessential society wedding, check out LondonHouse Chicago’s 22nd-floor rooftop with stunning views over the city. Collinsville’s Willoughby Farm is the antithesis – a hay-baled, twinkly lit venue to make all your corn-fed dreams come true. For somewhere in between, lovebirds can opt for The Mansion, an imposing century-old Georgian stately home in the sprawling Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello. The park has a number of venues, from a two-storey Dutch barn to its beautiful formal gardens, so whatever your fantasy wedding, there’ll be something that suits.
*This article is in partnership with the Illinois Office of Tourism.