Touring Northern Illinois: Sights, Cities, and Harvest Hosts Locations

Nicknamed, “The Prairie State,” Illinois has so much more to offer than just prairies. It is filled with farmlands, hills, forests, wetlands, and incredible cities, the most noteworthy of which is Chicago. Because of the diversity and size of the state, we will be focusing on Northern Illinois tourism here. Northern Illinois includes the incredible cities of Rockhead, Moline, and of course Chicago, in addition to many beautiful state parks and forests, including Starved Rock State Park. There are also countless Harvest Hosts locations to be found here, each allowing visitors to camp overnight in a unique and serene setting. Continue on for all the best places to visit on your next trip to Northern Illinois.

Photo credit: Starved Rock Lodge

Places to Go

There are so many unique and diverse things to do in northern Illinois, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures, city exploration, and tourism in tiny towns packed with culture and history. Here, we’ll discuss some of the most popular places to visit, but you should by all means seek out places further off-the-beaten path for the best Northern Illinois travel.

1. Chicago

Situated along the southern shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is known as one of the largest and most vibrant cities in the United States. With almost endless things to do, see, and enjoy, visitors of Chicago are in for a real treat. While a classic Chicago trip surely involves visiting the Willis Tower, the Bean, Millennium Park, and other iconic sites, there are so many more things to experience here. 

Visitors will of course want to try Chicago-style deep dish, while sports fans will likely want to pay a visit to the Chicago Cubs stadium. Theater lovers can see a Blue Man Group concert or even see a show at Broadway Chicago. In addition, with a plethora of free and cheap museums to visit, as well as plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping, and more, there is truly something for everyone to enjoy in the city of Chicago. Check out the Choose Chicago tourism page for more help planning your visit.

Photo credit: Fodors Travel Guide

Camping

If you are visiting Chicago in your RV, there are so many campground options for you to choose from. With a few located right in the city and many more located on the outskirts and in the surrounding towns and suburbs, most visitors will find themselves with many potential sites to choose from. Be sure to reserve your site well in advance for the best selection and options, especially in the summer and fall seasons.

2. Rockford, Illinois

Just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border lies the small city of Rockford, Illinois. As a city of gardens and rivers, visitors also tend to enjoy shopping, dining, relaxing, and visiting museums and other unique attractions. Between the parks, live music, public art, and beautiful gardens, Rockford is especially iconic in the summertime. Be sure to check out the city’s tourism page for more tips and information to help you plan out your next visit.

Photo credit: My Stateline

Camping

If you are traveling to Rockford in your RV, there are so many beautiful campgrounds. From city parks to resorts, standard campgrounds, and forest preserves, there are multiple options for RVers to choose from when planning their trip.

3. Moline, Illinois

Located along the northwestern Iowa-Illinois border, Moline is one of the Quad Cities. This nickname denotes a grouping of four popular, medium-sized cities. This stunning area is home to farmer’s markets, festivals, breweries, restaurants, bike paths, parks, and the beautiful Mississippi River waterfront. Visitors will be delighted by the awesome variety of activity opportunities and diverse area experiences. Make sure you check out the area’s tourism site for a full list of area attractions.

Camping

Because of this area’s popularity, there are many campgrounds to choose from, with several located on the Illinois side and several on the Iowa side. Options range from RV parks to forest preserves, deluxe resorts, and standard campgrounds.

4. Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park is certainly one of the most beautiful and natural places found in the state of Illinois. Named after a Native American legend, the waterfalls found here are best viewed in the spring or after a heavy rain. With thirteen miles of hiking trails and boating, fishing, and swimming opportunities in the Illinois River, there is so much to enjoy in this gorgeous park.

Photo credit: Starved Rock Lodge

Camping

Starved Rock State Park has its own awesome campground, with 133 sites with electrical hookups. Some sites offer 20-amp, while others over 30-amp, with a few 50-amp as well. They also offer a dump station, water, a bathhouse, and a playground. Travelers can make reservations online, and they tend to fill up quickly in the summertime.

Harvest Hosts Locations

In addition to awesome cities and state parks, Northern Illinois is also home to over a dozen Harvest Hosts locations. While visiting this region, be sure to check out a few of these fantastic stops for a unique look at the agricultural and small business side of Northern Illinois.

1. Rabid Brewing – Homewood, IL

Found in Homewood, Illinois, this brewery offers a variety of hand-crafted beers and hard seltzers made on-site, as well as craft sodas and tavern-style pizzas to enjoy in their taproom or to-go. Their taproom and beer field are currently open from Wednesday through Sunday, which is also when they permit Harvest Hosts members to stay. Please note that overnight guests must arrive during business hours and must use the request-a-stay system to book their reservation. In addition, for the comfort of all of their guests and in compliance with local regulations, pets are not permitted in the taproom, on the beer field or off-leash anywhere on the premises. Currently, they offer two pet-friendly spaces for RVs under forty-four feet in length, as well as potable water upon request.

Photo credit: Enjoy Illinois

2. Balmoral Woods – Crete, IL

Just about twenty minutes north of Rabid Brewing sits another incredible Harvest Hosts location: Balmoral Woods. Located in Crete, Illinois, Balmoral Woods is easily accessible from Downtown Chicago and northwest Indiana. Rated as one of the best Public golf facilities in the Chicago area, Balmoral Woods is a “must play” course for any avid golfer.

They offer a demanding, superbly-conditioned, magnificent round of golf laid out over 120-plus acres of wooded, rolling hills. This course will test the skill of golfers with its 6700-yard, 72.6-rated, 133-slope layout. In addition to an excellent course, the golf club offers a restaurant with plenty of food options. Here, Harvest Hosts members can reserve one of two pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

3. Riverlands Brewing Company – St. Charles, IL

Riverlands Brewing Company is a craft brewery in Saint Charles, Illinois, brewing a wide range of beer styles for everyone to enjoy. With sixteen beers on tap, they specialize in New England-Style IPAs, lagers, sours, and stouts, while offering indoor and patio seating (weather permitting) on a first come, first-served basis. In addition to beers offered in-house, they also offer four-packs, thirty-two-ounce crowlers, and twenty-two-ounce bottles of their beer to-go, as well as tours, tastings, and a gift shop. Food trucks often visit on the weekends, and locally-made snacks like flavored pretzels, jerky, and popcorn are also available. Please keep in mind that reservations must be made through the request-a-stay system exclusively. They offer two pet-friendly spaces for RVs under forty-four feet in length, as well as WiFi service.

4. Skydive Chicago – Ottawa, IL

Continuing about an hour southeast, travelers will land at Skydive Chicago in Ottawa, Illinois. According to their reviews, “Skydive Chicago is built on a dedication to the sport of skydiving unseen anywhere else.” As the largest Skydive Center in the Midwest, the property is 200 acres in size and offers RV sites, a swimming pond, fishing, hiking and, of course, skydiving. In addition to all of this, they also offer a full restaurant which features many fantastic food options. They also have a gift shop, opportunities for hiking, a picnic area, and WiFi. Some previous guests have enjoyed trying out skydiving, while many others have enjoyed watching the skydivers jump and land from the safety of the ground level. Currently, they offer five pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

Photo credit: Skydive Windy City Chicago

5. Rush Creek Distilling – Harvard, IL

At Rush Creek Distilling, that idea that “it takes an adventurous spirit to make an adventurous spirit” is the core of their overall mission, showing up in everything that they do. As a true craft distillery, Rush Creek’s spirits are original, full-bodied experiences using select local grains, uncompromising craftsmanship, and the purest deep-spring water they can get their hands on. Drop-by-drop, batch-by-batch, their products are meticulously created using their own handcrafted, American-made still. Everything is done on-site, with grains harvested from local farmlands, then milled and mashed right here for customer enjoyment. This facility offers tours and tastings, a deck area, and WiFi, and they are open to Harvest Hosts members from Thursday through Sunday each week. Currently, they offer eight pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

6. Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum – Poplar Grove, IL

About fifteen minutes west of Rush Creek Distilling, Harvest Hosts customers can visit another awesome location: Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum. This museum showcases a variety of vintage planes and vehicles, historic art decor, a Great Depression-era hanger, and many more incredible exhibits. They host occasional special events, and admission free with free-will donations appreciated and encouraged. They ask that all Harvest Host Members enter their museum campus from the east entrance on Orth Road, instead of the West Main Entrance Gate, which goes over the Graf Road Bridge and has a load limit of 24,000 pounds. The museum is open Friday through Sunday in May through September, but Harvest Hosts guests are generally permitted to stay any day of the week between April and the end of October. Currently, this location offers two pet-friendly spaces for RVs under forty-four feet in length.

7. Prairie Street Brewing Company – Rockford, IL

Continuing another thirty minutes west, members can visit another awesome Harvest Hosts location at Prairie Street Brewing Company in Rockford. Located on the banks of the Rock River, this historic brewpub remains focused on delicious hand-crafted food and incredible beer. At Prairie Street Brewing Company, they understand that nothing complements a great beer better than great food.

Using this philosophy, they have created their food and beer menus to operate in tandem. The menus change frequently to reflect the shifts of the seasons and the availability of the freshest ingredients. For Harvest Hosts guests, they do not accept reservations from June through August and instead operate on a first come, first-served basis. However, they do allow reservations at other times of the year. Be sure to check in often to taste their newest fermented and culinary creations. At this time, they offer six pet-friendly spaces for RVs under thirty-five feet in length.

Photo credit: Olio in Iowa

8. Brown & Rusk RanchPecatonica, IL

Approximately another twenty minutes west, northern Illinois travelers can stop and visit the Brown and Rusk Ranch. This small property is about five acres in total size, with goats and a cat. They are located about ten miles outside of Rockford Illinois, which the owners highly recommend visiting. They have a wonderful shaded area for parking and a big fire pit nearby a building that looks like a 1950s diner. The owners love meeting and chatting with people, and they are open from spring through mid-November. Currently, they offer two pet-friendly spaces for RVs under thirty-five feet in length. Nearby, they recommend checking out hiking opportunities within ten miles of the property and several beautiful apple orchards within just seven miles away.

9. Fergedaboudit Vineyard and WineryHanover, IL

Traveling about another hour west, you will reach the unique Fergedaboudit Vineyard and Winery. For a magical and unforgettable experience, begin by taking a drive down a winding gravel road, where you will soon spot the vineyard on the hillside. Once you turn into the driveway, you will then see a Tuscan-style tasting room with a gorgeous patio, pond, and an adjacent tent-covered deck that overlooks the vineyard. When you step into the tasting room you will feel like you went back in time to an old Tuscan village. The Fergedaboudit family will welcome you with a big smile and offer you some details to begin your experience, taking you through the history of how Fergedaboudit (and its name) came to be. and a description of the wines to help guide you to your tasting selections.

Whether you are looking for a venue for a special event, a quiet afternoon of wine tasting paired with carefully selected imported cheeses, or an afternoon of wine flights, homemade pizza and live music, they truly have it all. Their diverse wine offerings are made from both home-grown and imported grapes, making for a unique selection of varietals. Currently, they offer four pet-friendly spaces for RVs under forty-four feet and WiFi.

Photo credit: Enjoy Illinois

10. Erie AirparkErie, IL

About an hour south of Fergedaboudit, Erie Airpark is another of our awesome Harvest Hosts locations. This twenty-seven-acre, privately-owned airpark has thirty hangars on-site that rent to aircraft owners, along with a fire pit and an outdoor shelter. Catering to light sportcraft, aircraft fly in and out on a daily basis, which means that the runway is off-limits at all times. Their airport offers plenty of open spots to camp, allowing up to five pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

11. Lavender Crest Winery, Restaurant & Event CenterColona, IL

Continuing another twenty minutes west, Lavender Crest is a winery, restaurant and event center rolled into one packaged experience. They have a patio overlooking a small vineyard for dining, and they make all their own wine on-site. In addition to their excellent food and wine menu, they also offer tours of the winemaking facility for a nominal fee, as well as a gift shop and WiFi. Currently, they have four pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size available.

Photo credit: Ulocal

12. TPC Deere RunSilvis, IL

Last but not least, our final northern Illinois Harvest Hosts location is TPC Deere Run. This championship golf course makes for a popular destination for Midwestern golfers. TPC Deere Run’s golf course was built on the site of a former Arabian horse farm, with course architect and former PGA tour professional DA Weibring masterfully using the natural, rolling landscape to create a championship golf course that stretches along the wooded ravines of the area’s famous Rock River.

This course has been honored by Golf Digest, ranking number forty-two among the United States’ 100 greatest public golf courses. Golfweek Magazine has also ranked TPC Deere Run among the top five courses in the state of Illinois. In addition to the golf course, this location offers an incredible restaurant and a small gift shop, as well as four pet-friendly spaces for RVs of any size.

Photo credit: PGA Tour

As you can see, Northern Illinois is a unique region of the Midwest with so many different areas and experiences to offer. Consider any of these stops for an unforgettable trip and memories that will last a lifetime.

Photo credit: Choose Chicago

Have you traveled to Northern Illinois? What did you like about it? Where did you stop and visit? Feel free to share all about it in the comments below!

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