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Travel

All-Day Bike Rides
 

Believe it or not, the Chicago area is crisscrossed with scenic, Wisconsin-worthy bike routes that are free of cars and relatively flat—making them suitable for even the casual rider on a comfort bike. Get the Chicagoland Bicycle Map from the Active Transportation Alliance (activetrans.org) to plan out the rides here, which all begin near an el or Metra stop; as long as it’s not rush hour, you’re generally welcome to tote your wheels on the train.

 

nearest train station 

route 

notable scenery

 

1 TINLEY CREEK FOREST PRESERVE
23.5-mile loop

Tinley Park–80th Avenue Metra stop (about three miles away)

A winding asphalt trail through the Tinley Creek Forest Preserve

Gorgeous spring wildflowers and fall color in the Yankee Woods and St. Mihiel areas (south of the entrance on Central Avenue near 159th Street)

 

2 LAKEFRONT TO WOLF LAKE
about 30 miles

McCormick Place Metra stop or the Cermak-Chinatown stop on the Red Line

Lakefront trail from McCormick Place south to the William W. Powers State Recreation Area on the Indiana state line

The secluded nature sanctuary at the South Shore Cultural Center and the surprisingly pristine Wolf Lake

 

3 NORTHWEST SIDE TO THE CHICAGO BOTANIC GARDEN
40 miles

Edgebrook Metra stop

The North Branch Bicycle Trail at Caldwell and Devon avenues to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe

Woodlands along the Chicago River and the chain of Skokie Lagoons

 

4 MAYWOOD TO THE FOX RIVER IN GENEVA
56 miles

Maywood Metra stop or Forest Park stop on the Blue Line

Illinois Prairie Path (follow the Elgin Branch, then the Geneva Spur)

Rare virgin prairie along the Geneva Spur

 

5 MONTROSE HARBOR TO KENOSHA
90 miles

Ravenswood Metra stop

Chicago Lakefront Bike Path, Evanston Bikeways, Green Bay Trail, and Robert McClory Bike Path north to Kenosha County Trail

Stunning homes in Kenilworth and open prairie closer to Wisconsin

* * *

Little-Known Campsites
 

 

drive from Chicago

know before you go

flush toilets

pit toilets

showers

running water

laundry facilities

electricity

 

WISCONSIN RIDGE CAMPGROUND
13081 State Park Ln., Bagley, Wisconsin; 608-996-2261, dnr.state.wi.us

4 hours, 30 minutes

Perched on a bluff near the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers in Wyalusing State Park, this 54-site campground has a fishing pier and boat launch nearby for easy canoeing (rentals available). The park also offers hiking and mountain biking trails, bird watching, and stargazing. Don’t miss the park’s American Indian burial mounds.

There’s no swimming at Wyalusing State Park, but there’s a county-operated beach about two miles from the park. Reservations at wiparks.net

 

PECATONICA RIVER FOREST PRESERVE
7260 Judd Rd. and 14260 Brick School Rd., Pecatonica; 815-877-6100, wcfpd.org

2 hours

Pecatonica’s campground offers 49 sites from which to choose—some private, others in the open, all with electricity. Take a stroll along the trails and admire the wildflowers, or head over to the 130-year-old limestone barn that now serves as an environmental education center.

Take your own canoes. The campground doesn’t offer rentals and there isn’t an outfitter nearby. No reservations.

 

MALLARD BEND CAMPGROUND
2838 N. 4351 Rd., Sheridan; 815-496-2496, mallardbend.com

90 minutes

Situated along the 28-mile Historic Fox Valley Canoe Trail on the Fox River, Mallard Bend has it all: Rent a canoe or kayak from a nearby outfitter, swim in a spring-fed lake (no fish!), or soak in the heated in-ground pool.

Saturday nights the campground hosts events for the campers—horseshoe tournaments, bingo, movies, and DJs. Reservations suggested.

 

TURKEY RUN STATE PARK
8121 E. Park Rd., Marshall, Indiana; 765-597-2635, in.gov/dnr/parklake/2964.htm

3 hours

You can hike the deep sandstone ravines and explore the old-growth forests, then fish and canoe in Sugar Creek. There’s also horseback riding and hayrides. The campground has more than 200 sites, all with electricity. Turkey Run is in Parke County, the so-called Covered Bridge Capital of the World.

Even if you want to go for just a weekend, make reservations.The campground does fill up. Reservations at camp.in.gov

 

PIGEON RIVER FISH AND WILDLIFE AREA
8310 E. 300 N, Mongo, Indiana; 260-367-2164, in.gov/dnr/fishwild/3086.htm

2 hours, 45 minutes

The campgrounds at Pigeon River are primitive—none of the 44 sites offer electricity—and the activities boil down to hunting, fishing, shooting a gun at the rifle range, and archery. Many people go to see the waterfowl or sightsee in Shipshewana, Indiana’s Amish Country.

The perfect tranquil getaway for adults, this may not be great for kids during the spring and fall hunting seasons. No reservations.

* * *

Ways To Fly
 

FLYING LESSONS
Palwaukee Flyers
1040 S. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling; 800-901-0730, palwaukeeflyers.com
The introductory “total immersion” flight is an hour-and-a-half lesson—about 30 to 40 minutes in the air—with a certified flight instructor. You get to taxi the plane, talk to the control tower, and actually fly the thing.
Lessons start at $119.95.

SKYDIVING
Chicagoland Skydiving Center
12637 U.S. Route 30 West, Hinckley; 815-286-9200, skydivecsc.com
The center, in operation for 30 years with a perfect safety record to date, boasts the highest skydive in the Midwest at 18,000 feet—but the 14,500-foot drop is the most popular. One-time tandem jumps also available.
Single jumps start at $200; Freefall University starts at $2,399.

HANG-GLIDING
Hangglide Chicago
3236 N. 700 East, Clifton, Indiana; 219-746-1480, hangglidechicago.com
Hangglide Chicago hooks you up with local pilots and certified instructors based on your skills and goals. Even beginners can get towed by plane 2,500 feet in the air before being released for a 20-minute glide.
Discovery flights start at $155; 16 lessons, $1,600.

WINDSURFING
Windward Sports
3317 N. Clark St.; 773-472-6868, windwardsports.com
Three beaches in the area are designated for windsurfing: Wolf Lake, Montrose, and Greenwood in Evanston. Jackie Butzen, the owner of Windward Sports, is a certified instructor and trainer with 30 years of experience.
Lessons start at $65; rental equipment is $10 extra.

KITES
Chicago Kite
5445 N. Harlem Ave.; 773-467-1428, chicagokite.com
Who says kites are just for kids? Next time you’re headed out to O’Hare, take a quick detour to Chicago Kite, which carries more than 1,000 kites in stock at all times and can custom-order to fit your needs.
Kites range from $14.99 for a single line to $1,000 for advanced models.

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