The Prairie State consists mostly of fertile farmland, plus wetlands and scenic bluffs along its rivers—it’s bisected by the Illinois River and bordered by the Mississippi River to the west. Chicago, the largest city in Illinois and one of the biggest cities in the US, is an obvious urban destination, but if you were looking to hole up in a quiet and cozy vacation cottage, keep in mind that cabins in Chicago are rather hard to find. Instead, you can set your sights on smaller towns like Galena and Oglesby, where vacation cabins ensure you’re close to plenty of outdoor action.
Getaway cabins in Galena
A small town in northwest Illinois, Galena is famous for its beautifully preserved 19th-century homes and buildings. Its 1800s-style main street, called Helluva Half Mile, boasts some 125 independent shops and restaurants housed in brick structures and sporting old-fashioned signs. Galena cabins put you close to attractions like the Ulysses S. Grant Home, an Italianate 1859 mansion that town citizens gifted to the former US President. Another Italianate mansion, The Belvedere, is widely considered the grandest home in Galena, while The Dowling House is the oldest building in town. You can join guided tours of all 3 historic homes, then visit the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum to learn more about the town’s history, including the 9 Civil War generals who lived in Galena. For hiking, picnicking, and bird-watching, you can head for scenic Horseshoe Mound on the outskirts of town, while golfers have around 10 courses to choose from, all of which offer spectacular vistas from their rolling greens. With beginner and intermediate trails, Schurmeier Teaching Forest also provides excellent opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with the whole family. Like the town’s historic houses and numerous small museums, the forest is a quick drive from your Galena vacation home rental.
Vacation rentals in Oglesby
You can also check out the selection of getaway cabins in Oglesby, a small city that serves as a gateway to a few state parks. There are vacation home rentals in Starved Rock State Park, which occupies more than 2,600 acres. With its picturesque bluffs and canyons, it's no wonder Starved Rock is the most visited Illinois state park. Hiking, fishing, canoeing, and cross-country skiing are just some of the outdoor activities on the menu. While you’re in the area, you can also visit Matthiessen State Park, which lies within a mile of Oglesby, and the smaller Buffalo Rock State Park, just a little farther away. Set on the Vermilion River, Matthiessen offers picnic areas and 5 miles of trails that lead to canyons and waterfalls. On the other hand, Buffalo Rock features scenic overlooks with views of the Illinois River. When you’ve had your fill of recreation in the great outdoors, you can soothe your tired muscles with a soak in your Oglesby cabin rental’s hot tub, or bond with the family over a round of billiards before calling it a night.
Shawnee National Forest cabin rentals
In southern Illinois, you can rent quiet, secluded cabins in and around Shawnee National Forest. Situated between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the forest is home to a wide array of flora and fauna, as well as varied landscapes like wetlands, hills, and lakes. It’s a vast outdoor playground for visitors of all ages—you can find hiking, swimming, fishing, and rock climbing, to name a few. The most popular spot in the forest is Garden of the Gods, whose sandstone formations overlook the surrounding wilderness and form an extraordinary backdrop for your Shawnee National Forest photos. Another beloved spot is the Bell Smith Springs Recreation Area, which features streams, canyons, and cliffs, plus attractions like Boulder Falls and the Devil’s Backbone rock formation. Diverse wildflowers grow in Bell Smith Springs throughout the year, and various songbirds make it a stop on their migration route. Cabins in Shawnee National Forest are also well placed for visiting vineyards and wineries in southern Illinois. You’ll find a bunch of them in the villages of Pomona, Cobden, and Alto Pass, which are all a quick drive from the national forest. Don’t forget to bring home a bottle or 2 for a nightcap under the stars back at your cabin rental.