Local scenic attractions offer affordable day-trip escapes

The Japan House located at 2000 S. Lincoln Ave. in Urbana is one of the many local tourist sites that can be a short and affordable trip for those looking for mini-vacations. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Voelkl

The Japan House located at 2000 S. Lincoln Ave. in Urbana is one of the many local tourist sites that can be a short and affordable trip for those looking for mini-vacations. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Voelkl

By Katie O'Connell

Groceries. Electric. Cable and internet. Rent. Water. Parking. Laundry and dry cleaning. Gas. Clothes. Cell phone.

In the hot summer months it feels as if there’s no cool relief from bills, let alone any money for a summertime trip.

Although it might feel like your summer is spent with the biggest trips being to a local watering hole with frat park as the only site of nature you see, trips to areas in Illinois could prove to be an inexpensive getaway.

The University’s Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello is home to 14 miles worth of hiking trails along the Sangamon River, formal gardens with more than 100 sculptures and a Georgian-style mansion that was once the private estate of Robert Henry Allerton.

“We were recently designated one of the seven wonders of Illinois,” said Jessica Hampson, marketing and communications director at Allerton Park and Retreat Center.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Admission to the park is free, making it an inexpensive trip, even when factoring in gas money.

“It’s something you can spend as little or as much time as you want in and see something different every time,” Hampson said.

For those who don’t have a car but are still looking for a brief retreat, the Japan House at 2000 S. Lincoln Ave. in Urbana, offers a glimpse into Japanese culture. and is accompanied by two Japanese gardens.

“I think the whole environment and atmosphere is such a peaceful and cool setting,” said Cynthia Voelkl, assistant director of the Japan House. “It’s a little bit of serenity in the middle of our busy lives.”

Mini-vacations to try in the area:

Allerton Park and Retreat Center

Where: 515 Old Timber, Monticello, Ill.

Hours of operation: 8 a.m. until sundown

Cost: Free admission, donations accepted

Main attractions: 14 total miles of trails along the Sangamon River that vary depending on hiking ability, a series of outdoor gardens with more than 100 sculptures, tours of the mansion and picnic areas. Tours of the mansion must be arranged in advance. Special events: This summer Allerton Park is scheduled to host a Music and Nature summer concert series with dates remaining on Saturday, July 19 and Saturday, August 16. Admission for the concert series is $7 for adults, $5 for adults 65 and older as well as children 12 and under

More information available at http://www.continuinged.uiuc.edu/allerton/

Japan House

Where: 2000 S. Lincoln Ave., Urbana

Hours of operation: The gardens at the Japan House are open everyday until dusk for visitors. The Japan House office is open everyday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Cost: Free admission

Main attractions: The Japan House offers visitors a chance to experience Japanese culture in a serene environment. The two Japanese gardens allow visitors to escape into peaceful climate with some cool pockets to avoid the summer heat. Special events: Free house tours are available on Thursday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. Tea ceremonies, which cost $5 and last for approximately 45 minutes, are scheduled for 2 and 3 p.m. on July 24 and August 14. Garden tours led by gardener Jim Bier are available July 17 at 5:30 p.m. and August 7 at 3 p.m., but reservations are required at no cost

More information available at: http://japanhouse.art.uiuc.edu/

Vermilion County War Museum

Where: 307 N. Vermilion St.. Danville, Ill.

Hours of operation: Noon until 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Cost: Free admission, donations accepted

Main attractions: The first floor of the museum features artifacts from more than 200 years of military history dating back to the Revolutionary War and includes a monument to women veterans, which is one of a few in the nation. The lower level contains a dining area, meeting rooms and a library of war-related materials. Private tours are available with a reservation. Special events: The museum hosts a veterans’ meeting the second Tuesday of every month from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m

More information available at: http://www.vcwm.org/events.html

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site

Where: 15588 History Ln., Petersburg, Ill.

Hours of operation: Everyday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Cost: Free admission, donations recommended of $2 for children, $4 for adults and $10 for families

Main attractions: The Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site is a small village modeled after Salem, Ill., where President Abraham Lincoln spent the early years of his adulthood. The village includes 12 wood cabins, a tavern, workshops, stores, a mill, a school and a church modeled after the 1800s.Special events: On July 26 the Mississippi Morgan Horse Club will hold 3 demonstrations at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to illustrate the many uses of Morgan horses.

More information available at: http://www.lincolnsnewsalem.com/

Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino

Where: 21 Blackjack Boulevard in East Peoria

Hours of operation: Open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. until 6 a.m.

Cost: Free admission; cost of food, gambling and travel

Main attraction: If you want to get away from Champaign-Urbana but can’t afford a trip to Vegas, try the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria. The casino itself is on a riverboat that stays in one spot along the Mississippi River. The riverboat also includes a deli, a steakhouse and a buffet. Just be sure to budget so this cheap trip stays that way.

Special events: Various entertainment acts occur during the year.

More information available at: http://www.paradicecasino.com/

Starved Rock State Park

Where: Utica, Illinois

Hours of operation: The park is open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, but trails are closed after dark.

Cost: Free admission

Main attractions: Featuring 18 canyons, the Starved Rock State Park is located along the Illinois River. The park includes 13 miles of marked trails through the canyons. Avid fisherman can come to the park and try their best to snare catfish, bullhead, white bass, sauger, walleye, carp and crappie fish. Picnicking and camping grounds are also available at the park.

Special events: Horseback riding is available at the camp anytime between April and October.

More information available at: dnr.state.il.us