13. St. Charles
One hour and 35 miles away from Chicago, a charming and wholesome little community is tucked into the fertile Fox Valley, which draws tourists and shoppers from throughout the state every year.
The City of St. Charles joins four villages and townships in making up Greater St. Charles, a sweet segment of Illinois with a variety of amenities for every age and taste. One such perk, the area’s iconic Pheasant Run Resort, stands on former farmland and still has the old silo to prove it. When it opened in 1963, its hybrid outdoor/indoor swimming pool was one of the first in the country.
It still hosts live entertainment, gourmet cuisine, and family-friendly recreation, and it can accommodate hundreds of St. Charles visitors who want to spend a weekend inside the relaxing and historic borders of the greatest small city in Illinois.
According to the City, this western suburb employs even more people than it houses; partial credit goes to its committed initiatives to become a greener city, while its continued status as a shopping Mecca and quaint getaway keeps jobs plentiful in its downtown areas.
According to Visit St. Charles, the town’s tourism website, the City is the perfect weekend getaway for city dwellers not just because of its convenient location but because of it remote feel. Riverside dining, natural trails and parks, vintage boutiques and antique shops, and a surprising variety of public art installations make St. Charles stand out among other quiet river-front suburbs.
St. Charles tourism began as early as 1928, which is when the Chamber of Commerce says a Texas Oil Company heir built the Hotel Baker. It soon became known as the Honeymoon Hotel and attracted everyone from presidents John F. Kennedy and Gerald Ford to entertainer Lawrence Welk and Reverend Billy Graham.