The MHM Blog

Winter Day Trips Ideas From the UIUC Campus

Posted December 21, 2022
St Louis Arch

Are you spending too much time inside this winter? With the cold reaching new low levels each day, it feels harder and harder to leave the house. 

Crystal Lake Park 

When you’re crowded in a dorm and classes all day or finally coming into some free time from winter break, it might be a good idea to take some time to get out in the great outdoors, despite the cold. Crystal Lake Park is just a short drive from campus and is a much-welcome distraction with its beautiful dense forests and scenic views.

This park is full of wonders, and says there are also “playgrounds, picnic areas, and a unique landscaped brick labyrinth that is a challenge to work your way through. Interpretive information about the surrounding landscapes is scattered throughout the entire park.” 

Chicago, IL

If you have the time, Chicago is only a few hours away and easily the best city in the area to spend some time in. From the beautiful icy lakefront to Michigan Ave shopping, the museums, and shows, there is so much to do in Chicago in one weekend and so little time. Some of the best winter activities include the Maggie Daley ice skating rink, the Art Institute, and so much more. Best to plan so you miss the snow and just get the glow of the city! 

Galena, IL 

About the same distance as Chicago, Galena sits right before the Iowa/Illinois border and is one of the cutest little towns to take a breath and relax in. With a downtown known for shopping and wine tastings, you can’t run out of things to do in the area. It’s beautiful and scenic, with the historic homes sitting along the tops of the rolling hills in the area. Galena is full of history and life, even in winter! Hotels are relatively cheap, and the drive is easy with mile after mile of farms. Galena is a great option if you’re feeling stir-crazy and need some time to relax and unwind. 

William M. Staerkel Planetarium

One of the only things that UIUC can’t boast about is having a planetarium. A local favorite, the William M. Staerkel Planetarium, located on Parkland College’s campus, is open to be visited by anyone, student or not.

“The William M. Staerkel Planetarium, one of the largest in the state, provides a comfortable seat for anyone interested in catching a show. Popular for field trips and astronomical society meetings, the 50-foot dome screen of the planetarium hosts several public showings. Most public screenings at the planetarium take place on the weekends and range from Solar Superstorms to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.” The reviews for this place are too good to be true, right? Go check this place out if you need to sit in a chair and enjoy a show. Visit their website for an official showtime schedule here

Alto Vineyards and Winery

“Located on the scenic Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois, Alto Vineyards and Winery is owned by the Renzaglia family and produces award-winning wines.” They had me at wine! Apparently, if you are of age, this is one of the best places around to get the perfect wine-tasting experience. says Alto Vineyards is “set atop the rolling landscape of Alto Pass, […] and consists of the central wine farm in Alto Pass and a tasting room in Champaign, where visitors can taste some of the best wines in the country.” Sign. Me. Up. Check out their hours and COVID protocols on their website here, and go enjoy some wine! 

St. Louis, MO

Going south means the opportunity to visit one of the next closest big cities to UIUC, with awesome BBQ food and one of the best zoos in the country. says, “ Saint Louis Zoo has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading zoological parks.[…] This unique organization features free seasonal shows, nature trails, and educational programs.”

If you’ve never been in the arch, the winter is the perfect time to ride up the “630-foot ride to the top of this world-famous stainless steel monument for the finest views in the Gateway City. While you’re there, be sure to make time to explore the on-site museum, which traces over 200 years of our region’s history in six themed exhibit areas.” 

Whether you take a full day, just a few hours, or drive down the street for your day adventure, make sure to set aside some time to spend outside your house this winter, do it for you! 

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