Eight COVID-friendly, drivable places to visit By Elissa Eaton

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, coming up with fun ways to pass the time has become increasingly difficult, causing many to feel cooped up and bored. Because traveling is challenging, creativity is needed in order to get out of Naperville while still obeying COVID-19 precautions. From filming locations to forest preserves, there’s more to see within a three hour drive than one might think.

*Travel times may vary depending on the time of day. The best time to leave would be early in the morning, before rush hour.*

1. Polk-A-Dot Drive-In

  • 222 N. Front St, Braidwood IL
  • 53 minutes from NNHS
  • Open 11 am to 8 pm

The Polk-A-Dot drive-in is a vintage 50’s style diner known for their chili cheese fries, burgers and malts. Accompanying a great meal are surrounding statues of famed stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and others at the retro restaurant on Route 66. Polk-A-Dot drive-in offers outdoor seating along with curbside pick up.

photo by Barbara Weibel

2. Starved Rock State Park

  • 2678 E 873rd Rd, Oglesby IL
  • 1 hour and 20 minutes from NNHS

One of the more well known attractions in Illinois, Starved Rock captures the natural beauty that Illinois has to offer. Not many people think to visit in the winter, yet this attraction is open all year round, from sunrise to sunset. Going in the winter has its advantages as the park is less crowded and the frozen waterfalls make for very unique photos.

photo by Jackie Liu

3. Beatrix Fulton Market

  • 834 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL
  • 37 minutes away from NNHS

It can be hard to think of things to do in the city amidst a pandemic, especially considering the closure of many restaurants. Beatrix Fulton Market is a restaurant offering outdoor seating (even as we enter the year’s coldest months). Along with a heated patio, customers can reserve an igloo seating four to six customers, or an alternative greenhouse seating two to four. Though these reservations are pricey, they offer a very unique dining experience that has stemmed from the unprecedented times that we are living in.

photo by Elissa Eaton

4. Home Alone House

  • 671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL
  • 55 minutes to an hour away from NNHS

Though the holidays are over, the Home Alone house is still worth a visit. It’s in a gorgeous neighborhood and you can see where the classic movie was filmed.

photo by Elissa Eaton

5. Cameron's House from Ferris Bueller's Day Off

  • 370 Beech Street, Highland Park, IL
  • 50 minutes from NNHS

See the parking spot of the now-famous ferrari featured in 80’s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This was definitely one of the coolest houses that I have ever seen, and well worth the drive. It’s also very close to the Home Alone House.

photo by Elissa Eaton

6. Galena, Illinois

Photos by visitgalena.org and vacation homes of Galena via Pinterest
  • Galena, IL
  • 2 hours and 30 minutes from NNHS

With beautiful scenery and a great small town, Galena has a lot to offer. With the gorgeous waterfalls in Thunder Bay Falls, visitors will be surprised that a place like this exists in Illinois. Along with that, Galena has a historic downtown, as it is home to Civil War general Ulysses S Grant. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, Galena is roughly a 25 minute drive from Charles Mound.

7. Charles Mound

  • -Scales Mound Township IL
  • -2 hours and 30 minutes from NNHS

Later on in the year, Charles Mound will be a great place to go for a hike and enjoy the view. At 1,235 ft above sea level, this hill is the highest point in Illinois. Keep in mind that Charles Mound is private property and open to visitors on select days of the year -- the closest one being February 13. The access dates can be found on the website linked above.

photo by Adam Martin

8. Grand Geneva Resort

  • 7036 Grand Geneva Way, Lake Geneva WI
  • 1 hour and 35 minutes from NNHS
  • Open 12 pm - 9 pm on Mon-Thu, 9 am - 10 pm on Fri, Sat, and Sun
photo by visitlakegeneva.com

For the skiers and snowboarders, the slopes may not be as far as one might think. Just across the Illinois-Wisconsin border, Grand Geneva offers some solid hills great for skiing and snowboarding. The costs for a lift ticket and various rentals vary depending on age and the day of the week. Though cheaper than many other resorts, specific costs can be found on the above linked website.

Whether it’s with a few friends or your family, these mini vacations might just make your day. These COVID-safe and fun destinations are much needed during a winter that has us feeling a little chillier than usual. Drive safe Huskies!

Created By
elissa eaton