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Men riding a horse carriage by a field.

Deep in the Heart of Illinois

Arts, Culture & History

4 Days 190 Miles


Champaign, Monticello, Tuscola, Decatur, Lake Shelbyville

from alma mater to amish country

Central Illinois puts you in the center of the action.

Ride a horse and buggy in Amish Country. Have an outdoor adventure in Lake Shelbyville. Or pop by Champaign-Urbana and Decatur for some of the most highly-acclaimed food, arts & culture scenes of any towns in the Midwest.

Day 1:

Champaign, Monticello

  • A child leading his grand parents to the statue in the maze.

Champaign-Urbana area is an eclectic area filled with all sorts of great experiences, which means it’s a great place to start your trip. If you’re there in the fall, don’t miss a visit to Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch, a historic family-run farm featuring all sorts of seasonal treats and activities.  In Champaign, stroll the beautiful gardens of the Japan House, a cultural educational facility where you can take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  

When it comes to local eats and treats, there’s no shortage of great options in the area. In Urbana, the Black Dog Smoke & Ale House has mouthwatering barbecue and craft beers. Pandamonium Donuts and Jarling’s Custard Cup both specialize in one-of-a-kind sweet treats. For incredible craft beer, stop by breweries like Blind Pig Brewery in downtown Champaign and Riggs Beer Company in Urbana – known for their sustainably brewed beers. If you’re more of a wine lover, stop by Alto Vineyard Tasting Room, also in Champaign, for some delicious wine that’s grown and produced in Illinois’ Shawnee Forest Country.

Take an afternoon and head over to nearby Monticello where you can meander through the Allerton Park & Retreat Center, which offers a unique mix of art, nature and history. And if you’re looking to appreciate even more art, head to Prairie Fire Glass in Monticello that creates one-of-a-kind glass blown works of art – the perfect souvenir to take home! For another outdoor experience, nearby in Mahomet is home to the beautiful Mabery Gelvin Botanical Garden.

Stay the night at the Hyatt Place Champaign or the stylish I Hotel and Conference Center for the total guest experience.

Day 2:


  • Horse carriage going down a road surrounded by fields on each side.

Head south through Tuscola, stopping for some delicious homemade chocolates at family-owned Flesor’s Candy Kitchen and maybe some retail therapy at Tanger Outlets. Onward to the land of Amish Country – Arthur! The small town of Arthur is home to more than 2,000 Amish residents and hundreds of charming countryside shops and businesses to discover. There, you’ll find the Amish Country Information Center to learn more about the region’s history and you can take a guided Amish Country tour to take in the region’s views along with tours through Amish farms, woodworker shops and even meals in Amish homes. 

When you’ve worked up an appetite, stop by at Pauly’s BBQ for some mouthwatering pulled pork or Yoder’s Kitchen for authentic Amish homestyle cooking. Next, pick up something sweet at Dicks Pharmacy, an old-time soda fountain known for its tasty ice cream treats. 

If you’re looking for another unexpected adventure, look no further than a trip to Aikman Wildlife Adventure, a drive-thru zoo in Arcola where you can get up close and personal with animals like zebras, bison, camels and more. Spend the night at Arthur’s Country Inn for an authentic overnight Amish experience.

Day 3:


  • Kids watching the water fountain.

In the morning, head to Decatur for a family-friendly day filled with adventure. Stop for breakfast at Wildflour Artisan Bakery & Cafe for some chocolate chip pancakes or a healthy breakfast bowl. The kids will love exploring the Children’s Museum of Illinois featuring fun and educational art and science exhibits. History buffs should head to the Macon County History Museum to tour a log courthouse dating back to 1829 where Abraham Lincoln once practiced law.

Next, stroll through Scovill Zoo, which has incredible views over Lake Decatur, to marvel over more than 400 animals spanning six continents. If you’re looking to spend even more time outdoors, head to Rock Springs Conservation Area – located just four miles southwest of Decatur – a favorite spot for birdwatchers and photographers looking to observe the unique sights and sounds of nature. Downtown Decatur also offers trolley rides for locals and visitors to enjoy and take in the picturesque views of the town. 

For a romantic dinner, enjoy some amazing steaks and original gourmet dishes at The Gin Mill or savor fresh seafood at The Beach House Restaurant. For dessert, treat yourself to a handmade milkshake or frozen custard at Krekel’s Custard, also known for their award-winning burgers. Get some rest at one of the town’s several hotels like Holiday Inn & SuitesHampton Inn and Residence Inn

Day 4:

Lake Shelbyville

  • Wooden Pier at Lake Shelbyville during sunset.

If there’s anything the Lake Shelbyville area is known for, it’s the great outdoors. Lake Shelbyville has over 11,000 water acres and 172 miles of shoreline to discover. Spend the end of your Central Illinois getaway becoming one with nature with the area’s several spots for hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, golfing and more! One trail worth discovering is the General Dacey Trail – perfect for scenic strolls or runs along Lake Shelbyville.

For wine lovers, stop by Willow Ridge Vineyards & Winery in Shelbyville, which features a Tuscan ambiance perfect for sipping your favorite new vino. Grab something to eat at NorthEnd Pub & Grill – you’ll find unique spins on classics like the Pineapple BBQ Brisket sandwich and the Horseshoe Sandwich wrap. The Wolf Creek Lodge in Windsor features fully-furnished cabins for a rustic stay and if you’re for something a little more luxurious, spend the night at The Shelby Inn offering deluxe accommodations for both families and couples.

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