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The 20 Best Things to Do in Peoria, IL for First Timers

Luthy Botanical Garden

Peoria is a city in central Illinois and the largest city that sits along the Illinois River. It is a popular destination to visit in Illinois because of the multiple and diverse activities and attractions to enjoy there. If you plan a visit to this city, you will find a vast array of things to enjoy during your visit. TO get the most out of your experience and to help you plan your itinerary, here are the 20 best things to do in Peoria, IL, for first-timers.

Grand View Drive

20. See the Sights from Grand View Drive

In 1910, Theodore Roosevelt drove along the Grand View Drive and described it as the most beautiful drive in the world. This drive, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is 2.5-miles long and runs adjacent to Grand View Park. Regardless of whether you drive along the road or take a stroll on foot, you can enjoy seeing the woodlands, bodies of water, and historic homes. If you head off the drive into the park, you can enjoy further trails, take the kids to the playgrounds or sit on the benches with a picnic.

Jubilee College State Park

19. Explore Jubilee College State Park

Just west of downtown Peoria, you will find Jubilee College State Park. It is a designated State Historic Park, and it included three thousand acres of grounds surrounding the former Jubilee College, which was one of the earliest educational establishments in the state. There are 40 miles of multi-use trails within the park, and these are great for hiking or cycling. In the winter, the trails are used by snowmobilers and cross-country skiers. There is also a seasonal campsite within the park.

Donovan Park and Northmoor Observatory

18. Visit Donovan Park and Northmoor Observatory

Donovan Park, located in the downtown area, was once a golf course. Now, it is a park with pedestrian paths and open green spaces. It is a nice place to take a stroll, and runners enjoy the cross-country course. There is also Cyd's Gourmet Kitchen, which boasts a bakery, a takeaway café, and a coffee bar. However, the park's highlight is the Northmoor Observatory, which has a domed ceiling and a nine-inch refractor telescope. It is open to the public every Saturday from May to October.

Wheels O' Time Museum

17. Go to the Wheels O' Time Museum

A fascinating museum to visit during your stay in Peoria is the Wheels O' Time Museum. This museum's focus is on the history of anything with wheels, including tractors, trains, fire trucks, bicycles, airplanes, and cars. However, the exhibits also include collections of musical instruments, toys, clocks, and vintage clothes. There is plenty to see with things that will appeal to people with a variety of tastes and interests. An unusual element of this museum is that entertainment takes place regularly, including a Barbershop Quartet and a miniature circus parade.

Jukebox Comedy Club

16. Have a Night at the Jukebox Comedy Club

A fun evening activity to enjoy is spending a night at the Jukebox Comedy Club, says Trip Buzz. You can enjoy performances by local, regional, or nationally touring stand-up comedians. This venue also has a full food and drinks menu, so you can enjoy a meal and drinks while watching an entertaining performance. It is an affordable and entertaining evening out, but it is only suitable for adults.

Play a Round of Golf

15. Play a Round of Golf

Peoria is a fantastic destination for golf enthusiasts as it is home to the WeaverRidge Golf Club, which is one of the best golf courses in Illinois. This golf course was created by Hurdzan-Fry, and it is surrounded by scenic landscapes, including rolling hills and forested valleys. It is a course that is suitable for players of all levels, as there are both easy and challenging sections to the course. For novices who want to warm up before playing a round of golf, there is a learning center and driving range. After your game, you can head to the clubhouse, which has a restaurant and bar overlooking the golf course.

Corn Stock Theater

14. Watch an Outdoor Performance at Corn Stock Theater

During good weather, you might want to watch an outdoor performance. If so, you should head to the Corn Stock Theater, which is an outdoor community theater. They aim to make the productions affordable, so they are accessible to everyone. Throughout the year, there is a program of performances, including dance shows, musical acts, and dramas featuring talented actors. These performances take place under a big top tent. Unfortunately, you can only enjoy the outdoor theater during the summer months. However, if you are visiting the city in the winter, you can watch the same performers at the Theater Center in Bradley Park.

Pitch Karaoke Bar

13. Have Fun at Pitch Karaoke Bar

A great place to have a fun night out is at the Pitch Karaoke Bar. You will find this bar on West Main Street in downtown Peoria, and it is housed in the former Elbo Room. This bar is known for having one of the most extensive drinks and cocktails lists in the city, and for hosting nightly karaoke. Even if you are not brave enough to take to the microphone yourself, it is fun watching everybody else giving it a go, regardless of whether they can hold a tune. The bar also has video gaming slot machines and poker machines.

Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa

12. Relax at Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa

Many people see their vacation as an opportunity to rest, relax, and get away from the stresses and strains of daily life. One of the best places in Peoria for rest and relaxation is the Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa. It is a 12 thousand square foot facility that offers a vast array of spa and healing treatments, including manicures, pedicures, massages, waxing, water therapies, and facials. There are also many therapies and treatments not found in every spa, such as chiropractic treatments, blood testing, acupuncture, and allopathic therapies. The spa offers a range of programs that have a specific focus, such as health and nutrition coaching, medical weight loss, anti-aging programs, and physical therapies.

Spirit of Peoria

11. Take a Cruise on the Spirit of Peoria

The Spirit of Peoria is a paddlewheel-driven boat that I located on Northeast Water Street. The boat was built in 1988, and it is 160 feet long, with a capacity of 487 passengers. It offers cruises along the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers that vary in length, from one-day to five-day cruises. Some of the tours include trips to Hannibal or St. Louis. Sometimes, they offer themed tours.

Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum

10. Take the Kids to Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum

Vacation Idea recommends a trip to the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum if you are visiting this city with children. It is an attraction that aims to inspire children through fun and educational activities. In addition to the regular activities at this museum, there are regular events, such as themed programs, scavenger hunts, and read-alongs.

Pettengill-Morron House Museum

9. Visit Pettengill-Morron House Museum

Constructed in 1868, the Pettengill-Morron House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now a museum that features original furnishings that once belonged to the Pettengill and Morron families. The museum is operated by the Peoria Historical Society, which also operates the John C. Flanagan House Museum on the opposite side of the downtown district.

Laura Bradley Park

8. Go to the Laura Bradley Park

Laura Bradley Park sits by Bradley University. Two of the features that appeal to visitors are the riparian corridor and the high-bluff woodland landscape. In addition to the natural features, the park has an array of amenities, including baseball fields, picnic spaces, and playground equipment. Dry Run Creek runs through the park, and a scenic Japanese bridge crosses it. There is also a dog park and disc golf course within the grounds.

Forest Park Nature Center and Preserve

7. Explore the Forest Park Nature Center and Preserve

Nature lovers will adore spending some time at the Forest Park Nature Center and Preserve. There is a 540-acre forest preserve that boasts seven miles of trails that take walkers through open woodlands, bluffs, and prairies. This nature preserve is popular with birdwatchers as there is a birdwatching station, and there are more than 100 species of birds to see. There are also lots of other wildlife living in the preserve. At the Nature Center, there is a variety of educational services and a natural history museum to visit.

Wildlife Prairie Park

6. See the Animals at Wildlife Prairie Park

Just outside Peoria is the Wildlife Prairie Park, and this is a wonderful attraction for people of all ages. The park covers more than two thousand acres, and it is home to over 50 species native to Illinois. Some of the animals commonly spotted include bison, bobcats, owls, snakes, black bears, and owls. There is also an interactive butterfly habitat, the Wildlife Prairie Park Railroad, mountain bike trails, and a disc golf course.

Luthy Botanical Garden

5. Stroll Around Luthy Botanical Garden

The official name of this attraction is the George L. Luthy Memorial Botanical Garden, but it is commonly referred to simply as the Luthy Botanical Garden. It is a beautifully landscaped area close to the zoo, and it is set within Glen Oak Park. The botanical center was established in 1951, and it consists of 15 themed gardens over five acres. These include a Herb Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Children's Garden. There is also a tropical conservatory and a greenhouse with exotic lilies and cacti on display. Throughout the year, this venue is used for many educational events. It is worth noting that admission to the gardens is free, so it is a good option for those on a limited budget.

Peoria Civic Center

4. See a Performance at Peoria Civic Center

If you want to see a show while you are in Peoria, then the best place to do this is at the Peoria Civic Center. This venue has an arena with more than 11 thousand seats. Throughout the year, there is a jam-packed schedule of performances, including children's shows and Broadway acts. The center is also used by the Bradley University Braves basketball team and the Peoria Rivermen Southern Professional Hockey League. You should check what is on prior to your visit.

Peoria Zoo

3. See the Animals at Peoria Zoo

One of the top-rated family attractions in Peoria is Peoria Zoo, which is close to the Luthy Botanical Garden. It is an accredited zoo that is divided into different sections, including a Conservation Center, a Tropics Building, and the Asian Trail. Some of the animals that call the zoo home include rhinos, wallabies, boa constrictors, emus, tigers, and tortoises. The zoo hosts daily displays so that visitors can see the animals being fed and learn more about the different species. Both adults and children alike will enjoy a trip to this zoo.

Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Center & Museum

2. Visit The Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Center & Museum

The Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Center & Museum sits adjacent to the Peoria Riverfront Museum. It is dedicated to the history of Caterpillar Inc, which is w world-leading manufacturer of mining and construction equipment. Throughout the visitor center and museum, there are eight galleries to enjoy. These contain exhibits from the company's past, present, and future. Some fun elements of this museum to enjoy are the driving simulator and a 3D design technology application.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

1. Go to the Peoria Riverfront Museum

According to Planetware, the best thing to do in Peoria for first-timers is to go to the Peoria Riverfront Museum. It is a massive museum complex that boasts fascinating permanent exhibits along with many touring exhibitions. In the permanent exhibition, many branches of science and art are covered. Within the complex, there is a Giant Screen Theater that shows summer blockbusters and documentaries. It is also used for various film festivals. You will also find the Dome Planetarium at this venue, and there are 30 celestial shows from which you can choose.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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