Tyler and I recently went on a quick getaway from our home in Milwaukee to spend a weekend in Lake County, Illinois. Lake County is located in northeastern Illinois along Lake Michigan and borders Wisconsin. It makes for a convenient day or weekend trip from both Milwaukee and Chicago!
There is so much to see and do in the communities of Lake County! This guide will highlight some of the places we explored during our February visit. With both Lake Michigan and a variety of inland lakes, Lake County is a great place to experience life on and by the water.
Where is Lake County?
Lake County is located in the northeastern corner of Illinois and borders Wisconsin. It is easily accessible from Milwaukee or Chicago along Interstate 94.
Where to Stay in Lake County
The Illinois Beach Resort & Conference Center is a part of Best Western’s Premier Collection and “premier” describes it just right. Everything about this place, from the views to the decor to the pool, was beautiful. This lakeside gem is the only hotel in Illinois along Lake Michigan and is also located within a state park!
Tyler and I were upgraded to a suite with a lake view for our stay, which is a potential perk for Best Western Rewards members. I could not stop staring out our window! Throughout the weekend, I ran out to our porch many times to snap pictures of the lake, especially during the sunrise.
Where to Eat in Lake County
We stopped at the Stone Creek Grill on our way to the hotel, as it is located within walking distance of the state border and was on our way to Zion. This place reminded me of a Wisconsin supper club. I was attracted to its cabin-style decor and loved that our table was right under a canoe!
Lake County surprised me in general with its abundance of log cabin homes! I guess it technically is the northwoods of Chicago. Anyway, I ordered the veggie potato, which was a great vegetarian option. The mozzarella sticks we split were the best of all! Tyler even tried one of their signature old-fashioneds, which had a “cold brew” flavor.
This was our first stop in Antioch when we arrived midday on Saturday. The Vegas Cafe is located in the historic downtown and is a great place for brunch! I ordered a vegetarian omelette and hot chocolate with whipped cream. Like most breakfast places, there were a lot of vegetarian options.
Prices at the cafe were very affordable, which is another reason I recommend stopping here while visiting Antioch. It has a classic American diner vibe that is very cozy. We were glad to warm up here before walking to other shops in the freezing cold!
We stopped at the famous Rainforest Cafe in Gurnee for dinner on our last night in Illinois. Located within the Gurnee Mills mall, Tyler and I came here for a dose of nostalgia. Both of us had visited previously, but not since childhood! Their prices are high, so I recommend saving this trip for a special occasion.
I loved the anaconda pasta I ordered, which is made with quinoa noodles. Tyler and I also split a chocolate volcano dessert that gave us leftovers for days. The wait can be long on Saturday evenings, but there are high-top tables near the bar that often have immediate seating. It worked out great for us, as we could enjoy the atmosphere without being overwhelmed by small children.
Where to Hike in Lake County
Walking straight out of our hotel and into a state park was so cool! Illinois Beach State Park is big and has both a northern and southern unit. We explored the nature trails in the southern unit, which seems to be the best place to hike in that section of the park. It made for an especially beautiful walk during sunset!
Tyler and I actually visited the park briefly back in September on our way to a wedding in Schaumburg. It is a great place to enjoy a beach day in the summer, especially because admission is free. You can find more information in my blog post about the best state parks along the Midwest Coast.
The Sedge Meadow Trailhead is part of the Lake County Forest Preserves. We saw more trailheads while driving down Wadsworth Road, but stopped at this one because it was closest to the hotel. The trail runs along a creek through prairie and forest, which made for a scenic hike before driving home.
The trails were not packed down when we visited, so I recommend bringing snowshoes when visiting in the winter. I also learned that these operate as snowmobile trails when there is enough snow. It seems like a great place for a trail ride and I hope to visit for a snowmobile excursion someday!
Where to Shop in Lake County
Historic Downtown Antioch is brimming with cute shops. The Village Thrift Shop was my favorite! It has a curated collection of both vintage and trendy pieces, so you can easily pick up a great thrift find. This store was surprisingly lively and busy, which I loved.
Prices here are a bit higher than at your typical thrift store. It is totally worth the time you save by not having to sort through a bunch of random stuff, though. I picked up a cozy Patagonia midi dress for just $20! Tyler and I had actually never “gone shopping” together before, so this was a fun new date for us.
Just across the street from the thrift shop, the Rustic and Reclaimed Market is another Antioch gem. It has barn vibes written all over it and is a great place to find decor for a farmhouse or barn wedding. I was especially intrigued by the windmill-inspired pieces, which totally made me want to go buy and decorate my own “little house on the prairie.”
The woman running the store was so helpful and sweet! She gave us recommendations for other shops to visit in Antioch, so we will have to visit again soon. Have you visited Lake County, Illinois? What are your “must-visit” spots? Leave a comment below with your recommendations!