If your child's sports competition has brought you to Peoria, Illinois, then you're in luck. Peoria is filled with top attractions and activities to explore during your downtime. From beautiful views of the Illinois River to shopping and museum visits to non-competitive outdoor play, we've got you covered. Have a couple of hours or a day to kill? Here are great options to fill your spare time.
Catch a Peoria Chiefs minor league baseball game at Dozer Park, a modern facility near Peoria Civic Center and several downtown hotels, or enjoy weekly stock car races “Like Old Times” at Peoria Speedway from April to September, where drivers race against the clock and one another to win the race. Special events, such as the Summer Nationals or the Fall Classic—with live music, a bonfire and a beer tent—take place at Peoria Speedway as well.
Tour Peoria from two motorized wheels, during a Segway ride with World on Wheels Segway Tours and Bike Rides from March to November. After instructions, a guide will lead this enjoyable and easy ride for all ages near the Peoria Riverfront and through the Downtown area. Find your need for speed and blow off some steam when you go-kart race or pilot ATVs at Kartville. The outdoor amusement park offers bumper boats, batting cages and mini golf options, too. Snag evening ride specials during the summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Families will love Splashdown Water Park during warm weather. The water park features a three-story tree house as well as a lazy river and a tube slide. There's more aquatic fun in the activity pool or kiddie pools.
Take in beautiful views of the Illinois River Valley that lie along Grand View Drive, christened the “world's most beautiful drive” by former President Theodore Roosevelt. The surrounding park appears on the National Register of Historic Places and is a great place to share a picnic, explore a playground or take a hike. For more enticing views, water-loving families can watch gulls, herons and other shore birds along the Illinois River from a 26-foot sailing sloop piloted by a licensed captain from Sail Peoria. Relax as you sail or take the helm, yourself.
On cloudless Saturday nights from May through October, visitors can observe the sky through a 1913 telescope with a 9-inch refractor lens at Northmoor Observatory. A renovation a few years ago included a new rotating dome.
More than 150 animal species inhabit Wildlife Prairie Park, where bison and elk graze the prairie and fish populate five lakes. Sleep in a train caboose, ride on the Prairie Zephyr Train or take an open-air safari bus ride. Adventurous visitors can grab a mountain bike and hit the trail, plan a hiking trip or keep it low-key with a game of disc golf on the grass.
Continue the animal sightings at Peoria Zoo, where animals from Africa, Asia and tropical destinations call the zoo home. You can even spot rare species like the Panamanian golden frog there too. Check the zoo's website for special programs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Encourage your child's creativity and imagination at Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum near Peoria Zoo. Whether they're building things or playing with kinetic sand, they will be amazed at their creations. Parents can also get creative with their children and participate in the Family Workshop: “Puppet Theater” on Saturdays.
Learn about Caterpillar's construction history, from the Panama Canal to the San Francisco cable car system, at Caterpillar Visitors Center. Climb aboard a motor grader or excavator, design your own Cat machine or learn what it feels like to operate big equipment through a simulator.
At Wheels O' Time Museum, visitors can view manufacturing and transportation history pertaining to the Peoria Area and experience another side to Peoria—vintage charm. With exhibits including 40 historic cars, the Rock Island Steam locomotive, Caterpillar tractors, antique washing machines, model airplanes and more interactive displays, visitors will appreciate this eclectic history in the city.
Take in river views and relax at the peaceful sculpture garden outside Peoria Riverfront Museum. Inside, you can catch a movie or explore an exhibit of laser lights, holograms and kaleidoscopes. In addition, enjoy rotating art exhibits. The Peoria Holocaust Memorial also relocates to the museum in 2017. Special events range from chemistry demonstrations to stargazing.
Browse trendy shops packed with clothing, home accessories and athletic apparel. Check out fair trade gifts from across the globe as well as gourmet oils and vinegars, books and furniture, in The Heights. These popular shops operate throughout downtown Peoria Heights.
A popular open-air shopping destination, The Shoppes at Grand Prairie has stores like Banana Republic, Charming Charlie, and DSW. After a day of shopping, reward yourself and grab a cool treat at Cold Stone Creamery. At Metro Centre, find one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants as well as national brands. Purchase everything from soy candles, to travel accessories, and more.
Peoria's first retail destination since 1956, Junction City Shopping Center emphasizes friendly, personal service, where locally owned businesses sell home décor and clothes from trendy boutiques. While shopping, visitors can indulge and pamper themselves with a facial, manicure or pedicure, or haircut. After a day of shopping and pampering, dine at one the countless eateries at the shopping center like Brienzo's Wood Fired Pizza, Novu Sushi or Wholly Crepe to name a few.
Get creative along Peoria's waterfront during Friday Happy Art classes at The Hive Studio & Gallery. Create ceramics at Wheel Art Pottery Studios, featuring beginning to intermediate workshops for all ages and special events. You can also check out hot glass-making opportunities at JDraper Glass.
Prefer spectator entertainment? With a glass arcade, a 12,000-seat arena, a 2,200-seat theater and more, Peoria Civic Center hosts at least a dozen monthly performances like “Riverdance: The 20th Anniversary World Tour” and “Lewis Black: The Rant, White and Blue Tour,” as well as events like the Central Illinois Auto Show.
When you're ready to relax, comfortable lodging is in abundance at Grand Prairie in Peoria. Stay in the spacious rooms at Country Inn & Suites, Peoria at Grand Prairie. The hotel is perfect for business and leisure travelers, and amenities include an indoor pool and spa, fully equipped fitness center, 24-hour business center and complimentary area shuttles. Wingate by Wyndham, Peoria at Grand Prairie offers similar amenities plus a complimentary weeknight Manager's Reception.
Hampton Inn & Suites, Peoria at Grand Prairie has spacious rooms and offers breakfast to go while accommodations at Candlewood Suites, Peoria at Grand Prairie, feature kitchenettes with refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves, dinnerware and cookware.
Near Peoria Civic Center, Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette combines a modern aesthetic with historic design throughout elegant rooms and luxury suites. The hotel's amenities include a new lap pool and whirlpool, complimentary parking and shuttle services, valet parking and more. Guests can also enjoy on-site dining in the award winning Table 19 for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
In East Peoria, lodge-themed décor characterizes Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center, where suites may include fireplaces or whirlpools. Unwind and recharge in the fitness center and heated pool too. Located beside Bass Pro Shops, the new Holiday Inn Express & Suites East Peoria-Riverfront has in-room microwaves and refrigerators, an indoor pool, fitness and business centers, and a pantry/snack shop.
A sporting event may initially bring your family to Peoria, but the activities and destinations you'll experience in the city will create a memorable family vacation, too. Visit peoria.org for more ideas.