5 Budget Friendly Getaways Between Chicago and Milwaukee

Read about the 5 budget friendly places to visit with-in and hour or two from either Chicago or Milwaukee.

We love the hustle and bustle of the Chicago and Milwaukee area!  There is always something to do and see in both cities, but there are times we just need to unwind and slow down for a few days. We have found a few budget friendly getaways near both cities to have a great weekend get away.  Read about the 5 budget friendly places to go with-in and hour or two from either city.

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Great America Theme Park in Gurnee, IL

Gurnee – Gurnee is a bustling area in its own right!  Set halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee and is about an hour from either city, it is the perfect weekend getaway! Set in the rolling hills of northern Illinois there is an abundance of places to visit or things to do in this area.  From Great America Theme Park to shopping at Gurnee Mills, you name it, you can find it in this area. The restaurants in the area are amazing and budget friendly. For some suggestions read a few of my reviews under Good Eats.  Looking for more outdoor activities?  There are plenty of hiking trails in the area, I suggest the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway and then stop by Route 41 Bar and Grill for a burger and beer when you are done.

There are eleven hotels in the area ranging in price from $50 – $150 a night which will work well in any budget. If you wait until July the newest hotel in the area “The Great Wolf Lodge” will be opening.  At the Great Wolf Lodge, the water parks, restaurants, and game rooms are sure to please a family or a couple that just wants to have some fun.  

Pelicans on Grass Lake just outside of Chain of Lakes State park

Chain of Lakes State Park – From hiking to boating on the lakes you will never have a dull moment. The park boasts over 8 miles of hiking, biking, or equestrian trails.  During your time on the trails you can see an abundance of wildlife including: white-tailed deer, mink opossum, gophers, foxes, badgers, coyotes, beaver, just to name a few.  In addition, you may want to stop by the park office and get a convenient checklist for the almost two-hundred birds that you may site on your trip. Besides the many miles of trails, you may want to rent a boat, go shore fishing, take a journey on horseback, or just sit by the fire and relax.  In the winter you can enjoy sledding and cross country skiing.

You have your choice of accommodations depending on how adventurous you feel.  If you are on a budget, you can stay in the state park in your tent/camper, reserve one of their three rustic cabins, or find a hotel within a few miles of the entrance.  Prices for hotels range from $47 a night to $149 and might be slightly higher in the summer. Whether you visit in the summer, winter, spring of fall there is an abundance to do in the area surrounding the Chain of Lakes State Park.

Rustic yet modern cabins at White Pines State Park

 White Pines State Park – This 385 acre state park with meandering rivers and springs is a quick two hour drive from Chicago or Milwaukee and makes for a great weekend getaway.  Whether you are traveling with kids or want a romantic weekend this is a winner.

This beautiful park is the perfect place for hiking, fishing and camping.  You will definitely see wildlife on your visit, but they are well known for their wildflowers and forests. Most famous to the park is the concrete fords and driving over these is a thrill for young and old.  If you prefer not to cam I would suggest the White Pines Resort. The resort has 16 rustic looking cabins, but when you walk in the door you enter a modern room. The cabins are budget friendly, but reserve early they fill up fast.  

I would also suggest spending some time exploring the historic White Pines Inn Restaurant. The building was built during the Great Depression in the 1930’s and it is truly a majestic sight. The resort has a restaurant and a dinner theater.  This is the perfect place to sit back and relax, take a hike, or watch a play and have a great family style dinner.

Lake Michigan Dunes

Illinois Beach State Park – Both Chicago and Milwaukee have miles of shoreline on Lake Michigan, but none can compare to the Illinois Beach State Park in Illinois.  This is the last remaining area of Lake Michigan Shoreline in Illinois that has a beach ridge shoreline. Just a short one hour drive from either Chicago or Milwaukee this park has 4,160 acres of wildlife and plants and makes a great getaway for a day or weekend.  This unique area has cactus in the dry dunes area and wildflowers and grasses in the wetter prairie areas. This park has hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, and camping. If budget friendly camping is not in your plans for the weekend, the I would suggest staying at the newly remodeled Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center.  There are more budget friendly hotels a few miles from the park.  

Libertyville – If you are looking for a place to explore, shop, and dine, Libertyville is the perfect destination. Just one hour from Chicago or Milwaukee Libertyville is a budget friendly town and makes a great weekend getaway.   Independence Grove is a fun and unique forest preserve area that features a 115-acre lake.  The preserve is located on the northern edge of Libertyville and has abundance of activities.  Here you will find 6.8 miles of hiking trails, a cafe’, gardens, wildlife, a children’s grove, fishing, and swimming.  In the summer they have concerts and night hikes. For a few dollars you can enjoy all these activities making it a very budget friendly day.  

If you are more of the shopping type and have a larger budget try Mainstreet Libertyville. There is an abundance of small shops and boutiques to keep you busy all day.  Don’t forget to stop at one of their many restaurants for lunch or dinner.

Depending on your needs, staying in the Libertyville area can be very budget friendly with Motel/Hotel rooms starting at $50 and going all the way up to $150.  

Budget travel is possible within an hour or two of Chicago and Milwaukee!  Where are you planning your next budget travel weekend?

Car Friendly Travel Ideas:

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9 thoughts on “5 Budget Friendly Getaways Between Chicago and Milwaukee

  1. I have to visit Michigan Dunes! Have to. I love a book “The Legend of Sleeping Bear”. It talk about how the dunes came to be. Lovely and sad story.

  2. I am a big fan of beaches and lakes. It is not even that costly. I will convince my friends to come along. Thank you for the information though.

  3. I would definitely need to visit those laid back, smaller outposts if I were living in the frenetic big city! Great post!

    1. I actually live int these laid back smaller outposts and love to visit the cities! Strange how things are backwards for me.

    1. Cool! If you come this way, let me know! We can meet up for coffee or wine!

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