In Februari 2008 we did a long day trip to Galena in western Illinois, close to the state border and Mississippi River.
The drive from Chicago is a good four hours plus. We started with a visit to the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in nearby Dubuque in Iowa where we had lunchy. Charming little museum even though it is perhaps mainly tailored towards kids. It was too cold to enjoy the outdoor exibitions but I'm sure in summer the boatyard is great fun for the kids to roam around.
After lunch we looped back to Galena and visited the many great little shops and cafes. The town is extremely quaint and picturesque with it's beautiful old brick bildings and winding streets. As a European I immediately felt at home and enjoyed the small town feeling void of the urban spread and strip malls that can be a little too prevalent in the US.
A favourite shop on the main street is the Galena Canning Company where we stocked up on enough salsas and hot sauces to last us the year.
After a nice dinner we headed back for Chicago. A great day trip but perhaps even better if we'd stayed the night to split the driving into two days.