red and beige colored buildings in small charming town in illinois

18 Of The Prettiest Small Towns To Visit in Illinois Now (As A Local)

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Updated January 2024

Looking to explore the prettiest and best small towns to visit in Illinois? You’ve come to the right place!

I’ve lived in Illinois for 20+ years, and can say with certainty that I have experienced the charm of the quaint and historic Illinois towns near me (and even further away) on day trips and quick road trips from where I live.

Chicago is typically the biggest attraction we have in Illinois, and with good reason!

However, Illinois has a few other charming gems to discover, that I think you should know about if you’re traveling to this great Midwestern destination soon!

This is why I am sharing the names of what I think are some of the best towns to visit in Illinois, so you can also experience the beauty of these small and cute towns in Illinois.

Whether you’re looking for historic towns to visit in Illinois, true small Illinois towns, or quaint shopping towns in Illinois, this list is for you!

18 Of The Prettiest Small Towns To Visit in Illinois To Visit

1. Woodstock, Illinois

Kicking off our list of the quaint and beautiful small towns of Illinois is this charming small town located in northern Illinois, most famously known as a filming location for the ever-popular movie, Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

However, this small town has also been recognized with a few titles, as it has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as well as on the Preserve America Community, a program established by President George W. Bush to help preserve the cultural heritage of various small towns across the United States. 

What to see in Woodstock, Illinois:

take a stroll around the Woodstock Square Historic District (type that into Google Maps and it will take you straight there), and check out the small shops and locally crafted art!

Enjoy a beautiful show at the Woodstock Opera House, featuring tons of performances from theater, music, comedy stand-up, and children-centered acts, plus more!

Centrally located in the main town square, you won’t miss the ornate and beautiful building adorning the town square, close to the Metra train stop.

Where to stay in Woodstock, Illinois:

From budget stays to hotels a train ride away.

Check out some of the hotels that you can book your room and visit with leisure this quaint town.

Woodstock conveniently has a train stop on the Metra train that makes traveling to this town easier, making it an easy day trip from the city!

Check out some of the hotel booking options below:

2. St. Charles, Illinois

A “small town with big city attraction” St. Charles is located about an hour west of the city and has just that.

One of the most attractive qualities about the town is the Fox River which runs right across the town, and along the river, you’ll see parks and scenic trails that take you along the riverside, and woods. 

The downtown main street is full of historic buildings that house shops and top-tier restaurants, so it’s definitely worth the drive to explore it for yourself, while you listen to the band playing in the summer, or you’re staring at the beautiful fall foliage in the autumn.

What to see in St. Charles, Illinois:

Check out a live vaudeville act or a silent movie at the Arcada Theater (originally opened in 1926) or simply walk along the Fox River on the scenic trails to get some pretty amazing views of downtown St. Charles.

Where to stay in St. Charles, Illinois:

St. Charles, like a few other towns located on the Fox River will offer not only budget stays, but also a few local boutique hotels definitely worth considering staying at to really get the pretty, small-town experience, and also support local businesses.

One of those local hotels is the Hotel Baker, right on Fox River, so you’ll know you’ll be right in the heart of downtown St. Charles with amazing views of the river.

3. Batavia, Illinois

Batavia is really big on creating community and extending that to all its visitors that come out here. 

Also along the Fox River, you’ll find the town of Batavia which has recently added more attractions from local eateries to more retail options for its visitors.

Additionally, one of the main attractions has to go to its bike trails and its world-class bike shops ready to welcome and assist visitors to explore Batavia on bike.

The natural landscape of the area is a big draw for visitors and the pride for locals, so it’s definitely worth a trip out there!

What to see in Batavia, Illinois:

Make sure to make a stop at the Red Oak Center, where you will see just what Batavians (people of Batavia) have to offer when it comes to nature around their village.

Where to stay in Batavia, Illinois:

Batavia has many good and budget hotel varieties to choose from when booking your stay in town.

The beauty of this town in closeness to other towns listed on this post like Geneva and St. Charles is that Batavia is not too far away from those towns.

If you’re traveling by car, you can stay in another town on this list, and make a day trip to Batavia to explore.

4. Geneva, Illinois 

The town of Geneva has all you’re looking for in a quaint, pretty small town – beautiful victorian architecture, and abundance of local and small businesses and eateries, art galleries, and beautiful nature and parks to leisurely stroll,  something truly for everyone. Its attractions will surely make you see why Geneva has the appeal that it does. 

Here you’ll find 150 local shops and restaurants offering the best of Geneva, throughout its historic district, as well as a peek into Geneva’s history, as many of its buildings are conserved from its original founding, in the 1800s. 

Also along the Fox River, you will be able to experience scenic walks of the town, as well as its public art that is displayed all throughout the city on the sidewalks and buildings.

What to see in Geneva, Illinois:

Check out Fabyan Forest Preserve, and check out the iconic Dutch windmill, amongst the beautiful nature of the Japanese garden. 

Where to stay in Geneva, Illinois:

Geneva has a great mix of small, local, boutique hotels as well as offering budget stays, which is great!

Depending on your budget, you have more variety to stay in arguably one of the prettiest towns in (northern) Illinois.

A local favorite is definitely the Herrington Inn and Spa, so check that one out when you’re searching for your hotel!

>> Read More: The Best National Parks And State Parks To Visit In Illinois

5. Naperville, Illinois

Not exactly a small town, in fact, Naperville is known as one of the best Illinois cities (and fifth-largest city)!

However, its downtown has enough of the small-town feel and charm that I just had to add to this list!

Naperville is known for a few things, a mix of old and new, world-class dining, its famous riverwalk, and offers something for everyone. Fun fact: In 2010, Naperville became the official sister city of Patzcuaro, Michoacán, México.

What to see in Naperville, Illinois:

One of its main attractions has to be the Riverwalk, first created in 1981 in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary.

Considered to be Naperville’s crown jewel, the Riverwalk which is located off the DuPage River is just the place to sit and unwind for a bit, take a snack and take in the scenery of the iconic wood bridge, Fredenhagen Park, the clock tower, the Exchange Club Memories fountain,  and more!

Visit during any season, and you’ll see how beautiful the river illuminates the city. 

ℹ️ Click here to find more things to do in Naperville!

Where to stay in Naperville, Illinois:

Naperville because of its size, has many options in terms of lodging options, both boutique and local, as well as chain budget hotels.

Check out the links below to book your stay depending on your preference down below!

6. Galena, Illinois

Recognized by many publications including Travel + Leisure as one of America’s Greatest Main streets, and mentioned in blogs and videos all over the internet, I could not make this list and not add this iconic small town, and one of the best towns in Illinois to visit, all together! 

To many Illinoians, Galena is a treasured city, as it’s one of the old towns in Illinois, dating back to the 1800s!

One of the many great things about this small town is its main street, referred to as Helluva Half Mile, which upon driving through it, you’ll notice the cobble street under the car, and the original red-bricked buildings dating back to the 1800s, and the beautiful hills surrounding the town and main street. 

In Galena, you won’t find any chain brand shop or restaurant, only locally owned, mom and pop shops, which will make you feel that you’re getting the very best that Galena has to offer. 

What to see in Galena, Illinois: 

Check out a visit to the Ulysses S. Grant home, which as the name suggests, was the Civil War General and 18th U.S. President’s home, gifted by the town of Galena, in 1865.

Today, it is open to the public, and according to their website, they are open to taking visitors on a tour of the house.

Also, a bonus thing to check out here is to visit this small town during the Night of the Luminaria on December 10th.

On this day, the town is lit up with around 5,000 luminaries throughout its streets and sidewalks, and a time when shops are open later to accommodate visitors and holiday shopping. Truly a pretty site to take in!

The Galena – U.S. Grant History Museum is also a great place to compliment your historical trip down Illinois’ memory lane, as you’ll see an expansive collection of General Grant, and his word in the U.S. Civil War, lead mining, and a look into historic Galena in the 1800s.

Simply, take a stroll through the iconic Main Street, and historic downtown area, to truly appreciate the town’s red brick architecture, and remnants of this town’s beauty, and local offerings.

Where to stay in Galena, Illinois:

In downtown Galena, you’ll mostly find local gems such as the DeSoto House and other local hotels, as well as a few chain options a little bit outside of the historic downtown.

Looking for something a little more family-oriented?

Look out for Chestnut Mountain Resort with TONS of things to do for both guests and visitors!

>> Read More: 7 Interesting Facts About Galena, Illinois You Probably Didn’t Know

7. Mount Carroll, Illinois

Known as “the New England of the Midwest” due to its architecture with a taste of country charm, Mount Carroll is a small town with around 30 different historic sites to check out on a visit here!

Located around 2 ½ hours west of the City, and 10 miles from the Mississippi River, Mount Carroll, is known for and takes pride in the conservation of its buildings and the overall look of its community. 

The town is known to look the same as it did 50 years ago, which they claim is not easy to find nowadays as life gets more modern and more connected. 

However, in recent years, the small town has been growing in population and residents, as many people from all walks of life have begun moving here, adding a new type of charm that is just as homegrown as its original buildings. 

Mount Carroll is on the way to Galena, so you may be able to make it a long weekend kind of trip, and check out both Illinois gems to take in their local and quaint beauty, not found in many other parts of the state.

What to see in Mount Carroll, Illinois:

While taking a walk around the historic district of this small town to observe the perseverance of the buildings and overall town is checking out Raven’s Grin Inn.

This is a 5-story Victorian-style house that was purchased in the ’80s and turned into an eclectic, spooky, Halloween-themed haunted house that offers tours, or can be rented out for special events.

The tour of the home is full of spooky stories, a physical juxtaposition of objects that give the mansion an eerie vibe.   

Where to stay in Mount Carroll, Illinois:

A mix of quaint, locally owned hotels and chain hotels, Mount Carroll, and the surrounding area not too far from the downtown. If you’re choosing a local hotel, make sure to check for the Butterfly Cottage.

8. Arthur, Illinois

Arthur, Illinois street with a horse and buggy
Source

Arthur is a small town that will literally make you feel that you have traveled to a different point in time, as you begin to notice the horse-drawn buggies, the one-room schools, large gardens, and roadside stands selling homegrown produce – you’ll know you’ve entered Amis Country. 

Known as the heart of the Amish Country in Illinois, this small town has so much to offer such as wood shops, furniture shops, bakeries, quilt shops, and of course, produce shops offering their very best, organic produce.

A stop to Arthur wouldn’t be complete without any of this, so make sure to make time to walk around, and explore the city on foot.

What to see in Arthur, Illinois:

Check out the Great Pumpkin Patch where the Amish display around 300 varieties of pumpkins, squash, and gourd from all over the world, grown there in the small town, along with mazes to enjoy and other fun pumpkin patch activities.

Also, a stroll down the main street to see up close the best that Arthur has to offer, and enjoy the scenery of Amish country. 

Where to stay in Arthur, Illinois:

Arthur is a very small town, that if you will more than likely end up staying a little bit outside the downtown area.

That’s ok though, because there are many options just outside, just check them out for yourself here.

9. Fulton, Illinois

Brimming with Dutch heritage, Fulton is a small town with more than its iconic Windmill (which actually works and can be visited) and small-town charm, as it is also beautiful nature and wildlife, due to its closeness to the Mississippi River and Heritage Canyon.

What to see in Fulton, Illinois:

The obligatory stop is to see the working Dutch Heritage Windmill, that was preassembled in the Netherlands and then fully installed in Fulton with the help of the Dutch.

Speaking of Dutch culture in Fulton, if you can, make your way to Fulton during their famous Dutch Days Festival! A festival that celebrates Dutch heritage with free tours of the local windmills, traditional Dutch food, dance, and celebrations.

Dutch Days Festival takes place in early May.

Another stop must be Heritage Canyon, which is open to be explored by visitors.

Its unique 12 -acre wooded path will take you along and pass by buildings originally constructed in the 1800s. 

Lastly, you can rent bikes in downtown Fulton, and bike towards the loop that passes through Fulton, near the Fulton Windmill, which is part of the famous Great River Bike Trail.

The Great River Bike Trail is a multi-purpose 60 mile trail that passes between Savannah, Illinois and Rock Island, Illinois, and is known as the longest bike trail in Illinois.

Where to stay in Fulton, Illinois:

The town of Arthur has a few options in terms of lodging locations and places to stay.

Many of which are mostly chain hotel brands, and some a few miles away from the town of Arthur.

Check some out here below!

10. Elsah, Illinois

Voted the number 1 most scenic spot in Illinois by The Telegraph, Elsah is a small town that is nestled next to the iconic Mississippi River and offers a picturesque vision of a simpler kind of life.

What is very eminent is the beauty of its historic buildings, natural beauty and greenery, small-town charm, and an abundance of things to see from the ruins of the original homes, a visit to an authentic general store, and a stroll by the Farley Music House and the Elsah Museum which has free entry.

What to see in Elsah, Illinois:

Check out Pere Marquette State Park, especially during the fall season to catch some amazing fall foliage, or simply take a stroll around the downtown area, grab a bite to eat, and truly step into the Elsah way of life. 

Where to stay in Elsah, Illinois:

A perfect offering of different lodging options from boutique, cute, and local hotels to a few chain options are available here in Elsah!

If you’re looking for something unique and cute, check out hotels like The Green Tree Inn, as well as the stunning Beall Mansion An Elegant Bed & Breakfast Inn, which is in the nearby town of Alton!

However if you’re looking for other hotel options, check out ones like The Best Western, Comfort Inn & Suites, and Hampton Inn & Suites – which have some locations in neighboring towns and small cities.

>> Read More: Best Pumpkin Patches in Illinois and Fall Festivals

11. Nauvoo, Illinois

Originally called Quashquema by the Native Americans of this land, and today, mainly known for its Mormon history, culture, and natural charm, Nauvoo is located around 4 ½ hours west of the city and delivers quite a change in scenery and feel. 

The small town of Nauvoo has undergone a variety of phases when it comes to its people, influence, and what that looks like today, reaching back to the Native American tribes – Sauk and Fox Tribes, to then the European immigrants, Joseph Smith and his religious group, who gave the small town its name, and then French and German wave. 

Today, you can stroll its main street in the downtown area, and see the variety of architecture that dates back to those formative years.

A small town with an interesting history stretching back to the 1800s, Nauvoo is a place to check out at least once, and see for yourself!

What to see in Nauvoo, Illinois:

A visit to the LDS temple is pretty much a must because of the prominent influence it had, and continues to have here, as well as other LDS sites around town (there are quite a few).

However, the Nauvoo State Park is also a must-visit place for nature lovers as it sits on the banks of the Mississippi River.

A place to surely go and absorb its peaceful quality and natural splendor. 

Where to stay in Nauvoo, Illinois:

Because of its history, and a place where many people of the Mormon faith travel to, there are many hotel lodging options ranging from beautiful, boutique hotels such as the Willard Richards Inn and the Nauvoo Vacation Villas and Condos, as well as a few trusty chain hotels.

The perfect mix for anyone and everyone to stay a while. Check out some hotel deals below!

12. Lebanon, Illinois

If you’re ever on your way to Saint Louis from Chicago, make sure to add a bit of time to make a stop in Lebanon.

This is a small town known for a couple of names, such as “The Brick Street” for its iconic brick street-lined historic downtown area, where you’ll be able to see the row of local shops, eateries. 

“Little Egypt” is the other name not only Lebanon is known for, but the majority of Southern Illinois.

The reason for this is because it was thought by European immigrants, that the Mississippi River and Ohio River created something similar such as the Nile Delta in Egypt, where the land was fertile and rich (Southern Illinois is known for a lot of farming).

In fact, you’ll notice there are other towns such as Cairo, Palestine, New Athens, Sparta, and other towns with similar names if you take a look at a map of Southern Illinois, so they really went with this idea!

Returning to why you should stop in Lebanon, the quaintness, charm, and historic details will give you a nice break from driving through hours of cornfields and lone barns on the road.

Also, Charles Dicken made a trip here!

Though it’s a almost 2 hours away, if you’re up for another trip, this time to one of Illinois’ most beautiful state parks, Shawnee National Forest is a great place to stop by!

A bit closer to Lebanon (38 minutes away from Lebanon) is the famous Farm Heritage Museum, which houses a great collection of the American Heritage Railroad, a few exhibits on the famous little red barns, a portion dedicated to the military, and more!

Check out the their annual events, including a train show, the American Farm Heritage Days, fun Midwest halloween festivities, and Christmas events.

What to see in Lebanon, Illinois:

A visit/stroll by the Mermaid Inn which welcomed Charles Dickens during his stay there in 1842, a stroll through “The Brick Street” to get that iconic IG photo, and a visit to Horner Park located in the heart of the downtown area. 

Where to stay in Lebanon, Illinois:

With more budget hotel options available, a visit to Lebanon is surely an easy and affordable visit.

From trusty chain hotels such as Best Western, Holiday Inn, and the Hampton Inn, you have a variety to choose from and complete your stay with.

Check out some great hotel picks down below!

13. Princeton, Illinois

Princeton is a quaint town located only 2.5 hours away from Chicago and offers a beautiful escape into the best of small towns in Illinois. 

Red-covered bridges, historical societies, lush gardens, and annual activities happening each month, there’s so much to do, and see in this little town that once started as an extension of Hampshire Colony Congregational Church of Northampton, in Massachusetts. 

It’s even said that Abraham Lincoln himself visited in the mid-1800s!

This beautiful small town in Illinois is accessible via Amtrak, making it easy to make this a stop to your list of midwest destinations within Illinois! 

What to see in Princeton, Illinois:

There are tons of things happening in Princeton, no matter what month of the year you’re visiting. 

Enjoy year-round activities like viewing the seasonal changes at Hornbaker Gardens, which offers a selection of plants native to the Midwest. 

Drive around the country and catch the sight of the Barn Quilts – a barn art tradition that stems back years back that includes quilt designs painted on 4×4 or 8×8 feet blocks. 

Step inside the historic Lovejoy Homestead, home to the local congressman Owen Lovejoy, which was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. 

Get your idyllic picture taken at the covered bridges, including the Captain Swift Bridge and The Red Covered Bridge

Check out the great local shopping, or do some golfing or swimming at the local swimming Alexander Park Pool!

Are you visiting for one of the many annual events? Click here to see the list of events!

Where to stay in Princeton, Illinois: 

There are plenty of chain hotels like AmericanInn and Econo Lodge, to choose from, and for quite a good deal. 

If you want something more unique and special, check out different house and apartment rentals in the Midwest countryside, which is perfect if you want to see the beautiful barn quilts and the quaint-covered bridges. 

14. Rockton, Illinois

Enjoy a bit of the quiet life at Rockton, Illinois, just a little over 2 hours away from Chicago, and 22 minutes north of Rockford – Illinois’ 5th largest city. 

With tons of activities awaiting you, from local shopping boutiques selling home goods, clothing, and accessories, to wine shops offering wine tastings, and tons of delicious ice cream and dessert shops – there’s tons to do to indulge in the best of this small town in Illinois!

Things to see in Rockton, Illinois:

Step inside the beautiful Church by the Side of the Road, a quaint little church and chapel, that was once part of the thriving Wagon Wheel Resort, for the perfect photo op!

Check out some of the Indigenous American culture in Rockton at Macktown. Located inside the Macktown Forest Preserve, you’ll find what is considered to be the home of the first white settler and his Indigenous American wife. 

There are also tons of annual events to attend at Rockton, unique to the small town, including an 1840’s Valentine’s Day celebration in February, and Frenchman’s Frolic and Cider Making in October. 

On Sundays, enjoy the leisure community-wide celebration Macktown Sundays, which is an event that welcomes locals and visitors to learn about local culture, history, and tradition, through local archaeology, art, gardening, farming, and native culture. 

Where to stay in Rockton, Illinois:

The majority of hotels lie in Southern Beloit and Beloit – in Wisconsin. 

I know that may seem far away, but Southern Beloit is still in Illinois, and Beloit, Wisconsin is only 10 minutes away. 

Enjoy stays at chain hotels like the Best Western in Southern Beloit, and more options in Beloit, Wisconsin, including the Holiday Inn, the Super 8, the Quality Inn hotel, and much more! 

15. Ottawa, Illinois

Situated near one of the most popular state parks in Illinois – Rock Cut State Park – Ottawa is in the middle of beautiful nature and greenery, offering plenty of things to do. 

With views of the Fox River and the Illinois River (which helps connect Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River), you can bet that you’re in for adventures in nature, no matter the season you visit!

Other than beautiful nature to enjoy all around, you’ll also enjoy festivals including the annual Wine Festival, and other cultural experiences like the Ottawa Historical & Scouting Heritage Museum dedicated to the local history of this vibrant small town in Illinois.

Things to see in Ottawa, Illinois:

Check out the city’s murals that detail the city’s history including the Civil War and the Indigenous Americans, nature, and community, and if you’re visiting during the summer, bike or walk along the beautiful Illinois and Michigan Canal

Drive down the scenic road, the Illinois River Road, and for beautiful sights of the city, check out the Ottawa Rail Bridge

Explore the beauty of Washington Square Park, and observe the monument to Lincoln that commemorates one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas that happened at the park in 1858!

Lastly, make it to Starved Rock State Park, and do some canoeing, hiking, or refresh yourself at one of the many waterfalls inside the park. 

In the fall, enjoy the stunning and vibrant fall colors, and if it’s winter,  check out the frozen waterfalls and lakes – it’s such a sight to see! 

Where to stay in Ottawa, Illinois:

Being that Ottawa is the town where Starved Rock State Park is located, you’ll have plenty of options for lodging in Ottawa, whether it’s hotels or cabin rentals in Ottawa!

Check out hotels like Fairfield Inn, Quality Inn, the Holiday Inn, or Hampton Inn, or check out cabin and apartment rentals like this cozy townhome close to Starved Rock, or this fine apartment close to downtown Ottawa!  

16. Elmhurst, Illinois

Found only 20 minutes west of Chicago, Elmhurst charms visitors with everything from its recognizable Fischer Windmill, a historic site located inside the Mount Emblem Cemetery, to its unique shopping district, beautiful nature-filled walking paths, and tons of cultural opportunities to get involved with.

No matter what time of the year you plan your visit to Elmhurst, the city is always buzzing with things to do and activities. 

Located next to a stunning 37-mile-long Prarie Path, make sure to bring your shoes for a scenic walk, or for those seeking a bit of culture, check out the art exhibits and live music opportunities in various genres. 

Visit during the winter, and indulge in the city’s activities geared towards families and children, of course, a great opportunity to do your shopping at local boutiques selling one-of-a-kind gifts, and more! 

Things to see in Elmhurst, Illinois:

Lovers of art, kick off your Elmhurst adventures perusing the Elmhurst Art Museum, and the stunning McCormick House, 1 of the 3 only homes designed in the 50s in the U.S. by Mies van der Rohe, a German-American architect.

Keep up with the arts, and check out the beautiful symphonic concerts held inside the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra. 

Next head to the Elmhurst History Museum, or go out and explore for yourself the several different historical landmarks dotting Elmhurst from the Millennium Fountain, the Centennial Fountain, and the Sesquicentennial clock (150 years), and the “Elmhurst Remembers” monument commemorating the 911 attacks. 

If you’re visiting the Glos Memorial Park, check out the Glos Mausoleum, a local historic landmark where President Henry Glos and his wife were buried (2 influential citizens who did a lot for the city of Elmhurst). 

There are many more sights to see, and beautiful paths to walk and discover Elmhurst, so make sure to consider a visit to this town, only a few minutes from Chicago! 

Where to stay in Elmhurst, Illinois:

Because Elmhurst is a bit bigger than your standard small Illinois town, you can rest assured there are plenty of hotels and accommodations to choose from while visiting!

Check out hotel chains like the Courtyard Chicago/Elmhurst, Springhill Suites by Marriot, Extended Stay American Suites, or if you prefer to rent out your own space with a kitchen and more bedrooms, check out a highly rated apartment in Elmhurst!

17. Arcola, Illinois

Although considered a city, Arcola is one of those places that emanates that charming small-town Illinois feel, too good to pass up!

Located around 2.5 hours from Chicago, in the middle of the state, and actually one of the best small towns in Illinois near St. Louis, it’s a bit of a trip to get to, but if you’re on the hunt to visit some of the best Illinois small towns, all you have to do is plan the day and make it there! 

Known for many things, from nature to history, and its local diversity, more specifically, Arcola has a beautiful welcome center that is housed inside a historic Train Depot, worth a visit, plus other interesting places. 

What to see in Arcola, Illinois:

Once you’re visiting the beautiful Welcome Center inside the Historic Train Depot, allow one of the guides inside to share a bit of the local history, and then make your way to the unique Broom Room

The Broom Room is known as a collection of historic and antique brooms and brushes by the collector, Louis Klein in the U.S. (the biggest collection in the country) plus other cool things to look inside, relating to the local history of Arcola, including a few collections of Raggedy Ann dolls

Speaking of Raggedy Ann, you can take your picture with a large doll outside on a bench, and then make your way around town to take a look at the public art, much of which is broom-inspired, of course!

For the history buffs, walk into the A Walk Through Time Museum, which is the city’s local museum retelling the fascinating history of Arcola, including what the Raggedy Ann dolls have to do with the city of Arcola, the strong Latino community, and influence in town, local sports history,  history of the railroad, and more! 

Where to stay in Arcola, Illinois:

If you’re planning to stay 1 or 2  days in Arcola, you can reserve your stay at hotels like the Quality Inn, and Baymont Inn in the neighboring town of Tuscola, only 12 minutes from Arcola, or Super 8 also in Tuscola. 

18. Bartlett, Illinois

Named after the Bartlett family of Illinois, who donated a 40-acre “woodlot” – today Bartlett is a thriving village that is both residential and full of great entertainment opportunities to explore. 

Enjoy tons of opportunities to hit the nature trails on foot or bike, relish a little golf game on the green at one of the village’s 3 golf courses, or check out the ski slopes at Villa Olivia. 

Known as the 9th safest city in the whole country, you can rest assured that you can enjoy all there is to do in Bartlett, with peace of mind. 

Things to see in Bartlett, Illinois:

One of the village’s main sights is the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a place of worship for the followers of this Hindu-based religion. 

This amazing and intricate building is built with stones that were brought from Rajasthan and hosts numerous visitors on tours daily, so make sure to schedule yours while visiting Bartlett! 

Learn about the local history at the Bartlett Museum, reaching into the local sports, politics, agricultural practices, and more, with tons of cool displays. 

Speaking of history, make it to the Bartlett Depot Museum, a museum with history on the construction of the Train Depot, the previous owner of the land, and the fascinating railroad history in Bartlett. 

In the summer, make it for a walk across the Brewster Creek Bridge at the James Pate Philip State Park, and if you have kids, take them to cool off at the Bartlett Aquatic Center!

Also inside the James Pate Philip State Park is the stunning Bartlett Nature Center, perfect for families! Lastly, plan a picnic at the beautiful Bartlett Gazebo Park!

Where to stay in Bartlett, Illinois:

Offering several hotels in Bartlett and the neighboring towns, make your booking at hotels like Extended Stay American or the Hyatt Place Chicago in Hoffman Estates, only a few minutes from Bartlett. 

Look into a few rentals in town to stay more central, like a 3-bedroom home for up to 7 guests or a pet-friendly home!  

Small towns in Illinois FAQ:

1. What is the smallest town in Illinois?

The smallest town in Illinois is Valley City, with a whopping 13 residents living in the small Illinois town.

in 2020, the census was raised by 1 more person, bumping the population to 14 people living there.

Valley City is located in Pike County, in the middle of the state. The closest big city is Springfield, the state capital, a little over an hour away.

2. What is the most visited town in Illinois?

Outside of Chicago, the second most visited “town” would be Springfield, which has tons of cool activities unique to the state of Illinois to do, from exploring Lincoln’s Illinois, the state capital, and more.

3. What town in Illinois is like Stars Hollow?

Based on personal experience, I’d say that the town square of Woodstock, Illinois reminds me a bit of Stars Hallow (Gilmore Girls).

Between the cute gazebo in the middle of the square, activities going on around town, the adorned Woodstock Opera House, and other historic houses, gives Woodstock that Stars Hallow feeling (for me) especially during the fall time.

4. What is the nicest town in Illinois?

As an Illinois’ local and a Latina woman who has traveled throughout the state, and to these small towns, I have not experienced any kind of rude behaviors or treatments while visiting these small Illinois towns.

So to answer the question directly, my experience has been that all these towns are some of the nicest towns in Illinois.

However, if we are talking “nicest town” as in really cute and worth the drive, I’d say that you must make it to Galena in western Illinois or Nauvoo in southern Illinois.

5. What is the most beautiful part of Illinois?

As someone who loves rolling hills, and ample views of nature, Western Illinois is quite nice.

On a drive to Galena for example from Chicago, you’ll start to see a difference in the landscape from flat, to a bit more hill-y, and the sight of red barns and a few scenic rest stops to see the small “valleys” and small towns in the distance.

6. What is the most hippie town in Illinois?

As far as I’ve seen, Makanda is one of Illinois’ most hippie towns, with a funky culture through art, traditions, and sights to see!

Not to mention, check out their boutiques on main street, go horse back riding, and rock climbing, or check out a tasting at the local winery with fine Italian wines, while enjoying views of the beautiful southern Illinois nature.

it’s latest addition, a zip line, is a great way to end your adventures at Illinois’ funkiest and hippie town!

Concluding thoughts on 18 Of The Prettiest Small Towns To Visit in Illinois Now (By A Local)

I hope that you’ll check out these cute towns near me, and enjoy their special charm and unique beauty.

Have you visited any of these small and quaint towns in Illinois? 

To recap, here are the prettiest small towns to visit in Illinois now:

  • Woodstock, Illinois
  • St. Charles, Illinois
  • Batavia, Illinois
  • Geneva, Illinois
  • Naperville, Illinois
  • Galena, Illinois
  • Mount Carroll, Illinois
  • Arthur, Illinois
  • Fulton, Illinois
  • Elsah, Illinois
  • Nauvoo, Illinois
  • Lebanon, Illinois
  • Princeton, Illinois
  • Rockton, Illinois
  • Ottawa, Illinois
  • Elmhurst, Illinois
  • Arcola, Illinois
  • Bartlett, Illinois

Illinois’ is commonly known for Chicago, brimming with tons of modernity, architectural beauty, and diversity, but I hope that you’ll explore beyond, and venture into these charming little towns, also brimming with their own set of historic places.

I would love to hear about your experience, and if there are others you recommend visiting!

I hope this list helps you consider a few extra day adventures or weekend trips to these cute small towns in Illinois, when you visit this midwestern state! 

To many more local travels full of charm, wonder, and coziness,

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4 Comments

  1. I’m from Illinois and didn’t know about a lot of these places. of course, I’m biased but I think the small city of Bloomington is really pretty as well as all the towns you mentioned.

    1. Hi Alexandra! Yes, you’re so right! Bloomington is definitely a charming place as well. I think I may do a part two because there are a few more that didn’t make this post! Thanks for reading ☺️

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