10 Wild Adventures


Emma Bakken, Guest Writer


Discover where the wild things are! Our region is packed with opportunities to explore wildlife and nature. Discover the incredible animals and wildlife that represent our area and prepare yourself to adopt the pace of nature. Breathe in the wild air at any of the locations below, time spent among trees and animals is never wasted!

1. Peoria Zoo   {Peoria}   //  Stop monkeying around and go on a safari at the Peoria Zoo! Visit all of your favorite animals as you walk through Africa and discover the Asian Trail. Stop into the Tropics building to see snakes, geckos, spiders and bats. Walk through the Australia Walk-About and come eye to eye with emu and wallabies. Feed the budgies, and hang out with donkeys and goats at the contact barn. The Peoria Zoo is more than just viewing animals, take advantage of their many opportunities for learning and interaction through camps, classes, tours and programs. This destination is the perfect balance of sun and shade, and relaxation and learning. It’s easy to spend the day exploring, don’t miss the daily presentations and stop into the Safari Gift Shop on your way out to shop for eco-friendly products. Who knew there’s so much to do at the zoo.

2. Eagles Landing Observation Tower   {Chillicothe}   //   Sometimes a change in scenery can help everything. Take a walk on the wild side at Cutright Park. With a 50-foot-tall observation tower,  you can easily spot different animals along the Illinois River. A staircase and two telescopes allow visitors the perfect view of wildlife. Relax in nature as you spot different wildlife with a birds-eye view. Who wouldn’t want to see majestic creatures close up!? You won’t want to miss this river view! You won’t want to miss this river view, and with wildlife and birds at every corner, you can explore the park as well. You’ll have so much fun it should be ill-eagle. 

3. Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge   {Havana}   //  Wander where the wifi is weak at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest floodplain restoration projects in the Midwest. Explore 11,122 acres of wetlands, lakes, forests, bluffs and prairies. This land represents the abundant natural resources that have supported over 600 generations of civilization and feature many diverse communities of plants and animals. With boardwalks, canoe launches and hiking trails, there’s so much to do and explore. Seek adventure by fishing, bird-watching or boating. Who knows what species you will discover as you spend time on this beautiful land

4. Sand Ridge State Forest   {Forest City}   //  Never Stop exploring at Sand Ridge State Forest. This destination is the largest of Illinois’ state forests with over 7000 acres of land. Experience native oak-hickory woodland, pine plantations, open fields, unique sand prairies and grasslands. The amount of unspoiled nature offers a truly unique opportunity for adventuring and exploring wildlife. We have nothing to lose and a world to see! Enjoy recreational activities like archery, camping, mountain biking, snowmobile trails, skiing, geocaching and equestrian trails. Wonder. Wander. Repeat!

5. Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area   {Canton}   //  Breathe in the wild air at Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area, which covers 4,363 acres of land. Located just 25 miles southwest of Peoria on U.S. Route 24, Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area is a beautiful destination for peaceful nature, clear water and plenty of birds and wildlife. Park activities include boating, fishing, hunting, dog training and wildlife observation, but this destination is especially known for fishing. No matter if you prefer boat or bank fishing, there’s plenty of water for fishing at this location and numerous species of fish including walleye, sunfish and northern carp. Adventure more and worry less!

6. Rocky Glen Park   {Peoria}   //  Who can say no to hiking, beautiful views and the chance to spot wildlife? Rocky Glen offers steep hills and views of streams and the forest. This local treasure is filled with scenery and packed with history. It was once a coal-mining destination and now features an abandoned mine as well as many rock features. If you’re new to hiking and don’t want to get lost when you hit the trails, Rocky Glen also offers free guided hiking tours for those who prefer some extra guidance when navigating through nature.  As you adventure along the trails, see what wildlife you discover! Pro tip: Visit this destination after a small rainstorm and you might catch some waterfalls!

7. Forest Park Nature Center  {Peoria Heights}   //   If you love nature, you will especially find beauty at Forest Park Nature Center. With seven miles of hiking trails featuring woodlands and prairie openings, you’re sure to spot some wild deer and turkey. Life is better in hiking boots! Adventure through nature and see what you discover. We recommend you take the trail that leads up to Grandview Drive, known as the world’s most beautiful drive and a favorite destination among locals for a stunning scenic view of the Illinois River. If you didn’t see enough wildlife during your hike, check out their bird observation museum or the natural history museum, and end your visit with some shopping in the Trailhead Nature Store.  

8. Wildlife Prairie Park   {Hanna City}   //   You will feel wild and free exploring the 60 different species and 150 animals at Wildlife Prairie Park. Listed as a top 10 destination to visit in Illinois, Wildlife Prairie Park is known not only for being a hidden gem in our area, but also as a great destination for family fun. Different daily program offerings ensure that every visit to Wildlife Prairie Park is unique and holds its own excitement. Discover wolves, bison, waterfowl, black bears, stunning natural landscapes and more. With animal trails, fishing, educational programs and lodging, there’s plenty of opportunity for recreation at Wildlife Prairie Park as well. Always say yes to adventure! 

9. Blue Ridge Community Farm   {Chillicothe}   //  Blue Ridge Community Farm is a 245-acre working farm for adults and children with special needs. They currently offer field trips for special education as well as life skills classes. Home to alpacas, donkeys, chickens and a horse, Blue Ridge Community Farm is a non-profit organization and also offers other social events for adults with special needs such as square dancing, cookouts, campfire sing-alongs and outdoor fall concerts. Not to mention, the farm also has beautiful scenic nature views. Sometimes all you need is a day among the animals.

10. Rock Island Trail State Park   {Alta to Toulon through Greater Peoria}   //   Escape the city traffic and experience the natural and architectural attractions of Rock Island Trail State Park, a 26-mile-long trail that stretches from Alta to Toulon, passing through Peoria and its surrounding areas. The trail earned its name because it runs along the old train lines of the Rock Island Railroad Company trains that once ran passengers through our region. As you follow the trail, see what wildlife you come across! Tall prairie grasses and wildflowers allow visitors to experience what Illinois was like to its early settlers. Take a break and adventure through undisrupted nature, taking part in activities such as camping, hiking and skiing. This destination is especially popular for mountain biking, so get ready to shift your gears!

When nature calls, you have to answer! There are plenty of destinations to experience wildlife in Greater Peoria. Get out into the beauty of nature and see what wildlife you discover…adventure awaits you.

Emma Bakken, Guest Writer

Discover Peoria, IL