12 Best Things To Do In Utica, Illinois

things to do in utica illinois
| 4 min read

If you feel most at home with nature, a trip to Utica will be right up your alley. The natural beauty of the forests, hills, and rivers have remained untouched, but instead, have been improved on. Utica isn’t the first town that comes to mind when one thinks of eco-tourism areas, but in this case it’s simply a lack of publicity rather than bad reviews. The abundance of natural beauty in Utica more than warrants a trip the next time there’s a long weekend. Spend your vacation by indulging in some of these best things to do in Utica, Illinois.

1. Have a splashing getaway at Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Want to make a splash this weekend? Our indoor water park is open again! Book a room at #GrizzlyJacks or buy a day pass. See details here. https://bit.ly/2ANSBMB

Posted by Grand Bear Resort on Saturday, June 1, 2019

A splashing getaway awaits you at Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark. The resort is an oasis of relaxation and adventure that features Illinois’ first indoor waterpark in the scenic Northwoods at Grizzly Jack’s. It offers exciting attractions for the kids and adults like a wave pool, a lazy river, adventure water slides, and 15-person hot tubs.

Grand Bear Resort has 92 spacious guest rooms in its 3-story lodge accommodation. Families and guests can also enjoy the other facilities like a fitness center, on-site restaurants, Cave Arcade, and the 18-hole Canyon Creek mini-golf course. Discover the fun of an indoor waterpark at Grand Bear Resort.

Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark

Address: 2643 IL-178, North Utica, IL 61373

Website: Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark

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2. Pique your interest in pottery at Clark Street Studio & Village

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Find your perfect hand-thrown pottery from the wide selections of Clark Street Studio & Village. This shop offer wheel-thrown, hand-made pottery pieces ideal for display art or functional gifts marked at a fair price. The studio exhibits an array of functional and conceptual pieces made from terracotta and raku clay.

Its resident potter, Joe Plankenhorn has been doing this craft for over two decades and thoughtfully assists customers who visit his shop. Additionally, his assistant shares about the techniques and glazes used to produce their unique products.

Clark Street Studio & Village

Address: 409 S Clark St, North Utica, IL 61373

Website: Clark Street Studio & Village

Opening hours: Sat: 12pm - 5pm; Sun: 12pm - 4pm (closed from Mon - Fri)

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3. Go antique-hunting at Clarks' Run Antiques

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Enjoy the hunt for a great find at Clarks’ Run Antiques. This shop is Utica’s largest antique store with over 70 staff. Folks gather here to feel the excitement of searching through rusty, old, recycled, shabby, vintage, and antique items and finding the perfect one for their space at home. The store also features a wide variety of gifts such as home decor, jewelry, glassware, and more.

Aside from antiques and gift items, the store also boasts a wine bar. Clarks has over 50 wines to offer and the selection includes red, white, sweet, and dry wines. It is the place to learn the art of wine tasting for beginners.

Clarks' Run Antiques

Address: 215 N Division St, North Utica, IL 61373

Website: Clarks’ Run Antiques

Opening hours: Wed - Sat: 10am - 5pm; Sun: 11am - 4pm (closed on Mon & Tue)

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4. Munch the tasty burgers of Lodi Tap House

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Lodi Tap House serves the Illinois crowd with great craft beers and incredible food. It invites you to come to watch a game, enjoy the music, and try the rotating craft beer on tap in a warm atmosphere. Its beer board consists of 24 different craft beers sure to cater to your kind of taste.

On its food menu, Lodi prides itself on Smash’d Burger & Curds, a specialty black Angus burger that was featured in Chicago’s Best. You can even customize this burger when you order, Lodi’s original patty topped with your choice of cheese and sides. The other items on the menu are shareable snacks, sandwiches, wraps, salads, and kids’ meals.

Lodi Tap House

Address: 101 Mill St., Utica, IL 61373

Website: Lodi Tap House

Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11am - 9pm; Fri - Sat: 11am - 11pm ​

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5. Taste the famous chicken wing of Skoog's Pub & Grill

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

#WednesdayWings $2 Domestic Pints too! See you then! #BestWings #EatBigAtSkoogs

Posted by Skoogs Pub and Grill on Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Famous for its award-winning wings and homemade servings, Skoog’s Pub & Grill is one of the popular hangout spots in the Starved Rock State Park region. The restaurant opened in 2000 when its owner, Andy Skoog, humored to convert a closed tavern into an upscale bistro in Utica. It offers generous and large portions of comfort fare plus drinks. Although Skoog’s market appeals more to adults, it remains a kid-friendly establishment as there is a kids’ menu offered daily.

Make your dining and drinking experience more exciting by asking about its flavor of the month—jumbo wings served with ranch or blue cheese and celery. It also dishes out weekly specials such as Taco Tuesdays and Wing Night Wednesdays.

Skoog's Pub & Grill

Address: 155 Mill Street, North Utica, IL 61373

Website: Skoog’s Pub & Grill

Opening hours: Sun - Mon: 11am - 8pm; Wed: 11am - 2pm, 5pm - 9pm; Tue - Sat: 11am - 9pm

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6. Have a camping trip at the Starved Rock State Park

French Canyon
Source: Photo by Flickr user Joseph Gage used under CC BY-SA 2.0

An expansive park with impressive sandstone formations, the lush forests of Starved Rock will transport you to another world far removed from the bustle of the city. There are 18 canyons to be explored- the La Salle and St. Louis trails are more popular for their views of the waterfalls, but every trail is worth hiking. Well-marked with signage, each route is easy to follow and provides a great way to reconnect with nature.

You’ll need more than a day to really see the park in its entirety, so setting up camp at the southward grounds is a good choice. You can choose from wooded and non-wooded sites, depending on the size of your party. When you need a break from hiking, you can go fishing, boating, and horseback riding. Avid anglers will love the lulling calm of the Illinois River while waiting for their catch of the day. Pay a visit to the Starved Rock Lodge, a charming inn perfect to unwind in over dinner. If you find yourself running out of time to try all these activities, that just means you’ve extra incentive to return next time and discover other places near Starved Rock.

Starved Rock State Park

Address: Routes 178 & 71, Utica, Illinois 61373

Website: Starved Rock State Park

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7. Go wine-tasting at the August Hill Winery

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Utica’s very own homegrown label provides a selection of great wines for your tasting pleasure. From the vineyard to the bottle, the process of wine-making occurs entirely in Illinois, over four acres of family-owned land. August Hill prides itself on the quality and history of their offerings, which include roses and infusions along with reds and whites. For $5, you can opt to taste 5 selections, so go in a group to sample as many as possible. There’s also the Signature Flight Tasting- 3 pours for $12.

Servers here are warm and knowledgeable, willing to field any questions you might have, which guarantees a good time. There’s also a lounge area and outdoor patio, perfect for pre-dinner drinks. You’re bound to find a bottle you love here, and might even be tempted to buy a few as a memento of your trip!

August Hill Winery

Address: August Hill Winery Tasting Room, 106 Mill St., Utica, IL 61373

Website: August Hill Winery

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8. Picnic at the Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park lower dells waterfall
Source: Photo by Flickr user Joseph Gage used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Approximately 3 miles from the Starved Rock, Matthiessen State Park is another must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts. Much like the former, the Matthiessen features gorgeous rock formations and has 5 miles of hiking trails. Spend a morning at both and see which one you like best.

After exploring to your heart’s content, settle down to a picturesque picnic by the Lower Dells area, which has tables and chairs as well as a washroom for your convenience. You’ll be able to watch the fountains and hear water bubbling by as you take lunch. Children can make full use of the playground nearby while the many trees provide easy shelter from the sweltering sun. When you’ve had your fill of lazing around admiring the scenery, walk towards the Vermillion Rock Area to watch radio-controlled planes and drones being flown- or try your hand at flying one yourself!

Matthiessen State Park

Address: Utica, Illinois 61373

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9. Take a tour of the Hegeler Carus Mansion

Hegeler-Carus Mansion (8765254143)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Teemu008 used under CC BY-SA 2.0

A visit to Illinois would not be complete without a tour of this historic, magnificent mansion. Built in 1874, the Hegeler Carus Mansion exudes a quiet grandeur made stately by its elegant architecture and size even today, despite its age. This Utica, IL, attraction is a National Historic Landmark and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.

Home of the influential Hegeler and Carus families, whose last direct descendant passed in 2004, the history of this place and its residents is irrevocably intertwined with that of Illinois and America. Come for a wonderfully immersive 50-minute walking tour of the main rooms, where the lives of these amazing people come to life. A tour of the entire house, which will take more time, can also be arranged should you be interested.

Hegeler Carus Mansion

Address: 1307 Seventh Street, La Salle, Illinois 61301

Website: Hegeler Carus Mansion

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10. Go down the river on the Belle of the Rock

Starved Rock State Park
Source: Photo by Flickr user Erik Cooper used under CC BY 2.0

A fancy but deserving name, the Belle of the Rock is a genuine paddlewheel boat tour at the Starved Rock State Park. You’ll be able to view Starved Rock, Lover’s Leap, Starved Rock Lock and Dam, and Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary from the boat as it cruises peacefully on through Illinois River. Besides the gorgeous vistas of the open water, it’s a great opportunity for wildlife photography. This is a narrated tour, so you’ll be able to know more about the history of your surroundings, as well as appreciate the natural beauty of the park. A charming and informational experience awaits aboard the Belle.

Belle of the Rock

Address: Starved Rock State Park, Utica 61373, Illinois

Website: Belle of the Rock

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11. Savor the home-baked goods of Nonie's Bakery & Cafe

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

This week's "Special" for 4/14/22 thru 4/16/22 The Breakfast Taco Bowl. Our Crepes "Flavor of the week"......Cherry Cheesecake

Posted by Nonie's Bakery & Cafe on Wednesday, April 13, 2022

After a tiring few hours of hiking at Starved Rock, Nonie’s is the perfect place to settle down for lunch or simply a tea break. Serving up and all-day breakfast and lunch, everything at this adorable cafe is made with love and quality ingredients. Fresh and undeniably delicious, you’ll be tempted to try all their homemade sandwiches, wraps, bread and cakes. Best of all, it’s a guaranteed great meal at an affordable price!

Nonie's Bakery & Cafe

Address: 522 Clark St., 61373, Utica, Illinois

Facebook: Nonie’s Bakery & Cafe

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12. Immerse yourself in the history of Illinois at the LaSalle County Historical Society & Museum

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Come check us out this weekend! Saturday & Sunday 12-4. #lasallecountyhistory #prairiehomestead #localhistorymatters

Posted by LaSalle County Historical Society Museum on Friday, July 31, 2020

Featuring five facilities, each with their own special exhibits, the LaSalle Museum makes for a fun yet educational outing for history buffs. For a small fee, visitors will be able to explore the Canal Warehouse and the Heritage Center, both featuring a great variety of artifacts important to the region. Learn about the lives and hunting methods of the Native Americans of the Illinois River valley. Take in the might of the naval ships that passed through the river during World War I. Board an elevator into the bowels of a simulated mine to complete the experience. The museum opens every Friday to Sunday, from 12 to 4 pm.

LaSalle County Historical Society & Museum

Address: 101 E Canal St, North Utica, IL 61373

Website: LaSalle County Historical Society

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More than meets the eye

Utica has lots to offer to travelers of all ages. Steeped in nature and history, it’s a place not to be missed the next time you’re searching for an uncomplicated, leisurely vacation. So if you’re searching for the best things to do in Utica, IL, this weekend, this list has got you covered.

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Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Utica, Illinois

  • Which are the best attractions to visit in Utica?

    The lovely village of Utica is for any interest. Travel with your most comfortable pair of shoes or sandals when you visit these attractions: i) Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark, ii) Starved Rock State Park, iii) Hegeler Carus Mansion, and iv) August Hill Winery.

  • Which are the best activities in Utica?

    It’s time you discover the best what to dos in Utica, IL. Get your things ready as these activities will set you on a roll: i) learning pottery at Clark Street Studio & Village, ii) munching on the tasty burgers of Lodi Tap House, and iii) immersing yourself inside the LaSalle County Historical Society & Museum.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Jessica is passionate about literature, gastronomy and travel. She recently learnt Korean and enjoys bathroom singing on good days.

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