Peoria Trip Guide | Midwest Living

Peoria Trip Guide

The largest metro area along the Illinois River has transformed its riverfront with restaurants and a handful of galleries and shops beside pretty parks and trails. The area teems with farm stands and crafters' booths during the Riverfront Market on Saturday mornings, spring through fall. And the turn-of-the-20th-century stern-wheeler Spirit of Peoria cruises the river.
Peoria's Riverfront
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Downtown Peoria
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I Know You Like a Book
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Chef Josh Adams of June
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Murray-Baker Bridge
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What to do

Emerson Creek, Etc. Platters and bowls of recycled glass, linens in fresh colors and other small discoveries line the shelves in a cozy alleylike space in Peoria Heights. (309) 686-8600;

I Know You Like a Book This bookshop in Peoria Heights’ charming business district is a must for its well-stocked regional section and wine bar, where they hold occasional signings, book club meetings and other gatherings. (309) 685-2665;

Murray-Baker Bridge The narrow, cantilevered bridge carries Interstate-74 across the wide Illinois River to link Peoria and East Peoria. Its swooping shoulders, intricate metalwork and dazzling light display draw scores of photographers each year. (800) 747-0302;

Peoria Riverfront Museum Part science center, part history museum, part art gallery, the new museum mashes hands-on science with history lessons and art for a kid-friendly stop. This beautiful complex along the Illinois River celebrates past, present and future in thoughtful, sophisticated ways that all ages can enjoy. (309) 686-7000;

Picture This Gallery and Studio A nice selection of paintings, pottery and other local artists' work fills this storefront in Peoria Heights. Owner Cheryl Dean hosts special exhibits and receptions for favorite artists. (309) 681-1865.

Peoria Zoo A new African exhibit almost doubled the size of this classic small zoo. Get eye to eye with a giraffe on the elevated walkway surrounding the circular exhibition. Stand inches from a lion playfully pawing the glass, and look for rhinos, zebras and antelopes wandering across the area. (309) 686-3365;

Spirit of Peoria Sightseeing and overnight cruises are among the outings scheduled on this classic riverboat. (800) 676-8988;

Wildlife Prairie Park Near Peoria, this 2,000-acre zoological park gets visitors within hear-‘em-breathing distance of cougars, black bears, wolves, foxes and bison.

Where to eat

Agatucci’s Pizza Thin-crust pie served in a casual tavern atmosphere has a loyal Peoria following. (309) 688-8200;

Jim’s Steakhouse In downtown, it promises friendly service, a date-night atmosphere and good steaks. A violinist playing in one of the dining rooms adds a luxurious tone. Dinner here puts you among good company—check out photographs signed by celebrities who have dined here. (309) 673-5300;

Kelleher’s Irish Pub and Eatery Satisfy cravings for comfort food with homemade Irish stew and cheesecake at this contemporary-feeling pub along the riverfront. The old-fashioned bar serves a huge selection of beers, some in towering glasses. (309) 673-6000;

Leaves n Beans Little rooms with comfortable chairs invite chatting with friends or lingering solo with a good book. The Peoria Heights shop has fair-trade teas and more than 70 kinds of coffee from around the world, including Cherries n Creme, Cinnamon Toddy, Fuzzy Peach, Rainforest and Whiskey. (309) 688-7685;

Salt Peoria Height’s upscale eatery serves dinner plated on Himalayan rock salt. Try the lobster mac and cheese; the white cheddar sauce pairs perfectly with generous chunks of lobster and bits of garlic and shallots. Enjoy the restaurant's avant-garde decor at the lit-from-within bar. (309) 966-1035;

Two25 Cozy, high-backed booths jumpstart conversation at the restaurant in Mark Twain Hotel. Try crab-stuffed jumbo prawns, pear salad studded with walnuts, wasabi-crusted sea bass, steaks, burgers and oven-fired pizzas, including a tangy-sweet barbecue chicken pizza slathered with the chef’s original sauce. (309) 282-7777;

Where to stay

Mark Twain Hotel A lovely 111-room boutique hotel stands blocks from Peoria’s riverfront. A plate of chocolate chip cookies, a bowl of green apples and cushy brown leather couches greet guests in the lobby. Freshly styled guest rooms, with white linens and green-apple-inspired walls, provide a quiet and comfortable stay. Breakfast features made-to-order omelets. (866) 325-6351;

Mission Oak Inn With in-room fireplaces, two-person whirlpools and a small lake out the back door, this Henry inn is an escape. Ask owner Denny Reed to show you his incredible woodworking throughout the cozy inn. (309) 370-4083;

More information: (800) 747-0302;

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