Top Things to Do in Peoria | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Peoria

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.

What to do

Caterpillar Visitors Center Take a virtual ride inside a giant mining truck.

Contemporary Art Center of Peoria Live at the Five Spot, held on Friday nights, features live music and a chance to see the center's three fine art galleries.

Grand View Drive Wind past historic homes on the way to bluff-top overlooks of the Illinois River Valley.

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. I Know You Like a Book on Facebook

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.

Murray-Baker Bridge

Murray-Baker Bridge 

Peoria Riverfront Museum Part science center, part history museum, part art gallery, the museum mashes hands-on science with history lessons and art for a kid-friendly stop.

Peoria Zoo An 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.

Spirit of Peoria Take a sight-seeing tour aboard a replica 19th-century riverboat.

Spirit of Peoria

Spirit of Peoria

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.

The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern House-smoked meats are served in a renovated train depot.

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.

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.

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.

Rhythm Kitchen Music Cafe Keep the tunes going during dinner with live music on weekends.

Two25 Cozy, high-backed booths jumpstart conversation at the restaurant in Mark Twain Hotel. Specialties include crab-stuffed jumbo prawns, pear salad studded with walnuts, wasabi-crusted sea bass, steaks, burgers and oven-fired pizzas.

Where to stay

Mark Twain Hotel A lovely 111-room boutique hotel provides a comfy stay and serves made-to-order omelets for breakfast.

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

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