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. And the turn-of-the-20th-century stern-wheeler Spirit of Peoria cruises the river.

By The editors of
Updated March 01, 2021

Due to possible pandemic-related travel restrictions, please check destinations' websites for the current status of attractions, events, restaurants and lodgings.

What to do

Caterpillar Visitors Center Take a virtual ride inside a giant mining truck. (Temporarily closed due to the pandemic).

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.

Grandview 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 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.

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

Where to stay

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

More information visit