With its rolling terrain, state parks and preserves traversed by the mighty Rick and Mississippi rivers, and biking and hiking trails crisscrossing the area, the Blackhawk Waterways region of northwest Illinois promises outdoor recreation bliss. The region also helped shape the childhood of our 40th president, whose boyhood home opens its doors to visitors.

By The editors of MidwestLiving.com

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

What to do

Hiking, fishing and camping draw visitors to the serene, 385-acre White Pines Forest State Park.

Tour the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home in Dixon (closed for the 2020 season). You'll be transported to the 1920s, when the country's 40th president and his family called this stately Queen Anne home.

Thousands of petunias line the town's main streets during The Dixon Petunia Festival. Enjoy arts and crafts demos, wacky competitions, a parade, a carnival, live music, and more along the downtown riverfront (scheduled to return in July 2021).

Dixon Petunia Festival
Photo Courtesy of The Dixon Petunia Festival.

Once a piano factory, Conover Square Merchant Mall in Oregon now houses an indoor mall with a variety of merchants, including Slip and Slurry Pottery.

Cruise the Rock River aboard The Pride of Oregon. The boat docks at Maxson's Riverboat and Riverside Restaurant in Oregon.

Pride of Oregon
Pride of Oregon riverboat
| Credit: Jason Donnelly

Mingle with the vintage cars and tractors that reside at Barnacopia, a three-story museum with an in-house ice cream parlor, in Polo.

Photo Courtesy of Barnacopia.

The Mount Carroll resident stock theater company at the historic Timber Lake Playhouse stage shows, including Shakespeare and Broadway musicals.

Tour the 1830s family home and observe blacksmith demos at the John Deere Historic Site in Grand Detour.

What to eat

Take your pick from more than 130 wines and 100 different martinis at Dixon's spirited and stone-walled Crystal Cork Wine Shoppe.

Come for the craft beer, stay for the wings-served baked, fried, or grilled, and then sauced-at Aero Ale House in Byron.

Aero Ale House
Photo Courtesy of Aero Ale House.

For more information: visitnorthwestillinois.com