Cabins and lodge rooms welcome families who want to get out in nature without all the work of camping

Craving some nature? Starved Rock State Park is ready to deliver. It’s just under two hours drive from Chicago and you’ll want to book your stay at the Starved Rock Lodge so that you can spend a few days there. With just 90 private accommodations on the property, Starved Rock Lodge offers a quiet environment where you can relax as a family.

We stayed in a historic lodge room that gave us easy access to the indoor swimming pool that’s the perfect way to chill after a day of hiking. There’s a mini fridge and microwave in these rooms, making it extra convenient for families. Other accommodations include private cabins and traditional hotel wing rooms.

You’ll love that Starved Rock Lodge offers many different dining options so you don’t have to drive off the property for meals. The Lodge Restaurant offers a traditional dining room setting with delicious options like fried chicken, walleye, and steak. If the weather is cooperating, head to The Veranda where you can dine outdoors. Live music is available on select Fridays and Saturdays. Don’t miss out on the treats offered at The Cafe, located just off the front desk. Here you’ll find homemade ice cream and fudge, Illinois beers and wines, along with breakfast sandwiches and coffee. This is the spot to go to purchase forgotten items like swimwear and first aid supplies.

Things to Do at Starved Rock Lodge

people on the viewing platform at Starved Rock State Park

There are plenty of outdoor adventures to keep you busy while you stay at the Lodge. Head down to the Visitor Center to learn about the history of Starved Rock State Park and find out what park activities might be offered during your stay. Hike up to Starved Rock for a view of the Illinois River and then check out the hiking trails through French Canyon to make your way to the other overlooks where you can get a great view of the dam and the river beyond.

cruise on the Illinois River at Starve Rock State Park

If you want to get out on the water, sign up for a trolley tour and boat cruise. The tour begins with lunch followed by a narrated trolley ride and pontoon boat cruise along the Illinois River. It’s a great way to spot waterfowl and learn some history along the way.

two people standing in front of Cascade Falls at Matthiessen State Park

Just a short drive away is Matthiessen State Park where you’ll find waterfalls (during the wet season) along with hiking trails, rock formations, and picnic areas. Take the Dells entrance to visit the impressive Cascade Falls, especially after a rain. This entrance will also take you by the sunflower field (visit in early July for the best experience).

view of Lone Buffalo Brewery from above

Looking for a dining option off-property? We really enjoyed our meal at the Lone Buffalo by Tangled Roots Brewing Company in Ottawa, IL. The town is also home to their hops and barley farm, the crop of which is used to create their “farm to foam beers” served on-site. Breweries tend to be great for families because the buzzing, jovial atmosphere means that your kids won’t be heard above the low-level din. The Lone Buffalo proved this to be true and we really felt welcomed by the whole staff during our visit.

Start with a flight of your choice of beers if you don’t want to choose just one. Definitely try the Blueberry YUM if it’s on the menu when you visit. The lunch and dinner menu offers shareable options like the Bavarian pretzel which we require you to order. Bison chili will fill you up with slow-simmered goodness and the chicken schnitzel with white cheddar mashed potatoes was a meal we could eat again and again. You’re going to be full but we recommend you push through it to try the skillet cookie topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum yum yum.

Starved Rock Lodge:

—photos by the author

Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by Starved Rock Lodge but all opinions belong to the writer.

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