by Erin Knowles
When we moved from Washington, D.C. to the Champaign-Urbana area 7 years ago, we admittedly overlooked a lot of the pluses of living in this East Central Illinois location. We spent a lot of weekends visiting friends in Chicago, and finding any opportunity we could to get back to the city. ANY densely-packed, walkable, urban city.
Having years to settle in, and two kids later, that was then, and this is now. Turns out, we’re ideally located to get just about anywhere, and to have any experience we want. Indianapolis is 2 hours east, Chicago 2-1/2 hours north, St. Louis a little farther southwest. Even gems like Nashville, Madison, and Minneapolis, are all drivable (well, depending on if your version of fun is spending hours on end in a small confined space with screaming children!).
But a city we totally over-looked until recently is Peoria. Nestled right along the Illinois River, this city of a little over 115,000 residents is a great place for a family to visit. From Wildlife Prairie State Park, to the Peoria Zoo, to heading out to a Peoria Chiefs baseball game, Peoria has something to offer to everyone!
Recently we drove the 90 miles west to catch a ballgame and spend the next day walking along the river and playing in the fountains! As the clouds rolled in, bringing with them rain, we decided that finding an indoor activity was necessary, and with that we came across a true gem: the Peoria Riverfront Museum.
Situated right down by the river, and a neighbor to Catepillar’s World Headquarters, the Museum features a diverse array of exhibits, and quite impressively an International Feature Gallery, which until September 22 is currently playing host to the “Ansel Adams: Western Exposure” exhibit that includes over 100 photos, some of which have rarely been seen by the public. That ALONE is worth the $11 adult admission price.
Basic admission prices include access to the galleries AND the Dome Planetarium, which was a big hit with our five-year-old. We also spent a lot of time in the Discovery World area (especially our three-year-old), that was right next to the IHSA Peak Performance interactive exhibit.
While I went off to see the Ansel Adams exhibit, the rest of the family kept entertained in the Hands-On Area. The museum also boasts a five-story tall giant screen theater that plays a variety of 2D, 3D, and educational movies (currently playing Despicable Me 2 through 7/25), along with a concession stand to fill your popcorn and cheesy nacho needs!
The museum has its own parking garage, and there is metered parking on the street (which was free on the Saturday we were there).
The great thing about Peoria is that it is close enough to do a day trip, or it’s filled with plenty of activities to keep your brood busy for a couple of days. Which is one of the many reasons why we’re planning on spending a few days there as a little mini-vacation in mid-August!
Have you been to the Peoria Riverfront Museum? What did you think?
Erin Knowles made the leap from full-time employment to work-at-home entrepreneur. While her business is lifestyle photography, she is an artist who holds a camera. Erin is also active in the community, serving on the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum Board of Directors as well as being involved in the UP Center of Champaign County. Erin and her partner of 18 years, Cari, are parents to Henry (5) and Millie (3), who never cease to make life interesting. Her favorite quote from the week comes from her son to Cari: “Mommy, even if there was a better mom out there I wouldn’t want her because you cook the BEST food!”