A Treehouse. A Shipping Container. A Grain Bin. A Train Car. We’re here to tell you that you do have an option to run (er, get) away from Champaign-Urbana, and many of these options are affordable and unique.
With all this staying at home in the past six months, it’s hard not to think about getting away.
Of course getting away means something very different these days. Instead of spending time and effort scanning websites for hotel and flight deals to various destinations – perhaps near mountains or beaches or big cities – our idea of a getting away these days involves something within driving distance. And not long haul driving distance – perhaps just a few hours away.
We’ve picked out some really unique options to break up the monotony of our lives – and to have a little fun too.
All of these properties are mostly self-contained – as opposed to hotels — to limit contact with others.
While most stays are perfect for families, we’ve noted where there may be limitations in size.
All of these places are roughly within a three-hour drive (or less) from Champaign-Urbana.
Note: AirBnB links are affiliate links, and chambanamoms.com earns commission on bookings through those links. Thank you for supporting our small business.
Love trains? Multiple places to stay in a train within driving distance of Champaign-Urbana.
Located in Plano, Illinois, which is a small farming community southwest of Chicago, this historic Pullman train car was built in 1905 and served as “Air Force One” for presidents Harding and Wilson. The original car consists of four state rooms, an observation deck, a dining room, and a galley. This train car has multiple bedrooms – and bathrooms! There’s even WiFi. Bonus: there’s a pool on the property, which is available in the summer months.
Said one reviewer: ” The kids loved the pool and walking down to the creek. Sleeping on the train was pretty cool – it’s so well maintained.”
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: about 3 hours.
Santa Fe Train Cabooses
Available from April to October, the Santa Fe train cabooses are a unique lodging option at Wildlife Prairie Park, located just outside of Peoria (less than two hours away). The cabooses come with most of the amenities you might expect from a hotel room – but no WiFi that we can tell. Sleeps 4-5. Find more information here about lodging in a caboose.
Wildlife Prairie Park is a great getaway for social distancing. This 1800-acre zoological park is home to 60 different species and over 150 animals that are or were all native to the area. Of course there are other plenty of other attractions in Peoria to visit, such as the Peoria Zoo, and the Solar System Trail.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: less than two hours.
Stay in a Treehouse: Where to find a “treehouse” setting in Illinois
We were enchanted by this brand new two bedroom, one bath treehouse in Southern Illinois and its multiple 5-star reviews. It has a trap door that leads to one of the bedrooms! The Goreville location is very central to many attractions in Southern Illinois including the vast Shawnee National Forest and the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge. Bonus: “A canoe, kayak and paddleboat are all available for you to enjoy. We also have a pair of mountain bikes you can use and fishing poles in the cabin. Underneath the cabin is a hammock for your daily nap!” Sign. Us. Up.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: about 3 hours.
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a shipping container (which makes it a tiny house, too), here’s your chance. This property has multiple 5-star reviews. Better for a smaller family – four-person limit here. Bonus: the house sits on 35 acres, which also includes a bunch of creeks for creek stomping. This is really a place to unplug – no WiFi or TV. Greenup is not far from Casey, Illinois and its “Big Things”. Also not far away: Terre Haute, which has a sweet children’s museum, and some interesting parks.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: less than 90 minutes.
This is the closest unique vacation stay on our list, and it’s also best for a couple, as only two people are allowed to stay on property. Note that the bedroom is in a loft, so be advised if you or your traveling partner have mobility issues. With all that out of the way: I don’t think I’ve ever seen an AirBnB listing with a perfect 5-star rating with this many reviews; the hospitality is second to none, according to past reviewers. There’s even breakfast, too! What to do when you stay here: go to Kickapoo State Recreation Area or Forest Glen Preserve for outdoor adventures. Or, just sit on the upper back deck and watch the trains go by.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: 30-45 minutes, depending where you live.
Step back in time and stay at this affordable two-bedroom restored log cabin that dates back to the 1800s, with plenty of modern amenities. (Of course then they didn’t have running water or a dishwasher, but that’s where the restored part comes in.) This family-friendly outpost has a crib and a pack and play, is a great place to unplug – no WiFi. The small farm is a place for kids to explore, and the porch is great for relaxing. Want to know what to do in nearby Jacksonville? If you’re into history, there’s lots of it – including a verified stop on the Underground Railroad.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: Less than two hours.
A lakefront house with a private beach in Central Illinois that is also affordable? We’d definitely call that UNIQUE. This cottage is built for rest and relaxation – books, board games, and a fire pit (with firewood provided). With advance notice kayaks may be available on request. The host notes that “the gorgeous sunsets are a perfect time to get out on the lake.” Nearby is the Emiquon Nature Preserve and the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, great for hiking and bird watching.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: about 2 hours.
Looking to go swimming in your own private pool, year round?
We didn’t create that name – that’s the name on AirBnB of this unique property with a full-size indoor pool available only to its guests. Comfortable for six guests to sleep. Plan ahead to stay here, because it’s very popular right now, for obvious reasons: pool time is hard to come by. Make sure to look at the photos; seeing is believing. This is certainly the most expensive property on our list, but hey, pools are pricey to maintain (avoid weekends if at all possible). Wondering what else there is to do around there? Virden is just outside of Springfield. Head to some Lincoln sites, or perhaps visit Scheel’s if you need a bathing suit.
Distance from Champaign-Urbana: less than 2 hours.