Elgin was a stopover town I visited on my way to Wisconsin. It is an easy drive from O’Hare International Airport and a breath of fresh air. Not only was I wowed by the gorgeous architecture and historic homes, but I also adored the stunning parks and food scene. Here are the six reasons to visit Elgin, Illinois, that I think are enough to add this day or weekend getaway to anyone’s travel itinerary.
#1 Goat Yoga Chicago
Don’t let the name fool you, this locally-owned business is fun, great for agritourism, full of animal adventures, and is for newbies or those who have incorporated yoga for quite some time. Join host Danielle, a beautiful soul whose heart of gold is apparent upon meeting her, for a gentle or advanced Goat Yoga Chicago class offered year-round at one of her traveling locations or at the gorgeous farm in Elgin. Private events and classes are also available.
I loved the philosophy of promoting mental health and mental wellness with the help of these inquisitive animals that can’t help but make you smile. Thor and Rizzo were my favorites, but the whole team (of goats) have incredible personalities.
#2 Elgin’s Fabulous and Interesting History
A quick visit to the Elgin History Museum was a great way to get introduced to the area that I otherwise knew nothing about. I was greeted by a museum employee who gave an interesting guided tour, sharing stories about Elgin’s world-famous watch and clock business and many other historical aspects. The dairy business and Gail Borden intrigued me most, especially since I cannot imagine life without stick butter, an invention that began in this Midwestern city.
Elgin’s road races and historical homes were mentioned, too. The rest of the time, I explored the history museum on my own, admiring the easy to understand displays and thoughtful exhibits. After leaving the Elgin History Museum, my friend and I drove around the neighboring historic district to see the incredible displays of painted ladies.
#3 Elgin Has Lots of Delicious Food
The first place I ate in Elgin set the bar high for the rest of the trip. My BFG Chicken Sandwich and fries from Alexander’s Cafe were so good, topped with Havarti cheese, avocado, and sriracha mayo. The atmosphere and decor reminded me a lot of Bennigan’s back in the day, where I worked as a teenager.
Then, at the Elgin Public House, an urban restaurant with a fun vibe, I chowed down on a soft pretzel that was served with both honey mustard and cheese. This is a great place to come watch sporting events, play trivia, enjoy holiday brunch buffets, and nosh on heavy appetizers and burgers. Both restaurants had attractive settings and noteworthy menus.
I drove a few minutes away to see the villages of East and West Dundee, so of course I had to try a coffee flight from East Side Cafe Coffee & Wine Bar. Cool as shit (pardon my language), but that’s the best way to describe this fun and caffeinated idea. A friend and I asked the barista to pick the flavors for us. My top pick was the Oatmeal Cookie, and my friend (a non-coffee drinker) loved the White Chocolate Raspberry.
The cafe also offered a wide selection of fancy sourdough toasts and waffle bowls. Kudos for the creativity.
The best thing I ate on my trip to Elgin was the farm-fresh scooped ice cream from The Milk House. Not only did I have ice cream, I had an ice cream flight. Elgin is killing it!
My four-scoop ice cream flight, a sugar overload for sure, included scoops of grape sherbet, sweet corn blueberry crumble, sweet cherry chip, and salty honey pie. Each bite was delicious and not overly sweet. You could taste the quality of the ingredients, which made it hard to leave even a bite. My favorite? The grape sherbet.
#4 Elgin May Have the Best Library in the Country
My friend Sara had mentioned the library before we arrived in Elgin. I still wasn’t prepared for how uber cool this public facility is. As big as a multi-level department store, the Gail Borden Public Library District has so many things to see and do that you could spend days here. I’ve never seen such a fantastic selection of books anywhere, probably not in bookstores either.
When you first walk in, the library seems more like a college building, with a section for audio-visual items, artwork, privacy spaces, and traditional library books. There are books on both the first and second floors, including large print, oversized, genealogy, movies, and biographies. You name it, they’ve got it. In fact, I’ve visited quite a few libraries in my day and the children’s library was a good 25 times bigger than any I’ve ever seen. What I wouldn’t do to take my granddaughter there!
Then there is the quiet, round reading area that is literally built around a stunning fireplace at the Gail Borden Public Library. The large windows on one side of the room have views of the river halfway around. It is so peaceful and inviting. Something I’ve never seen are the individual study rooms visitors can use for studying or work, which require advanced booking.
#5 A Fabulous Park
I simply could not get enough of the beautiful riverfront area alongside the Elgin River and Festival Park. Take advantage of the scenic overlooks, great for photo-ops, and the gorgeous flowers, seating areas, and sculptures. A noteworthy piece that will intrigue and delight you is the 1835 Expedition, full of sharp points and pastel dichroic plexiglass. You’ll find the art installment on Riverside Drive.
Being from Florida, where our grass is a disappointment comparatively speaking, I had to take off my shoes and walk around the park, enjoying the soft and comforting park grass. I got some strange looks, but if you’ve lived elsewhere, you probably understand.
If you have kids along, take advantage of the fabulous children’s play area in Festival Park. There is even a splash pad.
The Grand Victoria Casino sits on the Fox River at the edge of the park, and is operated by Caesar’s Entertainment. Inside, you’ll find 1100 slots and several Vegas-style table games.
A few things to not miss in the area are the Pioneer Family Memorial sculpture, a bronze piece by artist Trygve Rovelstad, the Ultimate Sacrifice tribute, and the metal United States Flag sculpture.
I was in Elgin, Illinois, when I visited my first ever sunflower field. Goebbert’s Farm & Garden Center is quite an agritourism attraction, with seasonal family-friendly activities, a country store, produce market, and bakery. I recommend the apple cider and pumpkin donuts. Fall attractions include a corn stalk maze, giraffe barn, gem mining, wagon rides, a haunted house, and much more.
You’ll find the sunflower fields in late summer at the Pingree Grove location. Feel free to use the picturesque fields for photo ops, or you can cut the lovely flowers to use however you’d like.
Need a place to stay during your Elgin, Illinois visit? The Hampton Inn Elgin off I-90 is a great place to lay your head. The hotel has a complimentary hot breakfast, free parking, WiFi, and an indoor pool. Our room was very comfortable and incredibly clean.
A special thanks to Explore Elgin Area for hosting my last-minute visit. I appreciate the hospitality, itinerary, hotel room, and food. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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