Peoria is a city in Illinois and the county seat of Peoria County. It serves as a regional hub for the primarily rural and agricultural center of the state. Peoria is a small but diverse city of approximately 115,000 people that anchors a three-county metropolitan area of nearly 400,000.
Situated on a river bluff with excellent natural resources and easy river access, the area has been settled since prehistory, with artifacts and burial mounds showing settlement as far back as 10,000 BC. Peoria was first settled by French explorers in 1680 and is one of the oldest continuously-occupied European settlements in what is now Illinois. Thanks to its position on the Illinois River, Peoria enjoyed comfortable growth from shipping business in the 1800s and early 1900s. Like Muncie in Indiana, it became known as an Average American Town, leading to the famous phrase used by Jack Benny as a radio punchline (and the Nixon administration for political spin) "Will it play in Peoria?" Peoria is also a place of history as the scene of historical debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas on the subject of slavery.
Residents may rankle at the implied lack of sophistication in the phrase; right or wrong, they take fierce pride in what their city has to offer, and they see the only differences between their city and Chicago as being size and cost-of-living. Today, most of Peoria's economy revolves around Caterpillar, manufacturer of the iconic yellow construction equipment used worldwide, as well as business conventions and the large medical center. Illinois high school sports tournaments are also a major draw for visitors. Famous natives include Richard Pryor, for whom a street leading from town to the airport is named, and Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique.
The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau can help groups and individuals plan an itinerary in Peoria.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Peoria weather varies considerably throughout the seasons. Like much of the Midwest it has a humid continental climate, and consequently four distinct seasons. The cool and pleasant springs are followed by humid summer days, beautiful autumn vistas full of color along the bluffs, and cold winter days. Even on the nicest days it is usually wise to have a jacket available in case a storm or front suddenly comes through, and the weather suddenly changes. Though rare, tornadoes are a possibility outside of the winter months in Peoria. The occasional snow storm may cause traffic to bottleneck for several hours until the streets have been plowed.
Many visitors fly into Chicago or St. Louis and drive to Peoria. Each city is approximately 150 miles (250 km) from Peoria and the drive takes 2½-3 hours, depending on traffic. Indianapolis is 200 miles (320 km) away and takes 3½-4 hours to reach by car.
- 1 General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (PIA IATA). Has daily flights from several cities, including the hubs at Chicago O'Hare, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, and more limited flights to leisure destinations including Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, Orlando, and Tampa.
- 2 Mt. Hawley Airport. On the north side of Peoria is a general aviation airport available for charter flights.
- 3 Central Illinois Regional Airport at Bloomington-Normal (BMI IATA). About 50 miles from Peoria, is another nearby airport that might provide additional flights that can help you get to Peoria provided you are willing to drive the short trip to the city.
I-74 is the main interstate that runs through the city. Peoria can also be approached from Interstate 55 (which connects Chicago and St. Louis) by taking a state highway such as IL 116 from Interstate 55 into Peoria, about 50 miles (80 km). This provides a somewhat more scenic trip through farming country and small towns.
- 4 Greyhound, 407 SW Adams St (near the Civic Center), ☏ . 10AM-6:30PM daily. The largest motorcoach operator in the United States services Peoria at the downtown CitiLink location where local buses can also be picked up.
- 5 Peoria Charter Coach, 407 SW Adams St, ☏ . 8AM-5PM daily. Specializes in bus service in the central Illinois area, and they also have regular service to and from Chicago, O'Hare Airport, Bloomington, Champaign, as well as other Midwest locations. In addition to serving downtown Peoria, the buses pickup/drop-off on the Bradley University campus.
1 CityLink is the city's mass-transit system, serving 23 routes in and around the city. Single ride fares are only $1, and an unlimited ride all-day pass, which can be purchased on a bus, is just $3. The main downtown bus station is at 407 SW Adams Street near the Civic Center and Dozer Park.
Taxi service is available throughout the city; however, it is recommended you call for a taxi, as it is rare to find a taxi to hail outside the downtown or during odd hours. You can locate taxi companies online, in the phone book, or through your hotel's front desk.
While Peoria's downtown is very walkable and parts of the city are amid a New Urbanist revival, to get around outside the downtown most visitors will want a car. All major car rental companies have outlets in Peoria; most have outlets at the airport, in the downtown, and in various outlying commercial areas.
- 1 Caterpillar Visitor's Center, 110 SW Washington St, ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-5PM (last entry 3:30PM); closed Su and holidays. Although its headquarters have left Peoria, "CAT" still has a huge workforce here spanning dozens of buildings all over town, and Peoria is a popular destination for fans of CAT machinery. They have a visitor's center with eight exhibit galleries and four theaters, and the tour starts by climbing into the bed of a two-and-a-half story mining truck for a virtual ride. Adult $7, children 12 and under free, seniors and military $6.
- 2 Glen Oak Park, 2218 North Prospect Road. One of Peoria's oldest city parks, makes a nice all-day or half-day destination. In addition to traditional park activities (grassy and tree-shaded areas, picnic tables, playing fields, tennis courts), Glen Oak Park has an amphitheater used for outdoor concerts and is home to the Luthy Botanical Gardens, the Peoria PlayHouse Children's Museum, and the Peoria Zoo.
- 5 Peoria Zoo (in Glen Oak Park). daily 10AM to 5PM. Formerly known as the Glen Oak Zoo after the park in which it's located, the Peoria Zoo has habitats for large animals such as zebras and rhinoceroses, an enclosure for wallabies and emus that visitors can walk through, and some more exotic critters such as takins. There is also an excellent collection of smaller animals, including meerkats, a variety of smaller monkeys, and capybaras. $9 adults, $6 for children aged 6-12.
- 6 Grandview Drive and Park, 3210 Grandview Drive, ☏ . For more spectacular river views take a drive along Grandview Drive and visit Grandview Park. This road, which can be accessed from the top or bottom, features some of Peoria's grandest homes and a variety of truly spectacular views of the river. The best river views have pull-offs and small parking lots so you can take pictures and take your time viewing the scenery. The Park District maintains the overlooks as well as a park at the bottom of the drive.
- 7 Peoria Riverfront Museum, 222 SW Washington St, ☏ . Tu 10AM-5PM; W 10AM-9PM; Th-Sa 10AM-5PM; Su noon-5PM; M closed. Peoria's regional museum, with emphasis on art and science, with rotating galleries that change every few months. The regional folk art collection is particularly nice. Riverfront Museum is a Smithsonian Member Institution with reciprocal admission discounts or waivers for members of other Member Institutions. Exhibits are well-curated. The museum is also a teaching institution, with its own classes and with sponsored activities in local schools. (For example, an Ansel Adams exhibit had an ancillary exhibit of high school photography in the style of Ansel Adams.) Daily Planetarium shows (not included in general admission). Gift shop. Adults $11; seniors (60+) $10; youth (3-17) $9.
- 8 Tower Park, 1222 E. Kingman ((off 4901 N. Prospect & Glen Ave.), ☏ , [email protected]. In Peoria Heights is a popular attraction with a water tower you can ascend 200 feet and see panoramic views up to 20 miles in clear weather. The river valley is quite lovely. The tower is open from the end of April through October (weather permitting). $2.
- 9 Wheels O' Time, 1710 W Woodside Drive, Dunlap, ☏ . May to October, noon-5PM. A quirky local museum, is definitely worth a visit. It's in the far north of the city and features a variety of things have to do with wheels and gears -- antique cars, clocks, carnival machines, old washing machines, farm equipment, a train, and more. Most are old-fashioned or antique. It's seriously wacky and seriously enjoyable -- the mechanical "barbershop quartet" in which all of the figures bear faces of former United States Presidents is worth the price of admission all by itself. Child $3.50, adult $7.00.
- 1 Forest Park Nature Center, 5809 North Forest Park Drive, ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-5PM; Su 1-5PM; trails are open dawn to dusk. Natural beauty can be found along the trails of the Forest Park Nature Center, a native river bluff forest with hiking and an interpretive center (and shop). Admission is free. Be forewarned: the trails are not flat. This is the hilliest hiking you'll find in the Peoria area! The shorter trails are very popular with families. The center is also an excellent place to spot butterflies and native birds, including bald eagles, which winter along the Illinois River. Free.
- 2 Glen Oak Park Amphitheatre, 2218 North Prospect Road, ☏ , [email protected]. Inside Glen Oak Park (see the listing above), the amphitheatre is used for outdoor concerts, movies, and private events. Free Municipal Band concerts are held each Sunday at 7PM during the summer, movie nights begin at 8PM (50 cent admission), and the venue may also be rented for private events. The amphitheatre seats 500 people, plus many more on the lawn. Check the website for the schedule of events.
- 3 Par-a-dice Casino, 21 Blackjack Blvd, toll-free: . Su-Th 8AM-4AM, F Sa 8AM-6AM. Riverboat gambling just across the river in East Peoria. Free admission.
- 4 Peoria Chiefs, Dozer Park, 730 SW Jefferson Street (from east of Peoria, take Interstate 74 to the Jefferson Street exit, and go SW eight blocks to the stadium. From west of Peoria, take the Washington Street exit, go SW nine blocks to Oak Street, turn right on to Oak and go three blocks to the stadium), ☏ , [email protected]. Peoria's Class A minor league baseball team is affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Chiefs play 70 home games between the beginning of April and the end of August. Tickets can easily be bought online or at the box office on game days. Game times vary, but most weekday and Saturday games start at 6:30PM or 7PM with Sunday games at 2PM. $10-12.
- 5 Peoria Rivermen, 201 SW Jefferson St (from east of Peoria, take Interstate 74 to the Jefferson Street exit, and go SW four blocks to Carver Arena in the Peoria Civic Center; from west of Peoria, take the Washington Street exit, go SW four blocks to Liberty Street, turn right on to Liberty and go two blocks to the entrance to Carver Arena in the Peoria Civic Center), ☏ , [email protected]. Peoria's professional hockey team plays 28 home games between October and the beginning of April. Tickets can easily be bought online or at the box office on game days. Game times are 7:15PM for Friday and Saturday games with Sunday games at 3:05PM. $12-22.
- 6 Wildlife Prairie Park, ☏ . Just west of Peoria, offers a spectacular natural prairie park with massive wildlife enclosures. The park houses buffalo, elk, wolves, a bear, and many smaller prairie animals. It has an interpretive center for the wildlife park, a small zoo-like building featuring snakes and amphibians, an old-fashioned general store-type gift shop, hiking, fishing, overnight lodging in cabins or decommissioned cabooses, an extremely popular train that tours the park, and a frontier farmstead with animals, gardens, a cabin, and a one-room schoolhouse. Interpreters are available throughout the park. Admission is $9 per adult, $6 for children 4-12 (free for 3 and under) (an additional $1 off per person from November to March), which is steep for Peoria but the park is definitely worth it. Visiting on $2 Tuesday cuts the cost quite a bit.
- 1 Bradley University, 1501 W. Bradley Place (From Interstate 74, go south on University Street. Cross Main Street, and take the first right onto West St. James Place and into the campus. The Visitor Center and visitor parking is on your left after crossing N. Duryea Place.), ☏ . Bradley University is the largest four-year college in the region, with approximately 5,500 students, pursuing 185 undergraduate degree programs, and 31 graduate degrees.
- 2 Illinois Central College (ICC), 1 College Drive, East Peoria (From downtown Peoria, take Interstate 74 east across the Illinois River to US Route 150. Go west (left) onto US 150 (also US 116) to Centennial Drive. Turn right on Centennial, and the campus will be on your left.), ☏ . Illinois Central College offers more than 250 degree and certificate programs with approximately 13,000 students pursuing studies at its three campus locations.
- 3 ICC North Campus, Peoria, 5407 N. University Street.
- 4 ICC South Campus, Pekin, 225 Hanna Drive, Pekin.
Peoria's Riverfront has undergone massive revitalization and features a variety of local and independent retailers in a pleasant, walkable riverfront setting. Free parking is available along the riverfront. The outdoor Riverfront Market, every Saturday from June to September, is a combination farmers' market and local art market.
Peoria has an unusual number of working local artists (including sculptor Preston Jackson, many of whom are showcased at the Peoria Art Guild's gallery and store. Peoria hosts a large art fair every year, the Fine Art Fair, a national juried fair held in late September.
- For local shopping flavor, Peoria Heights, a small village enclosed by Peoria but politically distinct, has a quaint main street with a large variety of locally-owned shops, including art galleries, gift stores, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, and various services.
- Sheridan Village, in the center of town, houses a Bergner's department store and several other minor retailers. Sheridan Village was the nation's first "mall-style" shopping center featuring a variety of stores situated around a parking lot to provide a less formal, less time-intensive shopping experience than venturing downtown to the major department stores. The test was successful and the model spread across the United States.
There are two main malls in the Peoria regional area. These are frequently referred to as the "old mall" and "new mall" by locals.
- 1 Northwoods Mall, ☏ . Established in 1973, it is Peoria's only enclosed mall. Many other retail establishments are within the vicinity, including Target, Cub Foods, Bob Evans, Barnes and Noble, and many hotels.
- 2 The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, 5201 West War Memorial Dr., ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-9PM; Su 11AM-6PM. Anchor stores include Dick's Sporting Goods, Bergner's, H&M, Marshalls, and DSW along with approximately 30 other store. Dining includes the Flat Top Grille and Osaka Hibachi and Sushi Bar, but TGI Fridays, Longhorn Steakhouse, Starbucks, Buffalo Wild Wings, Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que, and Steak'n Shake are all in the immediate area. The AMC Grand Prairie 18 movie theater is also in the same mall area.
- 3 Junction City, 5901 N Prospect Rd (at the corner of Prospect and Knoxville Avenue (Illinois Route 40), take the Interstate 74 Knoxville Avenue exit north approximately four miles). Junction City has about 40 stores, restaurants, and businesses that provide a more quiet and quiet environment in which to shop. Most of the stores and restaurants are owned by local retailers who provide a personal touch to your shopping experience.
- 1 Alexander's Famous Steakhouse (Alexander Street Steakhouse), 100 Alexander Avenue (from downtown Peoria, take NE Adams Street two miles north to Alexander Street, turn right, and the restaurant is on your left), ☏ . M-Th 4PM-9PM; F Sa 11AM-9PM; Su 11AM-9PM. An amazing steakhouse where you pick out your own steak from the fridge, and then you can either grill it yourself or let one of their chefs cook it how you like. $11 - $30.
- 2 Connected, ☏ . Daily 5PM-close. Upscale Italian/American menu with an extensive wine list and great cocktails. If you don't have a reservation, arrive early and grab a seat at the bar.
- 3 Hearth, 4604 N Prospect Rd, ☏ . Lunch Tu-Sa 11AM-2PM; dinner Tu-Th 5PM-9PM, F-Sa 5PM-10PM. Upscale American menu with some excellent Creole and Cajun dishes, and a large selection of whiskey and other drinks.
- 4 Rhythm Kitchen Music Cafe, 305 S.W. Water Street (take Main Street South to the edge of the river at Water Street; go right onto Water Street, and the restaurant is just across Liberty Street in the second block), ☏ . Tu-Th 11AM-2PM & 5PM-8PM; F 11AM-2PM & 4PM-midnight; Sa noon-Midnight. A cafe with a distinctly bohemian feel and menu and often featuring live music. In the Contemporary Art Center building. $9-18.
- 5 Rizzi's Italian Restaurant (Rizzi's), 4613 N Sheridan Road (from Interstate 74, take the War Memorial Drive exit (US Route 150). Go east approximately one half mile to Sheridan Road; go north (left) on Sheridan about a half mile to the resaurant), ☏ . M-Th 4:30PM-9:30PM; F Sa 4:30PM-10:30PM; Su 4:30PM-9PM. Very well-known family owned, operated, and liked Italian restaurant. They also serve wine, and have a catering service. Note that this is now their only location. Dinners: $12 - 21.
- 6 Table 19 (inside the Marriott Pere Marquette hotel), ☏ . Very good American fare with local ingredients and seasonal produce, as well as decent classic cocktails.
- 7 The 50s Diner, 4700 N. University Street, #60 (in the Metro Centre Shopping Center) (from Interstate 74, take the War Memorial Drive exit (US Route 150); go east approximately one half mile to University Street; go north (left) about a mile to the Metro Centre Shopping Center at Marlene Street; turn right and the diner is down the road on your left), ☏ . M-Th 6AM-8PM; F Sa 6AM-9PM; Su 7AM-3PM. A 1950s-style diner that serves the elusive Green River soda is a local favorite. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. $3 - $12.
- 8 Thyme Kitchen and Craft Beer, 736 SW Washington St, ☏ . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F 11AM-midnight, Sa 10AM-midnight, Su 10AM-10PM. Gastropub with excellent menu including some unique items like deconstructed duck tamales, and plenty of beer.
The highest concentration of drinking establishments is in downtown Peoria, in the few blocks surrounding Main and Jefferson. If you're looking for more of a young club scene, the scene is constantly changing. Taking a stroll down Main Street (downtown) will get you to most popular Peoria bars.
- 1 Kelleher's Irish Pub & Eatery, 619 Southwest Water Street (Near the Riverfront), ☏ . For a great beer selection and lively conversation.
- 2 Martini's On Water Street, 212 SW Water Street (take Main Street south to the riverfront; make a right onto SW Water Street, and turn left into the first parking lot; Martini's is on your left before you reach Liberty Street), ☏ . Tu-Sa 4PM-1AM (Jun-Aug: Sa 2PM-2AM); Su 5PM-1AM. On the waterfront in the historic Peoria train station, Martini's features great drinks and live music on the weekends.
- 3 Obed & Isaac's Microbrewery and Eatery, 321 NE Madison Ace, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-11:30PM. Charming brewpub built inside an old church. The bar is right in the middle of the floor, so you can feel like you're in the middle of the action, or grab a table where you can more easily take in the lofty ceiling and stained glass windows.
- 4 Rhodell Brewery, 100 Walnut St #111 (around the corner from Kellehers, near Riverfront). Brewpub that always has some tasty seasonal offerings on tap.
Outside of the downtown area, there are a few other worthy establishments.
- 1 Comfort Suites, 1812 W. War Memorial Dr. Every room is a suite. Off of I-74.
- 2 Embassy Suites by Hilton East Peoria Riverfront Hotel, 100 Conference Center Drive, ☏ . Amid the renowned shopping, dining and entertainment centers of the Peoria RiverFront.
- 3 Mark Twain Hotel, 225 NE Adams St, ☏ . Independent hotel on the periphery of the downtown (near the expressway). It is a smaller, "hipper" hotel than the Pere Marquette. Although the building is older, this adds to its charm more than it detracts; the lobby, full of wood and leather, feels more like a cozy den than a hotel lobby, while rooms have brick walls inside for a nice change from the normal drab hotel decor. Pets are welcome.
- 4 Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino, 21 Blackjack Blvd. A full-service hotel attached to the East Peoria casino.
- 5 Pere Marquette, 501 Main St, ☏ . Peoria's most famous hotel, in the middle of the downtown and serving as Peoria's premier hotel since 1927. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is linked to the Civic Center by a skyway. Pets welcome.
- Ackerman Family Farms is open in the late summer and fall. Make your way through the corn maze, take a hay ride, see the farm animals and all of the pumpkins and fall foliage. It's about 10 miles from downtown Peoria at 27158 US Highway 150 Morton. Phone: +1 309-266-7459
- Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway is located on both sides of the Illinois River between Ottawa, Illinois and Havana, Illinois. There are 80 different points of interest along the route which runs through Peoria, and there are many activities to be enjoyed including geocaching, bird watching, hiking, fishing, and more. The headquarters is at 613 W. Marquette Street, Ottawa, and it is a National Scenic Byway. ☏
- Jubilee College State Park[dead link] has walking, hiking, and equestrian trails, camping, picnicking, and more for outdoor enthusiasts. It's about 20 miles northwest of downtown Peoria at 13921 W. Route 150 Brimfield. ☏
- Snowman's Reindeer Farm Pet, feed, learn about, and photograph Santa's reindeer. It's about 30 miles southwest of Peoria at 25599 E. Middle Lake Road, Canton. ☏
- The Cookery is the place to hone your cooking skills in one of their culinary classes or just to enjoy a catered dinner. It's about 10 miles east of Peoria at 2029 S Main St, Morton. ☏
- Woodford State Fish and Wildlife Area[dead link] is hunting, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and camping are available at this 2900-acre park. It's about 25 miles northeast of downtown along the Illinois River on State Route 26, Low Point. ☏
|Routes through Peoria|
|Davenport ← Galesburg ←||W E||→ East Peoria → Cincinnati|
|Kansas City ← Quincy ←||W E||→ East Peoria → Fort Wayne|
|Rock Falls ← Bradford ←||N S||→ East Peoria → END|
|Moline ← Kickapoo ←||W E||→ East Peoria → Mount Vernon (Kentucky)|
|Ends at ←||W E||→ Bellvue → Ends at|