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What’s New in Illinois

It’s time to plan a return trip to Illinois.

Many groups have visited Chicago, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. But if you haven’t taken your group to the Windy City — or the rest of the state — recently, there are a lot of great new developments you haven’t seen before.

Chicago has lots of new attractions for groups to discover, among them the American Writers Museum and significant upgrades to Navy Pier and the Chicago Riverwalk. Nearby in Lake County, a new Great Wolf Lodge resort will make an excellent place for student groups to stay and play as part of their tour of the area.

There’s more new development to discover along the Mississippi River on the state’s western border. In Rock Island, part of the Quad Cities area, a 1909 mansion is open to the public for the first time in many years. And further south in Hamilton, a magnificent modern estate is now open for groups to tour.

Historic Prairie Home

On Illinois’ eastern border with Iowa, the Quad Cities area comprises several towns separated by the Mississippi River. Many of the attractions and activities in the area focus on the river and the region’s agricultural heritage. But groups can now get tours of one of the Quad Cities’ most distinctive structures: the Hauberg Center in Rock Island.

Built for a local couple in 1909, the Hauberg Center is a historic estate with a pedigree in design and decoration. Architect Robert C. Spencer, a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright, employed the popular Prairie School style in his plans for the home. The surrounding gardens were created by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen.

After serving as a family home for decades, the estate was given to the city of Rock Island, which used it as a civic center. Now it is open to the visiting public. Docents offer 45-minute tours of the home that highlight its history, its architecture and stories of the family that lived there.

Lakefront Fun

Chicago has long been a favorite destination for student groups from throughout the Midwest. In 2018, student and youth groups that travel to the area will be able to add some fun to their Chicago trips by staying at the Great Wolf Lodge in Lake County, about an hour north of downtown Chicago on the Lake Michigan shore.

Great Wolf Lodge properties are known for their indoor water parks, and this edition will be no exception. The Great Wolf Lodge Illinois will feature an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park with dozens of slides and water attractions when it opens next summer. The park will be nearly double the size of some other Great Wolf water parks and will feature some brand-new attractions.

In addition to the water rides, the resort will feature 414 guest suites and a variety of dining options. The complex will also include a spa, a miniature golf course and a bowling alley.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.