The Best Things to do in Peoria, IL – Family Attractions for Everyone!

The Best Things to do in Peoria, IL – Family Attractions for Everyone!

Whether you make a special trip to Peoria, Illinois for a Caterpillar enthusiast or just need a new Midwest weekend getaway destination, Peoria has a variety of quality attractions to keep you entertained.

Peoria borders the Illinois River and has fun, modern attractions including the Caterpillar Visitor Center, Peoria Riverfront Museum, and a sculpture garden. To the north, you will find the Luthy Botanical Garden and the local zoo. Wildlife Prairie Park is just west of the city and offers an expansive outdoor retreat for any nature lover.

Check out our top Peoria attractions that are family-friendly and affordable.

Caterpillar Visitors Center

Where else can you experience video in the bed of a massive two-and-a-half-story Cat® 797F Mining Truck? The Caterpillar Visitors Center opened to the public on October 2012. The nearly 50,000-square-foot facility has seen visitors from all 50 states and from around the world.

The center features 8 unique, hand’s on galleries, 4 theaters with over 50 videos and 800 photographs of Caterpillar’s impact on history.

The building itself has received LEED Gold status. Solar panels on the parking deck can provide up to 75 percent of the center’s power needs on a sunny day. Other eco-friendly features include external sunshades, automatic daylight controls, and onsite rainwater retention.

INSIDER TIP: Former Caterpillar employees line the galleries offering insight into all things Cat. The gift shop offers a wide range of souvenirs perfect for any budget. Event space and birthday parties packages are also available.

Hours

The Caterpillar Visitors Center is open from 10 am to 5 pm, Monday through Saturday. (Last entry is at 3:30 pm.) It is closed on Sundays and holidays.

Address

Caterpillar Visitors Center

110 SW Washington Street

Peoria, IL

Parking

Complimentary parking is available in the Water Street parking garage adjacent to the Caterpillar Visitors Center.

Cost

$7 for adults, Children 0-12 are FREE, Discounts for Seniors and Military

Groups

School groups are encouraged to plan a field trip to the Caterpillar Visitor Center. The website has an impressive number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educational resources available for free from pre-k to high school.

Activities include:

  • Virtual ride in the bed of a Cat® 797F Mining Truck
  • Learn about Caterpillar’s history (past, present, and future)
  • Hands-on exploration of Cat equipment
  • Virtual technology exhibits
  • Professional Cat simulators that are used to train actual Cat operators
  • Design your Cat equipment
  • Career options at Cat
  • Learn about how Cat serves various industries

Membership

You can purchase an annual pass for only $25. You will also receive $1 off admission for family and friends and a 15% discount at the gift shop. Keep in mind that kids 0-12 can enter free, so annual passes are only needed for teenagers and adults.

Limited edition VIP Lifetime Passes are available for only $100. This is a great holiday or birthday gift for the Caterpillar enthusiast. Only 100 stainless steel VIP Lifetime Passes will be sold.

Exhibitions

Everyone starts with a video in the bed of a massive two-and-a-half-story Cat® 797F Mining Truck. Once you take a virtual ride down a haul road in your massive Cat®, you are ready to immerse yourself all things Caterpillar.

You will have the option to design a Cat machine. Enjoy operation simulators, and stand in awe of the massive Cat machines as they line the museum floor.

Caterpillar Heritage Gallery

Caterpillar is an innovation in American history. Their equipment helped build the San Francisco cable car system, to the widening of the Panama Canal.

See tractor prototypes from the early 1900s and enjoy memorabilia from Caterpillar retires and enthusiasts.

Building Blocks

Caterpillar is committed to the future of manufacturing. They created an exhibit called Buliding Blocks (June 2019) to encourage students to engage in cutting-edge technological advancement in manufacturing.

Building Blocks is part of the FIRST program, which Caterpillar is a Strategic Partner. The FIRST program supports grade school through grad school with robotics and STEM education.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

The Peoria Riverfront Museum opened in 2012 and is privately funded. It has provided over one million experiences for its guests and is the only multidisciplinary museum in the US.

The museum is classified as a non-profit, is AAM-accredited, Smithsonian-affiliated, and certified LEED Gold.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum consists of a variety of galleries, some permanent and featured traveling exhibitions, a giant screen theater, and a dome planetarium.

The museum offers select admission discounts, membership options, extended hours, and free parking.

INSIDER TIP: The museum regularly hosts free admission days thanks to its local partners. Visit the website for more information.

Museum Hours

Monday through Saturday 10 am – 5 pm

Sunday Noon – 5 pm

The museum is open until 8 pm on the 2nd Saturday of every month.

Address

Peoria Riverfront Museum

222 SW Washington St.

Peoria, IL 61602

Parking

Free parking is available off of Water Street in their covered garage.

Cost

  • Adults $11 / ($18) includes special exhibit
  • Students and Seniors $10 / ($16) includes special exhibit
  • Youth 3-17 $9 / ($14) includes special exhibit

Additional add-ons including movie theater tickets and planetarium show tickets are available for an extra cost.

Discounts are available for students (with ID), seniors (60+), active military, and EBT cardholders.

Groups

Groups of 15 or more can receive a discount if the admission is paid with one transaction and reserved at least 2 weeks in advance.

Membership Options

  • One+One Membership for $90 (2 adults)
  • Family Membership for $110 (2 adults and 2 children under 18)
  • Museum Associate for $150 (2 adults and 2 children under 18 plus additional discounts, travel benefits, and event tickets.)

Additional membership levels include Supporter ($250), Ambassador ($500), and Visionary Society ($1,000+).

Exhibitions / Collections

Membership includes a reciprocal program for science centers and museums, giving you access to 350-1,200 locations for free or discounted admission.

Galleries include Discovery Worlds, IHSA Peak Performance, Curley “Boo” Johnson Exhibit, Illinois River Encounter, The Street, Story Studio, and African American Wall of Face.

The permanent collection includes Duryea Motor Trap and Sculpture Garden.

From May 25 – September 1st you can view The Art of the Brick, The World’s Largest LEGO® Art Exhibition and from November 16, 2019 – March 15, 2020, they are featuring Da Vinci – The Genius & Secrets of Mona Lisa.

Giant Screen Theater

The Giant Screen Theater features a 4K digital projection 5 by 7 story screen. The best in the nation for 3D technology.

The screen is so large that it extends beyond our normal field of vision for a full immersion experience.

The sound is powered by 14 surround loudspeakers and an overhead loudspeaker, generating up to 14,000 watts of power.

A unique feature is a stage in the front for surreal live performance art.

Dome Planetarium

The Peoria Riverfront Museum uses the latest technology to provide you with the most realistic sky available. Each star has its own glass fiber optic cable and the planetarium features more than 7,000 stars.

The night sky is powered by real-time satellite feed plus up-to-date astronomical data for a full-color view of the Universe in real-time.

Choose from over 30 planetarium shows. Great for individuals and groups.

Classes

The museum offers a variety of classes for both kids and adults.

Kids can take advantage of backyard butterflies. An educational class that identifies butterflies, caterpillars and plants.

Adults have the option of wine and art gatherings. Meet in the evening for fine wine and art class opportunities such as painting and ceramic techniques.

Wildlife Prairie Park

Get ready for an exciting outdoor adventure at Wildlife Prairie Park. Open year-round, the outdoor wonderland has everything you need for a weekend getaway with family or friends. View local wild animals, biking, hiking, fishing and so much more.

INSIDER TIP: Animals seem to be more active in the morning so plan a hike early if you want to take full advantage of the close enclosures.

Hours

Daily: 9am- 6:30pm

(the last admission is available one hour before closing)

Extended hours Memorial Day-Labor Day

9am-6:30pm

Address

Wildlife Prairie Park

3826 N. Taylor Road

Hanna City, IL 61536

Parking

Parking is free at Wildlife Prairie Park.

Cost

Spring Wake-Up – October 30th

  • Ages 13+ $9.00, Seniors 65+ $7.00, Ages 3-12 $6.00, Ages 2 & under and WPP (Wildlife Prairie Park) Members are Free

Rates are discounted one dollar respectively for the Winter season (October 30th – Spring Wake-Up)

Groups

  • The group rates reflect a $1 off the standard admission price.
  • Ages 13 & up $8.00, Ages 3-12 $5.00
  • Ages 2 & under, Bus Drivers and WPP Members  Free

For every 15 paid student admissions, you can get 2 leaders admissions free. Reservations are required to receive group pricing and should be requested at least 2 weeks in advance.

Groups can add additional experiences to their field trips like guided tours, education programs, train rides, and adventure trek.

Please mention at the time of reservation if you would like to add experiences to your trip. There may be additional costs for added experiences.

Membership

  • Individual ($55)

The individual on the card, plus 2 one-time admission passes and 2 train tickets

  • Family ($85)

2 adults plus their children ages 17 & under, plus 4 one-time admission passes and 6 train tickets

  • Grandparent ($75)

2 adults plus their grandchildren ages 17 & under, plus 4 one-time admission passes and 6 train tickets

  • Member Plus 3 ($85)

The individual on the card and the opportunity to bring 3 guests each visit, plus 4 train tickets

Additional membership options include: Prairie Parent ($150),

Keeper’s Club ($250), Explorer’s Club ($500), and Naturalist ($1,000).

Attractions

Train Rides

New for 2019. The Prairie Zephyr will take you through two different loops winding through quiet forests that will stop at both the Pioneer and Gollywhopper Pavilions. Purchase a full-ride ticket for $4, or enjoy an all-day pass for only $1 more ($5).

The train operates during the parks operating hours both on weekdays and weekends. The ride is weather permitting and has more ride times on the weekend to accommodate additional park guests.

  • The Animal Trails. See rescued animals native to the Midwest region. Animals to look for include: Bison, Elk, Cougars, Black Bears, Fox, Bobcats, Crane, Eagles, Otters, Owls, Snakes, Turtles, domesticated farm animals, and more.
  • Adventure Trek. Modified bus with open windows to get an up-close and personal look at the park. Tours are available from May 27th – September 2nd. Tours start at 10 am, 11 am, 1 pm, 2 pm, and 3 pm. Reservations are suggested.
  • Disc Golf. The park features a championship level 18 hole course with challenging elevations. Great scenery and hiking. Cost is $9 for adults, $6 for children. Disc golf is available from dawn to dusk.
  • Mountain Biking and Hiking. Twenty miles of well-maintained trails to fully escape in nature.
  • The Adventure Store. A large variety of gifts in all price ranges with logo WPP merchandise to commemorate your trip.
  • Kim St John Butterfly Habitat. Constructed in 2013, come see over twenty types of butterflies in their natural habitat. The habitat also supports the four stages of butterflies, eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis, and butterflies for a complete learning experience.
  • Fishing. You can fish during the park’s stated hours. You will need to adhere to IDNR and park regulations. See website for rules and daily catch limits. You can fish during the park’s stated hours. You will need to adhere to IDNR and park regulations. See website for rules and daily catch limits.
  • Free Public Programs. Take advantage of special education programs with animal care staff and park naturalists.
  • Sculpture Walk. Go on a sculpture scavenger hunt through the park to locate over 30 statues.
  • Wildslide Sledding Hill. When there is sufficient snow, you can sled at the park with the price of admission. Bring your sled or use one of the park’s sleds. Sleds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • WildSpot. Play an interactive bluetooth app game while you are perusing the park. WildSpots are located at the West Side Kiosk, Ticket Gate, Train Depot, Gollywhopper Slide, Longhorn Cattle Enclosure, Wolf Enclosure, Bison and Elk Pasture, and Reptile Hall.
  • Lodging. Rates vary from $12 for tent camping to $95-$165 for cabins, cabooses, stables, and cottages per night.
  • Dining. Wildlife Prairie Park has a Daily Grille with menu specials seven days a week. Selections are affordably priced at between $5 and $8.

Luthy Botanical Garden

Over five acres of unique plants and flowers from around the globe. A popular local place for weddings, showers, and corporate events.

INSIDER TIP: The Luthy Botanical Gardens hosts a seasonal Poinsettia Show during November and December.

Address

Luthy Botanical Garden 2520 North Prospect Road

Peoria, IL

Sculpture Walk Peoria

Each year, large scale sculptures fill the streets of Downtown Peoria. The sculptures are a collection of rotating juried large art pieces. Sculpture walks help transform and revitalizes communities.

INSIDER TIP: Download the Otocast App to hear the audio thoughts of each artist on the 2019 Sculpture Walk.

Address

Sculpture Walk Peoria Washington Street

Peoria, Illinois 61602

For more detailed location information, visit their website at artspartners.net/swp

Peoria Zoo

For a small to medium-sized zoo, Peoria Zoo has an impressive AFRICA exhibit including gazelles, rhinos, lions, giraffes, mandrills and more. Plus, they offer free parking.

INSIDER TIP: The admission to the zoo is very affordable (under $10 for adults). You can purchase combo tickets for Peoria Zoo, Peoria Play House and Luthy Botanical Garden for $16.25 for adults and $13.25 for kids.

Address

Peoria Zoo at Glen Oak Park

2320 N. Prospect Rd.

Peoria, IL 61603

We hope you found our insider tips and information about local Peoria attractions useful for your next trip. If you are looking for additional activities for a longer stay, check out our recommendations below.

Additional Peoria attractions of note include Dozer Park (baseball), The Peoria Playhouse (children’s museum), Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, Pettengill-Morron House Museum (mansion tour), Northmoor Observatory, Peoria Holocaust Memorial, Cornstock Theatre, Spirit of Peoria Cruises, and Riverfront Market.

What is your favorite Peoria, Illinois attraction? Please leave a comment below.

Further read:

Julie Thompson

Julie was born and raised in the midwest and has traveled coast to coast. She enjoys researching the best travel gear and unique local sites to provide the best vacation experiences for her family and friends.