The rates on enjoyillinois.com have changed since this article was printed. It still includes almost all of the activities below but with updated prices and additional options for travelers. Use the "Getaways" tab at the top of their website to help plan your vacation.
It's easy to fall into the habit of thinking that the most exciting trips are a long drive or a long flight away, and that they require a week's worth of vacation to enjoy. But there's adventure enough nearby, easy to learn about and a snap to plan. The state of Illinois has done all the legwork in its "Magnificent 3-Day Getaways." The vacations are categorized by interest--Outdoors, Family Fun, Romance, and Arts & Culture--and cover destinations throughout the state.
Once you settle on the type and location of your trip, you then can select from a shopping list of activities and lodgings. What happened when we gave it a try?
"Outdoor Adventures," good indefinitely
$832 per couple, assuming travel dates of Aug. 12-14.
Includes: two nights at La Quinta Inn in Peru, lodging tax included; admission to Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks; sightseeing excursion on Belle of the Rock riverboat; trolley transport inside Starved Rock State Park; horseback riding at Starved Rock Stables; Vermillion River Rafting trip; one-hour Jet Ski rental with Starved Rock Adventures; tandem jump skydive with Skydive Chicago.
Doesn't include: transportation to state parks or outfitters outside of the parks.
Contact: 800-2-CONNECT; www.enjoyillinois.com
Of package inclusions, if purchased separately.
Hotel: $156 ($71/night plus 10 percent tax) for two nights at La Quinta Inn in Peru, assuming a stay the nights of Aug. 12 and 13.
State park admissions: free.
Belle of the Rock: $24 ($12/person) for sightseeing excursion.
Starved Rock trolley: $20 ($10/person) for all-day pass one day.
Horseback riding: $50 ($25/person) for a one-hour ride with Starved Rock Stables.
River rafting: $50 ($25/person) for trip with Vermillion River Rafting.
Jet Ski rental: $160 ($80/person) for one hour with Starved Rock Adventures.
Skydiving: $378 ($189/person) for tandem jump with Skydive Chicago.
BEHIND THE DOLLAR SIGNS
The Web site is a good research and planning tool. Those who book online can see at a glance which excursions require a deposit, and which can be paid for at time of entry. However, those who are using the site to check prices should be aware that the prices, as itemized in the package, may differ a few dollars from those you'd pay on your own.