This year is a leap year! That means there is a whole extra day in 2020. That’s 366 days this year. It only happens every 4 years, so why not make the most of the extra day we have this month? Use February 29th to go on a day trip! See some of the sights Illinois and the surrounding states have to offer by planning a short day trip. 

Champaign is in the perfect position between three awesome cities. From Champaign-Urban, it only takes around 2 hours to get to Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis. This week, we’ll go over how to DIY a day trip to these cities without spending a lot of money! 

How to get there...

Driving is always a good option when traveling a somewhat short distance. You don’t have to worry about getting around once you’ve made it to your destination, and you can bring as many people as you want. Gas is a bit expensive, but for these trips, it averages out to a tank of gas to get there and a tank of gas to get back, depending on what type of car you have. 

Chicago can be a bit of a beast for driving, so if you choose to go to the windy city, try taking Amtrak. There are daily trains that go from Champaign to Union Station in Chicago. Tickets are relatively inexpensive and you won’t have to worry about parking once you get there. Win-win!

Free things to do in...


Millennium Park, Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago Cultural Center, Palmer House, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo are all free! You can fill up your day with culture, animals, and exploring old buildings. Chicago also has many cool stores to shop on the Magnificent Mile. 

St. Louis

Forest Park, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Zoo, Saint Louis Science Center, Anheuser-Busch Brewery & Biergarten, Soulard Market are free things to do in St. Louis. There are also attractions like the City Museum and the brand new aquarium to check out for reasonable ticket prices. 


Artsgarden, Long-Sharp Gallery at the Conrad, Indiana War Memorial, Fort Harrison State Park are interesting places to visit for free in Indianapolis! If you’re into racing, be sure to see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Restaurants to try in… 


Bombobar has everything you need to start your day trip off on the right foot: coffee, donuts, and gelato. This small cafe is serving up tasty lattes and frappuccinos with a sweet twist. 

SafeHouse is a spy-themed restaurant and nightclub that serves a variety of American dishes, all with on-theme names like the Furtive Fish Fry or Spinach & Artichoke Diplomacy.

The Chicago Diner offers classic diner style vegan and vegetarian dishes. Their large menu with many dietary options will make it easy to find something delicious to snack on for everyone. 

Giordano’s deep dish should be on everyone’s itinerary for a day in Chicago. You can’t go wrong with pizza, and this deep dish is worth the sometimes hour long wait.  

St. Louis

Pieces is a restaurant and bar in St. Louis where you can play board games while enjoying their mouthwatering menu. 

Fitz’s Root Beer on the Loop is an iconic St. Louis diner. They are famous for their homemade root beer and indulgent root beer floats. 

Imo’s Pizza is home of the original St. Louis-style pizza. It’s a thin crust pizza covered in the controversial Provel cheese.

The Cup is a great place to grab a sweet treat to take home with you after a long day of sightseeing. 


Doughnuts & Dragons has creative donuts to get your day of exploring off to a good start. They also have a board game library, so you can play a game while you enjoy a sweet breakfast. 

The Eagle has classic southern food from fried chicken to homemade mac n’ cheese. This is a great place to go for a taste of the midwest and southern cuisine. 

Nada is a cocktail and taco joint that serves up Mexican cuisine with a twist. Stop in to try some of their crazy taco and drink creations. 

Brics can be found in the 100 year old Monon Railway Station, serving up many flavors of  ice cream. Learn a little history while enjoying a scoop (or three) of homemade ice cream. 

Make the most of your day trip by…

Starting early. Beginning your day trip early is a smart way to ensure you have enough time to do all you want to do in the day!

Bringing friends. Friends make a trip so much more fun, and they can help chip in for gas which is always a plus. 

Making a loose itinerary. If you know what you want to do ahead of time, you can make sure you don’t waste the day deciding on what to do once you’re there. Make a loose plan so you have some room to add or subtract things to do. 

I hope this was fun and helpful! Let us know what you did with your extra day!