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The 12 most epic Metra excursions from Chicago

All aboard! These Chicagoland destinations are just a Metra ride away.

Emma Krupp
Written by
Emma Krupp
Contributor
Lindsay Eanet
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Who says you can't have an adventure in the suburbs? It's a great time to explore the the best of greater Chicagoland—and you don't even need a car. As it turns out, the ol' reliable Metra commuter train offers easy, convenient day trips from Chicago outside of the rush hour crowds. From sprawling adventure parks and craft breweries to intriguing art and architecture, we’ve gathered some of our favorite suburban destinations accessible within a short walk from Metra train stations throughout Chicagoland. When you’ve seen your fill of Chicago attractions, head to your nearest Metra station and see what suburban Chicago has to offer.

RECOMMENDED: The most unique day trips you can take from Chicago

The best Metra excursions from Chicago

  • Things to do
  • Suburbs

Heritage Corridor, Lemont station
Walking time from station: About 15 minutes

Multiple ziplines, climbing walls, a mountain bike course, hiking trails and more await you at The Forge: Lemont Quarries, a 300-acre recreation area stocked with just about every outdoor activity you can imagine, includng mountain biking, kayaking and laser tag. Thrill-seekers should start with a four-hour pass at the park's gigantic Eight Towers jungle gym and climbing course, where you can try your hand at a ropes course or cruise along two miles of ziplines. 

Milwaukee West, Elgin Station
Walking time from station: Four minutes
Fans of the long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who will feel right at home at the Blue Box Cafe and deli in charming downtown Elgin, where they can enjoy themed drinks like the Time Lord Limeade, delicious sandwiches and other delights alongside show-related ephemera and views of the Fox River. After you've had your fill, check out what else the walkable downtown has to offer, including the rotating exhibits at the Gail Borden Public Library or Side Street Studio Arts, or shop a host of local artisans at Meraki Market Hub. If you get hungry again, treat yourself to something sweet at Al's Café & Creamery. Those seeking a longer trek can head over to Lords Park, a 108-acre green space with a zoo where you can say hello to bison, elk and other animals.
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  • Things to do
  • Literary events
  • Suburbs
  • price 2 of 4

Union Pacific North, Braeside Station
Walking time from station: About 25 minutes

You won't be able to explore the full extent of the sprawling Chicago Botanic Gardens in just one day, but a 2.3-mile narrated tram tour will help you get an overview of the lush landscape, from the Japanese garden to native plant-filled McDonald Woods. Don't miss the Garden's stunning collection of Bonsai trees (some of which are more than 100 years old), which remain on display through October every year.

  • Things to do
  • Classes and workshops
  • Suburbs
  • price 1 of 4

Union Pacific West, Elmhurst station
Walking distance from station: About five minutes

Want to plan an afternoon full of art and architecture? In addition to housing a rotating selection of contemporary art shows—including a hotly-anticipated Jan Tichy show which turns the museum space itself into an interactive work of art—the Elmhurst Art Museum includes the McCormick House, a sleek modern building designed by Bauhaus phenom Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Bonus: Your admission fee also comes with a self-guided audio tour of Elmhurst's modern architecture, which includes designs from Mies, Frank Lloyd Wright and more.

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Union Pacific North, Kenosha station
Walking distance from train: About 15 minutes

Tens of thousands of years ago, wooly mammoths used to roam across the Midwest's icy expanses. You can witness that legacy firsthand just over the Wisconsin border at the Kenosha Public Museum, which features a permanent exhibition based around Hebior, the largest and most complete mammoth skeleton ever discovered on our continent. The skeleton—found in Kenosha County during the '60s—is housed in Milwaukee, but the exhibit takes a deep dive into its excavation and archealogical importance. While you're there, check out tons of other exhibits on fine art, Wisconsin history and more.

Union Pacific North, Fort Sheridan Station 
Walking time from station: 9 minutes
 
What was once an army base in suburban Highwood is now a peaceful 250-acre forest preserve with 3.65 miles of trails and one of North America's busiest flyaways for migratory birds—more than 200 species of birds have been spotted here. Take the winding path down to the beach for a relaxing dip at one of just a few places in Lake County that offer free access to Lake Michigan.
After you've worked up an appetite from all that swimming and hiking, visit Doña Paty's steps away from the Metra station for tacos, towering cemitas and micheladas on the colorful patio, or Koya for inventive sushi rolls. 
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BNSF Railway, Congress Park station
Walking time from station: About five minutes

Whether you're into classic hits like Space Invaders and Pac-Man or harder-to-find titles such as Hammer Away and Godzilla, you're sure to find something to love among the more than 550 arcade games at Galloping Ghost Arcade. No need to bring coins or stock up on tokens, either—visitors play a flat $20 entry fee and are free to play unlimited games all day long (or until the arcade closes every night at 2am, at least).

Try coffee that’s served at Chicago’s best restaurants

BNSF Railway, Naperville station
Walking time from station: About 15 minutes

If you've ever enjoyed a post-dinner cappuccino at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago (or similarly ritzy joints), you've probably had Sparrow Coffee. Notoriously exacting in its approach to roasting beans, the company provides custom roasts to two-thirds of the city's Michelin-starred chefs. You can try a cup for yourself—minus the four-star dinner tab—at the roaster's airy Naperville outpost, where lattes are foamed from the delicate milk of locally-farmed Jersey cows. Don't forget to grab a bag of beans on your way out.

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  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Suburbs
Metra Electric, Flossmoor Station
Walking time from station: 1 minute
In 1996, Flossmoor natives Dean and Carolyn Armstrong turned the town's historic old train station into a popular neighborhood restaurant and brewery. Today, you can alight at the Flossmoor Metra station and head across the street to Flossmoor Station, where you can enjoy their award-winning standards like the Pullman Nut Brown Ale and the Panama Ltd. Red Ale, or intriguing seasonals like the Wooden Hell Barleywine, aged in Woodford Reserve barrels, or Just Jammin', a wheat ale blended with strawberry purée. The best time to visit is naturally in the summer, when after you've explored the "brew caboose" taproom, you can sample your brews on their expansive deck, complete with cozy fire pits. 

Union Pacific West, Geneva station
Walking time from station: About 15 minutes

Once you've toured the Robie House and walked up and down the streets of Oak Park, turn your attention toward some of Frank Lloyd Wright's other Chicagoland masterpieces. The Fabyan Villa Museum in Geneva was once a country retreat for Colonel George and Nelle Fabyan; now, visitors are welcome to tour the couple's extensive Japanese art collection and learn more about the home's Prairie-style architectural flourishes from a trained docent. Plus, from May through September visitors can check out the estate's tranquil Japanese gardens.

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Take a walk around a suburban sculpture garden
Photograph: Guy Rhodes Photography

Take a walk around a suburban sculpture garden

Metra Electric, University Park station
Walking time from station: About 25 minutes

You'll find everything from a towering Paul Bunyan statue to abstract works of steel at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, located on the campus of Governors State University in suburban University Park. Entry to the park is free, but keep an eye out for special events throughout the year like farm-to-table dinners, pottery auctions, trick-or-treating and more.

  • Attractions

South Shore Line, Dune Park station
Walking time from station: About 14 minutes

One of the country's newest national parks, Indiana Dunes National Park is home to more than 2,000 acres of rolling sand dunes, beaches, forests and trails perfect for a long day of hiking. It's a bit of a walk from the train to the visitors center—about 1.3 miles—but easily accessible on the Dunes Kankakee Trail. 

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