Some out-of-state friends were visiting Peoria recently, and I made a list of activities I thought would be of interest to them. There were far more options than we had time for! Of course, our major tourist attractions are attractions for a reason; they should be seen, and they’re widely known. Then there are the “hidden gems”—those lesser-known shops, restaurants and other sites off the beaten path. They, too, are well worth your time.
Lifelong residents can often forget—or unintentionally diminish—the quality or quantity of our attractions, but a simple inventory of our region’s assets will show there are many. Even if you’ve lived in the Peoria area your whole life, you may just learn something new in this issue.
Tourism is big business, and we are fortunate to have many natural attractions that most cities and regions can only dream of! For starters, the Illinois River is perhaps our greatest asset—one we should utilize to our fullest advantage. From Emiquon and Banner Marsh to Wildlife Prairie Park and our extensive park district land, there is much natural beauty to be explored throughout the region.
In downtown Peoria, Dozer Park, the Caterpillar Visitors Center and Peoria Riverfront Museum are a combined force to be reckoned with—with much more to come. Our history is rich, and our arts community is strong. The June 6th opening of Sculpture Walk Peoria, along with the permanent sculptures already in place, is destined to change the face of Peoria’s Warehouse District, and soon, more restaurants and shops will begin filling in the gaps.
This month, we’ll witness the opening of two new attractions destined to play a huge role in our tourism economy. In north Peoria, we’ll start to see crowds at the new Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, as it sets out to create one of the top baseball and softball experiences in the country. Meanwhile, in the heart of the city, the Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum will begin to engage the creativity and ingenuity of the next generation. With the Peoria Zoo and Luthy Botanical Garden as neighbors, it’s sure to make Glen Oak Park a daylong destination.
Now, it’s up to us to support what we have. Take a look at our top attractions and hidden gems—or compile your own list. If you haven’t visited each of them, make it a priority this summer; if it’s been awhile, maybe it’s time for a return trip. If you serve on a board or association, suggest hosting those meetings and conferences in Peoria. Support our local artists and businesses, and champion the development of our region! If something is missing, help find a solution. All of us are ambassadors for our community, and we have a lot to be proud of. iBi