Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Will County, IL

  • Published 2023/05/20

Will County is one of the more underrated areas in Illinois, especially if you want a good balance of history and nature.

Easily its most popular city is Joliet, where you can find an abundance of historical landmarks along with scenic attractions along the Des Plaines River.

The county also has a lot of villages and townships surrounding Joliet, most of which have amazing outdoor attractions.

Will County is extremely close to Chicago, so it’s a great place to spend a couple of days exploring.

To help you understand this area, check out my list of the best things to do in Will County, Illinois.

Spot some Bisons at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Greenery at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Hank Erdmann /

Will County is brimming with a lot of nature preserves, and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is one of the biggest and most exciting.

As a big lover of bisons, this was one of the highlights of my trip, as the place is home to these majestic herbivores.

The vast lands of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is also home to an abundance of plant life featuring lots of wild flowers.

Trail lined with trees at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Nicola Patterson /

Because of its sheer size, this preserve is also a great way to do some biking—vast trails are found all throughout.

Found in the city of Wilmington, this place is a haven for outdoor exploration and bison observation.

Stone benches at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Get Entertained at Odyssey Fun World

Odyssey Fun World is an awesome amusement center in the village of Tinley Park.

It’s a great place to do some go karting, something it’s renowned for in Will County.

Besides these, Odyssey Fun World also features arcade games, mini golf, laser tag, and bumper cars.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a kid with you during your trip, as my travel buddy and I thoroughly enjoyed tapping into our inner kiddie side.

Odyssey Fun World is close to the freeway, so this is a convenient addition to any kind of itinerary.

Get Spooked at HellsGate Haunted House

HellsGate Haunted House is a good representation of the many haunted houses that’s abundant in Joliet.

If you’re wondering why the city is famous for haunted houses, it’s mostly because of all the spooky stories that revolve in the Old Joliet Prison.

Delivering a once-in-a-lifetime experience, few haunted houses in the U.S. can deliver an experience like HellsGate Haunted House.

The jump scares here are amazing, and the overall horror aesthetic isn’t tacky and definitely a must-see.

While I’m not a big fan of horror, going here with family or with a partner who does will definitely be worth the trip.

Tour the Old Joliet Prison

Exterior of the Old Joliet Prison

Nejdet Duzen /

As the county seat of Will County, Joliet is its biggest and most populous city, home to many historical attractions.

The Old Joliet Prison is easily one of the biggest attractions in the city—it’s a historical landmark that dates back to the 19th Century.

Featuring awe-inspiring architecture and rich history that’s emotionally moving, the Old Joliet Prison is one of my favorites during my trip.

Interior of the Old Joliet Prison

adolf martinez soler /

The prison was actually heavily featured in a famous movie called The Blues Brothers, so it’s nice to watch this first before visiting.

You can do a self-guided tour here, but there are also guided ones for a more comprehensive experience.

Basketball yard at the Old Joliet Prison

adolf martinez soler /

Cool Down at Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park

If you’re visiting during summer, Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park is a great way to cool down.

Found in the village of Bolingbrook, Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park was a great experience for me despite the crowds.

The facility has modern slides, lazy rivers, and pools that make it an enjoyable trip; not to mention, it’s really big!

There are also hot tubs here which I thoroughly enjoyed—there’s really a little bit of something for everyone.

If you don’t want to get exposed to the sun, they also have plenty of indoor pools for relaxation.

Visit the Joliet Area Historical Museum

Statue in front of Joliet Area Historical Museum

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

It’s always a great idea to check out a local museum whenever it’s your first time to visit a particular town or city.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum was a quick but fun visit during my stay in Will County—it has a lot of nice exhibits about the regional history of Joliet and WIll County.

Consider this place as a must-visit; this is a great complement to the Old Joliet Prison, whether you visit this before or after.

Joliet Area Historical Museum is also a neat place to hoard souvenirs during your trip.

Another favorite of mine during my visit, I thoroughly enjoyed this and would highly recommend it.

Trek through Pilcher Park Nature Center

Pilcher Park Nature Center is an underrated outdoor destination in Will County, found in Joliet.

The place is brimming with so many trails for you to explore, leading you to many of its wildlife sanctuaries and greenhouses.

One thing I absolutely loved about Pilcher Park Nature Center is its aesthetic—it’s like venturing into the wilderness.

Lots of areas here are great for photos; my favorite are the paved trails along the creek.

It’s home to a lot of cool animals—I saw hawks, ferrets, snakes, and a ton of fish throughout my exploration.

Watch a Play at Rialto Square Theatre

Exterior of Rialto Square Theatre

Nejdet Duzen /

Since my travel buddy to Will County was a performance art enthusiast, Rialto Square Theater was a can’t-miss in our itinerary.

Before you can even appreciate the performances here, you’ll be in awe with the architecture and ornate interiors of Rialto Square Theater.

It’s a haven for photo opportunities—this part of the experience is definitely my most favorite.

Signage of Rialto Square Theatre

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Once you enter inside, the aesthetics of the theater will blend in with the musical performance, creating a surreal experience.

One of the highlights of my trip, don’t miss out on this amazing venue if you love architecture and live performances.

Details of the Rialto Square Theatre building

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Do Landscape Photography at Hickory Creek Preserve

Hickory Creek Preserve is simply one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Will County.

Located in the village of Mokena, this is one of those destinations that’s overlooked by plenty of tourists, which makes it all the more serene and special.

I visited during the fall months here, and the foliage and tranquil waters of Hickory Creek Preserve is an image straight out of a postcard.

There’s an abundance of old oak trees here, so venturing deep into the woods feels like a magical experience.

Lots of plant life and wildlife are found here as well—one thing I particularly appreciated is seeing a wide range of fungi.

If you’re in search of a serene nature area, going out of your way to Hickory Creek Preserve is a must.

Do Recreational Activities at Dellwood Park

A gazebo at Dellwood Park

James Andrews1 /

Dellwood Park is one of the primary attractions in the city of Lockport, famous for its huge green spaces with lots of things to do.

Spanning 150 acres, Dellwood Park features athletic fields, a skatepark, picnic grounds, and even quirky attractions like a haunted house.

There’s also a performance theater here and a sizable disc golf course, the latter being a nice addition to my itinerary.

Trail at Dellwood Park

James Andrews1 /

Dellwood Park is also famous for changing throughout the seasons—it has World War II exhibits during the summer for example, while it’s famous for sledding during winter.

If you want a great open space to explore in Joliet, this is a no-brainer to add to your itinerary.

Picnic table at Dellwood Park

James Andrews1 /

Watch a Movie at Emagine Frankfort

If you do go to Hickory Creek Preserve, a good way to add onto your road trip is watching a movie at Emagine Frankfort.

Located in the village of Frankfort, this is just a few minutes away from Mokena.

It’s one of the most popular cinemas in Will County because of its aesthetics and facilities.

There’s an option here to enjoy a movie on a reclining seat, and the lobby features a quaint fireplace with a piano that’s unconventional.

A great experience all around, Emagine Frankfort is a nice way to accentuate your trip to this part of the county.

Explore Channahon State Park

The waters of Channahon State Park

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Channahon State Park is the prime attraction of Channahon, a village in Will County.

The state park is known for being situated along the DuPage River, giving you a lot of opportunities to do activities like fishing and camping.

The wilderness at Channahon State Park isn’t as robust, so it’s a great experience if you want a more casual experience that’s still close to nature.

Picnic shelter at Channahon State Park

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

My favorite part of this day trip is the Channahon Dam—it’s a haven for photography, especially if you find migratory birds near the area.

Truly scenic and relaxing, this was a great way to diversify my trip to Will County.

Kayaking at Channahon State Park

Brian Kapp /

Play Sports at Cene’s Four Seasons Park

Located in the village of Shorewood, Cene’s Four Seasons Park is a nice way to spend some down time during your trip.

If you go during the winter, this place becomes clad in snow which is great for snowfights or for sledding.

There are tons of athletic fields here as well, featuring baseball and soccer fields along with tennis and basketball courts.

Cene’s Four Seasons Park is also nice for picnics after trying out the many facilities here.

If you thoroughly explore the area, you’ll also find horse stables which I find was a nice bonus when checking out the park.

Go Boating at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area

A waterfall at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area

Hank Erdmann /

Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area is another nature attraction in Will County, found in Wilmington.

The locals told me that this place is famous for having shallow waters, with plenty of areas allowing you to traverse it on foot while being submerged.

This makes it great for swimming and fishing, but personally, I opted to do some tranquil boating activities in the area.

Daytime view of Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area

Hank Erdmann /

If you go during hunting season, you may see a good number of hunters here who are out on the prowl for some wild pheasant.

One of the biggest attractions in the county, Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area is a must if you love outdoor adventure like me.

Lily pads at Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area

Hank Erdmann /

Have a Blast at Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Center

Traveling in the U.S. made me accustomed to the usual atmosphere of family entertainment centers.

However, Haunted Trails Family Entertainment Center was a unique experience, as it utilizes Joliet’s love for spooky areas.

Instead of getting the typical vibes of an amusement center, the place is laden with spooky themes through its music and aesthetics.

Lots of fun things can be done here—I enjoyed the batting cages, mini golf, and go kart rides.

The prizes here are also stellar, so it really incentivizes you and your travel buddies to go all out.

Try Your Luck at Harrah’s Casino

If you’re in the mood for good food and some fun, Harrah’s Casino is a great place to visit in Joliet.

Located by the riverfront, Harrah’s Casino is also a hotel—it’s a great place to try if you’re still looking for accommodation.

If you’re just visiting, the casino and buffet here is a great addition to your itinerary, especially if you’re staying for a long time in Joliet.

It’s clean and the ambiance is inviting, making it a popular place for casino games.

As a cherry on top, Harrah’s Casino is extremely close to Joliet’s top attractions which made my trip all the more convenient.

See the Ruins at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Ruins at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

BD Images /

Joliet Iron Works Historic Site was one of the most underrated parts of my trip to Will County.

Just a few minutes away from Dellwood Park, this historical park is home to a lot of ruins from an iron plant that was operational from the mid-19th Century to the early 20th Century.

You can see these ruins for yourself up close—it was a great opportunity for a lot of austere photography.

A trail at Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Lined with a lot of nature trails as well, touring Joliet Iron Works Historic Site felt like venturing into a post-apocalyptic world for me.

While the place may feel abandoned, there’s a lot of historical markers and information boards found throughout for learning.

The grounds of Joliet Iron Works Historic Site

Eddie J. Rodriquez /

Final Thoughts

Will County is an amazing place that I personally underestimated, as it was originally just meant to be an extension of my trip to Chicago.

However, touring the place proved its a county that is an attraction on its own, especially with the abundance of things to do in Joliet and Wilmington.

Some of my favorites in this list are the Old Joliet Prison, Joliet Iron Works Historic Site, and Hickory Creek Preserve.

Other experiences like seeing wild bisons in Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and exploring Channahon State Park were also one for the books.

With so many things to do in Will County, Illinois, I hope this list incentivizes you to fully explore the area!

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