Joliet is one of the best lesser-known places in Illinois to visit and offers residents and visitors access to numerous historical sites, cultural events, great shopping, beautiful theaters, entertainment venues, history museums, and exciting sporting activities.
Discover what it’s like to be in prison at the Old Joliet Prison, where scenes from both the television series Prison Break and the movie The Blues Brothers were filmed. Adults can test their gambling skills, and luck, at one of two casinos in town: Harrah’s Joliet and Hollywood Casino & Hotel. Or go back in time, exploring the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site, Joliet Area Historical Museum, Patrick Haley Mansion, and the Rialto Square Theatre.
Joliet is close to many big cities, including Chicago, which is only 45 miles away, offering access to many more things to see, do, and experience. Famous tourist attractions, parks, and unique restaurants contribute to Joliet’s fantastic offerings. Let’s take a look at the fun and best things to do in Joliet, Illinois:
- Most significant landmark – Old Joliet Prison
- Best park – Lake Renwick Preserve
- Best free activity – Joliet Area Historical Museum
- Best activity for kids – Haunted Trails Amusement Park
- Best activity for adults – Harrah’s Casino Joliet
- Best food – Juliet’s Tavern
- Best nightlife – On The Rocks Joliet
- Best all-around accommodation – Harrah’s Joliet Casino Hotel
Best & Fun Things to Do in Joliet, Illinois
1. Joliet Iron Works Historic Site
Address: 31Columbia Street, Joliet, IL 60432
The Joliet Iron Works Historic Site offers 52 acres full of amenities and plenty of things to do. Set on the site of a former iron manufacturing facility dating back to the late 1800s, this area helps preserve cultural resources and Joliet’s history.
When visiting, there is a .59-mile paved trail where you can enjoy a self-guided interpretive walking tour showcasing the site’s historical significance. Plus, there is access to a 7.57-mile path made of crushed limestone called the I&M Canal Trail, offering pathways for biking, hiking, and running during the summer and exciting cross-country skiing and snowshoeing opportunities in the winter.
Another popular activity at the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site is picnicking, as the area includes a rentable shelter large enough to hold 100 people.
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2. Lake Renwick Preserve
Address: 23144 Renwick Rd, Plainfield, IL 60544
Lake Renwick Preserve is a popular destination in the Joliet area, with several access points throughout the site. This preserve protects a 200-acre lake and wetland habitat in the area of Plainfield and Joliet, Illinois.
The preserve is a bird watcher’s dream come true with various bird species, including the great egret and blue heron, roaming wild throughout the park. Additionally, the many islands on the lake provide multiple places for birds to nest, including the Heron Rookery Nature Preserve, which offers migratory birds a protected area for nesting activities.
Lake Renwick Preserve is also home to various plants, including water stargrass and large-leaf pondweed, which provide food and shelter for many wildlife in the area.
When visiting the preserve, you can access trails for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more. Fishing is available in designated areas of Turtle and Budde Lakes. An on-site welcome center can help with any questions and provide additional information about the preserve and the plants and animals that call it home.
3. Joliet Area Historical Museum
Address: 204 North Ottawa St., Joliet, IL 60432
Set in the former space of the Ottawa Street Methodist Church is the Joliet Area Historical Museum. The downtown location makes this venue the perfect place to explore and be centrally located to many other must-see area attractions.
The exhibits at the museum offer an inside look into the history of Joliet and share many stories of the town and the people who lived there. In addition to the unique and locally-significant permanent exhibits, the museum has temporary displays celebrating various historical events. The museum also offers educational programs and several interpretive opportunities.
Though there is a cost to visit the Joliet Area Historical Museum, the museum has free admission days throughout the year, including Star Wars Family Day, President’s Day, and Columbus Day, to name a few. Contact the museum for the most current tour information, including hours of operation and free admission days.
See Related: Best Museums in the US You Need to Visit
4. Haunted Trails Amusement Park
Address: 1423 North Broadway St., Joliet, IL 60435
Haunted Trails Amusement Park may sound like something you would do only during Halloween; however, this location has been providing year-round fun and excitement to residents and visitors to the Chicagoland area since 1988.
This 14-acre park is home to three go-kart tracks, two mini golf courses, a laser tag arena, batting cages, amusement rides, and hundreds of video games. In addition, the indoor entertainment center provides countless fun activities for everyone, rain or shine. Though some outdoor attractions are only open during summer, the indoor Monster’s Tomb Game Room and Charmin’ Charley’s Restaurant are available all year.
Popular indoor attractions at the Haunted Trails Amusement Park include the game room, Monster Hop, Phantom’s Fury Laser Tag, Bone Shaker, and Spirited Escapes escape rooms. In addition, some popular outdoor attractions include Trails Raceway Go-Karts, Eagle Speedway, and the Tornado Ride.
5. Harrah’s Joliet
Address: 151 North Joliet Street, Joliet, IL 60432
Just like the kids have amusement parks and playgrounds to enjoy, the adults have something exciting for themselves at Harrah’s Joliet. This location offers everything from hotel rooms to a casino floor, and restaurants to bars. Visit Harrah’s to discover why so many people consider this location the best and finest hotel and casino in the Chicagoland area.
The casino floor is open 24 hours a day, providing all-day and late-night entertainment for those wishing to test their luck. Games on the casino floor include slot machines, video poker machines, gaming tables, and more. Harrah’s Joliet Casino Hotel is also home to amazing stores and fabulous restaurants, including both casual and upscale options. It is a little bit of Vegas in the heart of Joliet, Illinois.
6. Juliet’s Tavern
Address: 205 North Chicago St., Joliet, IL 60432
When dining at Juliet’s Tavern, quality is not sacrificed for convenience or affordable prices. Instead, the chef at this restaurant seeks out only the finest fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, ensuring that whatever you choose off the menu, it’ll be the best meal in the area.
Popular menu items available at Juliet’s Tavern include the veal meatballs, fried chicken sandwich, seared salmon, and the fried ravioli. The Delmonico rib eye with red-skinned mashed potatoes is another must-order item from this restaurant.
Juliet’s Tavern has a full bar and is open for lunch and dinner, as well as having a separate menu exclusively for late-night eats. The staff is amazing, offering prompt, friendly service, and the servers are knowledgeable about food options and cocktails. Don’t be afraid to ask for a suggestion because the servers love to share their favorite menu items.
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7. On The Rocks Joliet
Address: 1500 Essington Road, Joliet, IL 60435
Are you looking for some nightlife when visiting Joliet? On The Rocks offers an upscale experience with fabulous drinks, mouthwatering appetizers, and a variety of entertainment options. Gather with friends for a night out with drinks, fun games, live entertainment, and excitement. On The Rocks offers various drink specials and can provide you with a night you and your friends will not forget.
On The Rocks is known for having the best Bloody Marys in town, and though they only have frozen pizzas available, they do allow food to be brought in or delivered from neighboring restaurants. So why is a venue that doesn’t serve food so popular among locals and visitors in the Joliet area?
Because they provide the best entertainment, including casino games, music, and have a friendly staff. For a budget-friendly nearby stay, the Best Western Joliet Inn & Suites features an indoor pool and all rooms have free Wi-Fi.
See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Schaumburg, Illinois
8. Rock Run Rookery
Address: 23065 S Youngs Rd, Joliet, IL 60436
Rock Run Rookery is a well-maintained 224-acre park that is part of the local preservation system, conserving more than 1,450 acres of natural land. The Rookery is home to diverse habitats such as forests, wetlands, and lakes. Wildlife can be seen throughout the area, including the great blue heron and the great egret, which nest in the area.
Rock Run Rookery has various trails, including a .41-mile paved trail that offers opportunities to see the diverse wildlife areas through hiking, biking, and in-line skating.
The paths are also perfect for horseback riding in the summer and snowshoeing during winter. Other activities at Rock Run Rookery include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and boating.
If you’re in the Joliet, Illinois area, this conservation area is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking for an outdoor adventure. When exploring Rock Run Rookery, stay at the nearby Hollywood Casino Joliet for easy access to the nature area and other exciting attractions in Joliet. The Hollywood Casino Joliet Hotel offers several on-site restaurants and a casino, as well as free Wi-Fi and flat-screen HDTVs in every room.
9. Chicagoland Speedway
Address: 500 Speedway Blvd., Joliet, IL 60433
You don’t have to be a NASCAR fan to enjoy the Chicagoland Speedway because this venue offers a variety of events throughout the year. Of course, the most popular are the NASCAR races, but this track also hosts the IndyCar Series and other racing events as well.
There is nothing better than experiencing the thrill of race day, when the track hosts many events and activities throughout the day, including race-related vendors, carnival games, and more. Most races have kid-friendly activities, such as inflatable slides and interactive exhibits, making the Speedway the perfect family-friendly outing.
From start to finish, watching a race at the Chicagoland Speedway is like no other experience in the area, and as any race fan can tell you, it is a complete experience that is far beyond racing cars. The bottom line: Chicagoland Speedway is one of the must-experience places in Joliet.
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10. Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre
Address: 201 West Jefferson St., Joliet, IL 60432
The Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre is a 10-acre park along the Des Plaines River, offering scenic views of the area and Downtown Joliet. This park is the only one in town operated by the City of Joliet instead of the Joliet Park District, which manages many of the area’s parks and conservation areas.
When visiting the Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, you can enjoy the many amenities, including picnic areas and a historic hiking trail. The Historic Walk is a self-guided tour of the park, taking you through the city’s most unique and historical locations. Visitors are always welcome to tour the park independently or call ahead and book a guided tour.
The park is also home to a pretty active community theatre program, which hosts a number of events and shows, as well as children’s programs, throughout the year. There’s a countless variety of performances and events, including vocal performances, musicals, improv shows, and more. It’s best to visit their website to stay up to date on what will be happening when you’re in town.
11. Route 66 Raceway
Address: 500 Speedway Blvd., Joliet, IL 60433
Route 66 Raceway is a drag race facility with a .25-mile dragstrip and is home to events by the National Hot Rod Association, including the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and the Dirt Oval 66. This track is located next to the Chicagoland Speedway and is owned and operated by NASCAR.
Like the nearby Speedway, Route 66 Raceway is family-friendly and hosts several family-themed days throughout the year. Kids love the opportunity to get up close to the track and have fun meeting the racers and seeing their hot rods up close.
Though the ticket and administration offices are not open to the public for walk-up assistance, you can always call the office for more information about upcoming events, races, tickets, and private events. Tickets are available online for all currently listed events.
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12. Jacob Henry Mansion Estate
Address: 20 South Eastern Ave., Joliet, IL 60433
Built in 1873, this National Historic Landmark offers an attractive location for exploring, relaxing, or experiencing the historical significance of the estate and its surrounding grounds.
The interior is beautifully designed and historically preserved, offering more than 16,800 square feet and 40 rooms to explore, each with an ornately carved fireplace. The main floor of the Jacob Henry Mansion is the most elaborate, with stunning black walnut and oak, which was hand-rubbed to achieve its unique satin finish.
The Jacob Henry Mansion Estate is one of the most historic buildings in the region and was awarded the Architecture Award at the American Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia in 1876. Stop by the Jacob Henry Museum to see firsthand the beautiful architecture and design of this historical site in Joliet, Illinois.
13. Pilcher Park Nature Center
Address: 2501 Highland Park Drive, Joliet, IL 60432
The Pilcher Park Nature Center is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy hiking, biking, picnicking, and more. This park is home to many scenic trails, playground areas, bicycle trails, and more than 640 acres of land, providing numerous habitats for wildlife.
The best thing about Pilcher Park is that it is open year-round, offering both summer and winter recreational activities. In the winter months, Pilcher Park offers cross-country ski equipment rentals, including skis, boots, and poles.
Children’s sizes are available for rent as well. If you love the great outdoors, stop by and enjoy the Pilcher Park Nature Center.
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14. Bishops Hill Winery
Address: 310 Bridge Street, Joliet, IL 60435
When a group of friends in Chicago started making wine more than ten years ago, it created a way for them to carry on their family traditions of homemade wine making. Bishops Hill Winery is a hidden gem in Joliet, offering guests a picturesque view of the area from a bluff overlooking the Des Plaines River Valley.
Once the headquarters for the Joliet Catholic Diocese, the property includes a castle-like residence built by a former German brewmaster. The buildings on the property, including the castle-like structure, have been restored to their former glory and are now available for events, wine tastings, and more.
There are classes available at the Bishops Hill Winery, including Wine Class 101 and Wine & Yoga. In Wine Class 101, guests will learn how to “swirl, sniff and taste like a pro,” with a full tasting of 9 wines and a charcuterie tray. And with Wine & Yoga, guests will enjoy an instructor-led yoga session with a glass of wine.
15. Rialto Square Theatre
Address: 102 N Chicago Street, Joliet, IL 60432
Dive into local culture at Joliet’s Rialto Square Theatre. This venue is a must-see just for the architecture, but well worth sticking around for a performance. A beloved classic theatre, this location hosts many big name performers, local performers, and several seasonal events.
If you love jazz, Boney James performs here. Or do you prefer R&B? Then you will love performances such as A Motown Christmas, or seeing The Commodores.
Other live music performances include pop, rock, tribute bands, and comedians. Rialto Square Theatre also hosts several events throughout the year, including the Wedding Expo, Reels at Rialto (movies), and Home for the Holidays.
You will be amazed by the beauty of the design and architecture of the building, which reflects aspects of Byzantine, Greek, and Roman architecture. You have to see for yourself why this location is often referred to as one of the most beautiful theaters in the country.
See Related: Best Day Trips From Chicago, Illinois
16. Old Joliet Prison (Joliet Correctional Center)
Address: 1125 Collins St, Joliet, IL 60432
Imagine getting locked behind bars where some of Illinois’ most significant criminals once lived. Now imagine being in a cell block where famous movies, such as The Blues Brothers, and television shows, such as Prison Break, were filmed. Either image can bring out a lot of feelings and emotions, which is what makes visiting the Old Joliet Prison a must.
Various tours into the historic prison include access to the North Segregation Building, cafeteria, East Cell House, West Cell House, Honor Dorm, and chapel. Though it is fun to see the prison during the daytime, the most popular tours are the Flashlight Tour and the Prison After Dark Tour. These tours take you to the darker side of prison life, while still sharing relevant historical information.
What are some fun things to do in Joliet?
Visitors to Joliet can enjoy the many fun and exciting things to do both indoors and outdoors, including historic sites, parks, and places to visit, such as the Rialto Square Theatre, Pilcher Park, Chicagoland Speedway, and the Haunted Trails Amusement Park.
What are the best tourist attractions in Joliet?
Joliet is home to many attractions, and some of the must-see locations include the Chicagoland Speedway, Rialto Square Theatre, Harrah’s and Hollywood casinos, and of course, the Old Joliet Prison, a filming site for both The Blues Brothers movie and the television show Prison Break.
What are some things to do in Joliet when it is raining?
The Joliet area offers many opportunities for fun even when it’s raining. Some popular things to do if it rains include stopping by the Rialto Square Theatre for a show, playing some games and grabbing lunch at Harrah’s Casino, exploring the Joliet Area Historical Museum, or scheduling a tour of the Old Joliet Prison.