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Visiting Peoria: One Day, 25 Local Gems

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Above Peoria & The Illinois River

You’ve probably heard people talk about the challenges of travel …

Planning, carving out the time, money, transportation, and deciding what to see are all common travel challenges. Sometimes, sacrifices are made to accommodate an itinerary …

And that’s exactly what happened for this Midwest River Cities travelogue for Peoria, a central Illinois destination tucked along the western bank of the sprawling Illinois River.

Our constraints were time based – we only had a day.

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Peoria’s Luthy Botanical Garden

Complicating matters was the itinerary … Peoria is a fun mid sized city with an abundance of local businesses, natural attractions, and places to unwind with a cold one …




And so, the challenge was set forth …

Within a one day time frame, was it possible to enjoy 25 Peoria area destinations?

Well, it took a bit of planning, expert navigation, energy, and will power, but here it is:

“Visiting Peoria: One Day, 25 Local Gems” …

Follow along in the same order we hit all 25 … it was a challenge, but the challenge was met!

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A Convenient Stop In Eureka, IL

#1: Huck’s – From west suburban Chicago, there’s a couple ways to reach Peoria. Interstate 55 cuts southwest across Illinois, and you can pick up Interstate 74 just outside of Bloomington – Normal, where it’s a short drive west to Peoria …

We’ve always preferred exiting I-55 at Route 24, which takes you through a handful of central Illinois towns like El Paso, Eureka, and Washington.




Eureka is about 15 miles east of Peoria … it’s home to Eureka College, famous for being the alma mater of a U.S. President (Ronald Reagan, #40). We love stopping at the Huck’s service station and convenience store, on Route 24 as you pass through town …

Huck’s is a small Midwest chain and they offer everything you need for a quick pit stop … gas, clean bathrooms, munchies, pop, and ice for your cooler as you can see!

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Lindy’s Market, Washington IL

#2: Lindy’s Market – Just outside (east) of Peoria is the historic town of Washington, which you can reach via Main Street off of Route 24. You’ll be charmed by the old fashioned town square in the center of town, which buzzes with shoppers and townspeople going about their morning routine.

Just west of the square on Peoria Street is Lindy’s Market, a specialty grocery and market that’s been a part of the community here for over 50 years …

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Lots of Local Products Here …

A must stop if you’re anywhere near the area, Lindy’s offers fresh produce, meats, locally produced foods, beer and wine, baked goods, and a deli that dishes up some one of a kind specialties. Insider Tip: Try the Blackberry Honey Mustard Chicken Salad or the Cranberry Broccoli Salad, they’re both spectacular …

If you visit on Saturdays around the lunch hour, Lindy’s fires up the grill and serves tasty selections from their meat department. They also carry a nice selection of locally brewed beer and a wide variety of house made products like snack mix, salsa, dips, preserves, and barbecue sauce …

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Castaways Consignment, Washington

#3: Castaways Consignment – Always on the lookout for a good bargain, the Midwest River Cities staff visited this consignment shop, located on Peoria Street a mile or so west of Lindy’s …

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It’s A Bag Day Sale At Castaways!

It happened to be “Bag Sale Day”, which means all you can fit into a brown bag for $15 from selected merchandise. A popular place, Castaways Consignmentis a Washington destination for gently used brand name women’s clothing and accessories for dime-on-the-dollar prices.

Neat, clean, and organized, Castaways inventory changes frequently so you’ll always find something new and interesting to enhance your wardrobe. This friendly shop is worth seeking out the next time you visit Peoria …

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Bakery?

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Historic Trefzger’s Bakery

#4: Trefzger’s Bakery: – From Castaways, it’s a short ten minute drive into Peoria. You’ll travel Route 24 west over the Illinois River and the first large intersection is Prospect Avenue. A right turn takes you gently up hill into the appealing village of Peoria Heights and their walkable downtown shopping district …

Just past Lake Avenue on your right is the oldest bakery in central Illinois. Trefzger’s has been around since 1861, and when you visit and sample their wares, you’ll understand why …

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The Coffee Cakes Are Outstanding!

Famous for their coffee cakes, this bakery is beloved by Peorians. Housed in a large brick warehouse type space, the bakery combines old world flavor with modern day convenience. Take a number, peruse the bakery display cases, and pick out your goodies …




Freshly baked bread, pastries, muffins, donuts, specialty cakes, and coffee cakes are just a few of the bakery delights you’ll find at Trefzger’s. If you’d like to sit and enjoy your purchase, there’s tables scattered about the space – the people watching is great!

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I Know You Like A Book, Peoria Heights

#5: I Know You Like A Book: – About two blocks north on Prospect from Trefzger’s is this inviting local bookstore which features new and used selections and a small wine bar during evening hours. A good book and a glass of wine? Now there you go …

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Support Independent Book Stores!

In addition to having quite possibly the best name ever for a bookstore, I Know You Like A Book also offers a variety of books from local authors. Friendly and inviting, this store is one of the many local businesses that make the Peoria area unique and appealing …

We loved stopping in here and you will too!

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Hey Look, Pabst Blue Ribbon!

#6: Peoria Trivia Break: Pabst Blue Ribbon – Turning back south on Prospect, in the next block from the bookstore you’ll see a rather large brown brick building with a large Pabst Blue Ribbon logo at the top …

The building now houses Pettet Jewelers, but until the early 1980’s this was a Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery. PBR was brewed here in this Peoria Heights facility for decades until brewery consolidation and declining sales led to the parent company ceasing production back in 1982 …




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Visit The Monarch Butterflies

#7: Luthy Botanical Garden: – Going south on Prospect past War Memorial Drive, you’ll encounter the vast grounds of historic Springdale Cemetery and just beyond, Glen Oak Park. The park is home to both the Peoria Zoo and Luthy Botanical Garden, the latter of which is a garden lover’s oasis offering free admission (donations are accepted) …

Administered and maintained by the Peoria Park District, Luthy Botanical Garden boasts a tranquil five acre setting offering over a dozen themed gardens …

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Luthy Botanical Garden – Peoria

The on site Conservatory features rotating flower shows throughout the year, and several of the theme gardens are quite spectacular. There’s also a gift shop, and numerous educational programs for all ages are offered frequently …

Luthy Botanical Garden is open seven days a week and is a great stop for a little exercise, peace and quiet, and enjoying the splendor of nature …

#8: Lou’s Drive In: – If it’s lunch time in Peoria, it must be Lou’s!

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The Iconic Lou’s Drive In, Peoria

Lou’s Drive In, on Knoxville Avenue north of War Memorial, has been around for decades. It’s an old fashioned drive in spot with car hop service after 5 p.m. At lunch, just walk up to the open air counter and order from a menu of all American favorites like cheeseburgers, hot dogs, cones, milk shakes, and more …

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Lunchtime At Lou’s

Open seasonally during the warmer weather months, Lou’s is probably best known for their fantastic house root beer. Enjoy a cold mug along with your lunch or dinner outside at one of the picnic style tables, or take it to go.

Insider Tip: The french fries here are particularly good. Thin and crispy, they come with any of Lou’s Basket Meals, which also include a small drink …




A beloved local icon, talk to anyone about Peoria, and Lou’s Drive In is certain to come up in conversation!

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Fashionably Late, Junction City Shopping Center

#9: Fashionably Late: – About two miles north of Lou’s on Knoxville is the locally famous Junction City Shopping Center (just below), where one of the new stores is this women’s consignment shop featuring some of the best fashion brands at approachable prices …

Brands you’ll find available in your size include Chico’s, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, White House Black Market, and others. All the merchandise is top quality, gently used, and attractively displayed …

#10: Junction City Shopping Center / Peoria Trivia: Located at the intersection of Prospect and Knoxville Avenues on an irregular shaped triangle lot, the Junction City Shopping Center has quite a history in Peoria …

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Junction City Shopping Center, Peoria

Dating back over 60 years, this outdoor shopping destination is continually refreshing its image and look to remain vibrant in the public eye. Featuring a unique blend of local shops, restaurants, and approachable setting, Junction City continues to be one of the city’s go to locations for shopping, entertainment, and personal services …




On a Peoria Trivia note, Junction City Shopping Center was the long time home of an iconic area restaurant, Vonachen’s Old Place. Founded and owned by local entrepreneur Pete Vonachen, the restaurant featured a genuine antique train car as one of the main dining areas.

VOP, as it was known, closed a few years ago after almost 50 years of serving Peoria …

#11: Hy Vee: We’re not big on chains here at Midwest River Cities … in fact we go out of our way to avoid them, preferring locally owned family businesses. We make an exception for Hy Vee grocery stores though, and stop at the local outpost whenever we’re visiting our favorite river city destinations …

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Buy Local – Peoria Hy Vee

We particularly like Hy Vee because they carry a wide variety of locally made products. Looking for locally made honey? You’ll find it at Hy Vee. Beer that’s brewed here? The Peoria Hy Vee at Lake and Sheridan offers the largest selection in the city. How about locally produced food specialty products? You bet … you’ll find it here.

We always find something interesting and unique at Hy Vee, and you will too. Their stores are neat, clean, and customer focused. They’re worth seeking out, especially if you like bringing home edible reminders of your visit … like we do!

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Good Deals Galore At Moxie’s!

#12: Moxie’s Resale: Two blocks south on Sheridan from the Hy Vee is this locally run consignment shop (we told you we liked a good bargain!) featuring gently used clothing and accessories for women, men, and kids.

Moxie’s Resale is probably Peoria’s best known consignment shop, which ensures the inventory is different every time you visit.




If you’re in the market for a prom dress for someone in your family, Moxie’s has an abundant selection. Stop here to check out the inventory of gently used purses and jewelry too …

Make sure to seek out the bargain corner where you’ll find all sorts of clothing marked down to rock bottom prices (usually $2 and below). There’s even a “free to a good home” basket …

#13: Church Mouse Thrift Shop: Near the intersection of Sheridan and Main just east of the Bradley University campus, this thrift shop carries a wide variety of previously loved merchandise just waiting for a new home …

Shopping for a guy? Church Mouse Thrift Shop offers all sorts of shirts, shorts, pants, and more for guys, making it somewhat unique as far as these types of stores go. Of course, there’s also an abundance of women’s clothing and home goods too …

This shop also has a large selection of books at very good prices. Great gift ideas in here, especially if you’re on a budget …

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Spirit Of Peoria River Cruises

#14: Spirit of Peoria: We were delighted to discover Peoria’s riverfront improvements since our last visit ten years ago. The city is embracing the Illinois River as an asset, with improved green space and visitor amenities dotting the west bank of the river …

Among the relatively recent additions is the Spirit of Peoria, a sightseeing cruise boat that resembles an old time paddle wheeler …




This boat, docked at the foot of Main Street, offers a wide variety of cruises during the warm weather months, including overnight trips to river cities along the Mississippi. On most weekends, the Spirit of Peoria features 90 minute sightseeing cruises which venture north up the Illinois River and back …

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See Peoria From The Illinois River

The boat itself has three levels, so you have your choice of open air seating or inside table seating if the sun is too strong or the weather otherwise inclement. There’s narration along the way which points out various sites of interest and adds a touch of humor and history to your cruise …

The 2 p.m. afternoon cruise is a perfect break from shopping and it’s an affordable way to enjoy the city from the Illinois River …

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Sunbeam Bakery Building Shops

#15: Sunbeam Bakery Building Shops: Reinvigorated after a nice relaxing boat cruise, an up and coming shopping area beckoned …

The Sunbeam Bakery Shops are located at the southwest corner of Main and Sheridan, just two minutes west of downtown. The building itself is a former Sunbeam Bakery production facility which has been re-purposed into artist studios, galleries, and a small group of eclectic shops.

The area is most known for their “First Friday” events, when all the shops and galleries stay open late to accommodate the community. A very popular event, First Fridays have helped reinvigorate the arts here in Peoria, and lively crowds are common …

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Must Stop Peoria Shopping: Urban Artifacts

Among the interesting shops in this area: Urban Artifacts, an appealing showcase of pop culture and other collectibles you didn’t know you couldn’t live without, Lit On Fire, an inviting bookstore with interesting and off the grid used and new titles, and Moon Dancer, a mellow vibe shop featuring local goods and fashions …

Diagonally across the corner is Ribbon Records, another independent shop where you’ll find not only recycled fashions but recycled vinyl, which you can buy, sell, or trade …




A short walk from the Bradley University campus, the Main / Sheridan area has sprung to life and is becoming a new generation’s go to spot for art and culture …

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Former Site Of Jumer’s, Peoria

#16: Peoria Trivia: Jumer’s – If you visited Peoria in the 1970’s through the 1990’s, you remember Jumer’s Lodge, an iconic Peoria lodge / hotel that was the place to stay back in the day …

Built to resemble an old Bavarian castle, Jumer’s was famous for their great bar and their turn down service – a piece of fine chocolate was placed on your pillow. The facility is still there near the intersection of Western Avenue and Moss, but it’s now a senior living center. Jumer’s was taken over by a large hotel chain in the 2000’s and the facility ceased operations as a hotel in 2009.

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#17: Raber Packing Company: Go west from downtown on Main Street past Sheridan and the road to the right becomes Farmington. About a mile west on Farmington is Raber Road, so named because it’s the location of the Raber Packing Company

Raber processes hogs and other livestock and has an on site retail butcher shop, the only location you can buy their products, which are the freshest of the fresh.




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Great Selection At Raber Packing Company

Here you’ll find everything from steaks to pig knuckles to their own house blend wieners (hot dogs) which are made from a mix of beef and pork (fantastic!). You’ll know you’re in a meat packing facility because it’s about 40 degrees or so in the shop … wear a hoodie or sweater if you’re cold sensitive.

Raber’s also carries some other locally made products, like Ropp’s Cheese from central Illinois …

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Mike’s Tavern, West Peoria

#18: Mike’s Tavern: After all that shopping, it’s time for a cold one, and what better place than the venerable Mike’s Tavern, located a block west of Western Avenue in what is technically the Village of West Peoria.

Mike’s has been around for a long time, 1938 we were told, and was a stag bar for decades (no women allowed). That all changed about three decades ago, and now you’ll find a convivial crowd of friendly and welcoming locals who’ll get a big kick out of your presence if you’re writing a travelogue about Peoria …

For a smallish place, there’s a surprisingly eclectic selection of beer on tap here. We were pleased to see regular Busch on draft, and wow it tasted good after being out in the sun for a few hours …

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Hey Look, A Free Beer!

The regulars are a mix of locals and area business people who’ll chat you up and make you feel a part of the party, like Dan Jenkins, the owner of Fairlane Car Care Center on Bradley Avenue in Peoria (told you we’d put you on here Dan!) …

One of the distinguishing features at Mike’s is the row of vintage grade school desks lined up across from the bar. We’re told they’ve been there for years and were added so old time regulars could have somewhere to sit other than the bar stools (which are backless). The wooden desks are still used by patrons who like to sit on a chair with a back and have somewhere close to set their beer … stop by and see what we mean.




Mike’s Tavern is a slice of tradition, history, and local camaraderie. It’s the perfect stop for a warm Saturday afternoon …

#19: Agatucci’s: The pizza mecca of Peoria, this inviting family owned establishment is about five minutes north of the Bradley campus on University Avenue, just north of McClure. The Agatucci’s location used to be the northernmost edge of Peoria when it opened in 1926, but now it’s easy to reach from anywhere in the city …

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Famous for their pizza, Agatucci’s is beloved by locals and those who used to be locals. People come from all around the area to have dinner here or pick up pizza to go. Grab a seat at the front bar and you’ll see owner Dan Agatucci greet customers new and old …

As comfortable as your favorite pair of jeans, Agatucci’s is also well known for their fried chicken and now offers frozen Agatucci’s Pizza in area stores. Insider Tip: Get the fried ravioli appetizer … we got a half order to go and are still kicking ourselves for not opting for the full order – they’re great!

The Oldest Bar In Peoria

#20: Whitey’s Tip Top Inn:

We love old taverns and we seek them out in every Midwest river city we visit. There’s something honorable and worthy of respect about a bar that’s been in business for decades on end …

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Peoria’s Oldest Bar: Whitey’s Tip Top Inn

Based on our research (and what we were told), the oldest bar in Peoria is Whitey’s Tip Top Inn, located on Sheridan Road just two minutes east of Agatucci’s. There’s a front door facing Sheridan and a side door facing the adjacent street, which is West Virginia. Use the side entrance like all the regulars do …




Whitey’s is not a fancy place, but that’s half the charm. We didn’t get food here but we’re told it’s very good … they have the basics like cheeseburgers and such. The owner, Whitey, was a former regular who bought the place a couple decades ago and you’ll often see him going double duty tending bar and prepping your food order.

There’s no draft beer here, but the drinks are well poured, the bottled beer is nice and cold, and there’s room enough to spread out if sitting at the bar isn’t your thing …

Whitey’s has been around at least since the 1940’s, although some information states there’s been a tavern at this location since the repeal of Prohibition (1933) or even before …

Long live Whitey’s … Peoria’s oldest bar!

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Castle’s Patio Inn, Peoria

#21: Castle’s Patio Inn: Located just a block and a half from Whitey’s on Loucks Avenue is this gem of a place that’s housed on an irregular, triangle shaped lot. A real local Peoria stop, Castle’s is so named because it was adjacent to the former owner’s patio.

Open for lunch and dinner, this is a must stop if you’re a fan of local restaurants serving good food at reasonable prices. You’ll walk in the front door and the bar is directly in front of you, with various sized tables place around the remainder of the space …

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Famous Cheese Spread

Castle’s Patio Inn is well known for a few of their house specialties, two of which we had for dinner. First is their Prime Beef Sandwich, which is made from a slow roasted beef roast and sliced medium thick and served on a toasted hoagie roll. The secret to this sandwich is the meat itself; it’s roasted for about 12 hours and is so tender it cuts with a fork …

Their cheeseburger is classic American fare and exceptionally good, but the star of the show is Castle’s cheese dip. When you sit down at your table, you’ll be brought over a small crock of this spreadable masterpiece along with a sleeve of Ritz-like crackers. The consistency is similar to Merkt’s or Kaukauna cheese spread, but smoother, easier to spread, and infinitely more tasty. You’ll pick up a bit of garlic flavor, but the recipe is a secret known only to ownership …




Fortunately, Castle’s sells containers of their cheese dip to go, and they’re rightfully proud of it. In fact, over the front door is a sign which reads “The Cheesiest Place In Town” …

Castle’s Patio Inn has been around for decades, and if you like a welcoming spot that’s family owned and operated and serves fantastic approachable food, you found your Peoria destination!

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Inside Alwan’s Meats, Peoria

#22: Alwan’s Meats: Heading north on Sheridan from Castle’s, you’ll soon reach War Memorial Drive. Turn right to Alwan’s Meats, a combination market / deli / butcher shop that’s been a Peoria staple since the 1950’s.

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The Selection At Alwan’s Is Fantastic!

This is where the locals come to buy tender steaks and the very best cuts of meat, along with specialty grocery items you won’t always find in the big stores. A spacious, friendly store with plenty of adjacent parking, Alwan’s is the type of place you’ll come back to again and again.

Insider Tip: Buy a bottle of two of their house made tangy barbecue sauce and then drift over to the meat counter for some of their natural casing wieners. You’ll thank us later!

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View From The Peoria Heights Tower

#23: Heights Tower: East a few blocks from Alwan’s is the intersection of War Memorial and Prospect. On the southeast corner is Emo’s Dairy Mart, a popular place we just couldn’t fit in although it’s on the list for our next Peoria visit.

Go left (north) on Prospect through the Peoria Heights retail area to Tower Park, a community park that’s the site of the Heights Tower …

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Peoria Heights Tower: Savor The View

This tower is unusual because it’s a combination water tower and observation deck – you can ride an elevator to the top for a gorgeous view of the Illinois River and the Peoria area.




The park hosts live music and other community events throughout the year and is adjacent to our next attraction on the list, Grandview Drive …

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Spectacular Views: Grandview Drive

#24: Grandview Drive: This spectacular road winds down the bluff from Tower Park all the way to the intersection with Route 29, hundreds of feet below.

Along the way, you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the Illinois River and surrounding valley while going past some of the most beautiful homes in the area. There are several open green spaces with perfectly placed picnic tables to take in the splendor any time of year.

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Grandview Drive At Sunset

Grandview Drive has a long, storied history. It was once given the title “The World’s Most Beautiful Drive” by America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, who visited here in the first decade of the 1900’s. In fact, Peoria radio station WMBD takes its call letters from the title given Grandview Drive by President Roosevelt …

Grandview Drive is two and a half miles in length and if you only have time to do one thing in the Peoria area, it should be at the top of your list …

#25: Uncle Bob’s Ice Cream: Traveling east on Route 24 back through Eureka, you’ll spot this ice cream spot that’s been a staple here since 1980 …

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Uncle Bob’s Ice Cream, Eureka, IL

Uncle Bob’s Ice Cream is manufactured right here and served in cones and more in the retail area in front. You’ll find it at specialty grocers and markets in the Peoria area like Lindy’s and Alwan’s or you can buy pints right here to take home …

A popular place on summer evenings, Uncle Bob’s offers dozens of flavors and some seasonal favorites that change with the temperatures. We’re partial to the fresh peach, but you won’t go wrong with anything you choose.

A satisfying treat to mark the end of the challenge!

Wrapping It Up …

We loved visiting Peoria, even if it was just for a day. It’s a friendly destination with a lot of history, natural attractions, and great local businesses …

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Summer At Luthy Botanical Garden

Pleased as we were to visit the 25 destinations featured above, we know there’s a lot more to Peoria, having visited here on business for many years. We’re looking forward to our next visit to reacquaint ourselves with old favorites and add more to the list …

Add your comments about this Illinois river city below …




For More Information and Thank You

If you’d like to learn more about Peoria and the surrounding area, visit the Peoria Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website, where you’ll discover a whole bunch of other things to see and do …

We’d like to especially thank Marty Wombacher, whose very entertaining and useful blog Meanwhile, Back In Peoria helped inspire this travelogue. Marty is a Peoria native who chronicles the people, places, and culture that makes the Peoria area great …

Thanks for reading and enjoy Peoria!

    3 Comments

  1. Great work and wonderful travelogue! Thanks for the shoutout, I’ll pay you back this week! Next time you’re in town we’ll have to meet!

    • Marty, where was Avanti’s? 😉

      • Avanti’s is on the list for next time … only had so much capacity! Jim

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