It’s amazing how quickly three hours go by when that “next episode” button keeps popping up. But with the same amount of time in the car, you can transport yourself to romantic retreats, majestic waterfalls and (yesss) wineries. Forget battling the security lines at O’Hare—these five road trips from Chicago are our top picks for your next weekend getaway.

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new buffalo mi

1. Best for Beaches: New Buffalo, MI

Travel Time: One hour and 15 minutes from Chicago

When to Go: June through September

What to Do: During a beach weekend, we encourage doing as little as possible. While away the hours sunning yourself or reading a good book on the long, peaceful beaches. After sunset, head to Redamak’s for the Velveeta burger, a gloriously gooey masterpiece that has become something of a legend since the restaurant opened in the 1940s. If you need something a little more exciting, there’s always the Four Winds Casino.

Where to Stay: How does a luxurious lakefront home with a hot tub sound? Not only is it within walking distance to New Buffalo downtown (and plenty of restaurants), it’s also super close to the beach.

milwaukee mi
Milwaukee Art Museum/Facebook

2. Best for Food and Art: Milwaukee, WI

Travel Time: One hour and 30 minutes from Chicago

When to Go: May through October

What to Do: Chicago’s not the only Midwest city with culture to spare. The Milwaukee Art Museum is reason enough to visit our neighbor to the north: Its soaring white brise soleil (that would be the winged structure rising over the roof) is practically begging to be Instagrammed. Once you’ve had your fill of the collection, nosh on artisanal cheeses, craft beers and fresh baked goods at Milwaukee Public Market. Of course, no visit is complete without a trip to Kopp’s Frozen Custard; hit up the scoop shop for one final treat on your way back home.

Where to Stay: This HGTV renovated home is the stuff dreams (and Pinterest boards) are made of. It’s located right in Walker’s Point, a diverse neighborhood known for nightlife, shopping and great restaurants.

lake geneva mi
VISIT Lake Geneva/Facebook

3. Best for Families: Lake Geneva, WI

Travel Time: One hour and 30 minutes from Chicago

When to Go: June through September

What to Do: Get the kids (and yourself) out of the concrete jungle and into some fresh air. Options for boat rentals and tours abound, but if you stay at Grand Geneva, you’ll have the added bonus of a 50,000-square-foot water park just steps from your room. For dinner, head to Sprecher’s for pub food and craft sodas and beers, then savor ice cream cones from Scoops as you stroll the Shore Path Walk until everyone’s sleepy.

Where to Stay: This breathtaking beach house is located in the heart of downtown Lake Geneva and just steps away from the beach, restaurants, shops and activities.

starved rock state park

4. Best for Hiking: Starved Rock State Park

Travel Time: One hour and 45 minutes from Chicago

When to Go: May through October

What to Do: You might be shocked to see Starved Rock’s cliffs, a rarity in flat-as-a-board Illinois. But that’s just one reason to check out the park: Its 3,816 acres also include massive waterfalls and miles of shady oak trees. (They’re a haven for bald eagles, so bring your binoculars.) You can easily cover the highlights in a day trip, but the charming 1930s lodge, with its roaring fireplaces and rustic timber walls, makes a compelling case for spending the night.

Where to Stay: After a nature-filled day in the great outdoors, crash for the night in a peaceful cabin—like this one in North Utica, located minutes from the state parks.

galena il

5. Best for Romance: Galena, IL

Travel Time: Three hours from Chicago

When to Go: June through October

What to Do: With its rolling hills and narrow streets lined with 19th-century architecture, Galena feels like another country, let alone town. Spend an afternoon strolling hand in hand with your sweetie and popping into the many charming shops. Then wind down with a glass of wine at Galena Cellars Winery. Looking for something on the grander side? A sunset hot-air-balloon ride with Galena on the Fly should do the trick.

Where to Stay: Book a room at this quiet, quaint apartment located above Big Bill’s coffee shop. It’s right on Main Street, which means restaurants, bars and shops are just outside your door.

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