Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River. As it was founded in 1691 by Henri de Tonti, an explorer from France, it is also the oldest European settlement in Illinois. Back then, it was called Fort Clark. Peoria gained its current name in 1825.
Given such a long history, Peoria has developed many attractions over the years. Consider the following five examples.
Grand View Drive
Grand View Drive is a scenic road that is 2.5 miles long and runs alongside several parks, including Grand View Drive Park. It was constructed in 1903 and is on the National Register of Historic Places list. President Theodore Roosevelt visited it in 1910 and called it “the world’s most beautiful drive.” Visitors can enjoy a view of the Illinois River Valley and some of the historic homes in the area. Grand View Drive Park provides such amenities as picnic tables, playgrounds, and hiking trails. The city parks are all open from 5 am to 11 pm every day. To learn more, visit https://peoriaparks.org/places/grand-view-drive-park/ or call (309) 682-6684.
Peoria Riverfront Museum
Established in 2012, the Peoria Riverfront Museum was designed as a successor to the defunct Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences. Like its predecessor, the museum boasts a planetarium. It also has a giant screen theater that is 52 feet tall and 70 feet wall. Its permanent collections include exhibits devoted to folk art, geology, works by local artists, “ethnographic” or indigenous art, and the world’s first car. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday and 12 am to 5 pm on Sunday. To learn more, visit http://www.peoriariverfrontmuseum.org/ or call (309) 686-7000.
Originally called the Glen Oak Zoo, the Peoria Zoo changed its name in 2009 after expanding and opening its new Africa! exhibit. The Zoo includes an “Australian Walkabout” and an “Asian Trail,” which are devoted to animals from those continents. The Zoo also has a Conservation Center that houses endangered fish, amphibians, and reptiles like the Mexican Axolotl and the Chinese Alligator. The zoo’s hours are 10 am to 5 pm, and the keepers start bringing animals indoors at 4:30 pm. The zoo, however, covers only around 14 acres, which should make it easy for a visitor to see everything. To learn more, visit https://www.peoriazoo.org/ or call (309) 686-3365.
The Peoria Historical Society operates a couple of “house museums,” which are historical homes that contain furniture, art and other items from their respective eras. The John C. Flanagan House Museum, for example, is the oldest house that still stands in Peoria. It was built in 1837 in the American Federalist style and overlooks the Illinois River Valley. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains collections of vintage clothing, toys, china, and glass.
The Pettingill-Morron House Museum was built in 1868, and it is an example of the Second Empire style of architecture. The house was a residence until the mid-1960s and thus contains furniture, decorations, and art that date from the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. The Pettingill-Morron House is also on the National Register of Historic Places.
Both house museums are open to the public from 1 pm to 4 pm on the first Sunday of every month. Travelers may also call the Peoria Historical Society to schedule private tours. The Society’s office hours are 9 am to 4:30 pm Tuesday – Friday. For more information, visit https://www.peoriahistoricalsociety.com/houses or call (309) 674-1921.
Peoria Players Theatre
The Peoria Players Theatre, which was founded in 1919, is the fourth-oldest community theater in the country. It has never closed its doors during its century of existence. It puts on a variety of shows that include classics, regional premiers, and completely new works. The shows may be dramas, comedies, or musicals. Box office hours are 11 am to 5 pm Monday – Friday. To learn more about Peoria Players Theatre, visit https://www.peoriaplayers.org/ or call (309) 688-4473.