Peoria (Illinois)

The Caterpillar World Headquarters

Peoria is a city in Illinois and the county seat of Peoria County. It serves as a regional hub for the primarily rural and agricultural center of the state. Peoria is a small but diverse city of approximately 115,000 people that anchors a three-county metropolitan area of nearly 400,000.


Situated on a river bluff with excellent natural resources and easy river access, the area has been settled since prehistory, with artifacts and burial mounds showing settlement as far back as 10,000 B.C. Peoria was first settled by French explorers in 1680 and is one of the oldest continuously-occupied European settlements in what is now Illinois. Thanks to its position on the Illinois River, Peoria enjoyed comfortable growth from shipping business in the 1800s and early 1900s. Like Muncie in Indiana, it became known as an Average American Town, leading to the famous phrase, used by Jack Benny as a radio punchline (and the Nixon administration for political spin): "Will it play in Peoria?"

Residents may rankle at the implied lack of sophistication in the phrase; right or wrong, they take fierce pride in what their city has to offer, and they see the only differences between their city and Chicago as being size and cost-of-living. Today, most of Peoria's economy revolves around Caterpillar, a manufacturer of construction equipment, and business conventions. Illinois high school sports tournaments are also a major draw for visitors. Famous natives include Richard Pryor, for whom a street leading from town to the airport is named, and Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique.

The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau can help groups and individuals plan an itinerary in Peoria.

Get in

By plane

The 29-story Peoria Twin Towers, second tallest buildings in Illinois outside of Chicago

The   Peoria International Airport provides daily flights to several cities, including the hubs at Chicago O'Hare, Denver, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, and more limited flights to leisure destinations including Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa, Orlando, and Tampa.

  Mt. Hawley Airport on the north side of Peoria is a general aviation airport available for charter flights.

The Bloomington/Normal Airport is located about 50 miles from Peoria and provides further air options.

Many visitors fly into Chicago or St. Louis and drive to Peoria. Each city is approximately 150 miles from Peoria and the drive takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. Indianapolis is 200 miles away and takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours to reach by car.

By car

I-74 is the main interstate that runs through the city. Peoria can also be approached from Interstate 55 (which connects Chicago and St. Louis) by taking a state highway such as IL 116 from Interstate 55 into Peoria, about 50 miles. This provides a somewhat more scenic trip through farming country and small towns.

Get around

By bus

CityLink is the city's mass-transit system, serving 20 routes in and around the city.

By car

Taxi service is available throughout the city; however, it is recommended you call for a taxi, as it is rare to find a taxi to hail outside the downtown or during odd hours. You can locate taxi companies online, in the phone book, or through your hotel's front desk.

While Peoria's downtown is very walkable and parts of the city are amid a New Urbanist revival, to get around outside the downtown most visitors will want a car. All major car rental companies have outlets in Peoria; most have outlets at the airport, in the downtown, and in various outlying commercial areas.


  • Peoria Zoo (in Glen Oak Park). 10 AM to 5 PM daily. Formerly known as the Glen Oak Zoo after the park in which it's located, the Peoria Zoo has habitats for large animals such as zebras and rhinoceroses, an enclosure for wallabies and emus that visitors can walk through, and some more exotic critters such as takins. There is also an excellent collection of smaller animals, including meerkats, a variety of smaller monkeys, and capybaras. $9 adults, $6 for children aged 6-12.
  • Luthy Botanical Gardens (in Glen Oak Park). 10 AM to 5 pm. The Gardens feature both traditional ornamental collections and (increasingly) native plantings on five acres. During holiday seasons, the Gardens host special events. $2.50.


The Spirit of Peoria


Peoria's Riverfront has undergone massive revitalization in recent years and features a variety of local and independent retailers in a pleasant, walkable riverfront setting. Free parking is available along the riverfront. The outdoor Riverfront Market, every Saturday from June to September, is a combination farmers' market and local art market.

Peoria has an unusual number of working local artists (including sculptor Preston Jackson ), many of whom are showcased at the Peoria Art Guild's gallery and store. (Others may be located on the web.) Peoria hosts two large art fairs every year, the Fine Art Fair, a national juried fair held each September, and the Junction City Art Fair, a juried fair showcasing regional artists in early June.

There are two main malls in the Peoria regional area. These are frequently referred to as the "old mall" and "new mall" by locals.


Peoria offers variety of places to eat, including a large number of local independent restaurants. Nationwide "casual dining" chain restaurants are also available, as is the standard complement of fast food joints.

Particular local favorites include (but are not limited to):


The highest concentration of drinking establishments is in downtown Peoria, in the few blocks surrounding Main and Jefferson. If you're looking for more of a young club scene, the scene is constantly changing. Taking a stroll down Main Street (downtown) will get you to most popular Peoria bars.

Outside of the downtown area, there are a few other worthy establishments.



Go next

Routes through Peoria

Davenport Galesburg  W  E  East Peoria Normal
Kansas City Quincy  W  E  East Peoria Fort Wayne
Rock Falls Bradford  N  S  East Peoria END

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.