Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Consider These Sites in Suburban Illinois

Big cities’ suburbs often get a bad rap as sleepy towns and bedroom communities. But the suburbs of Chicago and the many cities that circle the Illinois side of St. Louis offer planners easy access and free parking, lower hotel rates and less-expensive meeting venues, all while delivering big-city amenities and first-class services.

Joliet, Illinois

Forty miles southwest of Chicago is Joliet, Illinois’ fourth-largest city. With wineries and breweries, restaurants and boutiques, a riverfront casino and more, the city of 150,000 offers groups “plenty to do,” said Daniel Jacobsen, sales manager for the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Joliet sits at the junction of interstates 80, 55 and 355, but its most famous highway is Route 66. The CVB provides a step-on guide for a Route 66 driving tour that highlights many iconic stops along the Mother Road, including the 1926 Rialto Square Theatre and the Jacob Henry Mansion Estate, both of which are available for events and tours.

The Route 66 Visitors Center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum is a modern, glass-enclosed area that can seat up to 60 people at round tables or accommodate 125 for receptions. It opens to a fountain garden. Planners can use the museum’s rooftop terrace for 150-person seated meal or a 350-person cocktail hour.

The Clarion Hotel and Convention Center has 14,150 square feet of event space, including a ballroom, and Harrah’s Joliet, next to the Des Plaines River downtown, has more than 6,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Thirteen miles north of Joliet, the Bolingbrook Golf Club is the area’s largest venue and can accommodate 800-person events. The Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites Bolingbrook has 4,000 square feet of meeting space and recently refreshed its 145 guest rooms.


Aurora, Illinois

Aurora, Illinois, is the last stop on the BNSF Metra line out of Chicago, but its remote location doesn’t take away from its urban appeal. With 200,000 residents, Aurora is the state’s second-largest city and has “a lot of great history and a lot of new development,” said Pete Garlock, director of sales for the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Metra line terminates at Two Brothers Roundhouse, one of Aurora’s most unusual event venues. The limestone facility was built in 1856 to service, store and turn around locomotives. Today, it houses Two Brothers Artisan Brewing and its restaurant. The historic circular building surrounds a courtyard with a central gazebo and houses a variety of event spaces for groups of 25 to 600 people. Next door, the 98-room Holiday Inn Express and Suites can accommodate conferences for 50 people. Both sit across the street from RiverEdge Park, a 30-acre park and 8,500-person concert venue on the Fox River, where groups can use the stage, gather on the rooftop deck or spread out across the park.

The Paramount Theatre is another popular downtown venue. Inside, the theater can seat about 1,850, and the Grand Gallery is an ornate lobby and mezzanine that’s ideal for 450-person events. At the North Island Center across the street, groups of 350 can reserve the Meyer Ballroom, which can also be divided into three smaller rooms, and the Copley Theatre, which seats 173 people.


Collinsville and Edwardsville, Illinois

While Collinsville and Edwardsville sit on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, they’re actually closer to downtown St. Louis than some of the city’s western edges in Missouri.

“It’s an easy commute; we’re just a 15- to 20-minute drive from downtown,” said Dan Krankeola, president/CEO of ILLINOISouth Tourism. “We’re not city, we’re not rural, we’re more urban with a lot of facilities and restaurants and shops.”

Collinsville isn’t the largest of the many suburbs that ring St. Louis’ eastern side, but it does have some of the area’s largest meeting space. The Gateway Center has 50,000 square feet of flexible event space, including a 20,400-square-foot exhibit hall that can be halved and a 19,700-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into four smaller ballrooms. The nearby full-service, 236room DoubleTree by Hilton has more than 7,600 square feet of flexible function space.

Groups shouldn’t miss Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, a 2,200-acre area that preserves the remains of a sophisticated prehistoric native settlement. There, the interpretive center houses exhibits, a re-created village and a theater that shows an orientation film. The center also has event space for 50-person meetings as well as reception options, Krankeola said.

Also in Madison County, 10 miles north of Collinsville, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus has several venues. SIUE’s conference and catering services can handle planning, budgeting, room setup, registration and more for events of six to 800 people.