Major Landmarks In Peoria, IL

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Nestled along the banks of the Illinois River in central Illinois, Peoria offers visitors and residents alike a surprising number of intriguing and historic landmarks to explore.

From beautiful public gardens to Frank Lloyd Wright homes to museums showcasing everything from teddy bears to whiskey, Peoria’s landmarks tell the story of the community’s vibrant history and culture. This local’s guide covers 12 of Peoria’s top landmarks that you won’t want to miss!

The Peoria Riverfront

No tour of Peoria’s landmarks is complete without a visit to the scenic riverfront along the Illinois River. Stretching for miles through the heart of the city, Peoria’s riverfront features numerous parks, trails, markers, and monuments that offer glimpses into the city’s past.

The Gateway Building

Towering over the riverfront is the circular, modernist Gateway Building. Built as a hotel in the 1960s, the building features a revolving rooftop restaurant providing diners with spectacular 360-degree views of Peoria and the river valley.

The building underwent extensive renovations in the 2010s and reopened as luxury apartment homes while preserving its midcentury modern style and architecture.

Riverfront Park

One of the best places to access the riverfront is the sprawling 30-acre Riverfront Park near downtown. Here you’ll find walking paths, a promenade along the river lined with markers detailing Peoria’s history, a commemorative statue honoring the 1673 discovery of the Illinois River by French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette, and a large playground shaped like a 19th century steamboat.

On summer evenings, enjoy free concerts at the Gateway Building plaza.

Rock Island Greenway

Explore over 5 miles of trails following an abandoned railroad line with access to the riverfront at multiple points. Highlights include artwork, a labyrinth garden, and views of the Murray Baker Bridge.

Murray Baker Bridge

Spanning the Illinois River is the iconic through arch Murray Baker Bridge. Constructed in 1940 and featuring art deco styling, the bridge has become a symbol of Peoria visible from many parts of the city.

The Peoria Zoo

Founded in 1927, the Peoria Zoo is an award-winning 14-acre zoo located right off the riverfront. It’s home to over 90 animal species and features numerous interactive exhibits like the Endangered Species Carousel, the Scale Tree climbing structure, and chances for visitors to hand-feed and pet animals like goats and stingrays.

Africa Exhibit

Enter through a replicated Sudanese mudhut to visit ostriches, rhinos, antelope, and monkeys in exhibits inspired by African habitats. The Chance the Snapper Encounter highlights Chance, an alligator who gained fame after getting loose in Chicago’s Humboldt Park Lagoon in 2019 before being captured in Peoria.

Butterfly Garden

Relax while hundreds of butterflies from across the globe flutter through tropical landscaping and feed on flowering plants and fruit.

Outback Station Children’s Zoo

Kids can pet sheep, goats, alpacas, and camels, crawl through prairie dog tunnels, and play in a nature-themed playground in this section tailored specially to young children.

The Peoria PlayHouse Children’s Museum

The Peoria PlayHouse is a children’s museum located in Glen Oak Park featuring over 14,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits focused on imagination, science, and art.

Imagination Exhibits

Drive a pretend fire truck, shop for play food in a miniature grocery store, perform surgery on a plush animal in the veterinarian clinic, take the stage in the music room, and let little ones play house in this section designed to spark creative and imaginative play.

Art Studio

Try your hand at pottery, test out musical instruments like drums and xylophones, and make masterpieces to take home at the mess-friendly art studio tailored for budding young Picassos.

Science Exhibits

Climb three stories up through the), use pulleys and levers to move objects, and try out logic puzzles and games in this section designed to be fun and educational.

Glen Oak Park and Botanical Gardens

Encompassing 185 acres in the heart of Peoria, Glen Oak Park offers hiking trails, athletic fields, a lagoon, and spectacular formal gardens, earning it recognition on the National Register of Historic Places.

Peoria Zoo

As highlighted previously, the excellent Peoria Zoo is located right in Glen Oak Park.

Luthy Botanical Gardens

First opening in 1977, these gorgeous formal gardens feature themed areas like an English walled garden, Victorian garden, children’s garden, and more over 4 acres containing thousands of plant varieties from around the world.

Seasonal displays of tulips in the spring, aquatic lotuses in summer, and chrysanthemums in fall make the Luthy Botanical Gardens a beautiful Peoria landmark to visit year-round.

Peoria Park District Headquarters

The park district HQ features classrooms, exhibit space highlighting Glen Oak, and one of the largest publicly held pipe organ collections in the country with free recitals on weekends.

Grand View Drive

Winding through Glen Oak Park on a bluff 65 feet about the lagoon below, Grand View Drive offers spectacular views of the Peoria skyline and central Illinois landscape.

The Peoria Public Library

The Peoria Public Library’s massive recently renovated downtown location along the riverfront houses over 300,000 books, movies, music, audiobooks, and more. Explore Peoria’s Heritage Room featuring a wealth of historic documents, photos, maps, manuscripts, and genealogical records chronicling the city and central Illinois.

Lincoln Branch Library

Before the current main library was built, the Andrew Carnegie funded Lincoln Branch served as Peoria’s library starting in 1903. The beautiful beaux-arts limestone building with ionic columns still operates today as a branch location.

The Scottish Rite Cathedral

With a stunning exterior modeled after a medieval castle and an interior showcasing imported Italian marble, stained glass windows, a handpainted mural ceiling, and more across over 48,000 square feet, the Scottish Rite Cathedral is considered one of the most lavishly decorated buildings in Illinois.

The Masonic temple built in 1923 offers 60-minute guided tours highlighting its jaw-dropping architecture, symbolism, and artifacts.

Frank Lloyd Wright in Peoria

Peoria is home to the most structures designed by famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright found in any single city outside of the Chicago area.

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center

Get oriented to Wright’s work in Peoria at the FLW Visitor Center at Glen Oak Park. Temporary exhibits highlight specific Wright homes in Peoria while a small theater shows a film providing an overview of his projects across the area. Souvenirs, posters, and books are available for purchase.

Brunner House

Built in 1903, the Brunner House combines prairie style design with the first carport ever incorporated into a home. Period furnishings inside allow visitors to imagine life in a Wright designed residence during the early 1900s.

Bryant House

Constructed just a year after the Brunner House, this spacious two story Wright design originally overlooked the Illinois River and features many of his signature elements like bands of windows, wide overhanging eaves, and open flowing spaces connecting indoor and outdoor areas.

Universalist Unitarian Church

Wright explored maya revival style in this church built in 1903-1908 featuring elaborate concrete block ornamentation on the exterior and gorgeous stained glass window patterns bringing in light. Free tours are offered seasonally.

Peoria’s Role in Innovation & Industry

From distilleries to farm equipment and beyond, Peoria has played an important role in innovation and industry over the years. Explore a few of these fascinating local landmarks still in operation today!

Caterpillar Visitors Center

Caterpillar Inc, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives, has been headquartered in Peoria since 1925.

Tour their headquarters complex and visitor center to view equipment displays and learn about breakthrough innovations that propelled Caterpillar to global leadership in their industries through informative films and exhibits.

Spirit of Peoria Riverboat

Step aboard this paddle wheel riverboat replica offering narrated cruises along the Illinois River highlighting Peoria’s role as a vibrant riverfront community throughout history. Enjoy views of the city skyline, the epic Murray Baker Bridge crossing, and even bald eagles in their natural habitat along the shores. Dinner and cocktail cruises also available.

Peoria Whiskey Company

Taste award winning locally crafted bourbons and ryes at Peoria’s first distillery since Prohibition at the family-owned Peoria Whiskey Company’s tasting room in downtown Peoria. Learn about their grain-to-glass distilling process through a behind the scenes tour before sampling spirits straight from the barrel.

The Peoria Riverfront Museum

As one of the city’s newest and most visually striking landmarks located right on the downtown riverfront, the Peoria Riverfront Museum promises “something for every story” through its wide range of exhibits and experiences chronicling history, culture and the arts.

Giant Dome Theater

Illinois’ only giant screen theater immerses visitors in science and adventure films shown on an impressive six story tall curved screen with a 12,000 watt digital surround sound system pumping out theater-quality audio.

Illinois River Encounter

Come eye to eye with river otters, turtles, fish, and more while learning about the Illinois River’s diverse ecosystems through interactive displays at this family-favorite exhibit. Stand under the waterfall, get hands-on with biofacts, and see a great blue heron spread its wings overhead!

Dollhouses & Miniatures

As one of the museum’s most unique and beloved permanent exhibits, this elaborate three level dollhouse filled with miniature scenes and vignettes provides a glimpse into 1930s era life through the incredible attention to detail and artistry lavished on even the tiniest toys and accessories.

National Geographic Giant Traveling Maps

Explore four colorful oversized floor maps highlighting earth’s oceans, islands, rivers, mountains and polar regions inviting visitors to walk across continents to trace journeys or point out landmarks.

Peoria Civic Center

As central Illinois’ premier special event complex, the Peoria Civic Center encompasses an arena, theater, exhibit halls and meeting rooms hosting over 150 events each year from Broadway shows to concerts, comedians, family events and conferences drawing about 250,000 annual visitors.

Carver Arena

Home to the Peoria Rivermen ice hockey team and the site of concerts and performances by artists like Elton John, Bruno Mars, Cirque du Soleil and more over the years, Carver Arena features seating for up to 8,000 guests.

Theater

Catch touring musicals, comedians, ballet and orchestra performances on the main Civic Center Theater stage with seating for over 2,200 audience members.

From beautiful public gardens and a scenic riverfront to museums and landmarks illuminating local history and culture, Peoria rewards visitors with an array of unique and unforgettable attractions to discover. Which of these landmarks tops your must-see list for exploration on a trip through central Illinois? Let the itinerary planning begin!

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Directions

  • Head east on E Orchard Ave toward S Powerline Rd. The destination will be on your right just past S Elder St. Look for the green house with white trim. If you reach the intersection with S Fern St, you’ve gone too far. The total drive is approximately 0.2 miles from S Powerline Rd.
  • From downtown Nampa, take 3rd St S heading south. Turn right onto E Roosevelt Ave and continue for 1.8 miles. Turn left onto S Elder St and drive 0.1 miles until you reach E Orchard Ave. Take a right onto E Orchard Ave. The green house with white trim will be on your right just after turning.
  • Take I-84 W towards Nampa. Take exit 38 for Franklin Blvd toward Nampa/Caldwell. Turn right onto Franklin Blvd and drive 3.2 miles. Turn left onto E Orchard Ave and continue for 0.9 miles. The destination is the green house with white trim on the right just past S Elder St. The total drive from I-84 is approximately 4.5 miles.