A Day in LaSalle-Peru

Go on an adventure along the western end of the I&M Canal with a day trip to the cities of LaSalle and Peru. Come enjoy a leisurely mule-powered boat ride on the canal’s tranquil waters, ride bikes along the I&M Canal Trail, enjoy great food and more! 

Just A Short Ride From...

Chicago - About 95 miles / 1 hr 50 min
Rockford - About 70 miles / 1 hr 10 min
Quad Cities - About 90 miles / 1 hr 30 min
Peoria - About 70 miles / 1 hr 15 min
Springfield - About 130 miles / 2 hrs 15 min

Start your tour in downtown LaSalle

Established by the Canal Commissioners as the canal’s western terminus, LaSalle was an economic crossroads where I&M Canal boats met Illinois River steamers. Today, downtown LaSalle offers dining, theatre and shopping as well as the full-size replica canal boat, “The Volunteer.”


Housed in a restored vintage building that was once home to a horse buggy maker, the I&M Canal Visitor Center offers information and interpretive exhibits. Linger, learn, dine and shop in this historic space, now a hub for boat rides, visitor services, lectures, afternoon teas and cultural programs.

Take a moment to browse around the canal-themed heritage gift shop. Boasting a wide selection of unique items, seasonal décor, cards, books, souvenirs and mementos, the Lock 16 Gift Shop is filled with exclusive items you won’t find anywhere else! Shop for gifts you’ll love to give. Be sure to check out Canal Cargo, the vintage market across the street from the visitor center.

Park at:
Near the
I&M Canal Visitor Center, 754 1st St. (815-223-1851). On-street parking is available for guests arriving by car. The Center is conveniently located off I-80 and I-39, about two blocks from where the I&M Canal Boat rides depart. Check the Center’s website for hours and other visitor information.


Step aboard the I&M Canal Boat and enjoy the scenery and relaxation of a mule-pulled ride on the historic Illinois & Michigan Canal. “The Volunteer” is a 76-foot-long, 70-passenger boat docked in downtown LaSalle, only 5 miles from Starved Rock State Park. Have fun learning a little history as lively period-dressed guides tell the stories of the I&M Canal Passageway.

Every boat trip begins with “Mule Tending 101” as the guides introduce passengers to the intrepid canal mule, Moe. The Captain regales everyone with tales of life on the canal while his deckhands guide the vessel a mile up the canal to the Little Vermillion aqueduct and back. Special guests like Mary Todd Lincoln, knitting in the corner and sharing fantastic stories of her time in the nation’s capital with President Lincoln, have even been known to ride the boat.

Purchase boat tour tickets online or at the I&M Canal Visitor Center  (754 First Street). Tours run May through October (though you can purchase tickets for the season year round). Visit the online calendar to see available dates. (815-220-1848)

Park at:
The lot for the I&M Canal Boat, two blocks south of downtown LaSalle, where Ill. Rte. 351/Joliet Street crosses over the I&M Canal. 


A National Historic Landmark, this stately house museum is a showcase of premier 19th century architecture and design. Architecture buffs will notice that the lavish seven-level home features a mansard roof, dormer windows, molded cornices, decorative brackets and a tower crowned by a 30-foot-tall cupola.

The 16,000-square-foot mansion’s breathtaking interior is virtually unchanged since the 19th century. Restoration of the original decor is ongoing. Interpretation focuses on the Hegeler, Matthiessen and Carus families, who were important early industrialists in LaSalle County. Before departing, stop by the downstairs gift shop to check out their fine selection of vintage items and the mansion’s unique collection of books related to philosophy and Victorian life.

Park at:
Near the Hegeler Carus Mansion, 1307 7th St. Check the museum’s website for hours, admission fees and other visitor information.


Get to know the area– explore it by bike! Head back to the the I&M Canal Visitor Center where you’ll find a bike rental station next to the building. Using your mobile phone and the Movatic App, you can unlock and rent bikes (just $5 per hour).

Where you go now is up to you! You can head along the I&M Canal Trails and see gorgeous scenery and historic sites (our blue and yellow signs along the way will point these out to you and tell their stories). Or, you can visit the unique shops and neighborhoods that make up LaSalle.

Get more info on our bikes page

Park at:
Near the I&M Canal Visitor Center, 754 1st St. (815-223-1851). On-street parking is available.


Up for more adventure? Visit these sites in neighboring Peru


Founded in 1885, the Western Clock Company (shortened to Westclox) became world-renowned for its clocks and at its height was the largest manufacturer of key-wound clocks in the world.

Today, a portion of their former building is now a museum dedicated to displaying collections that show the products, documents, photos, antiques and history of the company and its mark on the area. Current exhibits include the Westclox Clocks (which features different models, including the well-recognized Big Ben and Baby Ben clocks), Tick Talk Magazine (which holds stories of the employees at the factory), War Effort Memorabilia and more.

Park at:
Near the Westclox Museum, 320 5th Street, Suite 265. On-street parking is available for guests arriving by car. Check the museum’s website for hours, admission fees and other visitor information.


Housed within another portion of the renovated Westclox building, Star Union Spirits is our area’s only distillery. Discover how it crafts its spirits through a tour that provides an in-depth experiential learning opportunity that connects science and history with craft distillation. See and experience fruit and grain to glass processes and learn what it takes to make their delicious and delectable spirits.

Tour typically lasts about an hour and includes spirits tastes (bring a valid photo ID). Children/those under 21 are welcome on the tour (and free or charge), but, of course, won’t be allowed to taste any of the wares.

Park at:
Near Star Union Spirits, 300 5th St. On-street parking is available for guests arriving by car. Check the distillery’s website for hours, tour fees, special events and other information.