I've been teaching a unit on the early North American explorers. When La Salle came up, I remembered Starved Rock State Park, and went seeking the website.
The last time I visited the park was about ten years ago-on the trip moving to Nebraska. Mr. ETB had never been there, and it wasn't terribly out of the way, so we stopped for bit, walked around, and continued on to our new home. I hadn't really thought about the place since.
Here's where I'm going to sound like a terribly cranky old woman (which I know I never do, so don't let that shock you or anything) when I tell you that a State Park is not a mall. It is not a shopping centre. At most, you come home with a t-shirt with a crappy silkscreen of the lodge on the front, or a toy totem pole made in some place you've never heard of. Maybe a pair of moccasins. If you've been an extraordinarily well behaved child, your parents will get you a toy tomahawk to chase your sister around the finished basement with. What you don't do...what seems frankly obscene is go to a state park to engage in recreational shopping. I mean, that's always kind of sad, but it is all that much worse at such a magnificent park. It isn't like there's nothing better to do. There's trails, and boats, and little waterfalls, and depending on the season, pelting unsuspecting strangers with acorns-there's tons of stuff to do at Starved Rock-can't you spend a few hours without buying something? Really, go out and read a few historical markers-they have them all over the damn place. You might learn something about those old French dudes like Marquette, Joliet, La Salle, and other guys that got a portage named after them.
Fall really is a lovely time to see the park, if you get a chance. I've been there in the dead of winter as well, but the hiking is a bit trickier.