Cities, particularly in the summer months, can appear to be endless expanses of concrete, and Chicago is no exception to this rule.

However, there is an entire world outside of the city limits to discover and explore. In spite of the fact that Chicago is only a few hours away, there are numerous worth-while getaways within a few hours' drive of the city: storybook towns dotted with ice cream parlors, lakeside cities with entirely different cultures, and even places where you can connect with nature among waterfalls and lush trees. Waterfalls! Outside of the city of Chicago!

In this case, the geographic location of the Windy City is advantageous to you. Pack your car with a few picnic essentials, as well as some hiking gear in case the weather turns sour, and hit the road. Your location puts you within driving distance of some truly amazing and out of the ordinary destinations that make for fantastic road trips. Here are six examples of them:

Madison, Wisconsin is a city in the United States.

Imagine a state already known for its beer and cheese being forced to cater to more than 30,000 college students, and you'll have a good idea of the culinary delights that await you in Madison, WI. Wisconsin's state capital could have stood on its own as a tourist destination because of its unique geography — situated on a narrow isthmus surrounded by two large lakes, it is picturesque even during the coldest Wisconsin winters — or its remarkable breadth of shopping, cultural events and festivals and architectural offerings, but its food scene is virtually unrivaled for a city of its size.

Vientiane's streets are teeming with a diverse mix of professors, politicians, businesspeople, street performers, and health-conscious individuals, and if you ask any of them for their favorite restaurant, you'll likely get a range of responses as diverse as the city's 250,000+ population: American small bites at the new and renowned Mint Mark, tacos and margaritas at Canteen, dordle, Lao-Thai noodles from Vientiane Palace,

The majority of students, on the other hand, will steer you in the direction of craft-beer establishments such as The Malt House or Dotty Dumpling's Dowry, which is rumored to serve one of the best burgers in the world. With a Wisconsin beer from New Glarus and some fried cheese curds, you'll be in for a real Madison, Wisconsin, evening.

In terms of travel time, Madison is about two and a half hours from Chicago.

Starved Rock State Park is located in Illinois.

Yes, Illinois isn't as well-known for its natural beauty as other states, such as California. Yes, Charles Mound, a diminutive 1,235-foot hill, serves as the city's highest natural point. However, this does not rule out the possibility of discovering hidden gems in this area. Drive to the area surrounding Starved Rock State Park if you want to get away from Chicago's steel-and-stone skyscrapers while still remaining within the state's boundaries.

Visitors expecting more flat Illinois farmland will be pleasantly surprised to discover an incredible valley around the Illinois River, complete with lush trees, dramatic bluffs, and 14 breathtaking waterfalls feeding into the roaring waters of the Illinois River. In addition to being a popular camping and hiking destination as well as a kayaking and white-water rafting destination, Starved Rock is also home to the Starved Rock Lodge, which provides a comfortable place to rest your head after a long day of physical activity.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a little more of the local flavor, the towns surrounding the river valley have a plethora of options for you. Small and charming Utica is home to the August Hill Winery and some wonderful antique shops, while the historic towns of Oglesby and Ottawa are brimming with Americana, including small museums and galleries, as well as great food, particularly at the Red Dog Grill in Ottawa and The Rootbeer Stand in Oglesby. The August Hill Winery is located in Utica, and the August Hill Winery is located in Oglesby.

Located approximately one and a half hours from Chicago, Starved Rock State Park is a must-see destination.