Why it’s so great: The Midwest is overrun with famous college towns from Madison to Ann Arbor, yet the home of Southern Illinois University sneaks under the radar as one of the best university towns in the region thanks to a solid yet laid-back bar scene (Halloween riots from the ‘80s/’90s notwithstanding), friendly locals, and a ridiculous 14 parks. If you require additional parks, you'll be happy to learn that the town's also surrounded by Giant City State Park and the Shawnee National Forest.
Side trip: Head 15 minutes west to Murphysboro and hit up 17th Street BBQ, one of the finest BBQ joints in the nation. There’s also a weirdly awesome Superman museum in the town of Metropolis about an hour south.
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Jay Gentile is a Thrillist contributor and he has plenty of room in his 1997 Nissan for you on his next road trip. Follow @innerviewmag.