The city was founded in 1901 by John Alexander Dowie, a Congregational Church minister and spiritual healer who started the Shiloh Tabernacle of the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion. The church was huge, seating 8,000 people, well over the population of Zion at the time. The city's name comes from Mount Zion, Israel.
Dowie planned the city to be based on racial equality and Christian ethics. Zion had a theocratic government, and virtually all streets had biblical names. The church-run Zion Industries comprised about 20 businesses. Among them were the Baking Division and the Candy Division, which produced the popular Zion Fig Pie (the fig was chosen because of its appearance in the Bible) until the early 1950s. The church ceased governing the city In the mid-1930s, and the city welcomed new churches and private businesses. The Baking Division was the longest-running division of Zion Industries, closing in 1988.
The Zion Lace Factory, one of the early businesses in the city, was the first lace factory in the United States. Dowie moved the factory from Nottingham, England, including bringing lace workers and their families to the United States.
When to Visit Zion, Illinois
The best time to visit Zion is during the summer months when temperatures are warm and outdoor activities in the area are plentiful. The warm season goes from June to mid-September, with an average high around 71 degrees. Hotel prices will be at their highest at this time, but you can score lower room rates by booking early and taking advantage of discounts. If you're seeking warm days on the beach with low chances of rain, plan your visit between early June and mid-August.
You can save a little on hotel costs while also enjoying comfortable temps by choosing to travel to Zion late in spring or early in fall. The cold season begins in December and goes through early March, with average highs around 41 degrees. This would be the least popular time to visit, but you could save big on lodging.
Below is a chart of the current pricing seasonality of hotels and motels in Zion, IL:
Zion, IL: Prices by Star Rating Class
Below we've posted 3 graphs illustrating avg. price patterns by star rating class in Zion, IL. Browse these charts to calculate the most cost effective time to book in Zion for any future trips.
Luxury Hotel Options in Zion
4 Star Average Prices: $128.71
For a lush stay, choose the Illinois Beach Hotel & Conference Center. The only hotel in Illinois on the shores of Lake Michigan, it's within Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park. Spacious rooms feature microwaves, refrigerators, and in-room coffee and tea. Televisions provide premium cable channels, and you'll enjoy free Wi-Fi and newspapers. The hotel has a restaurant with gorgeous views, a pool, whirlpool, sauna, and business center. You don't have to leave the grounds to enjoy the scenery, as the hotel has a private garden. All of these options do not even include all the activities you can enjoy within the state park!
Maybe the beach isn't your cup of tea. Consider the Inn at Market Square, a new hotel in Zion with elegant accommodations in the heart of the city where you can enjoy shopping and leisure activities. Rooms and suites are spacious, and some include balconies. The suites offer dining areas and wet bars; some have fireplaces, full kitchens, and whirlpool or claw-foot tubs. The hotel has a restaurant, cafe, and bar. Amenities include mini fridges, microwaves, in-room Keurig coffee makers, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Enjoy a luxurious afternoon at the spa or get some exercise at the fitness center.
If you're in the area on business, you can't beat the Hilton Garden Inn Lake Forest, which is 14 miles away from Zion. The placement keeps you between the relative peace and quiet of Zion and the hustle and bustle of Chicago â€” convenient if you want to mix business and relaxation. You'll be a mile from Conway Farms Golf Club and about 9 miles from Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Each of the 170 spacious, well-appointed rooms features a large work desk with two phones, each with two lines, that are equipped with voicemail. You'll also have access to a 24-hour business center, indoor pool, whirlpool, and fitness center. Free Wi-Fi will keep you connected. When you're busy at the desk with phone calls, you can grab food and drinks from your in-room refrigerator and make coffee in the in-room coffee maker. The hotel offers a restaurant, laundry facilities, and free newspapers.
Affordable Hotels in Zion
3 Star Average Prices: $113.34
If you're traveling on a tight budget, you'll want to save money on your hotel room. Super 8 by Wyndham Gurnee is less than 7 miles from the Zion city center and offers comfort and a pleasant stay at a low price. The hotel has an indoor pool, an in-room whirlpool tub and provides free continental breakfast. Rooms have mini fridges and microwaves, televisions with premium cable channels, free Wi-Fi, and in-room coffee and tea. For golfers on a budget, there's a course within 5 miles.
Country Inn & Suites By Carlson Zion IL provides an indoor pool, spa tub, game room, and a 24-hour health club. A free buffet breakfast is served each day. At this pet -friendly hotel rooms are equipped with desks, mini fridges, and microwaves, along with free Wi-Fi and cable TV. At Country Inn & Suites, you're just 10 miles away from the family fun at Six Flags Great America.
2 Star Average Prices: $66.40
Zion: Real Discounts
The Lotus Suites at Midlane Golf Resort in Wadsworth, 4 miles from Zion, offers discounts to government employees and members of the military. When you stay at this luxurious location, you'll be right next to a golf course and near Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall and Six Flags Great America. An indoor pool and spa tab will revitalize you, and you can relax in the lobby in front of the fireplace. Rooms feature mini fridges, microwaves, and LCD televisions.
In nearby Decatur, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Decatur offers senior, government/military, and AAA discounts. You can also stay within your budget by keeping food in the mini fridge and using the microwave. The hotel offers a free buffet breakfast and free newspapers. The rooms have flat-screen television, free Wi-Fi, and desks. You'll be just a few minutes from the Children's Museum of Illinois and Scoville Zoo.
The Best Western Executive Inn in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is 10 miles from Zion and offers discounts for seniors, military members, and government. The hotel features plenty of features for business travelers and families, from a pool table to an indoor pool, and you can take advantage of the 24-hour business center. In your room, you'll find 32-inch LED TVs, desks, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel has a restaurant and bar and serves a free buffet breakfast each day.
Top Hotels in Zion
Some of the best hotels in the Zion area give you impressive amenities along with value for a pleasant and relaxing stay that will keep you on budget. Howard Johnson Waukegan / Great Lakes in Waukegan is perfect for families, as it's just 3 miles from Six Flags Great America. Shop at the Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall, which has top brands at bargain prices, or take up a show at the Genesee Theater. A restaurant is steps away from the hotel, but if you're in the mood to stay inside, rooms have microwaves, mini fridges, coffee makers, and HD TVs.
Fairfield Inn & Suites By Marriott in Pleasant Prairie is perfect for shopping enthusiasts, as it's adjacent to Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlet Mall. The hotel has a pool and fitness center and serves a hearty free breakfast each day. Rooms have mini fridges and microwaves, free Wi-Fi, and in-room coffee and tea. Suites provide separate areas for sleeping, living, and working.
Things to Do in Zion
With a population of about 24,000, Zion is not a big city, but there's plenty to do, starting with great outdoor activities. Don't miss Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park, which features fishing, boating, swimming, and hiking, along with gorgeous views of Lake Michigan and hundreds of plant species. The park covers more than 4,000 acres and is separated into north and south units. The North Point Marina is at the park's north beach and is the newest and largest marina in the state.
If you'd like to explore Zion's early history, visit the Shiloh House, a 25-room Swiss Chalet mansion that was the home of the city's founder and is now its museum. Many personal belongings of Dowie are displayed in the house, along with many of the original elements of the house. Samples of lace and tools from the Zion Lace Factory are among the many items on display.
The Platen Press Museum, featuring the collection of Paul Aken, features Platen presses, bindery equipment, Linotype machines, and much more. The museum, which is lovingly run by Aken, is open by appointment or by chance, so if you want to stop by and experience the history of printing, call ahead at 847-746-8170.
Annual events in Zion include the Zion Passion Play, performed since the 1930s, and Jubilee Days, which celebrates the harvest over the Labor Day weekend.
Zion, Illinois, offers a relaxing, picturesque setting along Lake Michigan that will always make your vacation a time to remember. Whether you're in Zion for the history, the outdoors, shopping, golf, or simply the relaxation, there's something for everyone in this charming city.