The suburb of Joliet is one of the top 25 fastest growing communities in the country and this summer, it slipped past Naperville in population size to become the fourth largest city in Illinois. Joliet currently has about 144,300 inhabitants while Naperville has just over 142,400. The number of residents isn’t the only thing expanding in this southwestern Chicago suburb, though. This former manufacturing town has developed a bona fide entertainment and tourist industry that is attracting even more people to the area for outdoor recreation, dining, shopping, live theater, sightseeing, gaming and much more.
Joliet has always drawn visitors to its well-known NASCAR racing track, the Chicago Speedway, but now the suburb appeals to a much broader range of amusement seekers. A recent revitalization of Joliet’s City Center has created a fun, exciting downtown environment that offers excellent restaurants, commercial businesses, performance venues, public parks, seasonal farmer’s market and other diversions in a beautiful riverside setting. The Joliet Area Historical Museum and adjoining Route 66 welcome center, which opened in 2007, is a popular stop for many Midwestern (and worldwide) travelers. Visitors from 40 different countries have made their mark in the guest book, plus a long list of tourists from 35 U.S. states. That’s a lot of traffic for a single year!
Also pulling in big crowds are Joliet’s two casinos – Harrah’s and Empress. Harrah’s is right downtown while Empress is four miles southwest of the City Center. Both riverfront casinos offer hotel accommodations and a variety of gaming, including video slots, level slots and tables. Theater enthusiasts will find weekend shows at either casino, but for a real treat get tickets to the Rialto Square Theatre. It’s a renovated vaudeville movie house that does productions of the best of Broadway and books internationally acclaimed musical artists and bands.