Even the people who live in Illinois don't always agree on just one thing that makes the state so special. You can explore the world-class attractions and exciting nightlife of Chicago, or experience the presidential history of Springfield, home to more Abraham Lincoln landmarks than anywhere else in the country. Illinois also has a well-preserved stretch of Route 66, where classic diners and quirky roadside attractions still dot the landscape. Wherever you go, you’ll be greeted with Midwestern hospitality.
Where locals go to relax
Galena is a 19th-century mining town turned romantic retreat that offers everything from cosy bed and breakfasts to shopping to great dining.
You might be surprised by...
- Thousand-year-old cypress trees in the Cache River wetlands, a popular spot for canoeing, hiking and birdwatching.
- Cahokia Mounds, once home to an ancient Native American city that mysteriously disappeared, features 68 of the original earthen mounds.
- The largest population of wintering bald eagles outside of Alaska; throughout January and February, up to 3,000 of the birds can be seen nesting and flying along the waterways near Starved Rock, the Quad Cities and Grafton.
Top photo opportunities
- Gemini Giant, a 28-foot-tall spaceman stationed in front of the Launching Pad Drive-In, a retro hamburger joint on Route 66.
- Stand facing north on Solidarity Drive in front of the Adler Planetarium and you’ll find a picture-perfect Chicago skyline view.
- The 15-foot-tall Superman Statue that stands in Metropolis’s town square. And don’t miss the new Lois Lane statue nearby.
- Anish Kapoor’s ‟Cloud Gate” sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park, which reflects the skyline on its curved stainless-steel surface.
Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum tells the story of Abraham Lincoln from his days as a young man on the Illinois prairie to his rise to president of the United States. Twice the size of any other presidential museum, it features rare Lincoln artefacts and two theatres that use cutting-edge special effects and scripts in French, German, Japanese and Spanish.
Want to stay up late?
Riverboat and land-based casinos throughout the state are always a good bet for late-night fun. After trying your luck at the Argosy Alton, a riverboat docked on the Mississippi River in downtown Alton, head over to Fast Eddie's Bon Air, a legendary restaurant and bar with live music.
Classic road trip
Get your kicks on Route 66. Cruise the Illinois stretch of the Mother Road—the longest in America—and you'll find roadside attractions including the Gemini Giant, Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame & Museum, Shea's Gas Station Museum, Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup and Henry's Ra66it Ranch & Route 66 Emporium.
Famous people from our state
- Ronald Reagan was born in the tiny town of Tampico. Check out the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and the Reagan Museum at his alma mater, Eureka College.
- Join Chicago Neighborhood Tours for a look at the Hyde Park/Kenwood area where President Barack Obama worked and lived with his family.
- Architect Frank Lloyd Wright lived and worked in Oak Park during the late 1800s. Visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and tour nearby Wright-designed homes.
- Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, where you can visit his birthplace, home and museum.
- The Grant Home in Galena is where Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant lived before he became the 18th president of the United States.
Browse the upscale Magnificent Mile shops and malls on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue, as well as the huge Macy's on historic State Street (the second-largest department store in the world). In the suburbs, don't miss the 200-plus shops at Woodfield Mall and more than 120 designer outlet stores at Chicago Premium Outlets in Aurora.
Only have one day here?
The Chicago Architecture Foundation's Architecture River Cruise is a narrated 90-minute ride along the Chicago River, passing more than 50 architectural marvels.
Made in our state
- Iconic John Deere farm machines are made at the John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, which is open for factory tours. And the John Deere Pavilion in Moline is the largest agricultural museum in the U.S.
- The Caterpillar Experience at the Peoria RiverFront will give an inside look at the Caterpillar company, including its history, CAT employees and world-famous line of heavy-duty construction equipment. (Opening 2012.)