Illinois is the most populous Midwestern state in America, and yet it also contains some of the most remote towns and villages in the country. While the large city, Chicago, is a well known tourist destination, there are also a few hidden gems found in the wide sweeping farmlands and quaint towns of Illinois.
Visitors to Illinois can enjoy spending time at many historical monuments related to the presidency, or even visit America’s most ancient ruins. Within the city of Chicago there is enough to keep anyone busy and well-entertained for a long time; from planetariums to amusement parks, and some of the world’s finest shopping.
One of Illinois’ most well-known attractions is the famous home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, Wrigley Field.To date, it is the oldest National League ballpark and the second oldest active major league park in the country.
Wrigley Field has a few peculiarities that make it special including the ivy covered brick outfield wall, a famous red marquee over the main entrance to the park, and a tendency to have odd wind patterns from nearby Lake Michigan.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum documents the life of the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, and the course of the American Civil War. The museum ranks as one of the most visited presidential libraries.
The museum contains life-size dioramas of Lincoln’s boyhood home, areas of the White House, the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre and the settings of key events in Lincoln’s life, as well as pictures, artifacts and other memorabilia.
Starved Rock State Park
There are over 13 miles of hiking trails in Starved Rock State Park. There are 18 deep canyons in the park; French, LaSalle, Ottawa and St. Louis Canyons feature the more long-lasting waterfalls at Starved Rock. A trail along the river offers scenic views from attractions such as Lover’s Leap Overlook, Eagle Cliff Overlook and Beehive Overlook.
The park is best known for its fascinating rock formations, primarily St. Peter sandstone, laid down in a huge shallow inland sea more than 425 million years ago and later brought to the surface. Camping, boating and fishing are among activities offered in the park.
Willis Tower in Chicago is just as fascinating and remarkable as the former name’s reputation implies. This 1,451 foot skyscraper was the tallest building in the world for nearly 25 years and it continues to be the tallest building in the United States.
The tower has 108 stories and functions as an office building with an observation platform. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in America with over one million visitors a year and it should be at the top of any visitor to Chicago’s list of must-sees.
Brookfield Zoo also known as the Chicago Zoological Park. The 216-acre park is home to 2,000+ animal residents and is also an accredited arboretum. It attracts nearly 2 million visitors annually.
Popular exhibits include the Seven Seas Dolphinarium, where bottlenose dolphins perform daily shows; Tropic World, a fully indoor simulation of Earth’s three primary rain forest habitats, featuring a large group of Western lowland gorillas; and the Great Bear Wilderness.
Top Things to Do In Illinois
The Art Institute of Chicago
In Chicago you’ll find one of the world’s leading art museums known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. The institute opened in 1879 and today ranks as the 5th most visited art museum in the country and 21st in the world.
Some of the favorite attractions at the museum include a Monet collection of more than 30 paintings and many works by Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and van Gogh. The museum also has a respected collection of American paintings including the famous American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks.
The Magnificent Mile
This famous district, often nicknamed the Mag Mile, is Chicago’s best shopping area. It is well-known as the home of the city’s most prestigious shops and is near Rush Street, where you’ll find Chicago’s best nightlife. On this “mile” you’ll find department stores, restaurants, luxury retailers, financial buildings, and hotels.
Some of the big names on the Magnificent Mile are Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, and Barney’s New York. There are boutiques of many of the world’s most famous designers. One of the best shopping streets in the world.
The Adler Planetarium
Chicago’s own Adler Planetarium was the first planetarium built in the western hemisphere and is today the oldest in existence. The planetarium along with the Astronomy Museum, are two favorite attractions for tourists of all ages.
Some of the exhibits for tourists include outside structures like an observatory and statue of Copernicus, the Rainbow Lobby with prismatic glass doors, the Sky Theater, the Solar System exhibit, a 6 foot motorized model of the Earth, and many other attractions.
This public park in Chicago was originally built to celebrate the millennium, but today it is a favorite destination of locals and visitors and an emblem of the city. The park is 24.5 acres and is located within the larger Grant Park.
The park, which is considered Chicago’s “Front Lawn,” is well known for its artistic displays. The attractions at the park include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, and several others. The park is uniquely built on top of a parking garage which essentially makes it the world’s largest rooftop garden.
This 3,300 foot long pier is one of Chicago’s most well-known landmarks. The pier stretches along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. It was originally built to serve as a cargo facility and to provide docking space, with a few areas for public gatherings, but today, covered from end to end in amusement park rides, museums and other attractions, it is Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction.
The Navy Pier today features attractions like a Ferris wheel, IMAX Theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children’s Museum and many other entertainment sites.
Things to Do In Illinois
Whether you’re just visiting the Windy City, Chicago, or you’re planning a trip around the whole state Illinois is definitely a great place to visit America’s historical sites, natural landscapes, and cultural centers.