Explore Illinois

Explore Illinois

Illinois is a land of diverse and often unexpected pleasures. The midwestern state is only the USA’s 25th largest state in terms of land mass, but it is its fifth most populous state overall and is home to its third largest city – Chicago.

Famous as the long-term residence of the 16th President of the USA, Abraham Lincoln, who lived in Springfield, it is also the birthplace of 40th President Ronald Reagan who was born in Tampico.

Illinois also provided the country’s best known gangster, Al Capone, with his stomping ground of the streets of Chicago during the prohibition era of the 1920s. The state’s largest city also gave birth to the skyscraper and house music as well as being a stronghold of the jazz music scene. Now it remains a hotbed of culture, with a thriving art scene which includes the annual Expo Chicago.

But it also bears the nickname of the Prairie State, in acknowledgement of its natural environment. And while that may have changed considerably over the years, it remains a diverse landscape not only made up of prairies but also forests, cliffs, swamps and, of course, the Great Lakes. There are no less than 73 state parks visited by more than 44 million people each year.

Much of the land is now used for agriculture, with more than 74,600 farms averaging 357 acres each. But viniculture too is flourishing. While it is no Napa, at least not yet, the Illinois wine industry has exploded in recent years, from just 14 wineries in 1997 to more than 100 spread across the state today.

And carving its way through the state is the iconic Route 66 which begins in Chicago, then stretches nearly 4000 kilometres to its finish point in LA’s Santa Monica.

Places to Visit in Illinois

  • Chicago
  • Springfield
  • Galena
  • Shawnee Hills Region
  • Starved Rock, Utica

Unique Things to See and Do in Illinois

  • Trace the history of the USA’s most famous president, Abraham Lincoln, and the prohibition era in the state that spawned Al Capone.
  • Taste test the region’s wines and agricultural produce.
  • Get back to nature at one of the many state parks.
  • Take a drive along the iconic Route 66, from its starting point.
  • Discover the skyscrapers and jazz clubs of Chicago

Walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln

The 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, was born in Kentucky. But it was in Springfield, Illinois in 1844 that he bought the house that would be his home with wife Mary for 17 years before he won the presidency.

His life was then relocated to Washington DC where he was assassinated in 1865. But his life’s achievements, which included issuing the Emancipation Proclamation that declared the slaves within the Confederacy forever free in 1863, have ensured that his legacy lives on.

Now you can retrace his early history in Springfield, the state capital of Illinois, which claims to have more Abraham Lincoln sites and history than anywhere else in the USA.

Those include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and the only home that Lincoln ever owned, now a historic attraction in its own right.

Getting around Illinois

It almost goes without saying that a visit to Illinois should include a stint on Route 66, so hop in a hire car and hit the road.

Otherwise there are ample trains operated by the national service Amtrak as well as coach services such as the good old Greyhound.

Best time of year to travel to Illinois

Summer is the high season thanks to the warmer temperatures that it brings. But if dodging humidity and crowds is your thing, then the temperate spring and autumn months can be a good option. Chicago gets particularly hot, while areas around Lake Michigan can be cooler due to winds.

Did you know…?

The ice cream sundae originated in Evanston, Illinois in response to a ban on selling soda water on Sundays. Soda fountains started selling ice cream sodas minus the soda and the resulting ice cream and syrup combo became known as the ice cream sundae.

Did you ALSO know…?

The world’s largest catsup bottle is located in Colinsville, Illinois.

Ready to plan your visit to Illinois? Check out these popular guides and trips.

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