Looking to explore the midwestern of the United States? You can find vibrant cities and stunning natural beauty in the Land of Lincoln. The state has no shortage of attractions that make it worth a visit, from the windy city of Chicago to the rolling hills of Southern Illinois.
In case you are interested in history, you will love exploring archaeological sites like Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville or stepping back in time at Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield. About nature, you can soak up stunning views of Giant City State Park and Shawnee National Forest while your outdoor side can explore miles upon miles of trails for hiking, biking, and camping.
In Chicago, you and your family can take architecture boat tours along the Chicago River and marvel at the city skyline. For those who prefer a more relaxed experience, there are many parks and beaches to enjoy with your family in the city as well. Keep reading and you will see why Illinois is definitely worth visiting, and to get even more insights, visit the official Illinois guide site at the end of this text.
Many things to do and see in Chicago, IL
Chicago is the obvious first stop on any journey to the state. You will experience world-class culture and entertainment with its diverse array of museums, theaters, restaurants, and more. The city also has amazing architecture along the lakefront and beautiful beaches to explore in the summertime. About outdoor opportunities? There are plenty of parks and recreational areas scattered throughout the city where you can live all kinds of activities such as biking, running, or simply enjoying nature’s beauty.
The city’s museums and art galleries offer a vibrant culture for those who enjoy exploring their surroundings. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the best-known museums in the Midwest. Its collection includes more than 300,000 works of art spanning 5,000 years of history. The Museum of Science and Industry is another popular destination for families who want to explore the world around them. The museum has over 1,300 interactive exhibits, including a life-size replica of a coal mine.
For those who enjoy theater and comedy, the Goodman Theatre and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre are two of the city s most important cultural institutions. The city is also home to several professional sports teams including the Cubs baseball team, the White Sox baseball team, and the Blackhawks hockey team.
The Natural Wonders of Illinois
Illinois has many natural wonders to explore. For example, along the banks of the Mississippi, you can take in breathtaking views of towering bluffs and wide valleys that span hundreds of miles. In case you are looking for a more rugged adventure you can explore Shawnee National Forest or Starved Rock State Park. There, you and your family are going to find stunning waterfalls, scenic hikes, and incredible wildlife.
Further inland, hikers and rock climbers alike can ascend towering sandstone cliffs at Jackson Falls in Southern Illinois or climb atop the limestone bluffs at Apple River Canyon State Park near Galena. For a peaceful escape from city life, I suggest a visit to Channahon State Park where you can paddle along placid rivers and take in lush forests filled with wildflowers during the summer months.
Beaches in Illinois? In the northern part of Illinois, Rock Cut State Park Beach provides visitors with a picturesque beach on Pierce Lake surrounded by wooded trails. South, I suggest the Pere Marquette State Park Beach near Grafton and Horseshoe Lake State Park Beach in Madison County. Chicago’s Montrose Beach is particularly popular for its lively atmosphere and convenience to downtown Chicago; plus it features a Dog-Friendly Area if you want to bring your Pet along for the fun.
Must-See Landmarks in Illinois
Illinois is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in the United States. From the Willis Tower in Chicago to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, there are always fun things to do in this great state. You find for sure plenty of must-see landmarks that you won’t want to miss when visiting Illinois:
The first stop on your Illinois tour could be Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower). Standing at 1,451 feet tall, it was once the highest building in the world and remains an impressive sight today. Take a trip up its 103 floors and enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and beyond!
Next, make sure you pay a visit to Abraham Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site in Springfield. It was there that President Lincoln lived with his family from 1844 until his death in 1865. Today, it is a preserved historical site that serves as a tribute to the former President and his contributions to our nation.
A few hours west of Chicago lies Starved Rock State Park, an awe-inspiring destination with towering bluffs and breathtaking views. This park is a must-see for nature lovers looking to hike, bike, and more. Finally, you can visit Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. This charming lakeside village is home to the famous Myron H. Wilson House, a historic site that served as the summer home for President Wilson in 1916.
Best cities to visit in Illinois
I guarantee Illinois is full of exciting places to explore and visit. While the Windy City, Chicago, is an obvious draw for many tourists, there are plenty of other cities that deserve a spot on your list.
First up is Springfield, the state capital known as Abraham Lincoln’s hometown. There you can explore its many historic sites like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum or take a stroll around Capitol Complex State Historic Site. About nature, Sangchris Lake State Park offers fishing, boating, and camping opportunities while nature trails weave through nearby forests filled with wildflowers and wildlife.
Rockford is ideal if you love to be in touch with nature. It is home to several parks filled with trails and scenic views of the river valley. The city also offers fishing on nearby lakes and rivers as well as excursions through its historic downtown district. If you are interested in history you can visit Midway Village Museum or check out Anderson Japanese Gardens for a peaceful retreat away from it all.
Evanston is a beautiful city! For initial outdoor fun, I suggest you take a stroll along the lakefront path or head over to the Northwestern University campus to explore its botanical gardens. If you’re more into nature hikes, there are plenty of trails in nearby Loyola Park and Illinois Beach State Park. For beachgoers, Evanston’s beaches are perfect for sunbathing and swimming during the summer months. The downtown area is full of art galleries, antique stores, restaurants, and bars that cater to all sorts of tastes.
Galena is known for its beautiful views of the Mississippi Valley. The Galena River Trail System offers miles of trails for biking, walking, running, and more. About nature, you can explore more than 50 parks in the area or take part in guided hikes to learn about local flora and fauna. In case you seeking water sports, there’s also canoeing and kayaking on the Galena River. You will find many museums and historical sites to explore, and for family fun, I suggest The Galena History Center.
For a different type of vacation experience, head out into rural Illinois where you can discover breathtaking natural attractions such as Starved Rock State Park or Cave-in-Rock State Park. You can have fun hiking, biking, and also camping in these nature preserves.
Whether you’re looking for a cozy bed and breakfast or an upscale hotel experience, you will certainly be able to book a lodge for your trip. Below I will share with you some options, but you can choose a hotel on the map above. This way you can book according to the desired location.
Looking for luxurious accommodations? In Chicago, The Peninsula Chicago offers stunning views of the city skyline while providing guests with an array of high-end services and facilities; the InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile provides newly updated rooms with modern amenities; and Kimpton Hotel Allegro is an art deco style boutique hotel located near downtown’s theatre district.
In downtown Chicago, there are several 3-star hotels like The Whitehall Hotel and The Red Roof Inn that offer comfortable accommodations at an affordable prices. If you are looking for something outside the city, there are many budget-friendly chains like Holiday Inn Express and Best Western located throughout Illinois. In my experience, these hotels provide clean rooms and all the amenities you would expect from a hotel without charging too much for a night.
Illinois is well worth the Time and Money
My opinion is that Illinois is an incredible state with a variety of activities and places to explore. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an outdoor adventure or a cultural experience in the city, you won’t be disappointed with what you can do and see in Illinois. I believe that if you take the time to explore you will find yourself in love with this great state.
With its great cuisine, vibrant cities, friendly people, unique attractions, and rich culture, Illinois is definitely worth a visit. From agitated urban areas to the more laid-back towns in rural regions, I can tell you that the Prairie State has a little bit of everything and you won’t regret the trip!