When we talk about the Midwest of The United States of America, we inevitably talk about Illinois. Illinois is bordered by Indiana to the east, Wisconsin to the north, and Kentucky to the southeast. Mississippi River is the natural border that separates Illinois from Missouri and Iowa in the west. So basically, this Midwestern state is a land-locked state. Nicknamed as the ‘Prairie State’, the most popular destination in this state Chicago but it is certainly so much more beyond Chicago. Bountiful nature, vast farmland, forests, and many cultural attractions galore– the Prairie State is a perfect vacation destination to visit with your family and friends. From getting lost in the Shawnee National Forest to enjoying a walk down Chicago’s Magnificent Mile – things to do in Illinois are aplenty.
Summer (June-August) is the most popular time to set a trip to Chicago, Illinois’s most populous city. But this is also the most crowded season here. If you want to feel the solitude and also want pleasing weather conditions that allow you to walk around and explore all the pretty neighborhoods and other sightseeing spots, then April-May and September-October will be the best times to set a visit to the Prairie State and explore all the cool things to do in Illinois. Up for some snowy adventure? Come here from November to March when the weather is chilling cold and the fares everywhere is surprisingly low.
Now let us have a look at some of the best things to do in Illinois which is also the homeland of our all time favorite, Sir Walt Disney.
Top-rated And Most Exciting Things To Do In Illinois:
The state capital and also the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield’s main attractions include Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Lincoln Home National Historic Site, and Lincoln Tomb. You will also visit the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site where Lincoln used to practice before he became the president of America. The city is also the place where the president and his wife were buried after their death. Apart from visiting these sites that are all about the 16th president of America, you will also see Illinois State Museum, Edwards Place Historic Home, Dana-Thomas House, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, and Old State Capitol. If you are craving some greenery and nature, head straight to the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary and Washington Park Botanical Garden. When in Springfield, you must also taste its popular food items like the corn dog and the very famous horseshoe sandwich.
Get To The Windy City:
The most populous city of the state, Chicago, sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan is everything that you will like. Everyone will get something exciting to do in this Midwestern metropolis with a beckoning skyline. An international hub for culture, industry, education, and technology – the city has its unique gastronomic delight too. You can not just leave Chicago if you haven’t tasted its very famous deep-dish pizza. Art buffs must check out more than 300,000 artworks at the Art Institute of Chicago and if you love museums and want to learn about natural history, go visit Field Museum which is one of the largest natural history museums in the whole world. Near the Lake Michigan shoreline, lies the Millenium Park which is most famous for its contemporary art pieces that include the very picturesque ‘The Bean’. The eclectic city view from the observatory of 360 CHICAGO is a view to behold. The city also has many beaches and beachfront parks within its harbor system. When in the ‘Prairie State’, visiting the Windy City is one of the most touristy things to do in Illinois.
Experience Midwest charm At Galena:
A weekend getaway in the Midwest, Galena is extremely popular for its shopping scenes. It is majorly a historic town in the northwestern part of the state and almost 85% of the city is a National Historic District. The city gets its name from the mineral Galena which was basically the main mining material of the city and the economy of the city also was built based on Galena mining.
Attracting over one million visitors per year, Galena houses many historical spots, beautiful homes, and art centers. The Galena Art Center and the Galena Arts and Recreating Center seek a visit. Make it a point to get to Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site and also visit Mississippi Palisades State Park that locates at the meeting point of the Mississippi River and the Apple River. Galena becomes the most beautiful during the fall season. So make sure that you do not miss out on the beauty of this charming city if you are in Illinois during the fall season.
Get Amazed At Anderson Japanese Gardens:
Rockford is another beautiful city in Illinois and its most popular nickname is the ‘Forest City’. And visiting its very beautiful Anderson Japanese Gardens is one of the best things to do in Illinois. The gardens got their inspiration from John. R. Anderson’s trip to Japan and specifically from the Portland Japanese Garden. This 12-acre garden was voted as the finest Japanese Garden in North America in the year 2004 by Sukiya Living Magazine and is truly a place that will soothe your mind and relax your eyes. It has waterfalls, a beautiful pond, gentle streams, maintained pine trees, and many more things actually. Tour the garden to enjoy its breathtaking scenery and when hungry, get to the Fresco and enjoy some organic and fresh food. The garden is also used as a venue for wedding ceremonies and other celebrations.
Explore The Prehistoric Settlement At Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site:
Cahokia Mounds is the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico and when you are in the Midwest of the USA, visiting this site which is America’s first city is one of the best things to do in Illinois. One of the eight cultural World Heritage Sites in the United States, the site has the greatest concentration of mounds. Originally, the place had 120 mounds spread over approximately 6 square miles. But some of them have been destroyed. At the center of this archaeological site, one can see the pyramidal Monks Mound which is the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the Western Hemisphere. If you are interested in archaeology, you must pay a visit to this one of its kinds destination. There is an Interpretive Center where you will get to learn about this National Historic Landmark through many audiovisual presentations, artifacts, and other exhibits, and programs.
Get Overwhelmed At Shawnee National Forest:
Locating between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, Shawnee National Forest covers almost the entire southern tip of Illinois. Often referred to as ‘Little Egypt’, there are many roads, towns, and even subdivisions that are named after the places of Egypt.
What to do here? Well, this national forest is a paradise for the hikers, nature lovers, and for the ones who are here to soak in some lovely greenery. The whole area is divided into 7 designated wilderness areas and each of these areas poses a distinct landform and character. Garden of the Gods is famous for dramatic cliffs and scenic hiking trails. There are lakes inside the forest that provide a tranquil environment to the forest and are also good for fishing. Bell Smith Springs Scenic Area is another National Natural Landmark where you can experience cliff jumping and camping.
The forest is vast so if you want to explore it fully, you need to stay in this area for at least 4 to 5 days. Divide the forest into two halves and then plan your trip. Visiting Shawnee National Forest and enjoying hiking, camping, scenic views, fishing, taking in the beauty of hills, valleys, and also spotting its wildlife that include deer, foxes, turkeys, and more are surely some of the best things to do in Illinois.