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Top Destinations for 2017: Illinois

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It might be dominated by the cosmopolitan sprawl of Chicago but the state of Illinois is one that encompasses the full range of American history, culture and mythology.

From north to south, from Lake Michigan to the Cahokia Mounds, is ripe for adventure in a real country within a state.

There is sense of nostalgia built into the very fabric of the Illinois life as past and present collide throughout such sites as the legendary Route 66, or the classic US cities of Chicago and Galena.

This blurred distinction is what makes Illinois unique and well worth a visit. Illinois is where time is preserved and America can be seen for more than just the year in which it is visited. 

Whether it is visiting Ernest Hemingway’s hometown of Oak Park, exploring scattered shrines to Abraham Lincoln, revelling in the blues music history of Chicago or standing in a prehistoric World Heritage site, a visit to Illinois will unravel American history and folklore at every turn.

Where to go?

The US’s third biggest city Chicago a must-visit. Sitting on Lake Michigan it’s a city of architectural wonders, incredible live music and exceptional food. 


Head north to visit the Bahá’í House of Worship, one of only seven worldwide. Here you can take part in prayer and meditation after experiencing busy life in the heart of Chicago.

After reconnecting, head down to the city of Peoria, the oldest European settlement in Illinois and largest city on the Illinois River. Named after the Peoria tribe, this city has a rich history of French settlement and Native American ancestry making it one of a kind. Many well known and highly important businesses are located in Peoria, as well as the Peoria Zoo.

Lincoln’s tomb might be next on your list as you travel southbound through Illinois. Here is the final resting place for the American president, his wife, and three of their sons. The site has plenty of statues to be seen from the outside, as well as inside the tomb which is open to explore. 

At the southernmost tip of Illinois you can find the Cahokia Mounds. North of Mexico, this site is known to be the largest prehistoric Native American settlement, and is thought to have been occupied from 700AD to 1400AD. 

What to do?

Take a leisurely ride down Route 66 

America’s past and present collide on the legendary Route 66, now in its 91st year. Experience roadside diners and attractions such as the Cozy Dog Drive In which screams America with its corn dog, or statues of Abraham Lincoln and a giant man holding a hotdog.


You are sure to be overcome with nostalgia on Route 66, with longstanding buildings and hotspots of olden times like drive in theatres and preserved filling stations. 

While in “The Windy City” see Naval pier, listen to blues music, and get elevated

Navy Pier, Chicago

While in Chicago head to Navy Pier, which offers music, entertainment and food for an awesome night out. Having just celebrated its 100th year, there is an exciting air about this waterfront location that is sure to be enjoyed. 

Head to the city’s showpiece Millennium Park, a treasure trove of arts and culture delights. In summer Frank Gehry’s silver band shell hosts nightly free concerts which are perfect to chill out at with a picnic and a bottle of wine.

Want to listen to blues music where it has deeply set roots? Get to Buddy Guy’s Legends, The Blue Chicago, or various other clubs to hear the authentic sound of electric blues in the city that made it famous.

Another option is to make like a bird and see the city from the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower from a glass balcony.

Afraid of heights?  Enjoy an easy Chicago Riverwalk to see the downtown cities nature-oriented-offerings.

For sport fans, several sites such as the famous Wrigley Field where the world champion Chicago Cubs play can be enjoyed.

Stimulate your senses by enjoying nature in the Galena Territory


Instead of the city, live on the edge by zip lining and crossing suspended bridges with Galena’s Long Hollow Canopy Tours. There are plenty of opportunities to stay grounded too, as trails for biking and hiking along the Galena River make for scenic and peaceful ways for experiencing nature. 

Taste wine in the land of Lincoln 

Visit the Land of Lincoln and do a wine tasting in nearly 30 locations. Tuscan Hills Winery offers eight beautiful acres in the heart of Effington where you will find the people to be just as friendly as the wine is tasteful. There are over 100 wineries and vineyards throughout Illinois so find the one that looks to suit you best.

If you prefer liquor to wine, then give the Blaum Brothers a visit in Galena. 

You can enjoy a spirited tour through the distillation area, to the barrel room, and finish in a relaxed tasting room. The brothers “craft small batches of rye, whiskey and vodka. By sourcing grains from local farmers and controlling the entire process in a purpose-built facility, they produce the highest-quality spirits the old-fashioned way.

Experience the life of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Statue, Springfield

At the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, you can learn about the 16th president of the US through life sized-vignettes of notable moments during Lincoln’s life, artefacts ranging from Lincoln's stovepipe to an original copy of the Gettysburg Address, and special effects theatres depicting important figures and battles. History buffs will rejoice at the abundance of information and homage paid to Lincoln, and they will find this place to be particularly awe-inspiring.  

Feeling inspired? Check out more of our Top 20 Destinations for 2017 HERE

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