The Best Places to Visit in Illinois
Enjoy family or romantic weekend getaways in Illinois
Illinois is the land of Lincoln - that's the one thing that almost everybody knows about this state. And it has been a state of the union since 1818 when it achieved statehood. Out of all 50 states in the US, Illinois is the 5th most populous, and has a well-established economic base because of the variety of natural resources it encompasses. It's a long state, stretching about 450 miles from Waukegan to Cairo, and about 250 miles across at its widest point. For a family vacation or a romantic weekend getaway, there are many places to go in Illinois.
Glaciation in the last ice age flattened much of the state into a flat prairie and endowed it with some of the richest farmland in the country, but the parts of the state that the glacier missed are in the northwestern corner and the southern third, and they provide an amazing contrast to the rest of the state. The state lies in an area of the country that sees a substantial variety in climate, and there can be 20 degrees or more difference in temperature at certain times of the year between Chicago and Cairo.
Since Illinois is known as the land of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield is a good place to start with places to go in Illinois, because it is where Lincoln practiced law, became a state legislator, and launched his campaign for the presidency in the middle 1800s. Many of the tourist attractions in Springfield are related to Lincoln in some way - you can see the home where he was living when he left for Washington, his law offices, his tomb, and the beautiful original capitol building where he worked for so many years. Springfield is the present state capitol, so it has other attractions as well, including the new capitol building and a beautiful park with indoor botanical gardens.
Heading north from Springfield, the main destination is Chicago, also known as the windy city, and one of the best places to go in Illinois. Home of the former Sears Tower, the Hancock building, Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, and O'Hare International Airport, this city is world-renowned as a sophisticated modern city. The Loop is a downtown area that has been used for filming famous movies (The French Connection and The Blues Brothers, among many others), and the architecture and shopping are second to none in the world. Chicago is also the home of the electric blues, Michigan Avenue, and Wrigley Field. It's a great place to spend some quality time with your family or your sweetheart.
Take a left from the airport and you'll find yourself in the driftless area, a small piece of the state that wasn't flattened by the glacier. Starved Rock State Park is a romantic attraction here, where lovers come to stay in one of the quaint resorts and climb to the top of one of the highest points in the state, where a Native American massacre took place back in pre-state history.
South along the Mississippi river lies the gorgeous scenery of the towns of Quincy, Alton and many others that were historically important during the riverboat years chronicled by Mark Twain. Continue traveling south and you'll come to the Cahokia Mounds area just east of St. Louis Missouri. One of the absolutely best places to visit in Illinois, this is a national historic site where more than 20,000 people lived at one time in the Mississipian era. It's beautiful and educational at the same time - a rare combination.
Looking to the east from Cahokia, the central part of the state is home to famous universities like the University of Illinois, Illinois State at Bloomington-Normal, and Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. Champaign-Urbana, home of the U of I and the Fighting Illini sports teams, Memorial Stadium and the Assembly Hall, is also the place where the first Internet browser was invented and supercomputing came alive.
Now going straight south, Illinois' landscape changes. Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park are showcases for what southern Illinois has to offer - hiking, boating, rock-climbing, camping, and a much milder climate than a few hundred miles to the north. The recreational possibilities in this part of the state are really endless. Carbondale is the home of Southern Illinois University, and Little Egypt is a bit farther south. Cairo sits at the pointy end of the state where it borders Kentucky and Tennessee, and it is named after the city in Egypt because it sits on a delta where 2 mighty rivers come together.
Illinois has a lot to offer as a tourist destination. Spending some time there will pay off in the reward of wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. There are so many places to go in Illinois that you'll never run out!