When you think about visiting Illinois, Chicago is probably the first thing that pops into your mind. However, this great state has much more to see besides the Windy City. Illinois is home to a number of charming cities, each with its own attractions and historical significance. The state also has much to offer to nature lovers—with state parks and forests, you can enjoy Mother Nature at her best.
Cities to Visit
Springfield, the capital of Illinois, is a must-see. The hometown of Abraham Lincoln has much to offer in the way of historical attractions. Visit Abraham Lincoln’s museum and presidential library. Also, check out the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where he lived in 1860. Finally, stop by the Lincoln Tomb to pay your respect to both Abe and Mary Lincoln.
Rockford is Illinois’ third largest city. Here you can enjoy the Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. If you want to learn about the city’s history, stop by Midway Village Museum. This museum lets you explore a 19th-century style village so you feel like you really are stepping back in time.
The city of Quincy is a perfect representation of Midwest culture. This lively city overlooks the Mississippi River and is home to a variety of attractions. This town is home to 11 museums, including the Quincy Arts Center and the Mississippi Valley Antique Auto Museum. Visit the Quincy Museum to travel back in time to the Victorian era or dinosaur times. Other attractions include the five family-owned wineries in the area, Indian Mounds Park where you can see Native American mounds, and the Villa Kathrine, which exhibits Mediterranean architecture in the heart of the United States.
Charming Little Towns
If you are a history buff, check out Galena, Illinois. Here you can see the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site, where the general lived after the Civil War. Also, when you step onto Main Street, you step into the past. Enjoy exploring all of the old shops and restaurants.
Nauvoo is a tiny town with a population of only 1,200. It is located along the Mississippi River. Despite its small size, Nauvoo has a rich Mormon history. Until 1844, more than 10,000 Mormons lived here. Take a free, 30-minute tour through the town in a horse-drawn wagon to see some of the historic sites of downtown.
If you are interested in Amish culture, you should visit Arthur, Illinois. The town has quaint shops filled with handmade furniture and crafts. Drive through the countryside to see Amish farms, many of which sell goods such as quilts and apple butter. If you wish, you can take an ACM Tour. On one of these tours, you will be able to enjoy a meal in an Amish home.
If you are a nature-lover, be sure to visit Shawnee National Forest. This national forest offers many opportunities to camp, hike, swim, and fish. Whether you just want to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air or engage in outdoor sports, this national forest is the perfect place to spend time. The forest is in the south of the state outside of Harrisburg, Illinois.
Starved Rock State Park has a history that goes as far back as 8,000 B.C. The park has 18 canyons and over 13 miles of hiking trails. You will be able to see waterfalls, bluffs, and many forms of wildlife. You can choose to camp or to stay at Starved Rock Lodge, which is a historical site itself built in the 1930s. Starved Rock has been voted the No. 1 attraction in Illinois.
Planning Your Trip With Family and Friends
To make the most of any trip, you want to thoroughly plan ahead. If you are coming from out of state, consider flying into Quincy Regional Airport, Chicago Rockford International Airport, or Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.
Make sure you have a way to stay in touch with those you are traveling with. You’ll find many AT&T Stores in Illinois, which is nice for those that may not be familiar with the area they are traveling. If you have a cell phone emergency such as needing a charger, fixing a broken screen or even replacing your mobile device, the folks at AT&T can help.
As for your accommodations, it is a good idea to plan ahead of time. If you are visiting a state park, consider camping or staying in the lodge. If you are visiting a city, be sure to check out the city website to see what hotels or bed and breakfasts are attractive options for you and your travel companions.
Illinois is a beautiful state with many hidden treasures. While the bustling city of Chicago has much to offer, the rest of the state does too!