Top 10 Places to Visit in Illinois

Chicago may be the most famous city in Illinois, but the entire state is rich in history and culture. You can find things to do and places to see in Illinois throughout the year. These cities are especially notable when it comes to housing the state’s attractions.
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Buckingham Fountain with the Chicago skyline in the background

TripSavvy / Cory Giguere

The Windy City is the center of the state of Illinois and it offers options that include miles of beaches as well as some of the world’s most notable museums. the Art Institute, Museum of Science & History, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium will keep you busy indoors, while Navy Pier, Millennium Park and Wrigley Field are a few of the places for outdoor activities in Chicago.

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Illinois Office of Tourism

Springfieldis the capital of Illinois. It also is known for the history it had with President Lincoln and has become home to more sites dedicated to the 16th president of the United States than anywhere else in the country. Don’t miss the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and then have some fun checking out what’s along Route 66, which goes right through Springfield. 

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Jo Davies, Illinois Office of Tourism

Galena may be referred to as a small town within the Mississippi River Valley, but it offers a lot to see and do. The quaint inns and historical buildings are worth a trip alone. Take a trolley tour or Mississippi Explorer Cruise to get a better feel for Galena. Or, if you want to be right in the action, hit the links with your golf clubs or go kayaking on the river. 

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Marcia Frost

The two cities of Champaignand Urbana are joined in the middle of a world-class university and two downtown areas that offer an array of restaurants, musical entertainment, wine bars and brew pubs. You’ll also find plenty of culture in Chambana, as it is known, with the Krannert Art Museum and Performing Arts Center, the Kinkead Pavilion and the William M. Staerkel Planetarium. 

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Illinois Office of Tourism

Starved Rock, a lush forest with waterfalls, bluffs and trails, is the main attraction in Utica, though it’s also home to Matthiessen State Park. After you’ve spent enough time with nature, you’ll also find wineries and a quaint downtown area to explore in Utica. 

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McLean County

Bloomingtonand Normalmake up one of the most metropolitan areas in Central Illinois. Between these two towns you’ll find the McLean County Museum of History museum and the David Davis Mansion. Bloomington-Normal also has endless shopping and restaurants, and is home to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival each summer. 

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Illinois Office of Tourism

The waterfront of Peoriahas made it a popular tourist destination. The riverfront has been renovated to include shops and food outlets. Check out the Caterpillar Visitors Center, the Peoria Pier and the Lakeview Museum of the Arts and Planetarium. Try your hand at the Par-A-Dice Hotel & Casino. Antique shopping is also in abundance in Peoria. 

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Moline/Rock Island

Illinois Office of Tourism

Molineand Rock Island come together to form the Illinois side of the Quad Cities along the Mississippi River. Rock Island is popular for its nightlife scene around the downtown pedestrian mall known as The District. In Moline, the John Deere Pavilion pays tribute to the man who lived here. Thanks to the Ski Snowstar Winter Sports Park you can enjoy this area all year round.

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Oak Park

Marcia Frost

Oak Park is just outside of Chicago, but it’s earned its own bragging rights thanks to two former residents who became legends in their field – Ernest Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright. Hemingway has a museum named after him in Oak Park, where you can also visit his birthplace. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio is another site that makes this area well worth a visit. 

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If you are looking for some family fun, head to Decatur. The Scovill Zoo houses an array of animals and hosts events for all ages. Decatur also has the Children’s Museum of Illinois, where kids can enjoy many hands-on experiences. If you’d like even more activity, there’s Lake Decatur, the largest lake on the Sangamon River. 

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