Illinois Features a Surprising Amount of Great Things to Do While Visiting

Illinois has long been referred to as the Prairie State and is well-known for Chicago skyscrapers, Route 66 drive-in movie theaters, exceptional museums, historical sites, metropolitan cities, lush farmland and fields of corn.

Visitors and residents enjoy gorgeous state parks, Lake Michigan activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, boat tours and birdwatching and a wide range of cultural activities.

Illinois offers a variety of attractions ideal for families, couples and singles from amusement parks to spectacular views to fine dining. The Woodfield Mall and Oakbrook Center are the largest in the state with so many shops, eateries and novelties spending just one day is never enough. Many Illinois golf courses have become famous among golfers including Brandon Dunes, Whistling Straits and Shadow Creek. Although selecting the best attraction is difficult due to the vast number, some of the best are detailed below

1 - The Leaning Tower of Niles

The tower was constructed in 1934 as a miniature Leaning Tower of Pisa. This tower is the reason a sister city pact was established between the Italian city of Pisa and the village of Niles in 1991. The tower was originally designed for an amusement park encompassing 22 acres. Today it hides the water tower. There is no charge to visit the tower and many visitors enjoy a relaxing picnic on the lush grounds, take photos as souvenirs or enjoy one of the city's outdoor music concerts.

2 - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The museum is in honor of the 16th United States President, Abraham Lincoln. The library and museum are located in Springfield, Illinois, the hometown of Abraham Lincoln. The museum is filled with important artifacts from his life including an original, signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and an original copy of the famous Gettysburg Address. From tragedy to triumph, the life of Abraham Lincoln is revealed. The immersive displays are interesting and demonstrate the impact these serious issues had on the past. 

3 - Shedd Aquarium

The first saltwater aquarium of this type constructed in the United States is the Shedd Aquarium. Located in the heart of Chicago, the oceanarium contains more than 1,500 different species of fish, a variety of marine life, corals and mammals. The saltwater section is exceptional, featuring beluga whales, porpoises, penguins and sea lions. During specific times of the day, shows are scheduled so the saltwater creatures can perform. The aquarium educates visitors about the biology and ecology of waterways across the globe including the Philippines, Caribbean Sea and Amazon River.

4 - Starved Rock State Park

This park is located just outside Utica, Illinois and is filled with breathtaking canyons. Visitors can explore more than 2,000 acres. Glacial meltwater has formed steep sandstone canyons. The Wildcat, French and St. Louis canyons offer exquisite waterfalls. Lover's Leap Outlook can be reached through a wooded trail revealing spectacular views of the Starved Rock Dam and river. The wildlife in the park includes white-tailed deer, migratory birds and bald eagles. The park is registered as a historic site with unique geological details believed to have formed during a flood 14,000 to 17,000 years in the past.

5 - Lincoln Park Zoo

No visit to Illinois is complete without visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo. The accredited zoo does not charge an entry fee. Visitors will enjoy watching big cats, reptiles, polar bears, monkeys, gorillas and more with the iconic Chicago skyline as a backdrop. There is a penguin house, Birds of Prey exhibit featuring a bald eagle, snowy owl and vulture and a Farm-in-the-zoo. Both children and adults will enjoy watching the antics of pigs, cows and horses.

6 - Buffalo Rock State Park

The park is located in Ottawa above the Illinois River. Originally, this land was inhabited by Indians. The Effigy Tumuli earthen exhibit is created from Illinois clay and inspired by the burial grounds of Native Americans. The five clay sculptures represent the native animals of a turtle, frog, snack, water strider and catfish. The park encompasses 298 acres and is ideal for picnics. The American bison making their home in Buffalo Rock can be seen in a grazing area and pen from across a baseball diamond.