There’s no denying Chicago, the largest city in the state of Illinois, is a bona fide bucket list destination.
With its futuristic skyline, explosive dining and extensive LGBTI scene, the blockbuster supercity is up there with the likes of New York City and Los Angeles as one of America’s most famous destinations. But there is so much more to Illinois than just Chicago.
Here are five charming and historical places to visit in The Prairie State, all driving distance from Chi-town, several via the iconic Route 66…
Firstly, with a population of just 3,255 people, is Galena in northwest Illinois. This tiny town makes a huge impression. Located near the Wisconsin boarder, it’s worth a visit for a photo op on Main Street alone. This iconic street is perfectly preserved with colourful, charismatic 19th century houses.
Why not visit the charming boutiques and coffee houses before mixing it up with a whiskey at the Blaum Brothers distillery? Or perhaps Amelia’s Galena Ghost Tour? The town is believed by many to possess ghoul-infested historical buildings. For blood pressure-friendly activities, head to the Galena Historical Society and Museum or the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery.
Think Chicago is the capital of Illinois? Think again. The state’s first city is actually Springfield, the former home of the late President Abraham Lincoln, and currently home to 117,000 people.
Lincoln’s fingerprints can be found throughout the town, from his former home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. But our favorite pit stop? The delightfully quaint Dana-Thomas House, designed by the iconic late architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Be sure to check out the town’s amazing local art scene – The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space, for example. Furthermore, explore the amazing craft beer scene with a pitstop at the Craft Beer Bar. Follow this with a delicious corn dog at the Cozy Dog Drive In, or perhaps a horseshoe… Springfield’s signature dish is comprised of french fries, a horseshoe-shaped slice of ham and Welsh rarebit sauce
Explore 2,630 acres of protected beauty, not to mention enchanting seasonal waterfalls, on foot or by bike at the Starved Rock State Park.
Dramatic canyons and cliff-faces abound; dense greenery explodes into magical colors come fall. And the perfect base for a spot of hiking in this dense, sprawling state park? The rustic Starved Rock Lodge, of course.
Home to 2,700 people, Casey is another small settlement that makes a big impression – literally. It is famous for its plethora of Guinness World Record-winning giant objects…
Be the envy of your Instagram followers with Borrower-sized pictures of yourself next to gigantic wind chimes, chairs, post boxes and rocking chairs. Then stop by the Big Things in a Small Town workshop to see the items being made!
Finally, in central Illinois, you’ll find the glamorously-named Champaign, named best food town in the Midwest by Midwest Living Magazine.
A vibrant college town (the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is home to almost 45,000) catering for culture vultures, from the contemporary Krannert Art Museum to the Spurlock Museum, housing ancient relics from Illinois’ history. An important date in Champaign’s diary is Pygmalion Festival, celebrated local arts and culture. Be sure to sample the local ale at the Blind Pig Brewery.
Illinois Office of Tourism is a client of Gay Star News.