Discover Illinois: 17 Unmissable Experiences in the Prairie State

Alright, folks, we’re taking a trip to Illinois – a state that packs an unexpected punch. Forget what you think you know about this Midwestern gem because we’re digging deeper than cornfields and skyscrapers. J

oin me as we journey through 17 unmissable things to do in Illinois. Let’s explore beyond the beaten path, and you might just find yourself booking the next ticket to the Prairie State.

1. Wander in the Windy City – Chicago:

First things first, you cannot visit Illinois without stepping foot in its vibrant heart, Chicago.

This metropolis is alive, pulsating with a culture that’s its own, full of striking architecture, innovative gastronomy, and a thriving arts scene.

Get lost in the Magnificent Mile for your dose of retail therapy, lounge in Millennium Park, or catch a glimpse of the city’s stunning skyline at Navy Pier.

Traveler’s Tip: Be sure to try the iconic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. You’re in for a cheesy extravaganza!

2. Immerse Yourself in the Art Institute of Chicago:

Next stop, the Art Institute of Chicago. This place is a paradise for art enthusiasts.

With an extensive collection of over 300,000 works of art, it’s easy to get lost in time here.

Traveler’s Tip: Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll do a fair amount of walking exploring the numerous exhibits.

3. Delve into History at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum:

Step back in time at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The immersive exhibits and impressive collection of Civil War-era artifacts promise a fascinating journey into America’s past.

Traveler’s Tip: This place is not just for history buffs, the interactive exhibits keep the younger audience entertained too.

4. Revel in Nature’s Splendor at Starved Rock State Park:

Embrace the great outdoors at Starved Rock State Park. With breathtaking waterfalls in the spring, vibrant foliage in the fall, and scenic trails year-round, this place is a paradise for nature enthusiasts.

Traveler’s Tip: Don’t forget to pack your hiking shoes and a good camera. The views are Instagram-worthy!

5. Step into the Vibrant World of the Museum of Science and Industry:

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is a place where science comes alive.

With exhibits spanning across various domains, this place is fun, educational, and interactive.

Traveler’s Tip: Plan a whole day for this museum, there’s a lot to see!

6. Discover Rich Cultural Heritage at Cahokia Mounds:

Visit Cahokia Mounds, an ancient Native American city near Collinsville.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mounds preserve the cultural and historical lineage of the indigenous tribes of Illinois.

Traveler’s Tip: Join a guided tour to understand the rich history and significance of the site.

7. Soak in the Views from Willis Tower SkyDeck:

Rise above it all by visiting the SkyDeck in Willis Tower.

As one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere, the views from the top are staggering.

Traveler’s Tip: Try to visit on a clear day to take full advantage of the panoramic views.

8. Enjoy a Game at Wrigley Field:

Even if you’re not a sports fan, a visit to Wrigley Field, one of the oldest ballparks in the country, is a must.

The electrifying atmosphere and traditional charm are a unique experience.

Traveler’s Tip: Even if there isn’t a game, take a stadium tour.

9. Explore the Unique Anderson Japanese Gardens:

Discover a slice of Japan in Rockford, Illinois.

The Anderson Japanese Gardens, a 12-acre landscape of streams, waterfalls, and vibrant plant life, offer tranquility and aesthetic beauty.

Traveler’s Tip: Visit during spring or fall for a spectacular color show.

10. Experience Music at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

Delight your ears with the beautiful renditions of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Known for its brilliance and precision, it’s an experience you won’t forget.

Traveler’s Tip: Check their schedule ahead of time to secure tickets for your preferred performance.

11. Visit the Historic Pullman District:

Step back in time and stroll through the streets of the Pullman Historic District.

You’ll learn about the industrial history of the US and the labor rights movement.

Traveler’s Tip: Don’t miss the visitors center for a deeper understanding of Pullman’s history.

12. Take a Stroll on the Navy Pier:

The Navy Pier in Chicago is a place where fun meets scenic beauty.

Enjoy the rides, restaurants, and gardens with the stunning Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Traveler’s Tip: Stick around for the evening fireworks in summer.

13. Be Awestruck at the Bahá’í House of Worship:

Visit the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, one of only seven Bahá’í temples in the world. Its exquisite design and serene ambiance make it a must-see.

Traveler’s Tip: Make sure to walk around the gardens as well.

14. Enjoy the Views at Garden of the Gods:

Located in Shawnee National Forest, the Garden of the Gods offers hiking trails with awe-inspiring views.

The dramatic rock formations and panoramic vistas are sure to impress.

Traveler’s Tip: Wear sturdy shoes; some of the trails can be uneven.

15. Take a Leisurely Drive on the Great River Road:

Experience the scenic beauty of Illinois by driving down the Great River Road.

Along the Mississippi River, you’ll find charming towns, historic sites, and beautiful vistas.

Traveler’s Tip: Take your time and enjoy the journey. There’s a lot to see!

16. Get Lost in the Lincoln Park Zoo:

A visit to Lincoln Park Zoo is a must, particularly if you’re traveling with kids.

It’s not just a zoo, but a conservation haven. Best of all, it’s free!

Traveler’s Tip: Arrive early to beat the crowds.

17. Savor the Taste of Chicago’s Deep-Dish Pizza:

Your Illinois trip won’t be complete without indulging in the legendary Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

It’s more than just a meal, it’s a culinary adventure.

Traveler’s Tip: Try multiple places to find your favorite version.


There you have it – 17 immersive, offbeat, and downright fun things to do in Illinois.

We’ve spanned cities, history, nature, and culture, and along the way, we’ve discovered that Illinois isn’t just about cornfields or skyscrapers. So, don’t write it off – this state has something to surprise even the most seasoned of travelers.

Whether you’re into history, food, nature, or city-life, Illinois beckons with its unique charm. See you there!

David Kingston

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