For most visitors, Illinois is defined by its largest city, Chicago. The third largest city in the United States, it provides the urban experience on a grand scale. Its skyscrapers form a near complete history of urban architecture; its museums are some of the best in the world; it has some of the largest festivals in the country; and its many neighborhoods are filled with memorable characters. Focusing only on the big city, however, overlooks the many attractions the rest of the state has to offer. These include the history of Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, classic sites along route 66, and endless open prairies stretching to the horizon.
Highlights from Illinois
- Chicago Skyscrapers One of the most impressive urban landscapes in the world, the city's buildings are a living museum of urban architecture
- Millennium and Grant Parks Large parks along Lake Michigan in the heart of Chicago, highlighted by the iconic sculpture Cloud Gate and the Buckingham Fountain.
- Chicago Prohibition sites In the 1920s, Al Capone waged a crime war for control of the city's underworld. The locations of major events have become iconic.
- Art Institute of Chicago One of the largest art museums in the United States, with comprehensive collections in all subjects
- Springfield State capitol and the home of Abraham Lincoln when he was elected President in 1860
- Route 66 Original parts of The Mother Road still exist in many places along its route between Chicago and St. Louis, including the last remaining stretch paved in bricks.
- Oak Park Original home of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with the largest concentration of his work in the world.
Hints and Tips for Illinois
- Chicago has an extensive transport network. Most other large cities can be reached by bus or train. A car is necessary for rural areas
- Gas and parking in Chicago is expensive, and traffic is always heavy. If renting a car, pick it up on the way out of the city
- Chicago has hostels; the rest of the state has ubiquitous budget hotels
- Aside from hostels, lodging in Chicago is some of the most expensive in the United States
- Lodging demand, and prices, are highest and summer and late December, and lowest in winter outside late December.
- Lodging in Chicago should be reserved six months in advance in summer, and nine months in advance for holidays and major festivals.
- Lodging in Springfield should be reserved in advance in the fall and winter, during the legislative session
- The city does not publicize Prohibition era sites; privately written guides are available online