Home state of Ernest Hemingway and living shrine to Abraham Lincoln, Illinois is famed for its sky-high architecture, beautiful state parks and fascinating culture.
For breathtaking views of Illinois’ Windy City, step out onto the balcony of the Willis Tower, or explore the dramatic landscape of the Garden of the Gods in Shawnee National Forest. If you just fancy kicking back and relaxing, head to one of Illinois’ parks for plenty of green, open space and fresh air.
With awe-inspiring bluffs, rugged canyons and sparkling seasonal waterfalls, Starved Rock State Park has a wonderfully varied landscape ready for you to explore. Awash with natural beauty and history, Starved Rock has a number of hiking trails that meander through scenic overlooks and below towering trees alongside the winding Illinois River. Ideal for a day in the big outdoors with the kids or as an adventurous couple, the range of activities on offer will astound you. They include canoeing, paddleboat cruises, trolley rides, cross-country skiing, fishing and of course, ample room for you to set up a picnic basket. If you’re looking for a special night away, we recommend spending a cosy night in at the famous Starved Rock Lodge cabin to really get in touch with nature.
Famed for its Garden of the Gods, the Shawnee National Forest is also home to 403 miles of hiking trails, the most popular being the Rim Rock Recreational Trail. A must for experienced hikers or those who enjoy a challenge, you’ll be greeted with magnificent jutting walls of rock covered in azure-green moss and rugged paths that meander under the forest canopy and through canyons. Nestled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, this National Forest also features rolling green hills, creeks and shimmering lakes. If you prefer climbing to hiking, then Jackson Falls should be top of your list, head to the Hidden Springs Ranger District and you’ll soon find 60 feet of sandstone boulders and cliffs, waiting to be traversed. We recommend a visit to the renowned Garden of the Gods, with views like no other in the Midwest; you’ll be able to spot Camel Rock, Devil’s Smoke and Anvil Rock among other formations – ideal for those with a love of natural photography.
Named the ‘Best Main Street in the Midwest’ by a number of local publications and Fodor Travel, visit Galena’s most historic street of a hundred 19th century storefronts. Still looking much like it did in the Civil War, take a walk through the pages of an American history textbook and visit the charming boutiques, art galleries and restaurants hidden behind the iconic red brick buildings. We recommend staying in Galena for a night, well known for its cosy lodgings, in an idyllic bed and breakfast in the surrounding picturesque hillsides. Definitely a must see for history buffs.
Experience Chicago like never before, on a trip up to the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Step out if you’re brave enough and enjoy a view like you’ve never experienced before in one of Skydeck Chicago’s The Ledge glass boxes. Jutting out from the side of the skyscraper by 4 feet, you’ll be able to see up to four states on a clear day. On your way up, take a look at the museum-quality exhibits and theatre presentation, aptly named ‘Reaching For The Sky’ to learn a bit more about the best that Chicago has to offer. Open every day of the year, this sight is for those with a head for heights, if you’re a little unsure then take a look at ‘The Skydeck Experience’ video to get an inside look.
One of the most popular Presidential museums in America, this museum is a must for those who want to be inspired and learn a bit more about the famous Abraham Lincoln. Experience the story behind this legendary man under one roof, from Lincoln’s humble beginnings in an Indiana log cabin to his days as a war-time president in the White House. You may have seen the film and read a number of books but you’ll be amazed by the two special effects theatres on-site, featuring a Civil War battlefield and a number of historical ghosts eager to tell their tales. Learn about each stage of Lincoln’s often mythologised life and explore a range of fascinating and personal artefacts that range from the original copy of the Gettysburg Address to his iconic stovepipe hat.
From ravines and rocky streams to agricultural fields and reclaimed strip mines, the Tunnel Hill State Trail is dominated by its surroundings. With just under 50 miles of extended inclines, dark tunnels and gravel surfaces, this is a trail for those wanting an adventure. As long as you’re up for a challenge, this trail will prove incredibly rewarding; from its stunning scenery with ponds, streams, woods and marshes to the handful of ghost towns it passes through, all have faded into the natural landscape when the trains stopped running through them.