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Welcome to Illinois

Welcome to the Land of Lincoln. Honest Abe spent his formative years growing from farm boy to politician here. And Illinois, likewise, has evolved from its agrarian roots to a robust hub of commerce. This Midwestern state is home to the city of Chicago, with its iconic skyline rising above the waters of Lake Michigan. Across the state, in contrast, sprawling farms, scenic destinations and friendly small towns welcome curious travelers.

Small red bird with black face

State Bird: Cardinal. Getty Images

Forest Aplenty

Covering 280,000 acres, the Shawnee National Forest offers endless options for outdoor adventures. Hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding and more can all be enjoyed in the diverse landscapes, ranging from prairies to woodlands. Unique rock formations seem to rise from nowhere in an area known as the Garden of the Gods. Look out at expansive views of the rolling Shawnee Hills and follow the interpretive signs explaining the geological history of the area.

The Second City

A drive across the flatlands of Illinois offers nothing much on the horizon. That is, until you reach Chicago, when the silhouettes of skyscrapers rise in the distance. The nation’s third largest city is the cultural capital of the Midwest, boasting world-class theater and music, major museums and high-end shopping along the Magnificent Mile. Aside from its urban appeal, Chicago is known for the natural beauty of Lake Michigan, a popular spot for city dwellers seeking cool breezes. Don’t forget to take a photo of the reflective Cloud Gate, the smooth, gleaming sculpture affectionately known as “The Bean.”

Beyond the Hustle and Bustle

About 100 miles southwest of Chicago lies a place where the blare of honking cars and crowds of people are replaced by the sounds of singing birds and thickets of trees. At Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, the Illinois River has carved canyons of sandstone bluffs. Waterfalls tumble from above, and the river cascades below.

Adirondack chairs sitting lakeside

Dice Sales/Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism