Chicago is an extremely popular travel destination for Americans and many global travelers, however, many people discount the rest of the state. Even many locals seem to think that there aren’t many reasons to venture out of the city, but as usual, I am here to tell you that Illinois is full of little surprises, both human- and nature-made. If you are a culture and history buff, Lincoln’s home is still preserved in Springfield, ancient Native American cities can be visited near St. Louis, and Chicago is home to many world-class museums. For hikers, there are spots both near and far from Chicago to explore on foot. And for roadtrippers, the state is abound with roadside attractions and delicious food that will entertain any traveler with a good sense of humor and appreciation for American food. Our Illinois Guide will give you the low-down on hikes and culture around the state.
Illinois is a Midwestern state, which is primarily characterized by its flat, wide-open landscapes. In today’s modern world, vast stretches of the state are completely dominated by farms, often lined by trees, which expand into small forests surrounding the wetlands and rivers that dot the body of the state. Surprisingly, there are some very lovely hiking spots in Illinois, some are clustered around the massive metropolis of Chicago, but the largest park, Shawnee National Forest, is nestled in the southern tip of the state. There, travelers will find a varied and vibrant ecosystem, characterized by unique rock formations that can be explored by visitors and hikers alike. Explore other posts in our Illinois Guide to learn more about how to see the natural side of this midwestern state.
Our Posts on Nature in Illinois
What To Do In Illinois: Hiking and More: Tips for nature lovers thinking about a roadtrip through Illinois, complete with a dash of culture and roadside attractions.
If you want to hike in the Chicago area, this is the post for you.
Other Hiking Websites
History and Culture
Illinois is rich in history and culture, and can trace it’s human occupancy back thousands of years before Europeans were aware of the existence of the North American continent. The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site protects what remains of a large, complex city that was built by the Mississippian Culture. Being one of the largest archeological sites north of Mexico, Cahokia is evidence of a vibrant human society that thrived in the verdant lands of Illinois. However, this place was abandoned by 1300 and left unpeopled for 300+ years.
Eventually, the Illiniwek Confederation, which was formed by an alliance of tribes, rose to power in the area, and when French explorers and settlers eventually made their way into what we now know as Illinois, it was this society that they encountered. The initial relationship between the French and the Illinois people was complicated but not immediately genocidal. However, the French and Indian War led to the dispersal of many native Illinois tribes to the Great Plains, where their descendants remain today. In fact, there are no federally recognized tribes left in the state currently.
The land that eventually became Illinois was first part of the French Empire, and then the British, before being ceded to the United States government in 1783. It didn’t officially become a state until 1818, at which point it was the 21st state. Of course, in terms of United States history, the state’s claim to fame is through Abraham Lincoln who called the state home in his adulthood and where the only home he ever owned was located. Chicago is also the stage for many fascinating historical events, from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 to rise of the Italian mob.
Currently, Illinois is a great place to go to explore the past, and enjoy the modern Midwestern culture and food. Our Illinois Guide will show you how.
Our Posts on History and Culture in Illinois
Design Your Perfect Chicago Itinerary: Chicago is the cultural hob of Illinois, so if that is your main reason for visiting the state, this guide will help you put together the perfect itinerary.
If you want to explore some cultural spots outside of the big city, we cover some great places like Lincoln’s home and the Illinois State Museum here.
National Parks and Museums for History and Culture
Condé Nast Traveler: 15 Best Museums in Chicago
Our Guide to Designing the Perfect Chicago Itinerary
Our Illinois Roadtrip post has a sample roadtrip at the end.
Where We’ve Been
More Information From Around the Web
Find some of the internet’s best guides to Illinois from our Discover Illinois board.