Illinois is a state of endless possibilities – from the bustling city streets of Chicago to the vast expanse of rural farmland and forests, there is something here for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure or simply want to relax in nature, Illinois has plenty to offer.
From outdoor activities like hiking and camping in one of its many state parks, to cultural attractions such as art galleries and museums, this midwestern state has it all.
No matter what type of traveler you are—solo explorer or family vacationer—Illinois will not disappoint!
Read on to discover some of the best places in this great Midwest destination worth visiting at least once in your lifetime.
With its iconic skyline, world-class museums and attractions, as well as a vibrant dining and nightlife scene, it’s no surprise why Chicago is one of the top destinations in Illinois.
Take a stroll through Millennium Park and admire breathtaking works of art like “The Bean” or the Crown Fountain—or take an architectural cruise down the Chicago River.
Be sure to check out the magnificent Willis Tower and take in one of the most stunning views in Illinois.
Don’t miss a visit to Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Navy Pier. For budget-friendly accommodation options, consider exploring rooms for rent in Chicago to save on lodging expenses while enjoying all that the Windy City has to offer.
2. Starved Rock State Park
Located about 90 miles southwest of Chicago is Starved Rock State Park—a beautiful oasis of canyons, forestland, and waterfalls located in the heart of the state.
Visitors are invited to explore the park’s 13 miles of trails, take a boat tour along the Illinois River, or even stay overnight in one of its many rustic cabins. There are also plenty of opportunities for fishing and kayaking as well.
The capital city of Illinois is home to an array of attractions and activities worth exploring.
From Abraham Lincoln’s home to the stunning Dana-Thomas House, there is plenty of history and culture to take in.
For the outdoor enthusiast, venture out into one of Springfield’s many parks or trails—or explore its vibrant downtown district for shopping and dining options.
Heading northwest from Chicago brings you to the charming town of Galena.
This historic community was once home to some of the country’s most influential figures, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Elizabeth Preston Anderson.
Today, visitors can explore its vast array of boutiques, antique stores, and art galleries—or take a hike up one of its many trails for spectacular views of the surrounding area.
5. Shawnee National Forest
Located in the southernmost tip of the state, Shawnee National Forest is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
Spanning over 280,000 acres of rugged terrain and lush forests, there are plenty of opportunities for camping, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and more.
After a long day exploring nature, be sure to make a stop at Garden of the Gods—an awe-inspiring area of sandstone cliffs and rock formations.
Before you head out, make sure to brush up on the latest regulations including extracurriculars like cannabis use.
Check out this guide from Marijuana Doctors for more information.
6. Cahokia Mounds
For a glimpse into Illinois’ rich history, head to Cahokia Mounds.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site located near St. Louis is the largest pre-Columbian settlement in North America.
The mounds were built by Native American peoples between 700 and 1400 CE and are believed to have served as an astronomical observatory or spiritual center.
Today visitors can explore the site’s ancient history on a self-guided tour.
Rockford is a great destination for those looking to explore the culture and history of northern Illinois.
This city was once an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and today visitors can take a tour of its historic homes—or head out to Midway Village Museum for more insight into 19th-century life in the region.
Rockford also offers plenty of activities for outdoor lovers, from biking to fishing.
8. Route 66
No visit to Illinois would be complete without an exploration of the famous stretch of Route 66.
This iconic stretch of highway was once a major thoroughfare for travelers heading across the Midwest—and today it still holds plenty of charm and adventure.
From quaint diners to classic roadside attractions, taking a drive down this historic road will provide you with a unique and memorable experience.
Peoria offers something for just about everyone to enjoy these days.
History buffs can explore the many museums and historic sites, while nature lovers will appreciate its many parks and trails.
Downtown Peoria is also home to a vibrant shopping and dining district with plenty of options to explore.
You can choose to spend some time at the lake, visit the zoo, or simply walk around and sightsee one of Illinois’ greatest treasures.
From the city streets of Chicago to the lush forests of Shawnee National Forest, Illinois is a state filled with endless possibilities.
No matter what type of traveler you are—history buff or outdoor enthusiast—there is something here for everyone.
Whether it’s exploring art galleries and historic sites in Springfield, or admiring breathtaking views from Starved Rock State Park, make sure you add these nine must-see places in Illinois to your travel list!