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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions In Illinois (2022)

Illinois, also known as the Prairie State, is the most beautiful place to explore in the Midwest. Though Chicago always plays the leading role in preaching Illinois globally, there is still more than this to the State. Illinois has attractions for visitors of all interest, from the glowing metropolitans to historic cities and extensive grasslands. It also houses a small but meaningful portion of Lake Michigan, the largest lake (by area) in the United States.

Where the State capital, Springfield, is home to notable history and museums, Chicago needs no introduction for the global love it receives. Throughout the 102 counties and over 1200 cities, towns and boroughs, there are numerous fun things to do and several interesting places to visit. While Illinois is a great summer destination, winters here are no exception. Even when the entire State of Illinois is flat with barely any mountains, winters still maintain their fair share of charm.

11 Top Rated Tourist Attractions In Illinois

To start planning your Illinois vacation, consider our choicest picks.

1. Magnificent Mile

Magnificent Mile is a commercial district in Chicago and is known as one of the greatest avenues in the World. It is a one-stop destination that is home to over 100 tourist attractions of Chicago. The variety will make you lose the count from historic landmarks to museums, posh hotels, vibrant shops, and fashion outlets. Here you can visit Chicago’s most prominent skyline, the John Hancock Tower, along with Tribune Tower and Wrigley Building. Shopping enthusiasts who are up for losing their pockets must-visit Magnificent Mile when in Illinois.

2. Millennium Park & Cloud Gate

Millennium Park is an iconic spot in Chicago and one of the top-rated tourist attractions in Illinois. It is a public park that offers never-ending things to do. Cloud Gate, on the other hand, is a public sculpture and the centerpiece of Millennium Park. It is built by Anish Kapoor, an Indian-born British artist, and is inspired by liquid mercury. This 110-ton polished steel sculpture reflects the entire Chicago skyline and thus is the most loved addition here.

Apart from Cloud Gate, there is so much more to explore in the park. The list includes the famous Lurie Garden, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Crown Fountain, and the Harish theatre. No matter what your interests are, nothing will ever let you get bored here.

3. Anderson Japanese Gardens

The finest Japanese Gardens in America, Anderson Japanese Gardens, are a must-visit when in Illinois. These beautiful gardens are located in the third-largest city of Illinois, Rockford, and are spread over 12 acres. Its peaceful landscape consists of streams, waterfalls, winding paths, streams, rock formations, and ponds. There’s also a sukiya style tea house that is worth visiting. Anderson is a seasonal garden and thus is operational from May to October. You can come here to refresh and rejuvenate from the hustle of life. The breath-taking beauty, methodically planned architecture, and tranquil vibes will fill you with memories of a lifetime.

4. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The most famous museum in Illinois, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, is something you cannot miss. It is located in Springfield’s capital city and is dedicated to the 16th U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln. It is home to the original presidential library, which is also one of the most visited in the World. Even though the museum is relatively new, the collection here is preserved for centuries. Not only about Abraham Lincoln, but here you can learn a lot about Illinois history and culture. Although not everything here is placed on the display, the exhibits are extensive to surprise you. Make sure you spare about 3 hours to finely soak in the collection of this library and museum.

5. Starved Rock State Park

You may have visited several state parks in your life. But after spending time at the Starved Rock State Park, all your past experiences will fall short. Starved rock is a world apart from usual Illinois, a blend of scenic beauty and a tranquil atmosphere. It is on the bank of the Illinois River and is home to Nation’s best waterfalls and canyons. The state park is home to 13 miles of forested trails that meander through towering trees and scenic overlooks. You can chase a waterfall, go fishing, seek a museum, try snow sports, or do possibly anything to rejuvenate. There is so much to explore and do in the Starved Rock state park that even a weekend will fall short.

6. Dana-Thomas House, Springfield

Dana-Thomas House is a 1902 Prairie School-style home designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is Wright’s one of the most lavish and unique structures and a top-rated attraction in Springfield. The house represents one of his early works and today serves as a public museum. It is spread over 12000 square feet and has 16 different levels. It may not feel that huge from the outside, but there are 35 rooms of varying heights and uncountable connecting stairs.

While exploring the museum from inside, you will come across 250 art-glass doors and windows, 100 original wright furniture, and several glass lights fixtures. Consider taking a guided tour and spending some extra hours to truly appreciate the wonder.

7. Navy Pier, Chicago

The most popular spot in Chicago, the Navy Pier, is a must-visit for both locals and tourists. It is an ideal tourist destination in Illinois for visitors of all age groups. The pier in itself is home to several theatres, museums, shops, boutiques, and restaurants. The Highlight here includes the Crystal Gardens and the giant Ferris wheel. On a hot summer day, you can explore the indoor venues; though, for winter, there are enough outdoor attractions available. When here, make sure you take a Chicago food planet tour and taste some phenomenal delicacies.

8. Leaning Tower of Niles

If you are still waiting to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you can first visit its half-replica, the Leaning Tower of Niles. Located in the Niles Village, this Leaning tower gains a mention in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built back in the year 1937 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Today, the locals of Illinois, especially from Cook County, visit here to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon. It is a great place to click pictures or pretend if you are actually in Italy, in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. While you climb up the tower in Niles, make sure you see those five bells. Three of those bells are believed to be brought from Italy and are 100s of years old.

9. Mississippi Palisades State Park

The Mississippi Palisades State Park is a huge 2,500 state park and a popular outdoor attraction in Illinois. It is situated in Carroll County and is known for its magnificent setting along the Mississippi River. Once you arrive in the state park, you will notice several monoliths, which are also the highlight here. From Flora to Fauna and rich woodlands, the trails inside will lead you to an ultimate wonder of nature. The Mississippi Palisades State Park is popular for showcasing the richness of American Indian history. If you have ever walked in the trails here, you are possibly walking in the 1000 years old footsteps of Native American pathfinders. You can either plan a day visit or stay overnight in the park.

10. Discovery Center Museum

If you are in Illinois with your kids, do make sure you pay a visit to the Discovery Center Museum. It is an all-kids museum located in Rockford. The museum is home to over 250 interactive exhibits in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Even if you are an adult accompanying your kids, there are plenty of things to do for you as well. Begin from the bubble area and then head towards the farm area and tornado tube. Even before entering the museum building, you can explore their Rock River Discovery Park right outside.

When done with all the physical excretion, buy your lunch from the vending machines. Because Discovery Center Museum is about interactive learning, considering dressing your kids in comfortable clothes.

11. Lincoln Park Zoo

One of the most amazing zoos in America, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a top tourist attraction to explore when in Illinois. The Zoo is located in Chicago and is a prominent part of Lincoln Park alongside Lake Michigan. It is one of the oldest Zoos in the United States and is home to a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. It is also one of the very few zoos in America that offers free entry to the public.

The Zoo was founded back in the year 1868 and since then have hosted millions of animal lovers from all around the World. Here, some of the wild highlights include two-toed sloths, African lions, polar bears, lemurs, gorillas, and red pandas. One of the must-visits is the Great Ape House has where you can see the World’s best assemblages of gorillas and chimpanzees.

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