Here at Only in Your State, we bring you the information about all of the awesome things going on in Illinois. Sure, there are many more things that are incredible about Illinois than a list of 26 can show. But here are some things–from A-Z–that really capture the essence of our state.
We are a state all about aesthetics--from masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago to Picasso sculptures across Chicago to street art.
We may have divided loyalties with baseball, but everyone in Illinois can agree on the Bears. Bear down!
Illinois is on the map largely because of Chicago, love it or hate it. Chicago is one of the best cities in the world, with some of the best restaurants, first-class museums, fine shopping, and more.
Did you know that way back when, the Chicago Bears were actually the Decatur Bears? Decatur was hopping. Well, the Bears moved to Chicago and Decatur is not Chicago. But Decatur is a nice town with a great community and good industry. You should visit.
Is Chicago a haven for foodies? Yes. We have awesome high-end places like Alinea, fine dining like the Girl and the Goat, and then places like Al's Italian Beef. There's something for every budget and taste, but it's all great. You will not starve here.
Sure, Chicago doesn't look like this. But most of the rest of the state does. The backbone of our economy lies with our farmers. Take a drive down 57. You'll learn something.
In beautiful Jo Daviess County, Galena has everything you'd want in a town: rolling hills, an historic downtown, a river view. You'll love shopping and dining, and you'll want to stay a few nights here.
8. Hot dogs
We do hot dogs the right way here in Illinois. We love 'em Chicago style, obviously: MUSTARD, tomatoes, onions, relish, pickles, and sport peppers.
We are fortunate to have a lot of great schools, but we are all about the University of Illinois. And if someone says "ILL" you promptly respond "INI."
When you think Jazz, you might think New Orleans. But Chicago was quite important in the early days of the music form. You can still go to some great jazz clubs in the city.
Kankakee hardly ever gets love, but I'm going to give it. Did you know Kankakee was rated the worst place to live at one point? David Letterman felt so bad he actually sent a gazebo for the town. But Kankakee is turning things around, with new businesses and a new identity. Good for you Kankakee.
12. Lincoln Park Zoo
One of the last free zoos, Lincoln Park Zoo would be worth it even if admission costs. There are tons of wonderful exhibits. Where else can you get such an up close encounter with gorillas? It's very cool. Except if they start running at the glass. That was scary.
From the Art Institute to the Field Museum to the Museum of Science and Industry, Illinois has some of the best museums in the world. Many museums offer free days where you get to see all this FOR FREE.
14. Navy Pier
Not just for tourists, Navy Pier offers all sorts of shopping, theater, movies, and some great dining. And you definitely have to try the Ferris wheel.
Illinois has two large airports, but O'Hare is definitely the beast. Love it or hate it, you'll fly out of O'Hare at some point. It's jammed, it's hurried, but it's an experience.
Why do we keep writing about Portillo's? Because Portillo's is a true Illinois experience. People love the hot dogs, Italian beef, and even the french fries. And don't even get me started about the cake.
17. Quad Cities
Illinois has half of the quad cities in her borders, and they are nice towns with great views of the mighty Mississippi. It's fun to drive over the bridge into Iowa and back.
18. Rock Formations
At first pass, you might think Illinois is flat. Well, drive a little bit and you'll change your mind. How about seeing some rocks that are hundreds of millions of years old? Head down to Shawnee National Forest, home of the Garden of the Gods (pictured here).
Our state capital is fun to visit. If you can (and have patience), try and sit in during a session of the legislature. Also, hit up the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
A large part of Illinois' economy surrounds tourism. Sure, tourists can be annoying, especially if you are trying to navigate to work. But think that we are lucky enough to be in a state that people want to visit. Trust me--that's not the case in every state (*cough* Montana).
Illinois has some of the best universities in the country, from its flagship University of Illinois, to great institutions like the University of Chicago.
Illinois is full of breathtaking views, whether this one of Starved Rock, or from the top of the Willis Tower.
Most people think of California when they think wineries, but it might surprise you that Illinois has some awesome wineries. Head down to Southern Illinois, take in the beautiful scenery, and go on the wine trail. You'll love it.
Also known as cockleburrs, these little guys cause big problems when they get stuck on your clothes. Not a fun part about living in Illinois.
People in Illinois love to yell. About politics, about sports. It doesn't matter. We are opinionated.
Up in Lake County, Zion is off of Lake Michigan and home to the beautiful Illinois Beach State Park. The park consists of 6.5 miles of Lake Michigan's sandy shore.
Our state really is great! It is good to be in Illinois.