15 Best Places in Illinois

15 Best Places in Illinois
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Illinois is a state of the United States. It is located in the Midwest and borders Lake Michigan to the northeast. The name is of Algonquian and French origin, referring to the Native American tribe of Iriniwec or Irini who lived on the land and whose name means “people”. When the first French settlers arrived in the late 17th century, they called Illini “les Illinois”. After 1712, the area was colonized by France under that name, then taken over by the British in 1765 – with the same spelling and now pronounced English. In 1818 Illinois became a state of the United States.

Chicago is the only major city in Illinois and the third largest city in the United States after New York and Los Angeles. The official nickname of Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, after the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who lived in the capital city of Springfield and was buried there after an assassination attempt. We now present you the 15 most beautiful places in Illinois.

15. Chicago

Chicago, Illinois
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Chicago’s famous skyline, which seems to stretch across Lake Michigan, rises before your eyes. As you travel through America’s third largest city, you will repeatedly encounter the city’s intimate symbiosis with nature. Located in the heart of the Midwest, Chicago boasts towering skyscrapers, 77 colorful neighborhoods, 26 miles of lakefront with 26 sandy beaches, and 580 parks and green spaces. Equally impressive are the food, arts and cultural institutions, waterfront recreational opportunities, world-renowned events and more than 7,300 restaurants and 65 craft breweries.

This playful and cosmopolitan city offers something for everyone. Famed green spaces like Millennium Park, with its famous sculptures and fountains, alternate with event venues and world-class architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan. Get your first bird’s-eye view from The Ledge, a glass-enclosed balcony on the Willis Tower Skydeck, or from 360 Chicago’s Panorama Deck on North Michigan Avenue. The newest attraction catapults you 300 feet above Michigan.

At the Chicago Riverwalk, you can enjoy views of the city and river while enjoying delicious food and drinks. I highly recommend taking a boat tour on the Chicago River to learn more about the city’s famous architecture. Keep your little ones entertained with a trip to Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier or Wrigley Field baseball stadium. Or rent a bike and explore the 18-mile Lakefront Trail.

Each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods has its own character. Enclaves such as Chinatown, Little Italy, Avondale, Andersonville, Pilsen and Lincoln Square promote the cities multicultural heritage, shaped by German and Polish immigrants as well as Mexican and Chinese immigrants. Bucktown and Wicker Park are known for their local bars and great live music. Culture vultures should seek out the historic theaters, vaudeville venues and art deco buildings in the northern part of the city. The bustling downtown area of The Loop is full of famous landmarks, restaurants, stores and nightclubs.

Chicago’s cultural diversity includes more than 60 museums and dedicated museum sites, including the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Don’t miss the Art Institute of Chicago, with a permanent collection of 300,000 objects, and the largest museum of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, the Museum of Science and Industry.
The only American city with five local Tony Award-winning theater companies: Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Looking Glass, Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf, a visit to Chicago theater is unavoidable. With more than 200 venues, the choices are endless, not to mention performances by renowned companies such as the Joffrey Ballet, Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chicago’s dining scene features celebrity chefs, ethnic eateries and award-winning gourmet restaurants, including 25 Michelin-starred restaurants alone. But it’s equally famous for simple staples like Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish pizza, also known as Chicago-style pizza. Chicago was named Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in 2017. Then, visit cocktail bars and historic pubs or visit more than 65 craft breweries.

Shopaholics can store freely in Chicago. Michigan Avenue’s 13-block Magnificent Mile alone boasts more than 460 stores. The offerings range from department store chains to luxury boutiques to the stunning, multi-story Water Tower Place shopping center. Music lovers will find everything from live music, outdoor events like the Millennium Park concerts and festivals like Lollapalooza, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival. In the evening, the city offers a wide range of entertainment, including cocktail lounges, sports bars and dance clubs. Comedians such as Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert began their careers at the legendary Second City comedy club.

14. Springfield

Springfield, Illinois
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Springfield, the capital of Illinois, is a three-hour drive from Chicago. The two cities are connected by historic Route 66. The mother of all cities begins in Chicago and passes classic diner restaurants and whimsical roadside attractions on its way south. Culturally rich Springfield has many reminders of how Abraham Lincoln lived with his family for a long time before moving to Washington, D.C., after his election as the 16th president of the United States. The charming capital also has modern museums, unique architecture, great art galleries and a diverse dining scene.

Route 66 runs through downtown Springfield. The Explorer Passport, available at the Springfield Visitor Center, will help you find your way. The Route 66 Living Legends of Springfield category includes great local businesses associated with the Mother Road. Ahead is Cozy Dog Drive-In, featuring classic Cozy Dogs on a stick prepared from the original 1949 Waldmire family recipe, and Maid Wright, America’s oldest drive-thru restaurant. Sam and his staff still stick to their famous made-right sandwiches and homemade root beer.

Newcomers include Ron from the hip Route 66 Motörheads Bar, The Grill & Museum, and Gina and Stacey, who shine a light on Route 66’s African American history at Route History. Route 66 Drive-In, Fulgenzi’s Pizza & Pasta, Weeble’s Bar & Grill and Curve Inn are also worth a detour. Don’t forget to take a selfie on the 2-mile original handmade section of Route 66 near Auburn. The paved roads date back to 1931 and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most popular and respected presidents of the United States. In Springfield, you’ll get to know him as a husband, father and lawyer. Another Explorer Passport experience, the Abe’s Hat Hunt, takes you to 12 historic sites and attractions that somehow relate to Lincoln. From his childhood to his time in office to his assassination, Lincoln’s life is recreated through special effects and fascinating exhibits at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site is a full-scale replica of the prairie village where Lincoln lived in the 1830s before moving to Springfield. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site houses the only home ever owned by a president. At the Old State Capitol, Lincoln appeared as an attorney. He also served as a congressman here and gave one of his most famous speeches. The Lincoln Depot is where he gave his final address before leaving for Washington, D.C. The last site is Lincoln’s Tomb, where Lincoln himself, his wife and three children rest.

Museum buffs and fans of impressive buildings are in for a treat in Springfield. The Capitol was built in Renaissance and Second Empire styles and is the sixth seat of Illinois government. The massive glass dome towers over all other buildings in Springfield, even taller than the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The Illinois State Museum is also located on the Capitol grounds. Its three floors record the past 500 million years of natural history. A variety of exhibits cover the state’s geology, people and art.

The Dana-Thomas House is an excellent example of the early Prairie style by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The 1,114-square-foot home is divided into 35 rooms and is almost entirely decorated with original furniture and the glass art favored by Wright. The Italianate Edwards Place mansion is one of Springfield’s oldest mansions and was an important social and intellectual gathering place in Lincoln’s time. Restored in 2015, the mansion belonged to Elizabeth and Benjamin Edwards, sister and brother-in-law of Mary Todd Lincoln. It preserves, among other things, the “cover sofa” on which young Abraham Lincoln courted Mary Todd.

13. Starved Rock State Park

Beautiful Lasalle Falls at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois
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About a two-hour drive from Chicago is Starved Rock State Park, one of the most popular attractions in Illinois. When the glaciers in the region melted thousands of years ago, they left behind the 18 canyons that today attract many local and foreign tourists. As a result, the landscape in Starved Rock State Park is very different from the rest of Illinois.

Especially in spring or after heavy rains, the park turns into a paradise of waterfalls. And especially in winter, a bizarre sight presents itself here, when the water freezes and the so-called Icefalls are formed. But not only the canyons offer all kinds of reasons to marvel. In the surrounding area there are numerous other opportunities to see the region in a very unique way. For example, canoe or paddle along the river, swing through the trees on zip lines or – for the very brave – dare a skydive from a height of over four kilometers!

12. Galena

Galena, Illinois (USA)

Galena is located in the rolling hills of northwestern Illinois. The discovery of lead deposits made Galena (Latin for “lead sulfide”) a bustling town in the early 19th century. The major industry at that time was mining. Galena is located on the banks of the Galena River and not far from the Mississippi River. In the mid-1880s, Galena was the largest port between St. Louis, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Over 85% of the city is listed on the United States Register of Historic Places. When Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, lived in Galena, Main Street already had many buildings. The town is a fascinating and authentic portrait of American history. If Grant and Abraham Lincoln were to visit Galena today, they would find that the town has changed little since their days. Of course, the product line has evolved over the years, but that doesn’t detract from Galena’s welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

Galena and all of Joe Davis County are known for their scenic beauty. The hills and valleys left by glaciers that define this area are unique in Illinois. Many areas are protected. There are meadows filled with wildlife, bald eagles and Native American mounds waiting to be explored.
Today, Galena is one of the most popular destinations in Illinois and the Midwest, known for its charming B&Bs and Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa with four golf courses.

The General Golf Course has been named one of America’s 100 Best Golf Courses. In addition to golf, you can kayak and stand-up paddle on the Galena River. Adventure seekers can take a Segway tour of Chestnut Mountain or take a hot air balloon ride at Garena on the Fly. Four award-winning wineries are located in Galena and Joe Davis counties. Many restaurants are worth a visit just for the unique appetizers and desserts.

Galena is the starting point of Illinois’ Great River Road, an approximately 860-mile adventure along the Mississippi River. Voted one of National Geographic’s 500 Journeys of a Lifetime, this road will teach you about American history and the people and places that shaped it. Follow the route through quaint towns and visit historic museums, monuments, and scenic vineyards against the breathtaking backdrop of the Mississippi River.

11. Rockford

Rockford, Illinois
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Rockford is just a 90-minute drive from Chicago, the heart of America. Recreational opportunities range from Prairie Street Brewing Company overlooking the Rock River to the Golf Digest-recommended 18-hole Aldeen Golf Club to action-packed field hockey and baseball games at a total of 42 forest preserves. Stroll through the Rockford City Market with food trucks, beer tents and live music. Whether you visit Rockford on a Great Lakes tour, stop on your way to the Mississippi River or take a day trip from Chicago, Rockford has much to offer.

Rockford is also known as the “Garden City” for its 4,000 acres of parks and public gardens. The 12-acre Anderson Japanese Garden features waterfalls, ponds, walking trails, quiet nooks, 16th-century Sukiya-style buildings, a tea room with live music on Tuesday nights and a guest house. Japanese gardening trade publication Sukiya Living Magazine named Anderson Gardens the highest quality Japanese garden in North America. Klemm Arboretum & Botanical Garden includes 60 acres of rare trees, shrubs and perennials. The historic gardens at the Midway Village Museum and the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum are based on late 19th-century models. Century. Don’t miss Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens. The greenhouse overlooks the Rock River Nature Trail and is the third largest greenhouse in Illinois.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or an adventurer, there’s something for everyone. Test your mettle at dizzying heights on Zip Rockford’s zipline tour, zoom down the Rock River rapids on Rocktown Adventure’s kayak tour and enjoy a fun game. Wakeboarding at West Rock Wake Park. Swim, bike, hike and paddle at the 1,251-acre Rock Cut State Park. Golfers also get their money’s worth in Rockford. The city ranks among the top golf destinations for both quantity and quality. The Sinissippi Golf Course and Elliot Golf Course are particularly recommended. Kids will love Magic Waters, which is now part of Six Flags Waterpark.

Jane the female T-Rex is the undisputed star of the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford. Fascinating exhibits are of interest to visitors of all ages. The Discovery Center Museum has more than 250 interactive art and science exhibits. Art lovers should visit the Rockford Museum of Art. The largest art museum in Illinois, just outside Chicago, with more than 1,500 works. Don’t miss the beautiful Coronado Performing Arts Center. The auditorium is decorated with gilded Spanish castles, Italian villas, Chinese dragons and a starry sky on the ceiling. Performances at Rock Valley College’s Starlight Theatre are also popular with locals. Before heading out, visit the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Laurent House, described by the famed architect himself as a “little gem.” The one-story Usonia Residence, a rare example of mid-century architecture, is resplendent after a renovation.

10. Naperville

Kayak Dock area at Quarry Lake in Naperville Illinois near the Riverwalk
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Naperville is a city in the U.S. state of Illinois, most of its territory is in DuPage County, but part is in Will County. It is the center of the Chicago metropolitan area with a population of 149,540 at the 2020 census.Naperville is the fourth largest city in Illinois after Chicago, Aurora and Rockford.

Naperville was founded in July 1831 by Joseph Naper. The first settlement was simply called Naper’s Settlement or (Joseph) Naper’s Settlement. Just one year later, over 100 settlers arrived at Naper’s Settlement. These settlers were temporarily evacuated to Fort Dearborn, Chicago’s center, to protect against an impending Sauk attack. Another fort, Fort Payne, was built on the Naper settlement, the settlers returned, and the dreaded Sauk attack never occurred. A reconstruction of Fort Payne can be seen at the Naper Settlement Open Air Museum. The museum was established in the 1970s by the Naperville Heritage Society and preserves some of the community’s oldest buildings.

Napers Settlement was the seat of DuPage County from 1839 to 1868. In 1857, Napers Settlement was incorporated as the Village of Naperville. At that time, Naperville had a population of about 2,000. In 1890, Naperville was elevated to a city and incorporated as the City of Naperville. Naperville was primarily rural from the beginning, but a population explosion began in the 1960s and intensified in the 1980s and 1990s. This development was spurred in particular by the construction of Interstate I-88 (the so-called East-West Toll Road), recently renamed the Ronald Reagan Memorial Toll Road. Improved transportation access has brought more industry, services, jobs and prosperity to Chicago’s western suburbs. In the last 20 years, Naperville’s population has nearly quadrupled.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, a group of Naperville citizens began exploring sisterhood opportunities with the city, one of the new democracies of Eastern Europe. The Naperville City Council supported the idea. On November 17, 1993, the sister city relationship with Nitra, Slovakia, officially took effect. Numerous cultural, social, political and economic projects promote international understanding and cooperation.

The Naperville Public Library has been ranked No. 1 in the nationwide public library rankings for eight consecutive years.
The neighboring city of Batavia, population 25,000, is home to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, one of the world’s largest basic particle physics research centers. The Nicor and Nalco companies are headquartered in Naperville.

9. Peoria

Peoria riverfront at night in central illinois
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With a population of around 190,000, Peoria is by far the largest city in Great Rivers Country. Its promenade on the banks of the Illinois River is one of the most popular attractions in the region. In addition to very good restaurants, galleries and many boutiques, there is also the Peoria Riverfront Museum right on the water. With its regularly changing exhibitions on history, science and art, it is one of the most exciting museums in the Midwest. The giant 3D screen, also located here, features the exciting “digital planetarium” as well as the latest movie blockbusters.

Don’t miss a ride on the Spirit of Peoria. This paddlewheel steamer, which is a replica of a real 19th-century ship, sails the Illinois River on one- to five-day tours. As the watercraft makes its way across the river, you’ll be entertained by line music. Very close to Peoria is Wildlife Prairie State Park. This wildlife sanctuary is home to more than 150 animals that originally lived in Illinois but were driven out by human encroachment. Bison, wolves, black bears, elk and even cougars can be seen here.

Did you know that Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, is headquartered in Peoria? In October 2012, the Caterpillar Visitors Center opened here, giving you a glimpse into the company’s history with lots of photos and antique equipment, and where you can take a close look at a 7-foot-tall mining truck.

If you prefer to be in nature, we recommend a visit to Peoria Heights, from which you can see up to 30 kilometers into the Illinois River Valley. Afterwards, it’s worth taking a drive on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway, which connects more than 100 wonderful destinations. The 140-mile route, centered in Peoria, offers pure nature and numerous opportunities for activities, such as canoeing, biking or hiking.

8. Cahokia

Cahokia Mounds
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Cahokia Mounds is one of the highlights of the Great River Road in Illinois and is located near the town of Collinsville. A drive through wonderful landscapes along the Mississippi River, the “Ol’ Man River,” brings visitors to the interesting World Heritage Site in the American Midwest.

The World Heritage-listed site is considered the largest Indian city north of Mexico and was inhabited by some 20,000 people in its heyday from about the 11th to the 14th centuries. More than 120 tumuli still bear witness to the great past. The reason for the strong growth of the city at that time were the immense and productive corn fields in the region, which provided the staple food for the inhabitants.

In southeastern Illinois, near the Mississippi River, is one of the most spectacular sites of Native American cultures in the United States. A visit to Cahokia Mounds takes you deep into Native American history. Here visitors will find the remains of an advanced civilization that flourished in the 1200s.

Settlement in the region began around 700 AD. At that time, the first Indians – mainly hunters, fishermen and farmers – settled in the fertile region. They were followed 150 to 200 years later by the much more developed Mississippi Indians. They created a religiously, politically and socially highly developed culture in this place.

In addition to a number of technical achievements, they had an accurate solar calendar that allowed them to precisely determine the individual phases of a year. They also found good climatic conditions in the region for growing corn – corn was the Indians’ most important staple food.

According to the latest findings, up to 25,000 people lived here on the approximately nine square kilometer territory and in upstream settlements in the surrounding area. Cahokia was thus the largest pre-Columbian city north of Mexico. In the 15th century or so – long before the first European settlers came to Illinois – the Indians left their homeland for reasons that are still not clear.

In addition to the solar calendar, the people of Cahokia left behind 120 religious sites in the form of large mounds of mounded earth. The appearance and size of these formations, are reminiscent of the great structures of the Indian cultures of Latin America. Since 1982, Cahokia Mounds has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

7. Evanston

Benches at a Park along Lake Michigan in Evanston Illinois
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From downtown Chicago, you can take a short drive along the shore of Lake Michigan or take the train to the college town of Evanston.
The North Shore region is home to Northwestern University and is considered a center for arts and culture. That’s not all. During your stay, you can visit lighthouses, unique gardens and museums, explore scenic lakeside beaches and admire charming historic mansions. The city’s delicious food scene ensures that no one goes hungry.

A great place to start your tour is picturesque Northwestern University. Just a short walk from Lake Michigan, the Block Museum Campus Art Walk begins with 16 sculptures. The free museum features temporary exhibitions in three galleries and a permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Mary Cassatt and Edward Steichen. The new Halim Time & Glass Museum is a 6-minute drive away. Learn about L.C. Tiffany & Co.’s giant stained-glass windows and 1,100 17th-century clocks on a 1-hour guided tour. The nearest train station is Charles Gates Dawes House, a 5-minute drive away.

A National Historic Landmark, this majestic 25-room mansion overlooking a lake was home to 1925 Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. Vice President Charles Gates Dawes. On a guided tour of the building, admire the oak, cherry and marble paneling and count the 12 total fireplaces. Finally, we recommend a trip to Evanston SPACE, a small nightclub with an adjacent recording studio. Regular performances by well-known artists and up-and-coming performers of various genres. Beach and garden

One of Evanston’s biggest attractions is, of course, Lake Michigan. Surrounded by lush parkland, Gross Point Lighthouse attracts lighthouse buffs as well as history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts. There are hiking and biking trails, as well as a wildflower garden and butterfly garden. Of course, don’t miss the opportunity to dip your feet in the lake! Built in 1874, the lighthouse offers guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays from June through September. Try sailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddling, and kayaking at the Northwestern University Sailing Center. Depending on your preferences and experience level, you can rent a boat here, take a lesson, or join a group tour. Afterward, stretch out on the sand or play volleyball. For a long picnic, head to the expansive sandy beach of Centennial Park, just a few blocks from your downtown Evanston hotel. Chicago’s spectacular skyline rises on the southern horizon.

Too much culture and outdoor activity makes you hungry, and Found Kitchen & Social House offers new American cuisine from farm to table. For ingredients, the restaurant relies on seasonal offerings from local farmers. On the “flexitarian” menu, for example. B. flatbread with butternut squash, chicken thighs and quinoa, or pecan date cake. The Peckish Pig is Evanston’s oldest microbrew pub, focusing on its own interpretation of home cooking. Here, creative dishes like macaroni and cheese kimchi, bacon-wrapped dates and chicken wings with maple syrup habanero sauce are paired with house-made beer on tap. A must-visit for barbecue fans is Smylie Brothers Brewing Company. On this tour, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look and learn more about the beer-making process. Then enjoy smoked brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs or wood-fired pizza with your favorite seasonal beer.

6. Champaign

Champaign - University Buildings
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Many travelers come to Champaign for the University of Illinois, but find that this somewhat remote Midwestern region has many other attractions to offer, focusing exclusively on cultural, technological and agritourism opportunities. It’s worth visiting any time of year, but summer and fall are especially packed with festivals, outdoor entertainment, theater and sporting events.

Sample freshly harvested produce at local farms and participate in a variety of activities. Take a tour of Prairie Fruit Farm & Creamery and learn about the farm’s Anglo-Nubian goat herd. Of course, sample cheese and ice cream made from goat’s milk and unsweetened sorbet made from local fruit. The 200-acre Great Pumpkin Patch is home to more than 300 varieties of pumpkins from over 30 countries. There are also mazes, gardens, goats, rabbits, chickens and other animals to explore.

At Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch, you can pick your own apples, drink freshly made cider and sample honey from the farm’s bees. A friendly herd of reindeer greets you as you make your way through the 10-acre corn maze at Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch. (Hint: They don’t mind a kiss or two!) It’s especially crowded in the run-up to Christmas, when 5,000 Christmas trees are for sale. Back in town, you’ll also find a delicious restaurant scene. Champaign was named the greatest food town in the Midwest by Midwest Living magazine in 2017. Choose from more than 40 restaurants featuring local ingredients, lively bars, breweries, theaters and public art.

Major arts centers include the Krannert Art Museum, the second largest art museum in Illinois, and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, which hosts more than 300 performances annually. Both centers are located on the university’s campus. Also, listen to live music, see a play or movie at the Virginia Theatre, take a tour of the European-style Allerton Park & Retreat Center, or take a train ride to see more than 100 railroad exhibits at the Monticello Railroad Museum. can do. Don’t miss your chance to visit Amish Country, Illinois, just south of Champaign. Here, locals travel by horse-drawn carriages and make non-electric crafts.
innovative technology

For technology fans, Champaign is a real winner. The Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the fastest supercomputer on a university campus and one of the most powerful computers in the world. Marvel at 3D computing products and try out the latest tech gadgets at the fun Champaign Urbana Farabo.

5. Shawnee National Forest

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
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Shawnee National Forest is a national forest of the United States. It is located in the Ozark Hills and Shawnee Hills of southern Illinois and covers about 1100 square miles. The Forest Service is located in Harrisburg, Illinois.

As a result of the Illini and Shawnee land acquisitions, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the Shawnee National Forest as a National Forest in September 1939. Much of the land acquired for national forests in the first decade was depleted for agricultural use. Pine trees were planted in the 1930s and 1940s by the Civilian Conservation Corps for erosion control and soil development. However, the forest also supports many deciduous trees and plant and animal species endemic to the region. In 2006, a new management plan for the Shawnee National Forest was developed by the Forest Service to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of the forest area.

During the Illinois Ice Age (approximately 352,000 to 132,000 years ago), the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered up to 85% of Illinois. The southern tip of this ice sheet was located in what is now the Shawnee National Forest. Glacial erosion created the Garden of the Gods Wilderness, a remarkable sandstone formation that towers over the treetops and serves as a viewing platform. With a little imagination, the spherical rocks can be seen as oversized heads or animals (camel rocks). A variety of hiking and equestrian trails connect attractions in this popular national forest.

4. Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park
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Canyons, streams, prairies and forests delight visitors to Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, about four miles south of Utica and three miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a haven for those interested in both geology and recreation. Visitors can expect beautiful rock formations as well as unusual and lush vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities, makes Matthiessen State Park a popular destination.

The many unusual and beautiful rock formations make a trip to Matthiessen State Park both an educational and entertaining experience. Exposed sandstone can be seen everywhere. The main canyon, consisting of Upper and Lower Dells, provides an unusual and interesting tour. The Upper Dell begins at Deer Park Lake and continues to Cascade Falls, where the canyon drops 45 feet and the Lower Dell begins. The canyon, formed by water erosion, is about a mile long, from Deer Park Lake to the Vermilion River. Visitors can observe groundwater percolating along the sandstone of the canyon walls. As the groundwater evaporates along the canyon walls, minerals dissolved in the water contribute to the beautiful coloration of the rocks.

There are several mineral springs in the park, and each one was a favorite spot for the large deer population, which used it as a salt lick.
Flora and fauna: Visitors will be amazed by the abundance of plant and animal life. The park is home to numerous common and rare species of flora and fauna. The gorge provides a perfect habitat for many mosses and liverworts that thrive on the moist, shady walls. Ferns also grow in the fertile soil. The rest of the vegetation inside the canyon is limited to simpler or lower plant species, as most plants cannot take root on the steep rock walls. Cliff swallows and rock doves can be seen on the canyon walls, while frogs, toads, and salamanders frequent the cool, moist canyon bottoms.

Black oaks, red cedars, and white oaks grow in abundance along the dry, sandy bluffs at the rim of the canyon. White pines and white cedars are also found here, carried south by glaciers long ago. Shrubs common to the area include serviceberry and northern honeysuckle. Scarlet and cedar silktails can be seen on the berries of these shrubs. Holes of yellow-bellied sapsuckers that feed on sap and small insects can be found on the cedar trees. In spring, shooting star blooms with its beautiful magenta flowers, and the bright orange of columbine pleases the eye. In summer, a rainbow of colors unfolds with the yellow partridge pea, purple spiked lead plants, and purple mint plants with square stems.

Farther back on the bluffs grow bur oak and hickory. American witch hazel, black huckleberry, and bracken fern grow at the base of these trees. Nuthatches and titmice can be seen here feeding on nuts, seeds, and insects.
In spring, mulberry trees, pastel liverworts, and pale pink spring flowers bloom on the shady forest floor. Where the sun breaks through the trees, black-eyed susans and pink spiny tickle leaves bloom throughout the summer. Raccoons and flying squirrels spend hours in the trees searching for and gathering berries and nuts.

At the forest edges, bright blue indigo finches fly among the wild crabapple and plum trees. Rabbits hop through the bluestem and Indian grasses. Red-tailed hawks fly above the forest, foraging for field mice. Three-leaved poison ivy is found in all areas of the park and grows both as a vine and as a single woody plant. Its greenish-white berries are an important food source for the many birds that live here.

Matthiessen State Park was named for Frederick William Matthiessen, a prominent LaSalle industrialist and philanthropist. He originally acquired the land in the late 19th century and developed it over many years into a privately owned park. Matthiessen employed about 50 people to build trails, bridges, stairs and dams. Originally, the area was called “Deer Park” in reference to the large deer population. The original 176-acre park consisted primarily of a long, narrow canyon with a small stream running through it.

At the time, these formations were called “dells,” a name the park retains to this day. After Matthiessen’s death, the park was donated to the State of Illinois, which opened it as a public park. In 1943, the state renamed the park in Matthiessen’s honor. Since then, the park has grown to 1,938 acres and includes much of the significant natural areas along the main valley, some former prairie areas, and some forested areas south of the original park.

A campground for equestrians and their horses is located west of Route 178 between Route 71 and the entrance to the Dells Area.
The equestrian campground is for equestrians only. Sites are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, and reservations cannot be made through the park or online. Campers fill out a registration envelope at the campground and drop the information and overnight fee in the designated box at the campground.

The Dells area of the park is an ideal place for picnics and a relaxing afternoon. This area has picnic tables, water features and playground equipment, as well as a large parking lot and restrooms. Another attraction is the restored fort, which is a replica of the fortifications the French built in the Midwest in the 1600s and early 1700s. The main trail to the Cascade Falls area begins in this area.
To the south, in the Vermilion River Area, additional picnic shelters, picnic tables, grills, and drinking fountains provide convenient picnic opportunities.

The park has five miles of well-marked, paved trails for a relaxing stroll or a strenuous hike. Large trail maps are located at all major trail junctions, allowing visitors to choose a variety of routes. The upper area and cliffs are easy trails for beginners, but the trails in the interior of the two valleys can be difficult to walk, especially in spring and early summer. Hikers must stay on marked trails, as steep cliffs and deep ravines can be dangerous. Hikers can admire plant and animal life along the trails and have unparalleled views of geological wonders as they make their way through the park. Alcohol is prohibited on all trails.

On the north side of the entrance to the Dells area is a parking lot with a dock that marks access to nine miles of equestrian trails. Horse rental is located on Route 71, one-half mile west of Route 178, and is open weekends in April and November and Wednesday through Sunday from May through October. There are also six miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rentals on weekends from December through March.

3. Grosse Point Lighthouse

Evanston Grosse Point Lighthouse
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In 1870, the Lighthouse Committee recommended that the cast-iron lighthouse, which had been in operation on Chicago’s north pier since 1859, be moved to Grosse Point, thirteen miles to the north, where it would “serve its purpose of marking the approach to Chicago and a prominent point on the coast.” The north pier of Chicago had been extended seaward 1,200 feet since the erection of the iron lighthouse, and the smoke from the numerous steamers and factories nearby often obscured the light from the tower.

For some reason, this plan was scrapped, and the lighthouse remained in Chicago until it was dismantled in 1894 and parts of it were used at Twin River (Rawley Point), Wisconsin. Grosse Point was instead given a magnificent brick tower connected to an Italianate-style duplex.
The twenty-five foot bluff on which the lighthouse was built had been known as Grosse Point (big point) since French fur trappers frequented the area in the seventeenth century. The explorer and Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette reported that he camped at “Grosse Pointe” on December 3, 1674, during his expedition to the area that would later become Chicago.

On the night of September 7, 1860, the Lady Elgin was on her way back from Chicago to Milwaukee after hearing a campaign speech by Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln’s opponent in the presidential election. Off Grosse Point, the Lady Elgin was rammed just aft of the side paddlewheel by the lumber-laden schooner Augusta, and within twenty minutes the steamer had broken up and sunk.

As day broke, many of the surviving passengers and crew members were adrift in stormy waters, clinging to wreckage. Students from nearby Northwestern University gathered on the shore and searched the water for signs of life. One student, Edward W. Spencer, rescued seventeen people before collapsing from overexertion and fatigue. A plaque in the Northwestern University library commemorates his efforts.

The sinking of the Lady Elgin claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, making it the worst maritime disaster on the Great Lakes up to that time. Over the next decade, other shipwrecks occurred off Grosse Point, prompting Evanston residents to petition Congress for a lighthouse.

In 1871, Congress appropriated $35,000 for a lighthouse at Grosse Point, and a 100-foot by 550-foot lot was purchased for $1,200. Orlando Metcalfe Poe was appointed chief engineer of the Upper Great Lakes Lighthouse District in 1870, and in that capacity designed many of the tall, graceful brick towers that adorn the Great Lakes.

Poe drafted plans and specifications for the Grosse Point Lighthouse in 1872, and after competitive bidding, bids for construction of the station were opened on August 13, 1872. The lowest bid was awarded the contract, and excavation for the foundations of the tower, covered walkway, and dwelling house began in September. By the end of the working season in November, the masonry of the residential building had been brought up to ground level.

Work resumed the following April, and within two months the masonry of the residence was nearly completed. Ninety-one piles were driven to a depth of fifteen feet and overlaid with a four-foot-thick concrete foundation to support the tower. By the end of June, the passageway, the masonry of the tower foundation, and the exterior of the residence were nearly complete. During the remainder of the year, the 113-foot brick tower, tapering from a diameter of twenty-two feet at the base to thirteen feet and three inches at the parapet, gradually towered over the attached residence.

A second-order Fresnel lens manufactured by Henry-Lepaute in Paris was installed in the lantern room, and the light went into operation on March 1, 1874. Three discs of red glass rotated slowly around the fixed lens, driven by a 60-pound weight suspended in the double walls of the tower. The light was a fixed white color, changed every three minutes by a ten-second flash of red light. A second-order Fresnel lens is the largest lens ever used on the Great Lakes, and Grosse Point’s second-order lens was the first installed on the lakes and the only one still active today.

According to a 1924 newspaper account, the Grosse Point lens was one of three lenses purchased in France in 1860 for $10,000 each. Two of these lenses were sent to Florida, where lighthouses were under construction, but the outbreak of the Civil War prevented their installation. The lenses were buried in a remote location to prevent them from falling into rebel hands. After the conflict, they were dug up and one was eventually brought to Grosse Point.

The keeper’s double house stands seventy-three feet west of the tower and had seven rooms in each of the two apartments. The head keeper lived in the south side of the double house, while the first assistant was given four rooms in the other side and the second assistant was given the remaining three rooms. Originally the station had only one assistant, but in 1880 a second was
added to handle the additional workload caused by the new fog signal.

By 1871, Chicago was the busiest port in America. Although it was closed for the winter, more ships arrived in Chicago than in New York and San Francisco combined. The Evanston Index reported in 1885 that 8,787 sailing vessels and 3,566 steamboats had passed through Grosse Point during the shipping season.

When traveling south on Lake Michigan from the Straits of Mackinac toward Chicago, they headed for Grosse Point and then followed the shore to Chicago. Grosse Point thus served as a landing light, and in 1880 two buildings were erected seaward of the tower to house double steam sirens to aid mariners in poor visibility. In 1892, the sirens were replaced with ten-inch steam whistles. Between 1885 and 1894, the fog signal, which sounded alternately twenty and forty seconds apart, was in operation an average of 245 hours per year.

On July 26, 1888, Anthony Hagan, head keeper of the Grosse Point Lighthouse, wrote to Inspector C.E. Clark: “Mr. Palmer, 2nd Asst. finished his work at 10:30 o’clock while I was cleaning leaves in the tower, and told me that he did not care for the lighthouse, now that I am left alone and the light is all down, I respectfully request that an assistant be sent to me to obey my orders.

I will fix the light tonight if the fog does not lift.” There must have been more to the story, for Keeper Hagan was relieved of his duties less than two weeks later. In his place, Edwin J. Moore was appointed head keeper, serving Grosse Point for thirty-six years until his death in 1924 at the age of seventy-three.

Keeper Moore began his career as a lighthouse keeper as second assistant at Grosse Point in 1883. He left the lighthouse in 1885 to become head keeper of Calumet Pierhead Lighthouse and returned in 1888 to take charge of Grosse Point Lighthouse. According to a March 3, 1924 newspaper article announcing his death, Lighthouse Keeper Moore’s last thoughts were of his duty: “Is the light all right, Mother?” he asked his wife as he collapsed from heart failure minutes after descending from the 147-foot tower where he had turned on the light for the last time. Lighthouse keeper Moore was sixty-nine years old when he died on March 1, 1924.

Due to deterioration of the bricks used to build the lighthouse, the tower was scaffolded and encased in reinforced concrete in 1914 at a cost of $2,679. In 1934, the station was electrified and the fog signal was eliminated. These measures allowed the light to be operated by photocell, and the last attendant left the station in 1935. With the help of its congressmen, the City of Evanston purchased the station in 1935 and the tower itself in 1945. The North East Park District, now known as the Lighthouse Park District, manages the site.

The Grosse Point beacon was abolished in 1941 when light buoys were anchored seven miles offshore. The tower’s Fresnel lens was reactivated in February 1946 and now serves as a private aid to navigation, showing a group of two flashes every fifteen seconds. During World War II, the lighthouse was used by two physicists at nearby Northwestern University to conduct experiments with photocells to detect infrared light. Prototypes of these devices were used in modern radar detection systems to monitor the movements of enemy aircraft.

About the time the station was dismantled, the passageway connecting the tower and the residence was removed, as was the one-and-a-half-story wing on the north side of the residence that had begun to separate from the main part of the house. The passageway was reconstructed in 1984 to the original 1873 specifications, and the missing wing was also rebuilt in 1993. The fully restored lighthouse now blends harmoniously with the villas that line the shoreline of this historic neighborhood.

The north side of the duplex houses a museum for visitors and an office for the Park District, while the south side of the duplex is home to a “keeper” that Don Terras held for many years. Grosse Point Lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999.

2. Leaning Tower of Niles

Leaning Tower of Niles
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Successful businessman Robert Irg built Ilgea Park, a 22-acre park, in the 1920s. Two large outdoor pools had to be supplied with water from large outdoor water tanks. To preserve the natural beauty of the area, Irg decided to build a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to hide the water tower. The tower was half the size of the original of Pisa, was 27 m high, had a diameter of 28 m, a diagonal of 7.4 m and was made of reinforced concrete. Construction began in 1931 and was completed in 1934. In 1960, the descendants of Robert Irg donated part of the park for the construction of the YMCA Slate Tulum.

An agreement was made to transfer the tower to the Niles YMCA on the condition that the YMCA spend at least $500 per year on maintenance of the tower and surrounding area until 2059. The tower was quickly showing signs of age. With each freeze-thaw cycle cracking the concrete more, the $500 per year budget for tower and grounds maintenance proved insufficient. In 1991, Niles Ward formed a partnership with Pisa, Italy, and after leasing the site and tower from the YMCA in 1995, began a $1.2 million renovation project.

The concrete was patched, eight floors were re-lit, and a plaza with four fountains, a 30-foot reflecting pool, telephone booths, and landscaping was built around the tower. Leaning Tower Square opened on June 26, 1997. The Leaning Tower is located at 6300 W. Touhy Avenue in Niles.

During the week of April 12, 2019, the National Park Service took steps to list certain properties on the National Register of Historic Places. The Village of Niles is proud to announce that the Leaning Tower of Niles is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Village Manager’s Office prepared and assisted with the National Register application. The National Register of Historic Places is the nation’s official list of historic sites worthy of preservation.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places coordinates and supports public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archaeological resources Over the years, the Leaning Tower of Niles has become a nationally known roadside attraction. The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the world and is of great architectural significance due to its unique structure. It continues to promote culture in our community and will be open to visitors next year to further our mission of community building.

1. Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge

Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge
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Located on the lush shores of Chautauqua Lake in Western New York State, the two small towns of Chautauqua and Jamestown offer fascinating outdoor recreational activities, numerous cultural institutions, and dining with fresh produce from surrounding farms.We will welcome clients to the scene. Enjoy a variety of water activities on Lake Chautauqua and Lake Erie in the spring and summer when the weather is nice. Fall brings spectacular colorful foliage and winter brings many ski resorts to the Chautauqua-Allegheny region.

There is no shortage of fresh, clean air in this region. The numerous forests and parks make sure of that – especially Allegany State Park: the largest state park in New York State, it offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding and camping, as well as snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter. Birders should look for the Ripley Hawk Watch on the shores of Lake Erie and the Audubon Community Nature Center in Jamestown. The area is surrounded by beautiful nature trails and is home to Liberty the Bald Eagle. Skiers and golfers rave about Peak’n’Peak Resort and Holiday Valley Resort.

Founded in 1874, Chautauqua Institute is known for its renowned concerts, lectures and informative programs on art, literature, religion and recreation. More than 2,000 events are scheduled each year during the nine-week summer season. The Seneca-Iroquois National Museum in Salamanca, about a 45-minute drive away, features displays and exhibits on Seneca Indian history. Also not to be missed is the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy in Jamestown. Here you’ll find plenty of memorabilia and reenactments reminiscent of the popular 1950s television series I Love Lucy.

Stretching 50 miles along the lake’s south shore, Lake Erie Wine Country is the largest wine region east of the Rocky Mountains, with 23 wineries open year-round. Wine lovers can learn more about the region’s winemaking history and purchase local products at the Grape Discovery Center. If you love craft beer and spirits, visit Southern Tier Brewing Co, Ellicotville Brewing Co, Five & 20 Spirits and Brewing (a combination of wineries, breweries and distilleries).

Sweet lovers will love the freshly baked pancakes with local maple syrup at Maple Farm Restaurant in Sprague. The Amish Trail takes you to more than 100 farms in upstate New York where traditional Amish sell fruits and vegetables, handmade quilts, furniture and baked goods. A small town in Cuba was once considered the “cheese capital of the world.” The popular Cuban Cheese Shop sells gourmet gift baskets filled with delicious cheeses.

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