17 Best Places to Visit in Illinois [Update 2024]


Well known as the “The Land of Lincoln”, Illinois is a wonderful state with much to explore and celebrate. For exploring the American Midwest, you need to visit Illinois.

With its teeming cities and natural charm in rural areas, this state is perfect for relaxing getaways and exciting times. If you want to make the most of exploring Illinois, you need to follow the shortlisted best places.

To know it all, read this overview of the best places to visit in Illinois.

1. Springfield

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Springfield is one of the Best Places to Visit in Illinois

Springfield is well known as the birthplace of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. To preserve the legacy of this iconic president, in this state, you can explore the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Lincoln’s Tomb and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

This city holds different places to hold the remembrance of the ex-president. Besides these, this city is also home to 40 wooded acres of natural surroundings of wildlife and forestry which makes it a fantastic spot for nature lovers.

2. Rockford

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Illinois’s second-largest city is Rockford. To get a picture of Illinois’ vast diversity, you need to visit this place. It is dubbed as the “The Forest City” because it has more than 20,000 acres of green space.

Golf courses, hiking trails, historical exhibits, pristine lakes and the famous Rock Cut State Park are some highlights of this city. Another place to visit here is the Burpee Museum of Natural History, where you can see the appalling dinosaur exhibit.

3. Anderson Gardens

Inspired by visits of Rockford businessman John R. Anderson, the Anderson Gardens was built in Rockford, Illinois. Mr. Anderson was enchanted by seeing the Japanese garden when he visited Japan, so he wanted to create a beautiful garden similar to it.

Maybe that’s why the garden is designed by the Japanese architect, Hoichi Kurisu. This private venture has become one of the finest Japanese gardens in the country. To relieve your stress, this is the perfect place.

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4. Lincoln’s Tomb

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A special mention that has to be made when listing the best places to visit in Illinois is Lincoln’s Tomb. It is because Illinois is not only the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, but also the burial place.

Lincoln’s wife has requested that his body has to be brought back to his home and this is what he would have wanted too. His tomb is located in Oakridge Cemetery, which is open for visitors year-round.

5. Morton Arboretum

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Morton Arboretum

Right in Lisle, Illinois, the Morton Arboretum is a world-class facility. Encompassing more than 1700 acres of land, this arboretum has paved routes for cycling and driving, 16 miles of hiking trails, a gorgeous ground cover garden, and a huge maze.

Also, the fragrance garden is one of the most liked attractions of this place. Children can learn a lot from the extensive educational program arranged to know about arboreal conservation here. Even adults enjoy the program.

6. Evanston

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Known as one of the most charming downtowns of Illinois, Evanston is a go-to place. Packed with amazing music venues, theaters and restaurants, you will love this stylish suburb.

Right through the shoals of Lake Michigan, you can view the lighthouse that has been erected in the aftermath of several shipwrecks by water craft. This lighthouse is beautiful to look at and adds to the scenic beauty of this city.

Check out these incredible landmarks in Illinois.

7. Naperville Riverwalk

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For exploring the scenic and peaceful wonders of Illinois, you can visit the Riverwalk in Naperville. Strolling through the DuPage River branch is the perfect way to relax.

Besides the beautiful landscapes and natural charm, there is more for you. The river walk is dotted with sculptures, artwork, fountains, bridges and even event spaces where something goes on frequently.

8. Elmhurst

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To get the vibe of the western suburb of Illinois, your first place to go must be Elmhurst. With a population of 45,000 people, this place is a center of fine arts with its many beautiful museums.

For all children and adults, this city offers theater groups, a symphony orchestra and fantastic performances. For art lovers, the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is the ideal place to enjoy the terrific art displays.

9. Starved Rock State Park

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Starved Rock State Park is the most visited attraction in Illinois. Overlooking the beautiful sights of canyons, the Illinois River and tree-topped bluffs, this park is magnificent. Waterfalls from the canyons and 13 miles of hiking trails are key attractions.

You can enjoy one of the guided hikes which are safe to explore. The campground of the park is also packed with amenities for a greater experience.

10. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

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Right in Illinois, Cahokia Mounds is the largest and most complex archeological site in the United States. This historical site was home to the Mississippian people.

Huge mounds in the area are significant and astonishing to explore because they hold evidence of ancestral life dating back to the mid-1200s. In the museum of the site, you can see original artifacts, informative videos and more.

11. Fabyan Forest Preserve

Fabyan Forest Preserve is located in northern Illinois. With its historical significance, this preserve is constructed to open for public viewing.

Fabyan Villa Museum is wonderful to visit with family and friends. There are also hiking trails along the Fox River in the area. You can enjoy cycling, fishing and walking on the banks of the river or even sit for an enjoyable picnic.

12. Bloomington

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With its stunning rivers and groves, Bloomington is a beautiful city. For outdoorsy people, this huge city offers 44 different parks and 3 large golf courses. If you are an art lover, then this city offers ballet corps, theaters, and symphony orchestra.

Having something for everyone, children can enjoy going to the fascinating zoo of the area where the rarest wild cats reside, including the Sumatran Tiger and the Amur Leopard.

13. Shawnee National Forest

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Located in the southernmost Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is the ideal place to view the natural charm of the state. Sprawling across 268,000 acres of land, this area has a variety of ecosystems.

Oak and hickory forests, swamps, thriving wetlands, amazing rock formations and the meandering Ohio River can be enjoyed in this national forest. You can also participate in horseback riding, wildlife viewing, trail walking and more in this gorgeous area.

14. Galena

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Although Galena is a small city in the northwestern corner of Illinois, it is a wonderful city to enjoy the state’s simple lifestyle. In 1821, this land was settled by Europeans, and even after many years, 85% of this historic town is a National Historic District. The architecture of the historical times is preserved, and you can explore the history of Illinois through them.

15. Peoria

Located on the Illinois river, Peoria holds the historical beauty of Illinois. The city was founded in 1691 and is a lovely riverfront city boasting over 9000 acres of parkland.

Visitors love the Caterpillar Visitor’s Center, which has giant earth-moving equipment and has excellent hands-on simulators. There is also a zoo where the African Savannah section can be explored.

16. Buffalo Grove

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Right in the northern suburbs of Chicago, Buffalo Grove is an incredible city of beauty and wonders. All residents enjoy the city – like accessibility to amenities and the natural charm of the city. If you visit in summer, you can get the chance to explore the unique festivals that take place in this city. The low crime rate is also a major feature of the city.

17. Galena

With the captivating architecture of the 19th century, Galena is beautiful. Right next to the Galena River, this city has rich main streets that are decorated with 1800s untouched buildings. The tranquil atmosphere and plenty of places with rich history make it the perfect place to visit often.

One cannot possibly complete exploring entire Illinois within their vacation. But with this list of the best places to visit in Illinois, you can shortlist the places and make it easier to plan your trip.

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