13 Beautiful Small Towns in Illinois [Update 2024]


Illinois is not just the “Land of Lincoln”, it has so many more charms, and one of the highlights of this state are the small towns.

Filled with scenic beauty, wonderful eateries, cute stories, plenty of recreational activities and other attractions, the small towns are what makes Illinois such a unique state.

If you are curious to check them out, read this list of the best small towns in Illinois to make your travel plans.

1. Princeton

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Princeton is one of the most Beautiful Small Towns in Illinois

With only two hours west of Chicago, Princeton is a small-town package packed with stunning parks, historic areas, pretty downtown and innumerable festivals.

This town’s structures are historical, and the main street gives a vibe from past centuries. The historical places to visit here are Soldiers and Sailors Park and Monument, Chapel Hill Golf Course and Events Center, and Lovejoy Homestead.

2. Fulton

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Fulton is a town dominated by its Dutch population. The town is named after Robert Fulton, who was the inventor of the steamboat. It is one of the coolest places in the state with tons of interesting places to visit.

The highlight of the town is the incredible Dutch Days Festival that takes place the first weekend of May. In the festival, you can enjoy arts and crafts, delicious local food and lots of music.

3. Woodstock

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Did you know that Woodstock, Illinois is a famous motion picture spot? The famous Groundhog Day with Bill Murray was filmed in this beautiful town. The town square area is shown the most in the movie, and it is also one of the key places of the town. Home to several historic structures and brick streets, it is quite an interesting place to explore.

These are the most famed historical sites in Illinois.

4. Geneva

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In Geneva, you can stroll and enjoy the breathtaking view of this quaint town. This town is a suburb of Chicago and is decorated with its Victorian architecture.

As a historic district, the structures are stunning, unique infrastructure, beautiful parks and museums. You can also catch the sight of Japanese gardens and villas in the Fabyan Forest Preserve of this town.

5. Quincy

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With its rich past, Quincy is a town for history enthusiasts. It was traditionally known as the transportation center and hub of the state. The architecture of the town is heavily influenced by German Prairie-style designs, which are beautiful to explore. One of the main historic attractions of the town is the South Side German Historic District.

6. Mount Carroll

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While visiting Mount Carroll, you can also discover architecture, culture, art and natural charm. This town is packed with wonders. It is also one of the towns where you can explore the old Illinois town vibes. Because of not having drastic modernization, this town truly holds the essence of old Illinois towns.

Learn more about the best places to visit in Illinois.

7. Ottawa

With its large murals and stunning Victorian houses, Ottawa is the perfect typical small town in Illinois. In the town square, you will find local shops, cute cafés and famous restaurants. There are many statues scattered around the town. Some notable ones are the Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas statues.

8. Galena

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Named after a mineral that was mined in the area, Galena is a unique old town in the state. With only about 800 properties, this town features buildings that date back to the 1800s.

One place you have to visit is the Old Market House State Historic Site. Built in 1845, this museum has open tours to enlighten tourists about the history of Illinois.

9. Elsah

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If you want to explore an oasis like town, Elsah is the only place to head to in Illinois. Filled with a historic vibe, this town is visited by a lot of famous geologists who come here to study the prehistoric rock formations found in this town. For birdwatchers, this town is an ideal spot where you can even spot bald eagles.

10. Nauvoo

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Nauvoo is a small town, and it is packed with rich culture. With a small population of merely 1,000 people, this town has several notable structures to explore. Nauvoo State Park is the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities like boating, hiking, biking, camping and more. Another site which is a must-visit in this town is the Nauvoo Temple.

11. Arcola

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Arcola is famous for being the place where the famous Raggedy Ann doll was created. This town is also popular for its amazing festivals and events.

Some of the ones which you can look forward to joining are the Raggedy Ann Festival, Oktoberfest, Horse Progress Days, and the Amish Country Bicycle Tour. Another great feature of this town is the interesting attractions like the Arcola Presbyterian Church, Hippie Memorial, and more.

12. Sycamore

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Sycamore is the most picturesque town in the state as it has a mixture of beautiful downtown attractions and historical elements. Sycamore Historic District is the best place to explore and the beautiful garden of DeKalb Courthouse is wonderful to take pictures. With over 200 architecturally stunning homes, this town is truly a wonderful place to take stunning pictures.

13. Lebanon

Home to the oldest college in the state of Illinois, McKendree University, Lebanon is known as the college town. Highlights of this town beside the university are the Emerald Mound and Village Site, beautiful residential areas, archeological site and more. As the town was a settlement, it also showcases the Mississippian culture.

If you visit Illinois, then to experience the core of beauty, culture and nature, you need to visit any of the listed small towns in Illinois. Whether you explore the areas or enjoy ravishing meals, visiting the towns is something you just should not miss.

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