Illinois locals are incredibly proud of Lake Michigan, perhaps because it resembles an ocean more than a lake. The beautiful shores are peppered with families and friends throughout the summer, making it the perfect place for a barbecue or a game of beach volleyball. On top of all that, the sunsets over the lake do not get any better.
When it comes to theme parks, Six Flags Great America is hard to upstage, even though it is in the middle of rural Gurnee, Illinois. The rides are out of this world, and the waterpark is the single best way to beat the summer heat. Fear not, this place also hosts Fright Fest, which has some of the greatest Halloween festivities in the Midwest. So, grab a ghoulish best friend and ride some insane rollercoasters late into the night.
Six Flags Great America, 542 N Route 21, Gurnee, IL, USA, +1 847 249 1776
Many people believe that Chicago is the capital of Illinois, but it is actually beautiful and picturesque Springfield. This city is home to a cozy downtown that is perfect for wandering. While you’re there, check out the capital building and the amazing history behind it. Springfield is also where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1844 to 1861. Visit his family home, and learn more about his life and career.
For fans of Alice in Wonderland, or the fantasy genre in general, Cantigny Park is the place to be. Take some sure-to-be-famous Instagram shots with the bright yellow furniture the park is known for. This is also the site of some ridiculously gorgeous weddings, which take place underneath the canopy of never-ending greenery.
One of the most hip and hopping places in Chicago is the Riverwalk, which follows the Chicago River and is the perfect way to observe all of the skyscrapers and to try some of Chicago’s best restaurants and wineries along the way. During the summer, this is one of the absolute best (and fairly non-touristy) spots to eat lunch or watch the sunset.
Garden of the Gods is an extremely appropriate name for this rock formation and one of the best observational trails in the entire state. Tucked in the Shawnee National Forest, these formations look as if they belong out west in one of the Dakotas, not the Midwest. Make it a day hike, or even a few hours, just be sure to see this natural phenomenon.
Beyond the show-stopping landmarks, there is one thing that every person must do when they visit Illinois—try the food! From deep-dish in Chicago to Epic Deli in McHenry, there are many places to visit where you can try a new cuisine or just get a mouth-watering version of an old familiar favorite.