17 BEST Places to Visit in Illinois [January 2020]

Last Updated on

The midwestern state of Illinois is known for a lot of things. Including being home to one of the most popular cities in the USA – Chicago, Chicago!

If you’ve been wondering what else this state has to offer, besides it’s most popular city, well, wonder no more. There’s plenty for you to see and do while you’re here.

This state has a range of historical landmarks that give you a glimpse into America’s history, sprawling beaches, natural landscapes and even its experimental, culinary delights. Illinois is best described as an ‘incredibly diversified’ destination.

It has an interesting mix of big-city living and small-town feelings which are both equally worth experiencing! Discover everything unique and special about this spectacular state with our list of favorite places to visit in Illinois.

Staying Safe in Illinois

Illinois is a relatively safe destination all year round. However, no place in the world can be completely safe and without incident.

To avoid being a victim of petty crimes, always remain vigilant, regardless of where you are. Make sure to keep your valuables in a safe place and never leave them unattended.

Another great way to make sure that you and your valuables are covered and safe throughout your travels is to get travel insurance. In the event that something happens, travel insurance provides a great safety net.

 

#1 – Chicago

A great place to see in Illinois if you love architecture

Chicago

Chicago (Photo credit – thegwenchicago.com )

  • Most famous city in Illinois
  • Known as the “windy city”

You might as well kickstart your trip in Illinois at one of its most famous cities, so you can  see what all the hype is about. Not only is the city synonymous with the multi-award winning musical, Chicago. But, it has the type of big city liveliness that’s completely contagious!

Best Attractions
  • Millenium Park is one of Chicago’s most famous parks to explore. From this point, you can enjoy the Chicago skyline from a distance, while interacting with the massive “bean” sculpture. There are also other amazing features on show. This park is one of the cool places to go in Illinois for those wanting to try something refreshing.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Chicago, Illinois

Let’s simplify this! We’ve put together our favorite places to stay in Illinois so you don’t have to stress!

#2 – Springfield

Springfield

Springfield (Photo credit – epicwaterfilters.com )

  • The capital city of Illinois
  • Once home to Abraham Lincoln

Springfield is one of the best places to learn about this impressive state and its history. Outside of an enriching history, Springfield has an amazing range of exciting things to do. These include exploring its vast traditional and experimental culinary experiences.

It is one of the most important places in Illinois and has some of the top attractions around.

Best Attractions
  • Lincoln Home is one of the most popular landmarks in Springfield, and a definite must-visit while you’re here. This landmark is very well-preserved. It might just inspire you to learn more about the 16th president of America and retrace his steps.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Springfield, Illinois

Haven’t found what you’re looking for? Try our hotel guide for Illinois!

#3 – Starved Rock State Park

A beautiful outdoor place to visit in Illinois

Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park (Photo credit – enjoyillinois.com )

  • Historic natural state park
  • Great camping site facilities

The Starved Rock State Park is one of the most beautiful places to visit while you’re in Illinois. Enjoy some of the best facilities it has on offer by making your way here early in the morning. Not only will this help you secure a picnic spot amongst others, but you’ll also get to enjoy nature at its most quiet.

Best Attractions
  • The Starved Rock Falls form part of the most scenic places in Illinois. These falls are dotted around the area and a must-see while you’re in this state park. While on your walk or hike, you’ll find them at the French, St Louis and Wildcat canyons.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

If you’re going to Illinois, take a look at some amazing things to do in Illinois while you’re there!

#4 – Collinsville

One of the more unique places to visit in Illinois

Collinsville

Collinsville (Photo credit – loopnet.com )

  • Has a relatively small population
  • It’s the Horseradish capital of the world

This family-friendly destination has a whole lot in store for those looking for something different while their in Illinois. It has a range of quirky things to do and see including record-breaking attractions. It also has some interesting World Heritage sites dating back to the 13th century to explore.

Best Attractions
  • The World’s largest Catsup Bottle, is one of the coolest sights to enjoy while you’re in Collinsville. Stand next to this record-breaking bottle that’ll wow you with its towering size! You can now tick of a record-breaking sight from your bucket-list.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Collinsville, Illinois

#5 – Rockford

Rockford

Rockford (Photo credit – 97zokonline.com )

  • Great outdoor activities on offer
  • Nicknamed “city of gardens”

With a nickname like the “City of Gardens”, in Rockford, you probably already have an idea of what to expect. Rockford lives up to its name, with its diverse range of gardens and other awe-inspiring natural wonders spread out throughout the city. It has some of the best nature spots in Illinois.

Best Attractions
  • The Anderson Japanese Gardens are one of the best natural attractions in Rockford. Discover their well-manicured gardens, filled with water features, ponds and fish. If there’s anything you need to do while you’re in the city of gardens, it is to visit one like this.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Rockford, Illinois

Excited to visit Illinois? Get excited to take an amazing day trip too!

#6 – Elgin

Elgin

Elgin (Photo credit – cityofelgin.org )

  • Set right across the Fox river
  • Interesting mix of museums

Whether you’re looking for an interesting night out on the town or an enriching cultural immersion, Elgin can tick all your boxes. It’s one of the most interesting places to visit in Illinois. For an even better experience, make sure to time your visit with one of the many cultural activities on offer throughout the year.

Best Attractions
  • The Voyageur Landing Preserve is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to be one with nature. At this lovely preserve, you can choose to boat, picnic or walk around and smell the natural scents floating in the air.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Elgin, Illinois

#7 – Crystal Lake

Awesome place to visit in Illinois with kids!

Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake (Photo credit – crystallake.org )

  • Awesome adventure activities to try out
  • Great place to find tranquility

Crystal Lake is a piece of heaven that’s not too far off from the busy streets of Chicago. It’s a great place to be if you want to enjoy the peace that nature provides, without being too far off from the action. It’s one of the loveliest places to see in Illinois!

Best Attractions
  • The Veteran Acres Park is an amazing place to spend the day with the whole family. Not only are the grounds in this park well taken care of, but they are also so well laid out. There is even easy access for different age groups.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Crystal Lake, Illinois

 

Want to learn more about Illinois? The top museums in Illinois might hold the answers!

#8 – Bloomington

One of the nicer places in Illinois to sightsee!

Bloomington

Bloomington (Photo credit – wglt.org )

  • Has lots of historical landmarks
  • Family-friendly destination

Bloomington is a worthy pitstop on your trip to Illinois. You can also make your way to this eclectic city through one of the most popular routes in the USA, Route 66. It’s also perfectly placed right between Chicago and St Louis, making it an easy add to your itinerary.

Best Attractions
  • The McLean County Museum is a definite must visit while you’re in Bloomington if you love history and architecture. At face value the architecture is incredibly beautiful with its marble detailing, however, the history is even more enthralling.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Bloomington, Illinois

#9 – Shawnee National Forest Park

An awesome place to visit in Illinois for half a day!

Shawnee National Forest Park

Shawnee National Forest Park (Photo credit – stlmag.com )

  • One of the best places to visit in Illinois
  • Consistent weather throughout the year

The Shawnee National Forest Park is a magnificent natural wonder and one of the most awe-inspiring points of interest in Illinois. It has unmatched vistas and incredible natural formations that spread throughout the park. It’s a great place to hike and camp in the tranquility of nature.

Best Attractions
  • The Gardens of God are one of the biggest attractions in this national forest park and with good reason. As the name suggests, these gardens look like they were personally carved by Gods hands over time.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Shawnee National Forest Park, Illinois

 

You may not have heard this in History class! Read up on Illinoi’s impressive past!

#10 – Quincy

Quincy

Quincy (Photo credit – midwestliving.com )

  • Served a pivotal role in the underground railroad system
  • Diverse range of things to do for all age groups

Quincy is the perfect blend of the new, old and emerging. While you’re in this city, you’ll find an intriguing mix of all of the above elements. It’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a different perspective on Illinois.

Best Attractions
  • Villa Kathrine is an incredible ode to architecture. Make your way here if you’re an architecture or history enthusiast.This wonderful piece of history has an interesting background and views that are unlike any other.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Quincy, Illinois

#11 – Geneva

Geneva

Geneva (Photo credit – atproperties.com )

  • Well-preserved landmarks
  • Interesting foodie excursions and tastings

The size of Geneva might give you the idea that there’s not much it has to offer, whereas there’s plenty. This location has a broad range of fascinating things to explore. Whether you’re looking to be out and about, or if you’re looking to relax. Whatever it is you’d like to do, you are bound to find it here.

Best Attractions
  • The Fabian Windmill is an interesting pitstop to make in this lovely city. Tour the inside of a working windmill and get the perfect picture opportunity on the outside of it as well. This windmill has quite an interesting history dating back to years gone by.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Geneva, Illinois

#12 – Grafton

Grafton

Grafton (Photo credit – 417mag.com )

  • Small-town atmosphere
  • Delicious hearty culinary experiences

Although Grafton may not top most lists of places to visit while you’re in Illinois, it has the type of small town feel that’ll give you a different glimpse into the nature of this state. Grafton is where you need to be if you’re trying to escape the big city vibe.

Best Attractions
  • The Grafton Winery has a charming setup and a lovely menu to choose from. Indulge in some of their best wines and taste some of the most delicious food on the menu. It’s one of the fun places to go in Illinois to enjoy the unmatched splendor of vineyards.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Grafton, Illinois

#13 – Evanston

A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Illinois

Evanston

Evanston (Photo credit – atproperties.com )

  • Has beautiful lakefront and beaches
  • Lively atmosphere

From jazzy vibes at Evanston place to thrift shopping and interesting bookshops to explore. This area is one of the most interesting ones to visit while you’re in Illinois. It’s also one of the best places to find unassuming gems while on your trip.

Best Attractions
  • The Greenwood Street Beach has some of the most pristine beaches in Illinois. It’s a great place to be if you’re looking for a bit of fun in the sun. Pack a picnic, sunscreen and your towels to enjoy a day out along the coast.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Evanston, Illinois

#14 – Cache River State Area

A must visit place to visit in Illinois on the weekend!

Cache River State Area

Cache River State Area (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • One of the only Bayou’s in Illinois
  • Diverse nature and wildlife

The Cache River State Area is a sight to behold with its beautiful vistas and an impeccable looking swamp. While you’re here, ignite your senses by taking in the best of what nature has to offer by immersing yourself in the activities around. These include boating and hiking.

Best Attractions
  • The Heron Pond Trail is a relatively easy trail to enjoy in this state area and takes you along some of its most important features. Make your way to the boardwalk that overlooks part of the waters and see what animals you can spot.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Cache River State Area, Illinois

#15 – Galena

Galena

Galena (Photo credit – antiquearchaeology.com )

  • Small town packing a lot of punch
  • Broad range of activities

You might feel like you’ve stepped back in time when you walk through the streets of Galena, it’s one of the most fascinating sites to see in Illinois. The architecture in many parts of this town is reminiscent of the years gone by. You can also enjoy some of the best shopping experiences here!.

Best Attractions
  • The PT Murphy Magic show is one of the most special things about Galena. This magic show has been running for years in an intimate theatre setting in the area. You’ll get to see the magicians hands play it all out in front of your eyes. Can you guess how he’s done it?

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Galena, Illinois

#16 – Arthur

Arthur

Arthur (Photo credit – amishcountryofillinois.com )

  • Large Amish community
  • A great Illinois day trip

If you’ve been interested in the Amish community and how they live, Arthur is one of the best places to have a glimpse into their lives. Make your way to the city center where there are a number of local businesses to explore and purchase locally produced products to support some of the local vendors.

Best Attractions
  • The Pumpkin Patch is a very family-friendly place where you can easily spend the whole day enjoying the wide range of activities. Try out some pumpkin ice cream, pick your own pumpkin or conquer the different mazes on the grounds.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Arthur, Illinois

#17 – Lemont

One of the most underrated places to see in Illinois

Lemont

Lemont (Photo credit – pinterest.com )

  • Quaint area with old-school charm
  • Expansive golfing grounds

This small quaint village is one of Illinois safest areas. It’s also a great pitstop if you want to enjoy the benefits of a close-knit community. There is an incredible selection of things to do to suit all kinds of personalities. You can make your way here with just about anyone!

Best Attractions
  • The Hindu Temple of Greater Chicago is one of the most beautiful places to visit near Chicago. It is also an awesome pitstop in Lemont. This intricately designed temple also has a fully stocked cafeteria, selling delicious, Indian culinary treats.

Our Favorite Places to Stay in Lemont, Illinois

Final Thoughts on Places to See in Illinois

Whether you’re looking to enjoy the big city lights, or for a more relaxed time in the quaintest small towns. Illinois has just what you’re looking for!

With the breathtaking natural areas and the most interactive historical monuments. There’s no doubt that you’ll leave this state with a deep sense of enrichment.

Explore and learn about everything uniquely Illinois with some of its most famous tourist attractions, and be sure to go in search of its non-touristy, hidden gems. Sightseeing in Illinois will leave you wanting more.

There’s so much that this state has in store for you, with its wide range of exciting destinations.

You just need to make your way there!

*** Some of the links on Hotel Jules are affiliate links, which means if you do make a purchase, we may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you.) Thank you for using our links! Your support keeps the site going***

About the Author Nicola Smart

Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!