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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Illinois

Illinois' most famous city, the Windy City, as it's known, sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. It's home to numerous cultural attractions and fantastic buildings designed by architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. The city of Springfield, the state capital, is the home of Abraham Lincoln and its many tourist attractions include the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Dana-Thomas House. Throughout the state, you will find interesting things to do, from exploring a prehistoric Indian settlement at Cahokia Mounds to visiting the tranquil Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford.

1 Willis Tower Skydeck

Willis Tower
Willis Tower
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From the top of the Willis Tower Skydeck, tourists can see up to 50 miles over four states and Lake Michigan. The Skydeck stands at 1,353 feet above the ground on the 103rd floor, and The Ledge's glass floor extends from the side of the building to give braver visitors the opportunity to look straight down. Another great spot where you can admire the city from above is 360 Chicago, located in the John Hancock Building. Tourists can enjoy the glass-walled observation deck or check out the unique view from the "Tilt," a glass enclosure that tips you out for a look down at 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile.

Address: 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois

Official site: http://theskydeck.com/

2 Millennium Park & Cloud Gate

Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park
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Located in downtown Chicago, Millennium Park is part of the much larger Grant Park. Cloud Gate sits at the center of the park, a 110-ton polished steel sculpture. Inspired by liquid mercury, the curved surface reflects the Chicago skyline and the tourists who walk through its arch. Millennium Park is also home to Crown Fountain, a unique modern interpretation of ancient gargoyles that uses projected images of Chicago citizens. The Lurie Garden is also in this park, a four-season garden that is open to the public at no charge. There are special events throughout the year at the garden, and outdoor concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The park is centrally located, close to many of Chicago's top tourist attractions and shopping.

Address: 201 East Randolph Street, Chicago, Illinois

3 Magnificent Mile in Chicago

Magnificent Mile in Chicago
Magnificent Mile in Chicago
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A walk down Chicago's Magnificent Mile, a portion of Michigan Avenue, is a must for visitors to the windy city. The shopping along here is some of the best in Chicago, with everything from everyday stores to high-end boutiques. There are also museums, restaurants, hotels, and other entertainment options along what locals call the Mag Mile. The John Hancock Building, the Wrigley Building, and the Tribune Tower line this street, and it is just a few blocks from Lake Michigan and the famous Navy Pier.

4 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum mhowry / photo modified
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Located in Springfield, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum offers a great opportunity for learning, not only about Abraham Lincoln, but also about the history of the state of Illinois. The facility was opened in 2004 but the collections have been a work in progress for well over a century. This is largely a research facility, containing many significant manuscripts and other materials, although not all of the collection is on display to the public.

Address: 112 North Sixth Street, Springfield

Official site: http://www.alplm.org/

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Springfield

5 Navy Pier

Navy Pier
Navy Pier
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Located along Chicago's waterfront, Navy Pier is a great tourist destination with all kinds of things to help entertain people of any age. Museums, restaurants, shopping, movies, and theater are some of the options available. Highlights include the ferris wheel, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and the Crystal Gardens, which offer a tropical retreat even on a winter's day. Due to the outdoor nature of some of the attractions, the best time to visit Navy Pier is in summer, but there are always plenty of things to see and do here year-round.

Address: 600 East Grand Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Official site: https://navypier.com/

6 Lincoln Park

Tiger at the Lincoln Park Zoo
Tiger at the Lincoln Park Zoo
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Lincoln Park stretches for six miles along the shore of Lake Michigan and is the city's biggest park. One of its biggest attractions is the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country. It is home to a wide variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Popular residents include lemurs, two-toed sloths, African lions, polar bears, and a red panda. The Lincoln Park Conservatory is located nearby, home to exotic tropical plants in four huge greenhouses, including palms, ferns, and orchids. The park is also home to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Chicago History Museum, as well as a theater, walking trails, and a beach.

7 Anderson Japanese Gardens

Anderson Japanese Gardens
Anderson Japanese Gardens Ryan Kilpatrick / photo modified
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Anderson Japanese Gardens, a 10-acre Japanese garden in Rockford, is a splendid retreat with cascading waterfalls, ponds, streams rock formations, winding lanes, a tea house, and guest house built in the authentic sukiya style. This is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy some tranquility, with benches and artfully designed areas for reflection and contemplation.

Address: 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford, Illinois

8 Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park
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This state park, southwest of Chicago on the Illinois River, is noted for its beautiful canyons and waterfalls. A number of hiking trails allow access to some of the most scenic areas, and guided hikes are also available for safe and educational hiking experiences. In addition, Starved Rock offers many recreational opportunities, including fishing and boating on the river, picnicking, horseback riding, camping, and winter sports. The name of the park comes from a group of Illini Indians, who were left by their enemies to starve to death on one of the rocks.

Address: 2668 East 875th Road, Oglesby, Illinois

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Starved Rock State Park

9 Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
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Cahokia Mounds is known for being the largest prehistoric Indian settlement north of Mexico and includes the greatest concentration of mounds. In total there are 120, with the 100 foot-high Monks Mound at the center. This is the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas. The site was occupied from AD 700-1400, primarily by the Mississippian culture, covered nearly six square miles, and at its peak around AD 1100, may have had 10-20,000 inhabitants. Besides being a State Historic Site, Cahokia is also a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An Interpretive Center tells the story of the site and the people who built it with audiovisual presentations, artifacts, graphics and dioramas, including a life-size village recreation.

Location: Collinsville, Illinois

Official site: http://cahokiamounds.org/

10 Art Institute of Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago John Pastor / photo modified
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The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the city's foremost cultural institutions and known internationally for its collections. Housed in a late 1800's building, along with other more modern extensions, the institute contains everything from ancient sculpture to post-Impressionist paintings, and many other areas of interest. Permanent collections include African art, medieval and Renaissance arms and armor, contemporary art, and textiles.

Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Official site: http://www.artic.edu/

11 Dana-Thomas House, Springfield

Dana-Thomas House, Springfield
Dana-Thomas House, Springfield Jeff Hart / photo modified
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Built by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1902, the Dana-Thomas House represents one of his early, large scale, Prairie-style houses, and is particularly well preserved. Today this 35 room structure, located in Springfield, is a house museum, open to the public with guided tours. Of particular note are the windows and glass doors.

Address: 301 East Lawrence Avenue, Springfield, Illinois

12 Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site in Galena

Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site in Galena
Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site in Galena Teemu008 / photo modified
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The Grant Home in Galena was presented to Ulysses S. Grant in 1865 upon his return from the Civil War. The house has been fully restored to the 1860s time period and contains many of Grant's personal belongings as well as original furnishings. Visitors can tour the home and learn a little about this Civil War hero.

Address: 500 Bouthillier Street, Galena, Illinois

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