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You’ll discover dozens of museums and theaters throughout Illinois where you can learn about Midwest heritage, experience live performances, and visit dozens of exhibitions and galleries featuring unique collections of the region. From the city of Chicago to some of the smaller cities in southern Illinois, there are plenty of ways to learn about the history and culture of Illinois and the Great Lakes region of the United States.
A must-visit attraction in Southern Illinois is the MY Garage Museum, the place to see a variety of car-themed memorabilia and dozens of Volkswagens and Corvettes on display. The museum is also home to a 1910 replica gas station. When you’re traveling with kids, be sure to spends some time at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum or head to the National Railroad Hall of Fame for a tour of the exhibits.
If you’re in the mood to take in a live performance, make your way to venues like the Chicago Theatre or the Effingham Performance Center. The Effingham Performance Center is a non-profit event venue in southern Illinois and is operated by the Arts Connection of Central Illinois. It hosts a number of national and local arts events throughout the year, as well as live music, stand-up comedy acts, and performing arts.
You’ll find several museums dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of the area, as well as some unique museums that are perfect for kids. When you’re visiting historic downtown Springfield, head to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum to see dozens of exhibits that tell the story of Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War. The venue is also home to the Illinois State Historical Library and features a library, museum, and visitor center located inside the former Springfield Union Station.
Take a tour of the Frances Willard House Museum, a National Historic Landmark located in Evanston. It’s located near the Northwestern University campus where you can visit more exhibits and galleries.
When you’re touring northern Illinois, be sure to visit the John Deere Pavilion in Moline. The venue is the world’s biggest agricultural showcase and features dozens of interactive exhibits, John Deere equipment, and other interesting exhibits. You can also venture out to the Deere-Wiman House or the Butterworth Home mansions in Moline to see the homes of the Deere family. Make your way to the Deere & Company World Headquarters to see antiques and other equipment during a guided tour.
Be sure to take a tour of the Joliet Area Historical Museum when you’re in Joliet to see exhibits that tell the story of the area and enjoy events like Light Up the Holidays or the Haunted Museum during seasonal festivities.
McDonalds fans won’t want to miss the chance to visit the site where Ray Kroc opened the very first hamburger restaurant. The McDonalds Museum & Store Number 1 has been restored with its golden arches in Des Plaines and you can see exhibits of the original milkshake mixers, fry vats, and grills here.
One of the most historic theaters in Chicago is the Rialto Square Theatre. Founded by the Royal Theatre Company in 1926, this theater is designed with European architecture and is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing evening when you’re in southwestern Chicago. The venue hosts the annual Bridal Expo, Festival of Trees, and is also the home of the Illinois Philharmonic.
Another historic theater you’ll want to at least visit is the Chicago Theatre. Built in the 1920s, this theater served as the unofficial symbol for the city of Chicago and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The landmark theatre is the perfect representation of the Neo-Baroque French-Revival style and is the place to enjoy a variety of plays, concerts, premiere films, magic shows, and other special events.