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Discover History and Culture at Area Museums

Explore some of the museums and cultural centers in and around Chicago to get a taste of local history and local legends. From the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum to the National Railroad Hall of Fame, you’ll find several destinations filled with interesting exhibits and interactive displays to discover the rich history of Illinois and the Great Lakes Region.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Established in 2005, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is located in historic downtown Springfield in central Illinois. An award winning museum, the site features exhibits with an exhaustive focus on President Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War.

Home to the Illinois State Historical Library, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is divided into three structures: the library, the museum, and the visitor center set in the former Springfield Union Station. This popular Lincoln memorial is operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Frances Willard House Museum

The Frances Willard House Museum is the former home and office of Frances Willard, a well-known social reformer from the 19th century. Frances was an author, a public speaker and served as president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union from 1879 to 1898. The house, a National Historic Landmark in Evanston was established as a museum in 1900.

After touring the house museum, stroll through the nearby Northwestern University campus, while visiting the Chicago area. The Best Western University Plaza is located three blocks from the museum for travelers who are ready to rest comfortably while in the Windy City.

John Deere Pavilion and Homes

The John Deere Pavilion is recognized as the "world's most comprehensive agricultural exhibit." Located in Moline along the Mississippi River in northern Illinois, the pavilion celebrates the past and future of agribusiness. Visitors experience a hands-on visit in the pavilion, with the interactive exhibits and John Deere equipment.

The first John Deere manufacturing plant was built in 1848 in Moline. Today's visitors to Moline enjoy touring the Deere-Wiman House and Butterworth Home, majestic mansions built in the late 1800s by Charles Deere, son of John Deere. Tours of the Deere & Company World Headquarters building, featuring antiques and current John Deere equipment are also available.

Joliet Area Historical Museum

Established in 2002, Joliet Area Historical Museum is located in northern Illinois within the southwestern region of the Chicago metropolitan area. Set in downtown Joliet, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

The Joliet Area Historical Museum features special exhibits like “Strike Up the Band!” and “The Soaring Achievements of John C. Houbolt.” Anticipated events include Museum Free Day, Haunted Museum, and Light Up the Holidays.

McDonalds Museum & Store Number 1

The McDonald's Museum and Store Number 1 is the site where Ray Kroc first opened his hamburger restaurant in 1955. The museum was restored to be a replica of store number one, the original restaurant, along with the golden arches. The original entrance sign with "Speedee," the early cartoon mascot, is on-site along with exhibits of original fry vats, milkshake mixers and grills.

Over the years, McDonald's has grown to be the "world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants." Visit the McDonald's across the street for a tasty meal, snack or milkshake. While in Des Plaines, stay with Best Western hotels, minutes from the museum and seventeen miles from the Chicago loop.

MY Garage Museum

Set at the Mid America Motorworks facility, MY Garage Museum is located in southern Illinois in the city of Effingham. The museum features a multitude of car-themed memorabilia, and a 1910 replica gas station. Plan your next trip to Effingham and enjoy this unique – and vast – collection of classic cars. You might even get to meet the man himself, Mike Yager.

The MY Garage Museum at Mid America Motorworks also features up to 20 Volkswagon and Corvettes on display. The site also hosts customer appreciation-based events like Swapfest and Funfest. Some of the premier Corvettes on display include the 1969 Elliot-Forbes Robinson racing Corvette, the 1964 New York's World Fair Corvette.

Orpheum Children's Science Museum

The Orpheum Children's Science Museum in downtown Champaign encourages the exploration of science and arts through the many interactive exhibits. Whether kids are learning about electricity production in the Smart Grid exhibit, learning how to care for animals in the Animal Clinic, playing in the Castle Workalot exhibit, or watching the turtles and other critters in the Critter Corner, there is plenty to explore.

The museum also offers special programs and is the perfect place for birthday parties. Best Western hotels offer convenient and comfortable lodging east of Champaign, in Danville. Enjoy your time in Central Illinois. Throughout the spring and summer, catch the very special event, Toddler Tuesday's at the Orpheum, where you'll find exhibits designed for toddlers.

National Railroad Hall of Fame

Established in 2003, the National Railroad Hall of Fame is located in central Illinois in the city of Galesburg. Recognized by Congress in 2004, the museum is set on Main Street, and is also known as the Engines of Freedom Experience.

The National Railroad Hall of Fame holds annual inductions, divided into three categories: the Birth & Development Era from 1800 to 1865, the Golden Era from 1866 to 1945, and the Modern Era from 1946 on. Inductees include Abraham Lincoln, J.P. Morgan, and Max and Thelma Biegert for their efforts in preserving the Grand Canyon Railway.