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Whether you’re heading to Chicago or some of the cities in southern Illinois, take some time to explore local attractions and sites around the state for a taste of history, culture, and local legends. From museums to zoos, you’ll find a wealth of interesting places to explore and can even take a guided tour for an in-depth experience.
Animal lovers of all ages will appreciate a trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a popular attraction near downtown Chicago. The zoo is located right on the shores of Lake Michigan and is the home of more than 1,200 animals, including monkeys, penguins, gorillas and tigers. Bring the kids along to experience the Carousel and Children’s Train Ride. Another attraction on the shores of Lake Michigan is the Shedd Aquarium. This aquarium was built in 1930 and is now home to more than 1,500 species of animals. It’s an educational wonderland for animal lovers, featuring dozens of exhibits and unique features including the Abbot Oceanarium and the Waters of the World.
You’ll find several interesting sites to explore around the Navy Pier, the top tourist attraction in the city of Chicago. The pier was built in 1916 and was once used as a Navy training facility. Today, it has its own concert stage and is also home to attractions including the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
You can go on a self-guided driving tour of several historic sites around Illinois, including the Old State Capitol Historic Site in Springfield and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Don’t miss the chance to visit the first McDonalds restaurant in Des Plaines, home to the McDonalds Store No.1 Museum. When you find yourself near the Illinois-Missouri border in Hartford, head to the Lewis and Clark Historic Site to learn about the legendary expedition and trail.
When you’re in Dixon, take a tour of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home and Visitors Center to learn about the history of the late president. A tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Frederick C. Robie House will give you a chance to see the modern form of a traditional Frank Lloyd Wright building. Other historic sites to add to your itinerary include Wrigley Field and the Willis Tower.
Many people don’t realize Illinois is home to several roadside attractions and unique cultural landmarks. You can take a driving tour of some of the cities around Chicago to catch a glimpse of these roadside attractions. The World’s Largest Cross sits in the city of Effingham, a giant cross made with over 180 tons of steel that stands over Interstate 57 and Interstate 70. In Vandalia, a short drive west of Effingham, you’ll find the Kaskaskia Dragon, a 35-foot long fire-breathing dragon sculpture that stands about two stories tall. The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle is just minutes from Pontoon Beach and stands about 70 feet tall.
Pontiac, Illinois is home to the Route 66 Murals. These murals tell the story of the famous Route 66 and are with driving by for a photo opp. The Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum in Pontiac features dozens of exhibits about the history of Route 66 and is located in the Old Fire House. In northern Illinois, you can head to the Gold Pyramid House, a six-story replica of the Great Pyramids private residence complete with its own watching guard and 64-foot tap statue of Ramses II. When you’re traveling through Palatine, take a trip to the Miniature Golf in a Funeral Home, a miniature golf course located in the basement of the Ahlgrim Family Funeral Services building.
The City of Chicago has been dubbed the ‘railroad capital’ because of all the railroads and multi-track routes weaving around the city. You can go transporting around Roosevelt Road on any given day to see the historic tracks. When you’re in southern Illinois, don’t miss the chance to see the famous Superman Statue in the city of Metropolis. It stands 15 feet tall and sits in Superman Square.