The Land of Lincoln and home of Chicago, Illinois is the midwestern state which makes presidents and pizza, attracts over 3000 bald eagles in winter, and matches incredible outdoor adventure with international art collections.
Fly into O’Hare Airport from the UK, and the view of Chicago on descent is awe-inspiring. Even if the great city was all Illinois had going for it, it would be enough. But the state where Route 66 starts, is easy to get about and makes amazing family holidays all over. Go west for Mississippi riverboats, wine country, haunted towns, and eagle-packed state parks. Visit Amish Country and Lincoln’s home city right in the heart. Or travel to the far south to play (and stay) in Shawnee National Forest, home to the Garden of the Gods, Jackson Falls and world-class natural climbing walls.
Direct flights year round from the UK to Chicago take just under nine hours.
Third largest city in the US, one of the greatest waterfronts in the world, and the reason most families visit Illinois.
Over 26 miles of beach trim Lake Michigan in Chicago. Use them like a local for everything from water sports to picnics, cycling, running and walking.
Illinois has 73 State Parks, including Pere Marquette: the best place to see Bald Eagles outside Alaska, in January and February.
Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, and Chicago’s Barack Obama’s hometown and where he announced his run for the 2008 presidency.
Amtrak have dozens of trains from Chicago to south and west Illinois. A great, and inexpensive, way to see the state with kids.
Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History has the largest, and most complete, Tyrannosaurus skeleton in the world on display.
Chicago might not be the state capital, but it is a great reason to visit Illinois. The third largest city in the US, after New York and Los Angeles, there’s always something to do here. It’s the start of Route 66, if you’re heading out of town. But if you’re staying for a while, do Chicago neighbourhood by neighbourhood, don’t miss out any family events, see as many museums as you can, and don’t forget to chill lakeside now and again.
Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, heart of the Land of Lincoln, and capital of Illinois: Springfield’s a city where they believe in keeping history alive and highly entertaining. From Honest Abe’s tomb, the Lincoln Presidential Library and his home on S. Seventh Street, there are more Lincoln monuments here than anywhere else in the state. Not convinced kids will warm to the legacy? Take one of the family tours and they could surprise you. If not, Springfield’s haunting heritage night walks are worth a try.
Western Illinois is bounded by the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, earning the collective title, Great Rivers Country. The area’s made for touring, and home to quite a few of the state’s prettiest towns. It’s also known for charming wineries and breathtaking scenery, particularly in spring and autumn.
Over 400 miles of hiking and riding trails wind through 270,000 acre, Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. It’s the state’s great outdoors at its greatest, and an any-season adventure with kids. Tucked between two rivers, the landscape mixes lakes and creeks, cliffs, hills, immense swathes of woodland, and enchanting waterfalls.
Use public transport in cities – Chicago’s ‘L’ is a visitor attraction in its own right. Trains go everywhere in Illinois and Amtrak’s range of family tickets, visitor tours and services make rail a good option, especially with younger kids. Driving across state is a fantastic adventure, the roads everywhere are excellent and competition between rental companies is fierce, so car hire is definitely worth thinking about too.