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Illinois travel guide

About Illinois

Chicago grabs the glory, but lift the lid on the rest of Illinois and you will encounter tales of Abraham Lincoln, kitsch diners on Route 66, enticing wineries and ancient blackwater swamps.

Curling along the shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the USA’s third largest city and the birthplace of the skyscraper. Peer over the edge of the iconic Willis Tower for epic views or keep your heart rate down on a cruise around the city’s historic waterways. Culturally, Chicago is up there with the best, thanks to its phenomenal museums, world-renowned symphony orchestra and terrific open-air performances at the legendary Petrillo Music Shell.

Central Illinois is Abe Lincoln territory. You can dip into Lincoln history at his family home, law offices and the presidential museum in Springfield, then chomp your way through the regional speciality: a battered hot dog on a stick, known locally as a ‘cozy dog’.

Many a road trip has kicked off in Illinois along historic Route 66, which is lined with all-American diners and naff roadside attractions. There’s memorabilia aplenty at the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac as well as the ultimate photo op – a giant mural featuring the iconic Route 66 shield.

Between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, western Illinois is effortlessly compelling, with pretty towns, excellent wineries and rippling countryside. It’s also home to Galena, a charming town characterised by its sweep of 19th-century storefronts.

Seeking adventure? Then get outdoors in southern Illinois where canoeists weave through 1,000-year-old cypress trees on the Cache River, cyclists freewheel through ghost towns on the Tunnel Hill State Trail and hikers scramble over gnarly rock formations in Shawnee National Forest’s Garden of the Gods.

Key facts

Area:

149,997 sq km (57,914 sq miles).

Population:

12.9 million (2015).

Population density:

85.7 per sq km.

Capital:

Springfield.