Illinois

Explore Chicago, discover diverse landscapes and delve into Lincoln's legacy

the prairie state

Chicago's stunning skyline, historic charm, and diverse landscapes await
Illinois, the 'Land of Lincoln,' beckons with a wide range of attractions, anchored by the dynamic gateway city of Chicago. Nestled against Lake Michigan, Chicago's iconic skyline hosts architectural marvels like the Willis Tower and Cloud Gate, the green expanse of Millennium Park, and the lively Navy Pier. Museums like the Art Institute and the Field Museum, home to the colossal T. Rex skeleton Sue, showcase the city's cultural richness.

Venture beyond Chicago to unveil Illinois' natural wonders. Starved Rock State Park captivates with sandstone bluffs and waterfalls, while Shawnee National Forest, to the south, invites outdoor enthusiasts with rolling hills and scenic trails. Stop off in Springfield, a historic enclave, that delves into Abraham Lincoln's legacy through sites like the Lincoln Home and the Presidential Library and Museum.

For road trip enthusiasts, Illinois is the starting point of Route 66 and offers scenic beauty along the Great River Road. Follow the mighty Mississippi River through charming river towns, engaging in activities like ziplining, wine tasting, and paddlewheel boat cruises.

Catch the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field or visit the United Center to watch the Chicago Bulls or Blackhawks in action. And food lovers are also covered with a diverse culinary scene, from deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs to renowned farm-to-table dining.

Discover the charm of Illinois, where vibrant cities like Chicago pulse with culture, historic sites unveil tales of Lincoln's legacy, and natural wonders beckon exploration.

A charming trolley rides through a quaint, historic downtown street lined with brick buildings, adorned by american flags, under a backdrop of lush, forested hills.

Things to see & do

Browse through our recommended selection of things to see and do in Illinois. Many of these are included in our suggested itineraries, however, if there is
anything you see that particularly takes your interest, please let us know and we will include it in your holiday package or put you in touch with the right people.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Springfield, Illinois

Uncover the legacy of America's 16th president through engaging exhibits, artifacts, and multimedia presentations. The museum provides intimate insights into Lincoln's leadership and impact on the nation, from his humble beginnings to his pivotal role in shaping American history. A compelling destination for history enthusiasts, it preserves and illuminates the remarkable journey of Abraham Lincoln.

Starved Rock State Park

Oglesby, Illinois

This natural wonderland, rich in Native American History, is regularly rated one of the best attractions in Illinois. Nestled along the Illinois River it features towering sandstone bluffs, lush forests, and cascading waterfalls. The park offers 20 kilometres of hiking trails with breathtaking views including the famed Lovers Leap overlook. Explore captivating canyons, discover the seasonal beauty of wildflowers, and in winter keep an eye out for majestic bald eagles.

Millennium Park

Chicago, Illinois

Wander through this inner-city oasis boasting the mesmerising Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as ‘The Bean’ - a reflective masterpiece that captivates visitors with its unique form. The park features striking architecture and visitors can enjoy outdoor concerts and art exhibitions, and events at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Crown Fountain, with its interactive faces, and the serene Lurie Garden are additional highlights, making Millennium Park a must-visit destination.

Route 66

Chicago, Illinois 

Chicago is the starting point of the legendary Route 66 as the historic sign marks the beginning of an iconic American road trip. Travellers can immerse themselves in the nostalgia of the Mother Road's heyday, exploring Chicago's landmarks before embarking on a journey that winds through diverse landscapes, connecting communities, and capturing the essence of Americana. Check out Travel USA’s road trip feature section for more information. 

Old Joliet Prison

Joliet, Illinois

Explore the historic Joliet Prison, an imposing limestone structure known for its unique architecture and storied past. Take a guided tour and delve into the prison's fascinating history, from its 1858 construction to its role in famous films like ‘The Blues Brothers’ and the TV series ‘Prison Break’. Take a compelling journey through time as you wander through cell blocks, the iconic rotunda, and hear tales of infamous inmates. 

Try Deep Dish Pizza

Chicago, Illinois

Indulge in the Chicago deep dish pizza experience - a local legend renowned for its buttery, thick crust embracing layers of cheese, toppings, and tomato sauce, all baked to perfection in a deep pan. It's not pizza as we know it - it's a culinary experience that'll redefine your pizza standards. 

Illinois State Capitol

Springfield, Illinois

This architectural gem was completed in 1888 and showcases stunning Renaissance Revival design with a prominent dome. Guided tours offer insights into the state's legislative processes, history, and notable events. Delve into Illinois' political and cultural heritage as you explore its impressive chambers, murals, and the grand rotunda, featuring a replica of the state seal.

Museum of Science & Industry

Chicago, Illinois

Be wowed by the Museum of Science & Industry, one of the largest science museums in the world housed in the historic Palace of Fine Arts.  Step back in time aboard a World War II-era U-505 submarine, stroll through a coal mine replica, hop on the Pioneer Zephyr, and explore modern aviation on a groovy 1960s-style fully restored 727. A must-see adventure!

Great River Road

East Dubuque - Cairo, Illinois

Embark on a captivating journey along the Great River Road in Illinois, tracing the majestic Mississippi River for more than 800 kilometres down the western border of the state from East Dubuque to Cairo. This scenic drive unveils charming river towns, panoramic landscapes, and cultural treasures along the way. Engage in activities like zip lining through forests, savouring Illinois wines, and cruising on paddlewheel boats - a captivating blend of nature, history, and adventure awaits!

Illinois Railroad Museum

Union, Illinois

Embark on a captivating journey through rail history at the Illinois Railroad Museum. With an extensive collection of vintage trains and equipment, it provides an immersive experience of the railroad's evolution. Visitors can embark on scenic train rides, explore authentic, restored locomotives, and learn about the evolution of rail transportation.

Lake Michigan

Chicago, Illinois

This breathtaking freshwater jewel that borders Chicago, plays a central role in the city's identity offering a stunning contrast to the city’s skyline. Its expansive shores offer recreational havens, from sandy beaches and waterfront parks to sailing and kayaking and its renowned Lakefront Trail, stretching some 30 km around the lake. With its scenic beauty, outdoor activities, and cooling breezes, Lake Michigan serves as a cherished natural escape and a vibrant source of inspiration for residents and visitors alike. 

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln left his home of 17 years – the only home he ever owned – to serve as 16th President of the United States. Restored to its former appearance and preserved as a National Historic Site, the residence offers an intimate glimpse into the 16th President's domestic life. Explore the period-furnished rooms, stroll through the historic neighbourhood, and absorb the atmosphere that shaped a pivotal chapter in American history. 

Navy Pier

Chicago, Illinois

Step onto the vibrant world of Navy Pier, Chicago's hotspot for entertainment stretching over 1,000 meters across Lake Michigan. It's the go-to place for events, intriguing attractions, cultural vibes, delectable dining, and shopping galore. And you can’t miss the iconic Centennial Wheel - the dazzling gem on this lakeside treasure!

Shawnee National Forest

Herod, Illinois

Spanning some 280,000 acres, Shawnee National Forest lies between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and features strikingly beautiful oak-hickory forests, flourishing wetlands, lush canyons, razorback ridges and unique geological features. It also features one of the most unique experiences for tourists to Illinois, the opportunity to explore the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area with its stunning rock formations, breathtaking vistas, and serene hiking trails.

Experience live sport

Chicago, Illinois

Experience live sport - the American way! Catch the adrenaline, the cheers, and the thrill of a live game - because experiencing sports the American way is an absolute must! In Chicago, there are 6 pro teams across all sports including MLB’s legendary rivalry between the Cubs and the Whitesox. Chat with Travel USA to score your tickets and we'll look to lock in your seats before you even pack your bags!

Lewis & Clark Historic Site

Hartford, Illinois

Explore the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site where the legendary expedition launched in 1803. This site commemorates the Corps of Discovery's departure, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, as they embarked on their journey to explore the western territories. Engage with interactive exhibits, view replicas of the expedition's boats, and gain insights into the challenges and discoveries that shaped American history.

Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois

Marvel at the impressive collection housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world and a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts. It’s collection spans centuries, showcasing masterpieces from classical to contemporary, creating an unmissable destination for anyone with an appreciation for the artistic journey through time.

Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum

Pontiac, Illinois

Take a nostalgic trip down this legendary highway as you journey through the iconic Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum in Pontiac, Illinois. This immersive attraction celebrates the historic Route 66, showcasing a collection of memorabilia, vintage cars, and interactive exhibits. Delve into the cultural impact of the Mother Road, learn about the quirky roadside attractions, and relive the nostalgia of America's Main Street. 

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Rockford, Illinois

Enchanting oasis that blends traditional Japanese design with Midwestern landscapes, featuring tranquil koi-filled ponds, winding paths, and meticulously curated gardens. Immerse yourself in the beauty of tea houses, waterfalls, and rock formations. Embark on a serene escape, strolling along peaceful pathways as you discover the tranquillity of Japanese horticulture in the heart of Illinois.

Chicago Riverwalk

Chicago, Illinois

Discover the vibrant Chicago Riverwalk, an award-winning, pedestrian-friendly scenic walkway stretching two kilometres along Chicago River’s south bank from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. Eat, drink, play and explore as you stroll along the river, enjoying waterfront cafes, boat tours, and captivating views of iconic architecture along the way. 

Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site

Springfield, Illinois

Pay homage to Abraham Lincoln at his final resting place, the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield. This National Historic Landmark features a striking monument and bronze sculpture of Lincoln, surrounded by a solemn burial ground, the final resting place of Lincoln, his wife and three of their four sons.  Guided tours provide insights into Lincoln's life, legacy, and the memorial's historical significance.

Field Museum

Chicago, Illinois

Globally acclaimed museum weaving together the tapestry of the natural world and human history.  Home to an extensive collection of artifacts, fossils, and specimens, from Egyptian mummies to the man-eating lions of Tsavo and the star of the show - SUE, the largest T-Rex skeleton ever unearthed.

Explore Chicago with the Go City Pass

Chicago, Illinois

With Travel USA and Go City, sightseeing couldn’t be easier. One pass, one price, all the sights - save up to 50% on the best attractions, tours, and activities – see more, spend less! From skyline sunsets to must-visit museums, we’ve got you covered.

N.B. The all-inclusive pass is included in Travel USA’s Chicago and selected Illinois packages giving you unlimited access to more than 30 attractions, tours, and activities during your stay.

Garden-of-the-gods-Shawnee looking over the valley

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Route 66 with a pontiac on route 66 in Illinois

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Our packages and featured 'things to see and do' have been created to excite, inspire and inform Kiwi travellers about what we recommend they do when travelling to the USA. All of these can be personalised to your individual needs and preferences. Contact us to discuss your requirements so we can work together to create the perfect adventure for you.
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