Chicago is so synonymous with Illinois that when it comes to anything else that's visit-worthy in this state, things tend to go unnoticed. While the windy city is definitely worth visiting at least once, there's plenty to do in Illinois that doesn't include navigating city streets or reading bus or train schedules. So, if a city isn't what you had in mind - fear not, friends! There's so much more to see in the great state of Illinois.
From roadside attractions to some of the most unusual landmarks, it seems like there's something for everyone. Travelers can trust that they won't get bored on a trip to this state if that's on the itinerary and if you feel like skipping Chicago, feel free! With this list of must-see attractions, there's no way you'll be subject to that city FOMO. And, if Chicago is on the list, there's plenty to see just outside of the city borders as well.
The Town Of Galena
In (very) stark contrast to Chicago, Illinois is also home to the small town of Galena. This town is nothing like what you'd expect and definitely not with a population of fewer than 4,000 people. However, this town has plenty to offer despite the miniature size that makes it worth stopping in.
The town itself is located in a great location with access to many of Illinois' best outdoor activities and attractions. Hiking is a popular way to explore the surrounding area which, of course, entitles one to a spa day at any number of the resorts around the town of Galena. In town, there's plenty of small shops to pop into if you're looking for that one-of-a-kind gift, along with many dining establishments that specialize in Midwestern fare.
Garden Of The Gods
Shawnee National Forest is breathtaking and practically calls to nature lovers to walk its trails. With roughly 300,000 acres to explore it might seem overwhelming but with easy-to-follow blazes, you'll be adventuring in the wilderness like a pro.
Various rock formations give way to unique geological landscapes, and some trails intersect gorgeous waterfalls that demand attention. It's a great place for bird-watching as well since the Bald Eagle makes a regular appearance in the skies above Shawnee. If nothing else, it's the perfect way to spend a sunny day out if you're not keen on being in the middle of the city.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
A little bit of history is always a good reason to make a pit stop during a trip, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is good for just that. This is the location that the country's 16th president called his home, and it's none other than Springfield, Illinois.
Here, visitors will find incredible artifacts from Lincoln's life, including a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation as well as the original draft of the Gettysburg Address. You don't need to be a history buff to appreciate all of the exhibits that are available at this museum nor do you need to be an avid book lover to appreciate this historical library.
Cairo, Illinois AKA A Ghost Town
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, you find out that Illinois is also home to a ghost town. The town of Cairo sits frozen in place just like it did during the days when it was a bustling ship port. Thanks to its location between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, it was a popular spot for captains to stop along trade routes before it eventually fell into disuse.
After the initial boom, Cairo was no longer needed like it once way which - similar to other ghost towns - led to the desertion of its streets. Today, driving through the town is an eerie experience when you realize that its buildings and homes are all but forgotten. Now, they just sit as reminders of the past and what was once a very active maritime port.
Largest Catsup Bottle In The World
Okay okay, understandably, a landmark such as this wouldn't be worth stopping to see. However, there's something so fascinating about a condiment bottle that's not only huge but is perched high above in a water-tower-like situation.
This catsup bottle measures a striking height of 170 feet which does, indeed, make it the biggest catsup bottle in the world. It's also a registered landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, so that also adds to the grandness of being in the presence of this tomato-based attraction. You can't use it on your burgers but you can see it if you're traveling through Collinsville.