Illinois is known for its iconic skyline, world-class museums, and deep-dish pizza, but what else is there to do in this Midwestern state?
From exploring historic neighborhoods to indulging in outdoor adventures, Illinois has something for everyone.
Take a trip down Route 66 and visit quirky roadside attractions along the way, or head to Starved Rock State Park for scenic hikes and breathtaking waterfalls.
For a more urban experience, check out Chicago’s vibrant music and comedy scenes, or take in a baseball game at Wrigley Field.
Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or outdoor enthusiast, Illinois is full of fun and exciting experiences just waiting to be discovered.
50 Best & Fun Things To Do In Illinois
Illinois has a variety of exciting experiences, including visiting museums, exploring national parks, trying delicious cuisine, attending professional sports games, and discovering its rich history and culture. Let’s start an adventure and explore the best of what this dynamic state has to offer.
Iconic Navy Pier in Chicago
Navy Pier is an iconic landmark and a must-visit destination in Chicago.
Located along Lake Michigan, this vibrant entertainment complex offers a wide array of activities for visitors of all ages.
Take a leisurely stroll along the pier and enjoy stunning views of the city skyline and the lake.
Explore the numerous shops, restaurants, and attractions, including the famous Ferris wheel, carousel, and the Chicago Children’s Museum.
Catch a show at the IMAX theater or enjoy live performances at the outdoor Skyline Stage. During the summer months, fireworks displays light up the night sky, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Navy Pier is also a popular starting point for boat tours and cruises, allowing you to explore the beautiful Chicago waterfront.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned museum and art school that houses an extensive collection of artworks spanning thousands of years.
As one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States, it boasts a diverse range of masterpieces from various cultures and time periods.
Marvel at iconic works such as Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.”
Explore the museum’s comprehensive collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modernist artworks, including pieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse.
The museum also features exhibits dedicated to African, American, Asian, and European art, as well as contemporary and modern art.
Scenic drive down Route 66
Embark on an unforgettable road trip adventure along the legendary Route 66, also known as the “Main Street of America.”
This iconic highway stretches across Illinois, connecting small towns, historic landmarks, and breathtaking landscapes.
Drive through charming towns like Joliet, Pontiac, and Springfield, where you can explore Route 66 museums and visitor centers, showcasing the history and nostalgia of this iconic road.
Marvel at vintage gas stations, classic diners, and quirky roadside attractions that pay homage to the heyday of American road travel.
As you cruise along the highway, soak in the ever-changing scenery, from vast prairies to rolling farmland and picturesque small towns.
Historic Chicago Theatre
Step into the grandeur of the Historic Chicago Theatre, a renowned landmark that has been captivating audiences since 1921.
Located on State Street, this iconic theater boasts stunning architecture, including a lavish marquee and a majestic auditorium adorned with exquisite details.
Catch a live performance ranging from Broadway shows to concerts by world-class artists. The theater has hosted legendary performers like Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, and its rich history adds to the enchanting ambiance.
Take a guided tour to learn about the theater’s architecture and backstage secrets, or simply attend a show to experience the magic of this historic venue firsthand.
The Magnificent Mile
Indulge in a premier shopping and dining experience along the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago.
Stretching along Michigan Avenue, this bustling street is lined with luxurious boutiques, flagship stores, department stores, and high-end shopping centers.
Explore iconic landmarks like the Chicago Water Tower and the Tribune Tower, which add to the charm of the area.
In addition to shopping, the Magnificent Mile offers a plethora of dining options, ranging from fine dining establishments to casual eateries and famous Chicago-style deep-dish pizza joints.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the avenue, taking in the impressive architecture and stunning views of the city.
During the holiday season, the Magnificent Mile is adorned with festive decorations, making it a magical destination for shopping and experiencing the holiday spirit.
Millennium Park and see “The Bean”
Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Millennium Park, a sprawling green space in downtown Chicago that offers a plethora of attractions and activities.
One of the park’s most iconic features is the Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as “The Bean.” This massive, mirrored sculpture reflects the city’s skyline and offers unique photo opportunities.
Take a stroll through the park’s meticulously landscaped gardens, and enjoy free concerts, art installations, and performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
During the winter months, lace up your skates and glide across the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink. With its interactive video displays, the Crown Fountain is another popular attraction that delights visitors of all ages.
Millennium Park is also home to the Lurie Garden, an urban oasis showcasing beautiful plantings and serene paths.
The Shedd Aquarium
Dive into a world of aquatic wonders at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
Situated along the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline, the Shedd Aquarium is home to an incredible array of marine life from around the globe.
Explore exhibits that showcase diverse ecosystems, from the Amazon Rainforest to the Caribbean Reef. Marvel at the mesmerizing jellyfish, graceful beluga whales, playful sea otters, and majestic sharks.
The aquarium also offers interactive experiences, such as touching stingrays and participating in penguin encounters.
For a truly immersive experience, catch a live aquatic presentation or take a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about animal care and conservation efforts.
Experience the vibrant energy of Michigan Avenue, a bustling street known as “The Magnificent Mile” in downtown Chicago.
Stretching from the Chicago River to Oak Street, this iconic thoroughfare offers a mix of luxury shopping, dining, and cultural attractions.
Indulge in a retail therapy session at upscale department stores, designer boutiques, and flagship stores like Tiffany & Co., Apple, and Bloomingdale’s.
Explore the unique shops and specialty stores that cater to a wide range of interests and tastes.
After a shopping spree, satisfy your palate at renowned restaurants and trendy eateries that line the avenue.
Take in the stunning architecture of historic buildings like the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, as well as the modern skyscrapers that define Chicago’s skyline.
The United Center:
The United Center in Chicago is a premier sports and entertainment venue that hosts major events and is home to the Chicago Bulls basketball team and the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.
This iconic arena has witnessed countless thrilling moments in sports history, and attending a game or a concert here is an electrifying experience.
With its state-of-the-art facilities and seating capacity of over 20,000, the United Center offers a fantastic atmosphere that immerses fans in the excitement of live sports and entertainment.
From cheering on your favorite team to singing along with your favorite artists, the United Center provides an unforgettable and energetic experience for visitors of all ages.
Starved Rock State Park:
Located along the Illinois River, Starved Rock State Park is a natural wonderland that offers breathtaking views, awe-inspiring canyons, and cascading waterfalls.
This magnificent park covers over 2,600 acres and provides ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, fishing, picnicking, and camping.
With its 13 miles of trails, visitors can explore the park’s stunning landscapes, witness wildlife in their natural habitats, and discover the hidden beauty of its canyons.
Starved Rock State Park is particularly enchanting in the fall when the foliage transforms into a vibrant tapestry of colors.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio:
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, located in Oak Park, Illinois, provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and work of one of the world’s most renowned architects.
This historic site served as Wright’s primary residence and workplace from 1889 to 1909 and played a crucial role in shaping his architectural philosophy and style.
Visitors can take guided tours that showcase the building’s architectural features, including Wright’s innovative use of space, natural light, and geometric designs.
Explore the rooms where Wright lived and worked, admire his original furniture designs, and gain insights into his creative process.
The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio offers a unique opportunity to step into the world of a visionary architect and appreciate his significant contributions to the field of architecture.
Field Museum of Natural History:
The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is a world-renowned institution that houses an extensive collection of artifacts and specimens showcasing the diversity of life on Earth.
With over 40 million objects in its collection, the museum offers visitors a fascinating journey through time and across continents.
Explore ancient Egyptian tombs, come face-to-face with awe-inspiring dinosaur skeletons, and marvel at the exquisite gem and mineral displays.
The Field Museum also features engaging exhibits that delve into topics such as anthropology, geology, evolution, and biodiversity.
From the iconic T-Rex named Sue to the stunning dioramas depicting different ecosystems, the museum offers a rich and immersive learning experience for visitors of all ages.
John Hancock Building:
The John Hancock Building, officially 875 North Michigan Avenue, is an architectural marvel gracing the Chicago skyline.
Standing at 100 stories tall, this iconic skyscraper offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and Lake Michigan from its observatory, known as 360 Chicago.
Ride the high-speed elevator to the 94th floor, where you’ll be treated to an unparalleled vantage point to admire Chicago’s magnificent skyline.
The observatory also features interactive exhibits that highlight the city’s history, architecture, and culture.
For an extra thrill, step onto TILT, a unique attraction that tilts visitors outward from the building’s glass walls.
Taste of Chicago Festival:
The Taste of Chicago festival is a culinary delight that brings together the best flavors of Illinois.
With its diverse range of food vendors, you can indulge in mouthwatering dishes representing various cuisines.
From deep-dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs to international delicacies, there’s something for every palate.
The festival also features live music, cultural performances, and a vibrant atmosphere that adds to the overall experience.
Don’t miss the opportunity to savor the local flavors and immerse yourself in the vibrant food culture of Chicago.
Six Flags Great America:
For thrill-seekers and amusement park enthusiasts, a day at Six Flags Great America is a must.
This exhilarating park in Gurnee, Illinois offers a wide array of adrenaline-pumping roller coasters, entertaining shows, and family-friendly attractions.
From looping coasters to water rides, there’s no shortage of excitement. The park also hosts special events and seasonal celebrations, making each visit unique.
Whether you’re soaring through the air on a coaster or cooling off in the water park, Six Flags Great America promises a day filled with fun and unforgettable memories.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum:
Delve into history and pay homage to one of America’s most iconic figures at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois.
This world-class facility offers a comprehensive look at Lincoln’s life and legacy through interactive exhibits, artifacts, and immersive displays.
Gain insights into the Civil War era, explore Lincoln’s early life, and witness the impact of his presidency.
The museum also hosts special exhibitions and educational programs that further enrich the experience. Step into the footsteps of history and gain a deeper understanding of the man who shaped the nation.
Embark on an astronomical journey at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. As America’s first planetarium, it offers a captivating exploration of the cosmos.
Immerse yourself in the wonders of space through engaging exhibits, immersive shows in the dome theater, and interactive displays.
From learning about the solar system to uncovering the mysteries of distant galaxies, the Adler Planetarium offers a fascinating experience for visitors of all ages.
Additionally, its prime location on the shores of Lake Michigan provides breathtaking views of the city skyline, making it a truly mesmerizing destination.
Take a leisurely stroll along the Chicago Riverwalk and experience the vibrant heart of the city.
This pedestrian-friendly promenade stretches for 1.25 miles and is lined with restaurants, cafes, shops, and recreational activities.
Enjoy picturesque views of the river, admire iconic architecture, and soak in the energetic ambiance of downtown Chicago.
The Riverwalk is also host to various events and art installations, adding an extra layer of charm.
Whether you’re savoring a delicious meal, renting a kayak, or simply enjoying the scenery, the Chicago Riverwalk offers a delightful urban escape.
Explore the stunning beauty and recreational opportunities of Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes and a true natural gem of Illinois.
With its vast expanse of sparkling blue waters, sandy beaches, and scenic shoreline, Lake Michigan offers countless ways to unwind and have fun.
Swim in the refreshing waters, sunbathe on the beach, or engage in water sports like sailing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
Enjoy a picnic with family and friends, take a scenic hike along the lakefront trails, or simply relax and relish the peaceful atmosphere.
Lake Michigan provides a serene escape and a perfect setting for outdoor activities in Illinois.
Embark on a wild adventure at Brookfield Zoo, one of the premier zoological parks in Illinois.
Located just outside of Chicago, this expansive zoo is home to a diverse array of animal species from around the world.
Stroll through beautifully landscaped exhibits and observe fascinating creatures like lions, elephants, giraffes, and penguins.
With interactive experiences, educational programs, and daily animal presentations, visitors of all ages can learn and appreciate the wonders of the animal kingdom.
From feeding giraffes to watching dolphins perform incredible acrobatics, Brookfield Zoo offers a memorable and immersive wildlife experience.
The Second City Comedy Show:
Get ready for a night filled with laughter at The Second City, a renowned comedy club and improvisational theater in Chicago.
Known for launching the careers of many famous comedians, this iconic venue offers hilarious and witty performances that will keep you entertained throughout the show.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the talents of the talented ensemble as they deliver side-splitting sketches and improvisational comedy.
With a vibrant atmosphere and a rich history, The Second City guarantees a night of humor and entertainment that will leave you in stitches.
Museum of Science and Industry:
Unleash your curiosity and explore the wonders of science at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
This captivating museum offers interactive exhibits, hands-on experiments, and immersive displays that cover a wide range of scientific disciplines.
From exploring space and dissecting human anatomy to learning about technology and engineering, there’s something for everyone.
Marvel at the giant Tesla coil, walk through a replica of a coal mine, or witness a tornado up close in the museum’s iconic exhibits.
With engaging programs and special exhibitions, the Museum of Science and Industry is a must-visit destination for science enthusiasts and curious minds alike.
Discover the charm and natural beauty of Lincoln Park, a sprawling urban oasis in the heart of Chicago.
This picturesque park offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling city, featuring lush gardens, tranquil ponds, and scenic pathways.
Take a leisurely stroll or rent a bike to explore the park’s expansive grounds. Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, a free and family-friendly attraction that houses a diverse collection of animals.
Enjoy a picnic by the lake, play a game of baseball, or simply relax amidst the serene surroundings.
With its vibrant flora, stunning skyline views, and recreational opportunities, Lincoln Park provides a delightful escape into nature within the city.
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum:
Immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Illinois at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago.
This captivating museum showcases the region’s diverse ecosystems and offers interactive exhibits that educate visitors about local flora, fauna, and conservation efforts.
From butterfly gardens to interactive displays on urban wildlife, the museum provides an immersive experience for nature enthusiasts of all ages.
Explore the vibrant habitats, participate in hands-on activities, or attend educational programs and workshops.
The museum also hosts rotating exhibits and seasonal events, providing a dynamic and engaging experience with the natural world.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company:
Experience the vibrant world of theater at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, a renowned ensemble-based theater in Chicago.
Known for its innovative productions and cutting-edge performances, Steppenwolf has earned international acclaim.
From thought-provoking dramas to bold comedies, the theater company presents a diverse range of productions that push boundaries and captivate audiences.
Immerse yourself in the compelling narratives and exceptional acting as you witness the power of live theater.
With its commitment to artistic excellence and an intimate theater setting, Steppenwolf promises a memorable and enriching theatrical experience that will leave a lasting impression.
Chicago Botanic Garden:
The Chicago Botanic Garden is a stunning oasis of natural beauty nestled in Glencoe, Illinois.
Spanning over 385 acres, it offers a delightful escape from the bustling city life. Visitors can explore various themed gardens, including the Japanese Garden, English Walled Garden, and the vibrant Sensory Garden.
The garden hosts seasonal events and exhibitions, making each visit a unique experience.
Whether you’re strolling through fragrant rose gardens or enjoying a picnic by the lakeside, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a serene and picturesque setting for nature enthusiasts and families alike.
Garfield Park Conservatory:
Located in Chicago, the Garfield Park Conservatory is a botanical gem.
Spanning over 12 acres, it showcases an impressive collection of plants from around the world.
Visitors can wander through lush tropical rainforests, arid desert landscapes, and vibrant flower displays. The conservatory also offers educational programs, workshops, and art exhibitions.
With its glass-domed structures and meticulously curated displays, the Garfield Park Conservatory provides a peaceful and immersive experience, allowing visitors to connect with nature and learn about the importance of plant conservation.
Illinois State Capitol in Springfield:
The Illinois State Capitol, situated in Springfield, is a historic and iconic landmark.
This architectural masterpiece boasts intricate details, majestic domes, and stunning murals.
Guided tours take visitors through the legislative chambers, governor’s office, and other significant areas of the building, providing a glimpse into the state’s political history.
The Capitol also houses the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where visitors can explore exhibits dedicated to the life and legacy of the renowned president.
Brewery tour in Chicago:
Chicago’s vibrant craft beer scene is best experienced through a brewery tour.
With numerous breweries scattered throughout the city, visitors can embark on a journey to taste a wide array of locally brewed beers.
Many tours offer behind-the-scenes insights into the brewing process, allowing beer enthusiasts to learn about different styles and ingredients.
From small, cozy taprooms to large-scale production facilities, each brewery has its unique charm and character.
In addition to sampling delicious brews, visitors can also enjoy food pairings, live music, and engaging conversations with passionate brewers.
A brewery tour in Chicago promises a fun and flavorful adventure for beer lovers and those seeking a unique culinary experience.
Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge:
The Willis Tower Skydeck Ledge is an exhilarating experience that allows visitors to take in breathtaking views of Chicago from the 103rd floor of one of the tallest buildings in the Western Hemisphere.
Step out onto the glass boxes that extend from the building’s facade, and you’ll feel as if you’re floating above the city.
With the cityscape stretching out below you, the Skydeck Ledge offers a unique perspective on Chicago’s impressive architecture and iconic landmarks.
It’s an adrenaline-inducing adventure that promises awe-inspiring photo opportunities and a memorable way to appreciate the Windy City’s stunning skyline.
DuSable Museum of African American History:
The DuSable Museum of African American History is a cultural treasure in Chicago dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and celebrating the experiences and contributions of African Americans.
Through thought-provoking exhibits, artifacts, and interactive displays, the museum chronicles the rich history and achievements of African Americans, from their African origins to the present day.
Visitors can explore exhibits that delve into various aspects of African American culture, art, music, and social movements.
From the stories of prominent figures like Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the museum’s namesake, to the struggles and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement, the DuSable Museum offers a comprehensive and enlightening exploration of African American history.
It’s a must-visit destination for those seeking a deeper understanding of the African American experience and its vital role in shaping American society.
LaSalle County Historical Society Museum:
The LaSalle County Historical Society Museum, located in Utica, Illinois, offers a fascinating journey through the region’s rich history.
Housed in an 1848 Greek Revival-style building, the museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents that depict the story of LaSalle County and its residents.
Visitors can explore exhibits that cover a wide range of topics, including Native American history, pioneer life, agriculture, industry, and transportation.
From the meticulously recreated rooms of a Victorian-era home to displays highlighting the area’s mining heritage, the museum provides an immersive experience that brings the past to life.
The museum often hosts special events, lectures, and workshops that delve deeper into specific aspects of local history.
For history enthusiasts and those curious about the heritage of LaSalle County, a visit to the LaSalle County Historical Society Museum offers a captivating and educational experience.
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago:
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is a vibrant hub for contemporary art enthusiasts.
Located in downtown Chicago, this museum showcases a diverse range of innovative and thought-provoking artwork across various mediums.
From paintings and sculptures to multimedia installations and performance art, the exhibits here reflect the ever-evolving nature of contemporary artistic expression.
With rotating exhibitions featuring both established and emerging artists, visitors can immerse themselves in the dynamic world of contemporary art.
The museum also hosts engaging programs, talks, and workshops that provide deeper insights into the featured artists and their work.
Richard H. Driehaus Museum:
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
Housed in a meticulously restored Gilded Age mansion, this museum offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The stunning interiors, adorned with intricate woodwork, stained glass, and lavish decor, transport visitors to a bygone era of elegance and grandeur.
The museum’s collection includes exquisite pieces of furniture, decorative arts, and paintings, providing a comprehensive look at the period’s artistic and design sensibilities.
Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the history and significance of the mansion, its architectural details, and the stories of the people who lived there.
See a performance at the Auditorium Theatre:
The Auditorium Theatre, located in Chicago’s Loop district, is a historic venue renowned for its breathtaking architecture and world-class performances.
Designed by famed architects Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, this National Historic Landmark is a testament to the grandeur of the late 19th century.
Its opulent interiors, adorned with intricate plasterwork and stunning murals, provide an enchanting setting for a wide range of artistic performances, including ballet, opera, theater, and music concerts.
The theater has hosted renowned artists and companies from around the world, and its stage has witnessed iconic performances throughout its rich history.
Attending a show at the Auditorium Theatre is an unforgettable experience, where you can witness the magic of live performances while surrounded by the venue’s architectural splendor.
Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum is a captivating institution that offers visitors a deep dive into the city’s rich past.
With a diverse range of exhibits and artifacts, this museum provides an immersive experience that showcases Chicago’s evolution from a small trading post to a bustling metropolis.
From the iconic Great Chicago Fire exhibit to the interactive “Sensing Chicago” display, visitors can explore the city’s history through engaging narratives and multimedia presentations.
The museum also hosts special exhibitions and events that shed light on various aspects of Chicago’s culture, architecture, and communities.
If you’re a history buff or simply curious about the Windy City, a visit to the Chicago History Museum is an excellent way to gain insights into the city’s past and appreciate its vibrant heritage.
Chicago Air and Water Show
The Chicago Air and Water Show is an exhilarating event that takes place annually along the picturesque Lake Michigan shoreline.
As one of the largest free air shows in the United States, it showcases incredible aerial stunts, daring parachute jumps, and thrilling water demonstrations.
The event attracts millions of spectators who gather to witness the precision maneuvers of military aircraft, breathtaking aerobatics, and impressive water-skiing performances.
Whether you’re a fan of aviation or simply enjoy a thrilling spectacle, the Chicago Air and Water Show offers an unforgettable experience.
Grab a spot on the beach, bring your picnic blanket, and prepare to be amazed by the gravity-defying feats and roaring engines of the participating aircraft.
Wrigley Field Stadium
Wrigley Field Stadium is an iconic landmark and home to the beloved Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Steeped in history and charm, this legendary ballpark has been hosting games since 1914, making it one of the oldest baseball stadiums in the country.
Whether you’re a die-hard baseball enthusiast or just looking for a quintessential Chicago experience, catching a game at Wrigley Field is a must-do.
The electric atmosphere, the sounds of the crowd, and the sight of the famous ivy-covered outfield walls create an unforgettable ambiance.
Even outside of game days, you can take a guided tour of the stadium to learn about its storied past and explore its unique features, including the iconic marquee and the historic scoreboard.
From food to sports, it’s easy to see why Illinois is a great vacation destination.
Whether you’re looking for something active like sky diving or excited to try the latest restaurant that just opened up, you’re sure to find something enjoyable when visiting Illinois.
If you want to explore further beyond what the state of IL has to offer and venture out into the beauty of nature, there are plenty of national parks and forests throughout the state for you to experience.
Spending time outdoors will surely help you gain a new perspective on life and recharge your batteries.
No matter what type of vacation experience you’re looking for, visit Illinois – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.