Destination Guides


Illinois

General   Weather   Airports   Attractions   Activities  

Introduction

Chicago River ©Jim Larrison

The vast mid-Western American state of Illinois offers on one hand the giant, bustling city of Chicago, and on the other the experience of small-town America. Illinois is one of America's major breadbaskets and most of the state is covered in rich farmlands, dotted with agricultural communities and half a million acres of state parks mixed in with the rolling corn fields. Tucked away in the rolling hills are some Amish communities carrying on their traditional rural way of life without modern conveniences.


The metropolis of Chicago, on the shore of Lake Michigan in the north of Illinois, is the focus for most visitors, with its amazing collection of museums and high class shopping areas. Travellers who venture downstate, however, can find plenty of diversions, particularly those interested in history or outdoor activities.


The state capital, Springfield, 200 miles (322km) south of famous Chicago, is a city with a small-town atmosphere, renowned for once being the home of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President, who practised law here and was laid to rest in the local Oak Ridge Cemetery after his assassination.


Visitors seeking life in the open air are drawn to the expanse of natural beauty in south Illinois where the Shawnee National Forest offers hiking, biking, camping, and fishing opportunities in serene woodlands.


Climate Info

Most of Illinois has a humid continental climate, with hot, humid summers and cold winters. The southernmost part of the state borders on a humid subtropical climate, boasting milder winters. The weather in Illinois can be fairly extreme: in summer (June to August) temperatures rise to between 80°F (27°C) and 90°F (32°C) and there is high humidity; while in winter (January to March) it can be wet and cold, with temperatures as low as 12°F (-11°C) and icy winds whipping off Lake Michigan. Snow is likely in winter. May and September are the most pleasant months, with reliably warm, sunny days.


Getting Around

Chicago has one of the largest public transportation systems in the country and getting around the city is fast and easy with an extensive network of train and bus routes. The train system is known as the "L"; most visitors only use the "L", but buses also cover every part of the city including the suburbs, albeit less regularly. Most trains run 24 hours a day, with Overnight or Night Owl services taking over between midnight and 5am on some lines. The Metra commuter trains link the city to the outer suburbs, including Lake Michigan, Hyde Park and McCormick Place. During the summer months, a free trolley system operates in the downtown area, connecting Chicago's top cultural attractions, shopping areas and visitor destinations. Taxis are easy to find, and the metered rates are reasonable for short journeys. Although traffic is not as bad as in other major cities (outside rush hour), parking is expensive and difficult to find.


OHare International Airport (ORD)

LocationChicago OHare is located 17 miles (27km) northwest of Chicago.
Time DifferenceGMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Contacts

Tel: +1 773 686 2200 or 773 686 3700.

Transfer terminals

A free automated rail system connects all terminals.

Getting to city

Blue Line trains run every few minutes between the airport and downtown Chicago; the journey takes around 50 minutes. For safety reasons travellers are advised against using the Blue Line at night. Taxi ranks are situated outside the arrivals hall in each of the airport terminals; the fare is around $40 for the 30-45 minute journey from the airport to downtown Chicago.

Car Rental

Companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

There are plenty of metered taxis outside, and a taxi to the centre of Chicago takes approximately 30-45 minutes and costs about $40. But be prepared to pay twice as much during rush hour.

Airport Facilities

Facilities at the airport include restaurants, bars, shops, duty-free shopping, bureaux de change, a bank and ATMs. The Hilton Athletic Club provides a health club, sauna, steam room and massage. There is a medical centre, baby-change facilities, a play area and a 24-hour interfaith chapel.

Car Parking

Parking at Chicago O'Hare is divided into the main lots, international lots, economy lots, and valet lots, with an additional free Cell Phone Lot for pick-ups and drop-offs. Fees range from around $2 per hour at the main lots, or $5 for two hours at the international lot, to $17 per day in the economy lots. Valet parking is also available.

Websitewww.flychicago.com


General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (PIA)

LocationThe airport is situated five miles (8km) west of the city of Peoria.
Time DifferenceGMT -6 (GMT -5 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

Taxis, airport shuttles and rental cars are available at the airport. CityLink buses on Route 7 (the Garden Route) access Peoria International Airport between roughly 6.30am and 6pm on weekdays, and between 8.30am and 5pm on Saturdays. Late night access is offered via bus Route 13.

Car Rental

Car rental companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Several taxi companies service the airport.

Airport Facilities

Airport facilities include a restaurant, a bar, vending machines, children's play areas, a conference suite, an ATM, a lost and found, and a visitor information kiosk.

Car Parking

Parking is free at Peoria International Airport. Free airport shuttle buses transport passengers from the parking lot to the terminal if necessary.

Websitewww.flypia.com


Quad City International Airport (MLI)

LocationThe airport is located three miles (5km) from downtown Moline.
Time DifferenceGMT -6 (GMT -5 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

The airport is accessible via the METRO bus, on Route 20 Blue. The METRO bus departs from the bus stop in front of the terminal twice an hour. Monday to Friday, operating hours are from 6.10am to 6.10pm; and on Saturdays from 8.40am to 6.10pm. There is no bus service on major holidays.

Car Rental

Car rental companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and National. These companies are located in the public terminal inside Exits 6 and 7, on the east side of the terminal, near baggage claim.

Airpor Taxis

The Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County (MAA) oversees the taxicab and shuttle services. Most of these services require a reservation, particularly at night. Taxis are available in designated parking stalls outside Exit 7, and can be called with the courtesy phone located at baggage claim.

Airport Facilities

Airport facilities include ATMs, a business centre, work stations, a restaurant and a gift shop.

Car Parking

There is a free drop-off and pick-up zone, as well as short and long-term parking lots. Short-term rates are $1 for the first hour, and $2 per hour thereafter up to $15 for 24 hours. Long-term parking is $1 per hour, with a daily rate of $7. Weekly rates range from $35 to $75.

Websitewww.qcairport.com


Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW)

Location10 miles from Chicago between interstates I-90 and I-55
Contacts

Tel: +1 (773) 838-0600. Email: aviation@flychicago.com

Getting to city

Passengers transfering to Chicago can rent a car, or hire a limo or taxi. The Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line runs from the airport to downtown Chicago, and Continental Airport Express has door-to-door service on shuttles leaving every 15 minutes.

Car Rental

There are several car rental agencies based at Chicago Midway.

Airpor Taxis

There are taxis available from the airport to downtown Chicago or any other destination.

Airport Facilities

The airport offers restaurants, cafes, gift shops, a business centre, ATMs and a chapel.

Car Parking

There is a six-level parking garage attached to the airport by a covered walkway. Complimentary shuttle buses to the terminals run every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Websiteflychicago.com


Central Illinois Regional Airport Bloomington-Normal (BMI)

LocationThe airport is situated three miles (5km) east of Bloomington.
Time DifferenceGMT -6 (GMT -5 from mid-March to the first Sunday in November).
Getting to city

The Tan line of the Connect-Transit bus service provides transport to the airport via the 'CIRA Terminal' stop. Taxis and rental cars are also available at the airport.

Car Rental

Car hire companies represented at the airport include Avis, Hertz and National.

Airpor Taxis

Taxis are usually available at the airport, but for peak hours, or late at night, it is best to book a taxi in advance. Uber is also an option.

Airport Facilities

Facilities at the airport include a conference centre, shops, a restaurant and a coffee shop.

Car Parking

All parking is free at the airport and there is a free airport shuttle available to transport passengers between the parking lots and the terminal. Short-term parking is available for up to two hours, but there is no time limit for the long-term lot.

Websitewww.cira.com


Art Institute of Chicago


An impressive pair of bronze lions guards the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago in South Michigan Avenue, a museum which houses one of the greatest art collections in the world. Works date from 3,000 BC through to the present, including a renowned collection of Impressionist art f
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Art Institute of Chicago ©Leon Petrosyan



Chicago Field Museum


Chicago's wildly popular Field Museum of Natural History in Lake Shore Drive is home to 'Sue', the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. The dinosaur came to rest here after being unearthed in South Dakota when the museum bought her remains for more than $8 milli
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Field Museum ©Shoffman11



Frank Lloyd Wrights Home


America's most renowned architect lived and worked in this complex, which served as private residence, studio and architectural laboratory for the first twenty years of his career, between 1889 (when he was 22) and 1909. Wright's haven started out as a simple cottage and was continually
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Frank Lloyd Wright's Home ©Library of Congress



Lincoln Park


Lincoln Park, beginning at North Avenue and following the shore of Lake Michigan northwards for several miles, is Chicago's largest park. It contains several attractions, including bathing beaches, a botanical conservatory, a golf course, grassy meadows, formal gardens and sports fields.
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Lion at the Lincoln Park Zoo ©Hot Dog Wolf



Six Flags Great America


Top of the list of attractions for families on holiday in Chicago, the Six Flags Great America is a must for children of all ages. Featuring some of the country's most exciting theme park rides, such as the Dark Knight Coaster, Bedrock Boulder Roller and the Condor, the Six Flags Great A
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Six Flags Great America ©Daniel M. Hendricks



Shedd Aquarium


One of Chicago's best known attractions, the Shedd, which opened in 1930, remains one of the world's largest indoor aquariums. The octagonal marble building houses more than 8,000 river, lake and sea creatures. The main attraction is the Caribbean Coral Reef exhibit and other marine habi
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Shedd Aquarium ©Sebastian Rueckoldt



Rockford


Illinois' second city, Rockford, is just a hop and skip to the northwest of Chicago, set in rolling hills. It is worth a visit for culture vultures and golfers in particular. The city is known for its 'cultural corridor' of which the highlight is the Rockford Art Museum's stunning perman
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Rockford ©Alexbaumgarner



Lincolns Home


The pretty two-storey home of Abraham and Mary Lincoln in Springfield was the only home the lawyer/president ever owned. He and his wife lived in the house between 1844 and 1861 when he was elected President. The home has been restored and stands as it was in 1860 in the midst of a four-
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Lincoln Home National Historic Site ©Daniel Schwen



Oak Ridge Cemetery


Abraham Lincoln was buried in Springfield's Oak Ridge Cemetery after his assassination in 1865. Today it is the second most visited cemetery in the United States, being the resting place not only of Lincoln but several other notable historic figures, including famous poet Vachel Lindsay.
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Lincoln's Tomb ©Robert Lawton



Lincoln Library and Museum


The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library opened in October 2004, with the Museum opening the following year. They are part of a $115 million complex dedicated to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln and form the largest presidential library complex in the nation. The library houses the
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Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum ©Rogerd



Navy Pier


Situated on Chicago's lakefront, Navy Pier has developed into one of the city's main tourist destinations, offering year-round attractions, events and entertainment for the whole family. Navy Pier encompasses acres of parks and gardens, shops, restaurants, and numerous attractions and ri
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Navy Pier ©Serge Melki



Sears Tower (Willis Tower)


'You haven't seen Chicago until you've seen it from the Skydeck' is what many visitors will hear from locals and other tourists in the city. The iconic Sears Tower was renamed on 16 July 2009 to the 'Willis Tower', but the old name is still commonly used. Located on its 103rd floor, the
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Sears Tower ©Chad Kainz



Millennium Park


Millennium Park is one of Chicago's most popular destinations and is seen by Chicagoans as the crowning glory of their city. The award-winning park is famous for its innovative architecture and landscape design, featuring the work of several prominent artists, architects and designers. T
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Millennium Park ©Torsodog



Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum


Located on Lake Michigan, the Adler is America's oldest planetarium, and boasts two full-size planetarium theatres. The night sky has been visible from the historic Sky Theatre since 1930, while the all-digital StarRider Theatre is the first of its kind in the world and affords a virtual
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Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum ©Fritz Geller-Grimm



Hancock Observatory


The John Hancock building is Chicago's third highest skyscraper, with a distinctive x-bracing exterior skin, and its Observatory competes with the facilities of the Sear's Tower Skydeck across town in the Financial District. Located on the 94th floor, 1,000 feet (305m) above street level
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Hancock Observatory ©Ken Lund



Chicago Childrens Museum


The Chicago Children's Museum is a must for kids of all ages. Located on Navy Pier, the museum offers three storeys of interactive exhibits offering plenty of hands-on fun. The main attraction at the museum is without a doubt the three-storey tall replica of an 1850s Schooner, which is a
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Chicago Children's Museum ©Octavio Ruiz Cervera



Chicago Botanic Gardens


A great place for families to unwind and relax with a picnic is the Chicago Botanic Gardens. With plenty of wide-open space for kids to run around, the Botanic Gardens is one of Chicago's most tranquil and beautiful attractions. During the summertime, the Rose Garden, where over 7,750 pl
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Linden Allee, Botanic Garden ©Cbgde08



Chicago Loop


Some stunning public art adorns downtown Chicago, created by world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and David Smith. Numerous walking tours of the Loop are available, with the Chicago Loop Alliance offering some free tours. E
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Cloud Gate ©Vincent Desjardins



Buckingham Fountain


Located alongside Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park, often referred to as the city's front yard, Buckingham Fountain is one of the Chicago's most popular attractions. The fountain used to be the official starting point of the celebrated US Route 66. Donated t
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Buckingham Fountain ©Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar



Magnificent Mile


The stretch of Michigan Avenue in Chicago that runs from Chicago River to Oak Street is known as the Magnificent Mile. Famed for its nightlife, it also serves as the main thoroughfare between Chicago's Loop business district and the Gold Coast. Visitors will love discovering everything t
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Magnificent Mile ©Bert Kaufmann



Route 66 Sign


The world-famous Route 66 is colloquially known as the 'Main Street of America' or the 'Mother Road' as it originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending in Los Angeles. The stretch of highway has been
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Route 66 ©Anna Harris



Chicago History Museum


Chicago has a colourful and fascinating history, ranging from devastating fires to gangster assassinations and more. The Chicago History Museum has intriguing collections of artefacts from the city's past, including the first passenger car to operate on the Chicago L system, Michael Jord
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Chicago History Museum ©Jeremy Atherton



Chicago Beaches


While Chicago is not well-known as a beach holiday destination, its position on the shore of Lake Michigan gives the city access to an extensive network of waterfront recreational areas operated by the Chicago Park District. There are over 26 miles (42km) of open and free lakefront to en
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North Avenue Beach ©TonyTheTiger



Knights Action Park and Caribbean Water Adventure


Knights Action Park is a family entertainment centre outside of Springfield, Illinois. Featuring an arcade, driving range, batting cages, go-karts, mini golf, kiddie rides and a ferris wheel, the park is a great place to let children run around after touring historic Springfield. Caribbe
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Ferris Wheel ©Katherine Johnson



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