The Land of Lincoln is largely publicized for its corn country and the major market of Chicago.
When people hear Illinois, the first word that comes to mind is Chicago. You know, that big city with deep-dish pizza, the Cubs, and the Willis Tower. Yes, common perception and media portrayals mainly depicts Illinois as only Chicago. That’s fair, considering the city has much to offer for travelers and local residents. I’m here, however, to tell you that Chicagoland only encompasses a small portion in the Northeast corner of the state. But it is where I’ll start:
Whether it’s going to the Lake Michigan shorelines for a walk, heading to the top of the Willis Tower, or walking on the Mag Mile; this city offers something for everyone. From the top of the Willis Tower, you can witness the lake water in pure blue and stretches out into the distance. Meanwhile, another spot atop the observation deck, you can count just how many skyscrapers the city has.
As for the famous deep-dish pizza, I’ve had Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, and I must say that one or two slices is enough to call it a meal (and day.) Walking the Mag Mile on Michigan Avenue is a shopper’s heaven, with retail stores flooding the street. I forgot to mention the famous Navy Pier, a lakeside entertainment venue with stunning views at sunset along with plenty of fun.
There’s also Taste of Chicago – a summer food festival in the city – which is essentially booths set-up in one location from various restaurants so you can simply try all their food. It’s a delicious time!
If you want to explore areas outside downtown, Wrigleyville has an electric atmosphere and is filled with food and drink establishments. It’s even more booming when Cubs games are in town. A true Chicago experience includes a Cubs game, and I must say the fans are so passionate for their team, regardless of the record.
The attractions don’t end there though: the Art Institute, Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, Shedd Aquarium, and Buckingham Fountain are just some of the other icons waiting for you in the Windy City.
The Rest of Illinois
For visitors especially, the rest of Illinois may be something of curiosity. Most travelers arrive in Chicago to experience a massive urban sprawl. But when you look on the map, Illinois has tons more space.
I have driven through Illinois from north to south and east to west and it’s a vastly different country compared to the urban part of the state. As the outskirts of Chicago disappear in your rearview mirror, it’s easy to see why many people label the state in the heartland: it’s all cornfields.
Into the distance, one road goes with nothing but cultivation and fields surround you. It’s a flat, open country that turns remote at times. I remember seeing “No exit for 25 miles” signs at some points, thus it’s not uncommon to drive through fields for 100 or even 250 miles in Illinois. The traffic is sparse, quiet. Civilization is few and far between. It’s a major contrast to national perceptions of Chicago and its urbanization.