Illinois: a quick guide to state attractions

Chicago_River_from_Lake_Street_bridge

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Thinking of where to go and what to do as a tourist in the state of Illinois can be challenging because Illinois has an abundance of theme parks, museums, zoos, and numerous places where exciting outdoor and indoor activities can be held.

Top 5 tourist spots in Illinois

Here are five highly recommended tourist spots in Illinois:

For those fond of history, and wish to know more about Abe Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, this museum is a perfect destination. The  simplicity of Lincoln belied his noble vision for America, a country where slavery was outlawed. The museum contains the world’s biggest collection of memorabilia related to Lincoln and his times. This museum is closed on Sundays, so plan your visit accordingly.

This is a popular tourist spot that has been in existence since 1934.  It is famous for its exceptional exhibits and design.  You can watch the training sessions for the sea lions or dolphins, or take in the dolphin shows at Seven Seas.  If you’re fascinated by simians, you can also go to Tropic World and enjoy observing the apes.

If you’re traveling with kids, make sure to drop by this museum which features natural history. Exhibits include anthropological artifacts from the Pacific Northwest, the country of Tibet, and even ancient Egypt. Kids and adults alike will have fun learning about different cultures from long ago.

For adults who are more into seeing expansive, panoramic scenery from above, then this Observatory is a must-visit destination. Make sure you don’t fear heights, because the breathtaking beauty of the city of Chicago in Illinois can only be best appreciated at a thousand feet from the ground. After you take in the splendid vista, relax with some cocktails at the 95th floor’s Signature Room.

Fans of the outdoors, hiking, and natural rock formations, trails, and cliffs will surely be enthralled with this highly frequented tourist spot. Stand on a rock outcropping and take all the photographs you want of the lush greenery that surrounds the huge rock structures.

Top 3 cities to live in

After being given a sample of lovely places to visit, maybe you’re now thinking about which Illinois cities you’d possibly like to live in. The cities of Illinois all have their unique and enticing identities, such that it’s not easy to make a choice. Chicago, the Windy City that’s been immortalized in films, poems, novels, TV shows, plays, comics, and even video games, easily comes to mind.

But, if you were to base it on a combined evaluation of the following socio-cultural and economic concerns:

  • Crime Index (should be low)
  • Cost of Living (should be manageable)
  • Housing (should be affordable and in pleasant neighborhoods)
  • Weather Conditions
  • Employment Opportunities (should be varied and not scarce)
  • Educational Opportunities (should be comparable to that found in major US cities)

…then top 3 Illinois cities to live in would be:

  • Winnetka – while the cost of living is rather high in this city, it has a very low crime index, great housing and employment opportunities, and educational institutions that are known for maintaining above-average standards of excellence. Note, however that weather here can be highly humid.
  • Orland Hills – low cost of living, low to average crime index, more than average education and employment opportunities, above average housing, weather conditions vary (can be hot, rainy, or humid)
  • Jerome – very low cost of living, very low crime index, slightly above average housing, education and employment opportunities, average weather, but can be highly humid

Top 2 kinds of food

Speaking of socio-cultural concerns, one of the best indicators for a vibrant and fun culture is the quality of the food found in the state.

Let’s look at the top 2 kinds of food to try in Illinois:

  • RealHorseshoesandwichHorseshoe Sandwich – don’t be put off by the quirky name! This is a traditional, open-faced sandwich with fillings as varied as hamburger, chicken, ham, turkey, cheese, shrimp, and crawfish, with various salad-type vegetables piled on or scantily mixed, according to taste. What makes it different from other open sandwiches is the use of toasted sourdough bread.

Photo by: Wikimedia

  • Various Mexican dishes – in Chicago, as well as other parts of Illinois, Mexican food is a big thing. Got a craving for tacos, tortilla soup, or quesadillas? No need to cross the border because many Illinois restaurants have got these for you.

As you can see, the tastes of many people in Illinois are not specific to locally-developed recipes. Many favor fastfood fare like pizza and hotdogs, and outlets for this kind of food dot the landscape of various Illinois cities.

How about trying samples of the best Chi-food? Chicago Food Planet Food Tours , an award winning food tour, offers a tour of the best Chicago specialities where you can try several delicious samples of local and international food.

A food lovers guide to Chi- food containing the best farmers market, grocery stores, speciality shops can be found here – TheKitchn.

Top 3 party places

Aside from food outlets, nightlife is also one of the staples of some cities in Illinois.

Here are the top 3 party places in Illinois that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in the mood to relax and have great fun:

  • Level Nightclub – located in Chicago at 7,000 sq ft. from sea level, and is the scene of many high end parties since 2004. Its clientele has included local and national celebrities and power players. Great music, great ambiance. A dress code is imposed.
  • Hard Rock Café – this is a fixture in Illinois and other parts of the world. If you like Bruce Springsteen and rock music, you’ll definitely want to visit this non-café (it’s actually a drinking spot, to the uninitiated). Plenty of drinks, lots of awesome music from live bands, dynamic crowds, great food, and all the elements for a terrific parteeyyy can be found here.
  • Ontourage – there are more people from out of town than locals who go here to have fun. Intelligent lighting, ideal sound system, 7 VIP areas, dance floors and 4 bars. Come here to drink and dance until you drop!

Top 2 shopping malls

Finally, to round up our list of great things to see and do, here are our top 2 shopping malls in Illinois:

  • Chicago Ridge Mall – there are 89 stores and several restaurants to choose from in (and out) of this mall that features several globally popular brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Aéropostale, Bath & Body Works, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret,  Chili’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, among others. Check out their website for coupons and events.
  • Cherryvale Mall – located in Rockford, this mall has 128 stores and at least 13 restaurants for your shopping and dining pleasure. Retail items from American favorites JCPenney,  Sears,  Bergner’s, and Macy’s can be found here. They also have a site that you can visit for more information.