Illinois is a state in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is the 5th most populous state and 25th largest state in terms of land area, and has the 9th largest population of any U.S. state.
Illinois is often noted as a microcosm of the entire United States. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and vast agricultural areas in central and southern Illinois, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum in the south, Illinois has something to offer for everyone.
The tourism industry in Illinois is booming thanks to major attractions like Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, Wrigley Field, etc.
In this article, we will go over some of the most famous landmarks in Illinois, the history of each landmark, what makes it worth visiting, and what you can do once there.
Famous Landmarks in Illinois
1. Navy Pier
The iconic Navy Pier is located on the shore of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago and is one of the most popular attractions for tourists and locals alike.
It was originally built as a shipping port in 1916, but has since been transformed into an entertainment district full of shops, restaurants, gardens, and more.
Visitors can take boat rides or stroll down the pier to explore its many attractions such as the Centennial Wheel ferris wheel and Chicago Children’s Museum.
Also Read: Landmarks in Chicago
Its history dates back to the 19th century when it served as a military training center. Since then, it has been used as a university campus, an airport, and even an amusement park.
Today, the pier is one of Chicago’s most visited attractions and is home to a wide array of restaurants, bars, shops and theaters.
Navy Pier is full of activities and attractions. Visitors can enjoy the many gardens, go on boat rides, or take a ride on the Centennial Wheel ferris wheel.
There are also plenty of places to shop, including souvenir shops and art galleries. Additionally, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to dine at and music venues for live entertainment.
2. Millennium Park
Millennium Park is a public park located in the Loop neighborhood of downtown Chicago, Illinois. The park was designed to celebrate the millennium and it is one of the most visited parks in the city, with more than 25 million visitors annually.
Its main attractions are its beautiful gardens, stunning architecture, and its iconic “Cloud Gate” sculpture, also known as “The Bean.”
Its history dates back to 1997 when the city of Chicago announced plans to build a park in honor of the new millennium. Construction began in 1998 and it was completed in 2004, with the grand opening taking place on July 16th of that year.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Wisconsin
Since then, Millennium Park has become one of the most visited attractions in all of Chicago.
Millennium Park is full of activities for visitors to enjoy. Throughout the summer months, there are free concerts and movies held at Pritzker Pavilion, as well as special events like yoga classes and art installations.
Additionally, visitors can explore the many gardens and take a walk around the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture. Moreover, there are plenty of places to eat in the area, including restaurants and cafes.
3. Willis Tower
The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is a skyscraper located in downtown Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago and stands at 110 stories tall, making it the tallest building in both North America and the Western Hemisphere.
The observation deck on its 103rd floor offers stunning views of Chicago and Lake Michigan from 1,451 feet above ground level.
Its history dates back to 1970 when construction for what was then called The Sears Tower began. At that time it was the world’s tallest building and remained so until 1998 when it was surpassed by the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.
Today, The Willis Tower stands as one of Chicago’s most recognizable skyscrapers and is a popular spot for tourists to visit.
What You Can Do Once There: Visitors can take an elevator to the 103rd-floor observation deck to get amazing views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
Additionally, there are plenty of souvenir shops located at the base of the tower and restaurants throughout it, as well as the interactive Skydeck experience on its 99th floor which allows visitors to step out over the open air.
Furthermore, guided tours are available for those interested in learning more about the history of this iconic building.
4. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
The Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a 2,200-acre ancient Native American settlement located in Collinsville, Illinois. It was once the largest and most influential urban area north of Mexico and remains an important archeological site today.
The mounds that make up the site were built by the Mississippians between A.D 1050-1400 and are believed to have served as burial sites, temples, and gathering spaces for religious ceremonies.
Its history dates back hundreds of years before Europeans discovered North America. By 1400 it had become one of the most populated cities in the world with a population estimated at around 20,000 people.
Today, it serves as a reminder of our country’s past and its importance in the development of Native American culture.
5. Wrigley Field
Wrigley Field is a stadium located in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. It is home to Major League Baseball team the Chicago Cubs and has served as the site for some of the most iconic moments in baseball history.
Even today, it remains one of the oldest stadiums in professional sports and its ivy-covered walls and classic structure continue to make it one of the most beloved venues in all of baseball.
Its history dates back to 1914 when William Wrigley Jr., then owner of the Chicago Cubs, purchased land on which he would build his stadium. The first game was played at Wrigley Field on April 23rd, 1916 and since then it has hosted numerous legendary games and players.
Today, it is a popular tourist destination for baseball fans and even those who are not passionate about the sport find themselves captivated by the timeless atmosphere of this iconic stadium.
What You Can Do Once There: Wrigley Field is open for tours on days when there are no games scheduled as well as during certain times on game days. These guided tours take visitors through some of the most iconic spots in the stadium, such as the dugout, press box, and luxury suites.
Additionally, visitors can check out souvenir shops and grab snacks from one of the many concession stands located around the field.
6. Starved Rock State Park
Starved Rock State Park is a 2,630 acre park located in LaSalle County, Illinois. It is home to 18 canyons and sandstone cliffs that offer spectacular views of the area’s lush forests and rolling hills.
Its history dates back hundreds of years before Europeans discovered North America and according to legend was named after an event involving local Native Americans and French fur traders in the early 1700s.
Today, it stands as one of the most popular state parks in Illinois with over three million visitors per year.
7. The Field Museum of Natural History
The Field Museum of Natural History is a museum located in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1893 and houses one of the world’s largest collections of cultural and natural history artifacts.
Its mission is to inspire curiosity about life on Earth through scientific research, education, and public engagement with its collections.
Visitors can explore exhibits that focus on everything from ancient civilizations to modern culture and discover the stories behind some of the world’s most fascinating artifacts.
8. The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is a world-renowned art museum located in downtown Chicago. It houses a vast collection of artwork from around the world, including Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Auguste Renoir.
Additionally, visitors can explore its modern art wing which features pieces by renowned contemporary artists such as Marina Abramović and Anish Kapoor.
With over one million visitors per year, it remains one of the most visited museums in the United States.
9. Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate is a public sculpture located in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. Created by artist Anish Kapoor, the sculpture is constructed from 168 stainless steel plates and was designed to reflect Chicago’s skyline.
It remains one of the most iconic sculptures in the city and has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.
10. Dana Thomas House
The Dana Thomas House is a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house located in Springfield, Illinois. It was completed in 1904 and remains one of Wright’s most iconic works as well as an important example of early 20th century architecture.
Visitors can take guided tours around the house which feature original artwork, furnishings, and architectural details that highlight Wright’s creative genius.
The home also serves as a museum dedicated to preserving and presenting Wright’s work to the public.
History buffs and art aficionados alike will find plenty to explore in Illinois. From the iconic Navy Pier in Chicago to the timeless grounds of Wrigley Field, there are plenty of famous landmarks that make this state a must-see destination for any traveler.
Additionally, its rich cultural history is showcased through museums such as The Field Museum of Natural History and The Art Institute of Chicago. With so many fascinating places to visit, it’s easy to see why Illinois remains one of the most popular states in America!
These famous landmarks are just a few of the amazing attractions that draw countless visitors to this remarkable state each year.
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or an opportunity to learn more about history and culture, Illinois has something for everyone. So why not plan a visit and explore for yourself? You won’t be disappointed!