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Illinois

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Chicago's skyline
A farm in Illinois

Illinois [1] is the most populous state in the Midwest of the United States of America. The state is diverse, ranging from enormous urban areas such as Chicago, to small quaint towns, and to farmland.


Regions

Cities

  • Springfield, state capital
  • Bloomington-Normal, home of Illinois State University, Illinois Weslyan University and the grave site of Adlai Stevenson
  • Carbondale, home of Southern Illinois University
  • Champaign-Urbana, home of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the state's largest university
  • Chicago, the largest city in the Midwest and third-largest in the U.S.
  • Galena, charming historical town along the Mississippi River
  • Joliet, with casinos, a speedway and the state's most infamous prison
  • Nauvoo, founded by Mormon Joseph Smith, and surprisingly has the oldest winery in the state
  • Peoria, a classic Midwestern "Everytown"
  • Rockford, The largest metro area outside Chicago

Other destinations

Monk's Mound at Cahokia

Chicago by far receives the most visitors to Illinois. Other destinations include:

  • Cahokia Mounds is a surprising find in Illinois - the center of a prehistoric Native American city and one of only 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the U.S.
  • Lewis and Clark Trail - Between May 1804 and September 1806, 32 men, one woman, and a baby traveled from the plains of the Midwest to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. They called themselves the Corps of Discovery.
  • Shawnee National Forest
  • Starved Rock State Park
  • Ferne Clyffe State Park
  • Kickapoo State Park
  • Pere Marquette State Park
  • Anna, located along Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

Understand

Illinois is a mostly flat plains state, with the majority being farmland except for the river valleys and the south, which are hilly and forested.

Talk

English is the dominant language in the state of Illinois. Spanish is widely spoken in the Chicago Metropolitan area by its large Hispanic population, though not well understood outside of Chicagoland. Polish and Chinese are the third and fourth most spoken languages within the state, but only within Chicago and its suburbs.

Get in

The Illinois Theater in Jacksonville
Chicago's many skyscrapers

By car

Illinois is accessed through interstates 39, 90, & 94 through Wisconsin, 74 and 80 through Iowa, 55, 57, 64, 70, and 72 through Missouri, 24 through Kentucky, and 64, 70, 74, 80, 90, and 94 through Indiana

By train

Amtrak serves many different areas of Illinois. All routes start and end in Chicago. You can get into Chicago from virtually all directions, east coast and west coast, north and south. There are numerous daily trains to and from Milwaukee and it is reasonably fast and reliable. There is daily service (the Empire Builder) to/from from Seattle/Portland, Oregon by way of Milwaukee. You can also get in from Washington DC, New York, and Boston on various daily trains. There are many local trains that serve downstate and southern Illinois that also serve long distance locations. Those routes are as follows:

The UP line from Chicago-St. Louis serves Summit, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington-Normal, Lincoln, Springfield, Carlinville, Alton, and finally St. Louis. There are 4 trains each day, each way. One of those trains that serves this route is the Texas Eagle, and it will bring you into Illinois from San Antonio, Dallas, Arkansas, and Missouri.

The BNSF route from Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy. Only local service serves the Quincy portion of the line. The other service is provided by 2 daily long distance trains coming from either Los Angeles (the Southwest Chief) or San Francisco via Salt Lake City and Denver (the California Zephyr).

The CN route from Chicago-Carbondale has 3 trains each way daily. One long distance train is provided each way daily and will take you to/from New Orleans via Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis.

There is also a daily train to and from Indianapolis with continuing service on certain days of the week to/from Washington D.C. There is regular daily service to/from Washington D.C. via Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

By plane

Chicago has two major airports, O'Hare and Midway. Midway is smaller and closer to the downtown. There are many other airports with regional service in the state, including in Springfield, Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, and in St. Louis, across the river from Illinois.

Get around

The Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, one of the "7 Wonders of Illinois"

Car travel is best for the majority of the state, easily accessed by interstates. However, if in Chicago, the city's public transportation is one of the best in the nation. The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) runs an extensive bus network in the city, almost every four blocks apart in some cases. Many of the CTA bus routes are 24 hours a day. The CTA also has an expansive subway/elevated rail network with stops approximately every half-mile to a mile apart in the city and some nearby suburbs. Some of the subway/elevated rail lines run 24 hours a day nonstop; the only other city in the world to offer 24 hour local rail service is New York City. Another Chicago-area bus agency, the Pace bus, serves mainly the entire suburbs and parts of Chicago. Metra is a commuter rail network that provides rail service between the city and suburbs far and near. It is quite useful for both morning and afternoon travel. So if in Chicago, getting around without a car is fairly easy. If your stay is in the Chicago suburbs or any other part of the state, a car will be best. Numerous highways run throughout the Chicagoland area. EZ-Pass users from the eastern U.S. can use their transponders on the Illinois Tollway at all toll booths. The price for EZ-Pass and I-Pass Users is half the cash price listed on the sign at the toll booth.

The national train service Amtrak is another way to get around the state. Amtrak serves many cities in the state. Greyhound buses, Megabus discount buses and it's sister company, Coach USA, serves many Illinois locales. Sizeable cities also run public bus service of their own.

See

Chicago

In the Loop, Chicago's commercial district with bustling elevated train tracks and great architecture:

  • Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower) - it is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and has 110 floors. There is an observation deck on the 103rd floor
  • Grant Park for musical performances and Millennium Park for summer fun
  • The Art Institute of Chicago - one of the finest art museums in the world

In the Near North:

  • John Hancock Center A bit shorter, but with a better observation deck
  • The Magnificent Mile Put simply, shoppers' paradise.
  • Navy Pier Entertainment center with many attractions including the Chicago Children's Museum, mini golf, ferris wheel, botanic gardens, and boat cruises

In the Near South, including the Museum Campus:

The Nuclear Energy Sculpture over the site of the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago
  • The Field Museum The premier natural history museum in the Midwest, with one of the best preserved T-Rex skeletons on display
  • The Adler Planetarium The first planetarium in North America
  • The Shedd Aquarium Great lakefront aquarium

In Hyde Park:

  • Museum of Science and Industry The best science museum in the Midwest, with hundreds of exhibits including a German submarine, high speed 1930s train, Boeing 727 jet, and an immense train set.
  • The University of Chicago A premier institution of learning in the Midwest

Elsewhere

  • Springfield - The state capital has the capitol building, as well as Abraham Lincoln's tomb, home, and new presidential library. Be sure to check out the Old State Capital as well, notable for its Lincoln heritage and also as the site of U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama's declaration of Joe Biden as his running mate in the 2008 presidential race.
  • Champaign-Urbana is one of downstate Illinois's most prized cities. It is the regional capital of Illinois. It is a very urban oasis in the middle of the prairie. Outside of Chicago, it holds the state's largest ethnic population. There are many museums there. Champaign-Urbana is known for historic Memorial Stadium, where Illini Football plays, and for its nightlife.

Do

The House Chamber in the Illinois Capitol at Springfield

Eat

Chicago has many specialties, the most famous of which would have to be its hot dogs and its deep dish pizza. Central Illinois is known for its Horseshoe Sandwich, an open-faced sandwich of toast, hamburger, french fries, and cheese sauce, with regional variations.

Drink

The rural water downstate, excluding municipal water but including untreated spring water has a "sulphur" taste and odor to it. It is safe to drink, but the odor and taste can be hard to swallow.

Stay safe

Crime

The two cities of major concern in regards to criminal activity are Chicago and East St. Louis.

Over the years Chicago has seen a drop in its violent crime rate, but this does not mean violent crime is not alive and well within its limits. There is significant gang activity within the city and its outskirts, which should not be a surprise seeing as it is the third most populous city in the country. Stay vigilant and use common sense; these two practices will most often aid you in avoiding bad situations. If you find yourself in a bad part of the city, chances are you will be able to tell from its appearance. It is not advised to travel into certain districts and neighborhoods after dark; do your research to find out which areas are most unsavory for the out of town traveler.

East St. Louis is one of the country's most notorious cities for violent crime. The city has little of tourist interest aside from the casino riverboat. If you are able to avoid it, then it is best to do so.

Tornadoes

The geographical position and characteristic of the state's western regions make them prone to having a high occurrence of tornadoes throughout the spring and summer seasons. Most of these tornadoes are small-scale and short-lived, but this does not mean larger scale tornadoes are totally uncommon. In March 2006, the city of Springfield was struck by two EF-2 tornadoes and experienced significant damage from this event.

If you plan to visit these regions of the state, keep yourself informed of the current weather conditions and update yourself regularly because the conditions can change in an instant. If you find yourself in a dangerous weather situation, seek shelter immediately.

Refer to the tornado safety page for more information regarding this matter.

Get out

  • Wisconsin - The Dairy State borders Illinois to the north.
  • Iowa - Rural Iowa lies along Illinois' northwestern border and provides the opportunity to explore America's agricultural heartland.
  • Missouri - The home of St. Louis, the gateway to the west, is just a short journey across Illinois' southwestern border.
  • Kentucky - Located southeast of Illinois, Kentucky is known for its rolling hills, horses, and rural inhabitants, offering travelers a less-visited but tremendously beautiful destination.
  • Indiana - Illinois' eastern neighbor is home to rich basketball tradition and the Indianapolis 500.




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