Illinois  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.
Chicago by far receives the most visitors to Illinois. Other destinations include:
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.
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.
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
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.
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 Moline, Springfield, Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington-Normal, Champaign-Urbana, and in St. Louis, across the river from 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.
In the Loop, Chicago's commercial district with bustling elevated train tracks and great architecture:
In the Near North:
In the Near South, including the Museum Campus:
In Hyde Park:
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.
The legal drinking and purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21. Under age drinking is taken very seriously so if you are in a club or bar and appear to be under 30 you should be ready to present identification showing your age. However, there are exceptions. One exception to allow the under age consumption of alcoholic beverages is on private non-alcohol selling premises with parental presence and consent. More exceptions to allow under age consumption of alcohol are for educational purposes (Example: students in culinary school, but in Illinois the student must be at least 18) and religious purposes.
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.
Law Enforcement in Illinois
Illinois State Police has jurisdiction in the entire state. ISP uniforms are tan colored shirts and brown pants. ISP drives white vehicles with Illinois state logo in the rear. Lettering of Illinois State Police is located on the front passenger and driver doors. Each County Sheriff and local police have jurisdiction on their respective areas. Cook County Sheriff has jurisdiction in the the Chicago and surrounding areas. Chicago Police has jurisdiction in the city of Chicago. Chicago Police Uniforms are light blue. White uniforms are for rank Sargent and up. Chicago Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in the state of Illinois to utilize all blue emergency lighting on their vehicle.
Overall, Chicago has seen a drop in its violent crime rate in the last two decades, but this does not mean violent crime is not alive and well within its limits. There is significant gang activity within the city and even some suburbs, which should not be a surprise seeing as it is the third most populous city and metro area 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 neighborhoods especially on the south and west sides; 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. It is best to just avoid this city altogether.
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.
Although Illinois allows the purchasing and use of consumer fireworks, only sparklers and novelty fireworks can be bought and be in possession. So if you wish to use more explosive fireworks, it's best to go to a neighboring state to purchase and use them. Fortunately, all neighboring states(except Iowa) allows the possession and purchase of more explosive fireworks. Do not bring your purchased non-legal fireworks back into Illinois, that qualifies as smuggling as you (the consumer) is in possession of fireworks. And punishments for smuggling fireworks in Illinois will lead to serious jail time. Lighting them in the countryside isn't recomended as you'll never know if there's someone nearby watching. This also goes for anyone who is just driving through the state with a vehicle full of non-legal fireworks.