If you are looking for things to do in Illinois, then you will love this list!
Illinois is a beautiful state in the Midwest that is full of unique towns and cities.
Whether you are looking for outdoor adventure, big cities, or historic sites, there is an Illinois attraction for you to enjoy.
Illinois is known as the “Land of Lincoln” because President Abraham Lincoln spent most of his life there.
But Illinois has also been home to several other American presidents. It’s one of the things that makes Illinois so unique.
You’ll find tons of historic sites there, including ones regarding many presidents.
It was also the home of famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright for many years.
So you’ll also find plenty of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture to admire.
Illinois is truly a state that has a little bit of everything.
So, lets take a look a look at 20 things to do in Illinois that should go on your bucket list.
20 Things To Do In Illinois: The Ultimate Bucket List
Visiting Chicago Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Illinois
The first stop on everyone’s trip to Illinois is usually Chicago, and for good reason.
There are so many fun things to do and see that you can easily spend two days exploring Chicago.
Some of the most popular Illinois attractions are The Willis Tower and John Hancock Center.
They are both large skyscrapers and in The Willis Tower there is a skydeck, which is an observation deck.
It’s also the tallest observation deck in the United States.
If you are visiting, make sure you make Chicago one of the things you do in Illinois.
Another popular Illinois attraction in Chicago is Millennium Park.
It is kind of like a town square, but massive to fit the size of Chicago.
Millennium Park has gardens, open air exhibitions, and there is almost always something going on in the park.
There is a large outdoor amphitheater in the park where they have concerts in the warmer months.
Scattered throughout the park there are also architectural features, street performers and more.
If you are looking for the famous ‘bean’ sculpture, it’s in Millennium Park.
Make sure you stop by Millennium Park when you are in Chicago. It is one of the best things to do in Illinois.
The Leaning Tower Of Niles
If you are looking for a unique attraction in Illinois, check out the Leaning Tower of Niles.
The Leaning Tower of Niles is a half-size replica of Italy’s famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It was originally built as a part of the recreational park for the employees of Ilg Hot Air Electric Ventilating Company in 1934.
Ever since then, it’s been an iconic part of the town of Niles.
The Leaning Tower of Niles has lead to the town having a Sister City pact with Pisa in Italy.
It is one of the most unique things to do in Illinois.
Schaumburg For The Woodfield Mall
Schaumburg is a suburb of Chicago, so it’s close to the city, but has it’s own identity.
What Schaumburg is most known for is its massive Woodfield Mall.
The mall has hundreds of shops and restaurants and you can easily find yourself spending hours there.
Schaumburg is also home to the Legoland Discovery Center, a well-known Illinois attraction.
It is an amusement park for kids that has rides and a 4D cinema.
If you want to spend some time outdoors, Schaumburg also has some great outdoor Illinois attractions.
At the Ned Brown Preserve you’ll find paved trails and the Busse Lake, which is a bunch of connected smaller pools.
Schaumburg is one of the best places to visit in Illinois.
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library And Museum
In Springfield, Illinois’ capital city, you will find the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
President Lincoln was born in Kentucky but spent most of his life in Illinois.
The Presidential Library and Museum documents the 16th President of the United States’ life as well as the history of the Civil War.
It is one of the most visited Presidential Libraries because it is not just a place for scholarship, it also features readings, performances, and more.
If you are looking for historic sites in Illinois, this a wonderful place to visit in Illinois.
Peoria Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Illinois
Peoria is a charming city on the river in Illinois.
You’ll find plenty of things to do, but it also feels like a charming small town.
Spend sometime exploring the Peoria Riverfront Museum and its stunning architectural design.
Inside the museum there is a collection of fine art, a sculpture garden, and a planetarium.
Peoria also has a few parks like the Glen Oak Park.
At the Glen Oak Park there is a beautiful botanical garden and it is near the Peoria Lake.
Peoria is easily one of the best places to visit in Illinois.
Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site
Ulysses S. Grant is another United States President who called the great state of Illinois home.
In Galena you can find the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site.
Grant was a Civil War General and later became the 18th President.
His home in Illinois was built by renowned architect William Dennison in 1859 and 1860.
Prior to the Civil War, Grant did have enslaved people living and working on the property.
The museum takes time to focus on their lives as well with exhibits depicting their lives and living situations.
You’ll also see how the home looked when the Grants were living in it, both before and after Ulysses S. Grant became president.
If you are interested in the history of the Presidents, the Grant Home Historic Site is a must see.
Lake Katherine Nature Center And Botanic Gardens
The Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens is situated on over 85 acres of beautiful Illinois land.
It is in the South West suburbs of Chicago and is a popular getaway spot for those in the city.
You can enjoy hiking, biking, or bring a picnic and just enjoy the view.
In the Nature Center you can learn about native wildlife and there are often classes and programs taking place.
Around the Nature Center is a beautiful botanical garden with native grasses, wildflowers, and more.
It is great place in Illinois to visit when you want a break from the city.
Dana Thomas House
The Dana Thomas House is a famous home designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
It was originally her family’s home that was built in 1868, but wealthy socialite Susan Lawrence Dana asked Wright to redesign it to her tastes and needs.
In 1903 Wright began remodeling the home.
The home has 35 rooms and was one of the largest Wright had built at the time.
It is also one of the best preserved examples of Wright’s early Prairie-style.
Now, it is a National Historic Landmark and it is open to the public for tours.
Visit the Anderson Japanese Garden In Rockford
Rockford is a great city to explore and you’ll always find plenty of things to do there.
But if you have to pick just one thing, I suggest checking out the Anderson Japanese Garden.
The Anderson Japanese Garden is across from the Rock River and near the Anderson Art Museum.
At the garden you’ll find a beautifully sculpted landscape with trails winding through it.
It also has one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Illinois.
The garden is absolutely worth a visit and one of the best things to do in Rockford Illinois.
Watch A Show At Writers Theater
If you are in Chicago, you’ll absolutely want to try and catch a show at the Writers Theater.
The Writers Theater is a world renowned theater in Chicago.
It is often considered America’s ‘Number 1 Theater Company’, so you know it will be a good show.
Their schedule changes with a new play being performed every couple of months.
So you can see a show every time you visit Chicago and always see a different show.
It is one of the best things to do in Illinois if you love the arts and the theater.
Galena For Small Town Illinois Charm
If you are looking for a small town atmosphere, head to Galena.
Galena is a small town in Northwest Illinois that is most known for its 19th century architecture and the Ulysses S. Grant Home Historic Site.
Besides that, there are other things to do in Galena.
In the area there are several mounds.
The Horseshoe Mound offers you beautiful views of three states; Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.
At Casper Bluff you can see a few other mounds that are believed to be ancient ceremonial sites.
There are so many interesting things to do in Galena!
Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio
One of the best day trips from Chicago is in Oak Park.
That is where the Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio can be found.
Oak Park is a neighborhood outside of Chicago that is home to several Wright designed homes.
There are 25 Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings and homes in Oak Park, and one of those is his own house and studio.
You can tour the house and studio as they would have looked when Wright was living and working there.
The home, as well as several others in Oak Park, is owned by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
All the homes that are run by the Trust are available to tour, and they also have packages where you can tour all of them.
If you love architecture the Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio is a must see Illinois attraction.
Starved Rock State Park Is One Of The Best Things To Do In Illinois
The Starved Rock State Park is nestled along the Illinois River and is a beautiful plot of Illinois wilderness.
The most iconic section of the park is the deep sandstone canyons.
They were carved by a melting glacier over millions of years and attract visitors from all over the world.
Starved Rock State Park is also home to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the Midwest, the LaSalle Falls.
The water that flows over the falls is melted glacial water that is continuing to carve into the landscape.
If you want to see very full falls, the best time to visit is the Spring as the snow is melting or after a heavy rainfall.
It is easily one of the best places to visit in Illinois if you are looking to admire some unique landscapes.
Visit The Capital Of Illinois, Springfield
It’s easy to assume that Chicago is the capital of Illinois.
But Springfield is actually the capital of Illinois and it is full of fun things to do in Illinois.
There are lots of things to do in Springfield especially if you love historic sites and activities.
You can find the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Dana Thomas House. And the Illinois State Capitol building can all be found in Springfield.
President Lincoln called the city home, so you’ll find lots of Abraham Lincoln activities.
It is also where the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and his burial site are located.
Springfield is also along the famous Route 66, so it’s just full of cool historic attractions in Illinois.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
While you’ll of course want to explore all the things to do in Springfield, you’ll also want to see the Lincoln Home National Historic Site while you are in Illinois’ capital city.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1844 to 1861 before he became the 16th President of the United States.
The entire Historic Sites encompasses the four blocks around the home as well, so there is a lot to see.
Inside the home, you’ll find an accurate representation of what the home would have looked like when the Lincoln family was living there.
There are also artifacts and items that originally belonged to the Lincolns.
In the Visitor Center you’ll learn more about Lincoln and his life in Springfield and find other ways to learn about Lincoln in Illinois.
The Lincoln Home National Historic Site is one of the coolest things to do in Illinois for history lovers.
Shawnee National Forest For Outdoor Adventure
The Shawnee National Forest is nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Throughout the park you’ll find various beautiful landscapes like lakes, massive hills and valleys, and woodlands.
One of the coolest attractions in Illinois can also be found in the Shawnee National Forest.
The Garden of the Gods is an area of the park where you’ll find unique rock formations.
You’ll need to hike to get the best views, but it is one of the best places in the Midwest to experience Fall foliage.
There is also an area of the park where you’ll find bluffs and incredible waterfall.
You will love the Shawnee National Forest if you are looking for some outdoor Illinois attractions.
Bloomington is another town in Illinois where you’ll find Abraham Lincoln history.
In the Downtown district is the McLean County Museum of History.
There you’ll find information about Lincoln’s time spent in the area.
They also have a recreated log cabin that would’ve been similar to the one Lincoln lived in.
You can also tour the David Davis Mansion which is a Victorian mansion that belong to Senator David Davis who was a mentor of Lincoln.
Another aspect of the areas history can be found at the Prairie Aviation Museum where you’ll find a collection of military aircrafts.
The Downtown district is also a very charming area with unique shops, restaurants, and more. As you can see, there are many amazing things to do in Bloomington Illinois.
Bloomington is a town full of history, charm, and unique attractions in Illinois.
Admire The Chicago Skyline From The Oak Street Beach
The Oak Street Beach is one of the most unique and fun things to do in Illinois.
Not only is the beach a beautiful sandy lake shore, it also has some amazing views of the Chicago skyline.
In the warmer months you can enjoy watersports, a café, beach rentals, and activities on the shore.
The beach also has a beautiful mural that aims to remind visitors to take care of the beach and be mindful of leaving the area as they found it.
You can walk along the beach all year, but in the colder months you may find it covered in snow and ice.
But no matter what time of year you visit, this is one of the outstanding things to do in Chicago, and you’ll be able to admire that unique angle of the Chicago skyline.
Visiting The Ghost Town Of Cairo Is One Of The Cool Things To Do In Illinois
The ghost town of Cairo is one of the best hidden gems in the Midwest.
The town was at one time a booming port thanks to the steamboat industry.
However, it didn’t last long.
Cairo faced a lot of racial unrest and shortsightedness when it came to economic matters that kept the city from growing.
While when it was booming over 15,000 people called Cairo home. In 2010, less than 1,500 people called the now desolate town home.
That number continues to dwindle as shops and homes become boarded up.
Most of the city is now nothing but boarded up and crumbling buildings and houses, which makes it a fun place in Illinois to visit for those who love exploring abandoned places.
When visiting Cairo, please keep in mind that there are people who still live there, despite what it might look like.
Also be careful not to trespass. You can see the crumbling buildings from the road, but avoid going in them as that can be considered trespassing, which is illegal.
Cairo is a city in Illinois that serves as a reminder of how quickly a town can deteriorate after all of its occupants leave.
There are so many fun things to do in Illinois that it’s hard to pick just one.
Some of the best attractions in Illinois are centered around its unique history – both Presidential and architectural.
You’ll also find plenty of cute towns, vibrant cities, and state and national parks.
If you’ve been to any of these Illinois attractions, or there was one on this list that interested you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!