From Winthrop Harbor to Cairo, Illinois stretches about 390 miles, yet many Illinois travel guides tend to fixate on one single mile—the Magnificent Mile, home to some of Chicago's best shopping and architectural attractions. But there's much more to do in Illinois than shop at Water Tower Place or snap a pic in front of the Wrigley Building.
For starters, the state’s architectural marvels aren’t limited to Mies van der Rohe’s skyscrapers. Just ten miles west of Chicago, Oak Park boasts prairie school architect Frank Lloyd Wright's home and studio, as well as the largest concentration of Wright buildings in the world. In Springfield, the state capital, visitors can pay their respects to the nation's 16th president at the Lincoln Tomb and admire the bronze-trimmed marble of its interior, before taking a tour of the Lincoln Home, the only house Honest Abe ever owned.
Despite being pegged as the Prairie State, Illinois' landscape offers up far more than just wide-open fields. Starved Rock State Park's seasonal waterfalls, bluffs and canyons make for scenic and rugged hikes. To the south, Garden of the Gods is the most visited site in Shawnee National Forest thanks to its dramatic rock formations.
Though Galena's Main Street—a stretch of more than 90 nineteenth century storefronts selling locally made products and antiques—has its charms, it's hard to compete with Chicago's cosmopolitan appeal. A visit to the city that overshadows the state wouldn't be complete without ascending to the Skydeck at Willis Tower, the tallest building in the U.S., stopping by the Field Museum to gawk at Sue, the most extensive, and best preserved T. rex specimen ever found, or seeing what all the fuss is about at tony restaurants like Blackbird and Girl & The Goat along the West Loop's "restaurant row."