Thousands of years ago Native Americans inhabited these lands; in 1673, French explorers Marquette and Jolliet maneuvered the Illinois River and from here the settling of Illinois began. The port city of Chicago connected the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, guaranteeing its importance. A Lake Michigan setting in the northeastern corner of the state has given the city an advantage in attracting residents and visitors alike.
Third largest city in the U.S., Chicago offers a friendly, Midwestern attitude and diverse, big city amenities such as one of the busiest airports in the world, O’Hare. From world-class shopping on the Magnificent Mile to cruises on the Lake to world-regarded posh Illinois hotels, Chicago seemingly has the best of everything! Eleven national universities find home here, with five of those landing in the top quartile. Major sports teams, unending cultural opportunities and all lake-related outdoor activities ice the wonderful Chicago cake.
However, the Capital city of Springfield is no slouch! The beautiful capitol complex is complemented by several President Abraham Lincoln-related sites, such as his birthplace home, tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery and the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Giant City State Park, located in the very southern tip of the state, offers 4,000 acres of camping, horseback riding, fishing and even rappelling! Shawnee National Forest, also found in the southern region, is home to massive bluffs and almost perpendicular rocks, along with Johnson Creek Recreation Area which is popular for swimming, camping and biking. Closer to the state line near St. Louis, Pere Marquette State Park offers the opportunity to see bald eagles in the winter.
You don’t have to choose between a fabulous city experience and an exploration of the marvelous Midwestern outdoors – Illinois offers both!