If you haven’t ticked Illinois off your bucket list, you’ll be wanting to do so soon after reading the below. Illinois is positively heaving with famous sites, landmarks and exceptional food which makes it amazing to explore year-round. Not only is Illinois one of the most LGBT-friendly states in America, but it is also known to be one of the most visited in the US. If you’re more of a road-tripper than a city-goer Illinois has something for you too, as the world-famous Route 66 runs through Illinois from Chicago. Here are our ultimate top 3 reasons to visit Illinois, and insight into why Illinois is truly amazing for all.
PRIDE MONTH IN ILLINOIS
If you’re stuck on when to visit Illinois, we would recommend booking a ticket for June and experiencing how the state celebrates pride month. Otherwise known as ‘the prairie state’, Illinois has a huge history of support for the LGBTQ community, and it was in 1962 that Illinos became the first state to repeal its sodomy laws. Every year since 1970 they host events which run for a week leading up to the Chicago Pride Parade to remember the Stonewall riots and to celebrate love and diversity. The Pride in the Park festival is hosted before the parade, with The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and Storytelling with Drag Queens performing there last month. This year the Pride Parade hosted performers such as Leann Rimes, Betty Who and Pabllo Vittar. You can also find an amazing drag scene in Chicago- we would recommend KitKat lounge for upscale interactive diva entertainment, and Hamburger Mary’s for the variety of events ranging from karaoke to burlesque nights.
Widely known for being the third busiest city in the US and the Blues capital of the world, Chicago has an immeasurable number of cultural highlights and stunning buildings that will keep any visitor happy. In the evening, stop by for a drink at Capone’s old favourite spot The Green Mill for late-night Jazz. If you’re feeling brave, you can head to the Skydeckfor amazing panoramic views of the city and see if you can stand out on the infamous glass ledge. Of if you love to languorously stroll around museums, look no further than the Art Institute of Chicago. This gigantic building is packed full of gorgeous artwork, there’s so much to see it is doubtful you will visit it all in one day! A sunnier day calls for the well-known millennium park, home to the iconic cloud gate landmark, and where festivals like The 41st Annual Chicago Jazz Festival and the gourmet food event Lights, Camera, Napkin take place. To top it off, Chicago also boasts an incredible food scene and you will be spoilt from street-food to Michelin star meal choices here. Alinea is a very famous top pick if you want to go for an all-out, 3 Michelin star dining experience. However, you’ll also find a plethora of great quality food in little Italy or Greektown.
If you’re not already convinced by Illinois, let us add that the most famous road in the whole of the US starts right here in Chicago. It runs for more than 300 miles in Illinois and is littered with historical and cultural sites leading all the way down to Springfield. If you want to see true kitsch Americana there really is no better way than taking the wide open road down Route 66 and experiencing all it has to offer. Ever wanted to have a retro roadside diner experience? There’s really no better place to do so than on the mother road of America. A couple of our top picks to get you started are the Ariston café in Litchfield, or the Cozy dog drive-in in Springfield where you must try their famous corn dogs. People are so passionate about preserving Route 66 history and appreciate its value to the country, so expect lots of themed restaurants, landmarks and tributes to the great road as you drive down.
If you want American nostalgia by the bucketload, our recommended must-do experience is the Route 66 Drive-in Theatre in Springfield. Whether you choose the latest Toy Story or a classic movie, the drive-in is a classic US staple and delivers a true sense of 1950’s/60’s America. As the capital city of Illinois and the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield itself has an abundance of historic treasures and old buildings and sites to admire. Explore everything from Abraham Lincoln’s house and law offices to his presidential museum.
A completely dazzling, colourful and hugely cultural trip is one to Illinois. Make sure to visit in June so as not to miss out of the amazing Pride festivities. If you’re after a city break, look no further than Chicago for a balance of incredible food, top-notch entertainment and art galore. Plus, visiting Route 66 is a no-brainer for anyone looking to experience true Americana, so head out on the road and don’t miss the drive-in theatre as a pit-stop.