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Things to Do in Illinois - page 2

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Chicago Lakefront Trail
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Hugging the shoreline of Lake Michigan for nearly 19 miles, the Chicago Lakefront Trail — also known as the Lake Michigan Trail — is a popular path for walkers, runners, and cyclists that connects urban neighborhoods with green spaces, downtown attractions, and some of Chicago’s best lakeside and skyline views.

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United Center
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Home to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks teams, the United Center is a premier Midwest sports venue. With nearly 1 million-square-feet (92,903-square-meters) of indoor space, it’s the largest arena in the US by size, with more than 20,000 seats. The center also plays host to a star-studded lineup of music concerts.

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Jackson Park
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In celebration of the 1893 World Expo, Chicago established the 543-acre (220-hectare) Jackson Park. Today the popular green space hosts a golf course, the Museum of Science and Industry, scenic nature trails, a Lake Michigan beach, and more. The Chicago Lakefront Trail runs through the park, making it a great biking and jogging destination.

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Northerly Island
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Northerly Island is located in the heart of Chicago’s Museum Campus, near Soldier Field and just south of the Adler Planetarium. The island was designed by Daniel H. Burnham, the architect of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Burnham envisioned a park with harbors, beaches, lagoons, large open green spaces, and striking views of the lake and skyline. The 91-acre Northerly Island was selected as one of the sites of the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago, “A Century of Progress.” The park increased to its current size of today and by the 1940’s, Northerly Island had a beach, a few paths and walkways, and a small airport known as Meigs Field.

In September 2015, a new 43-acre nature area opened on Northerly Island, creating a green oasis in the middle of the bustling city. The nature area features a mile-long interior park trail, overlooks, and a five-acre lagoon that connects to Lake Michigan. This allows for fish to enter the lagoon, providing excellent fishing opportunities. The Northerly Island visitors see today is what Burnham originally envisioned.

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American Writers Museum
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Explore 500 years of American literature and learn about writers who have influenced American history, culture, and identity at the American Writers Museum. The first institution of its kind in the country to celebrate American writers, the museum features state-of-the-art and immersive exhibits to educate and inspire visitors.

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Prairie Avenue Historic District
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The Prairie Avenue Historic District is a Chicago South Side historic district that was once one of the city’s most prestigious neighborhoods. From 1872 – 1904, following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the area became known as “Millionaire’s Row”, with mansions owned by the likes of Philip Armour, Marshall Field, and George Pullman.

Prairie Avenue Historic District first became known as the site of the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812. It housed a cottonwood tree that stood on the site as a memorial marker, later replaced with a bronze statue, and was recognized as Chicago’s first landmark.

In the 1900’s, due to the growth of downtown and the spread of noise and pollution in the Near South Side, the district fell out of favor. By 1915, residences began to be replaced by industry. And, by 1944, only 11 residences remained.

The Prairie Avenue Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and was designated a Chicago Landmark in 1979.

Today, the district is once again a residential neighborhood, and includes 11 residences that survived the glory days. These include the John J. Glessner House and the Clarke House Museum, which are open for tours.

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Rookery Building
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An official Chicago landmark and an architectural masterpiece, the Rookery Building was one of the city's tallest and most expensive buildings when it was completed in 1888. A 1905 renovation by Frank Lloyd Wright transformed the lobby into a light-filled courtyard admired by office workers and visitors to this day.

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Chicago Children's Museum
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Packed with opportunities for adventure, play, and learning, the Chicago Children’s Museum makes a popular choice for a family outing. Located on the popular Navy Pier, this 3-floor attraction is the fourth largest children’s museum in the country. Kids can spend their day interacting with hands-on exhibits that let them dig for dinosaur bones, captain a boat, build their own structures, and more.

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Frederick C. Robie House
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One of the finest examples of American architecture and among the first modernist homes, Franks Lloyd Wright’s Frederick C. Robie House is an essential stop on any Chicago architectural tour. Built in 1910 on the University of Chicago campus, the prairie-style home is honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to visitors.

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Lincoln Monument
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Chicago’s storied Lincoln Park named for the country’s 16th president also boasts a significant statue of the man. Unlike the seated memorial figure located in Washington D.C. and found on the back of a penny, this 12-foot bronze constructed by Irish-immigrant sculpturist Augustus Saint-Gaudens stands tall. Constructed in 1887, 22 years after the Civil War leader’s death, it also predates the completion of D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial by 35 years. The work, titled ‘Abraham Lincoln: The Man,’ was heralded by the New York Evening Post as “the most important achievement American sculpture has yet produced,” after its unveiling.

The statue is located in the south side of the 1,208-acre park, behind the Chicago History Museum. The statue can easily be visited on a walking or biking tour of the park that includes other popular park stops such as the North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory.

In addition to identifying a similarly-built 6-foot, 4-inch tall man to serve as a model, molds of Lincoln’s own face and hands, taken while he was alive, were used to recreate the lifelike figure. Lincoln stands fronting an eagle-emblazoned chair with a pensive gaze cast downward from his perch atop a granite pedestal. The statue is surrounded by a stepped, half-moon exedra – built by noteworthy architect Stanford White and his team – with several of his more famous quotes etched into its walls. Replicas of this statue can be found in London’s Parliament Square and in Mexico City.

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More Things to Do in Illinois

Chicago History Museum

Chicago History Museum

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Much of the history of the United States took place in Chicago, so it makes perfect sense that the city’s history museum features extensive collections of historic artifacts from both Chicago and America as a whole. One exhibit, with over 600 objects, focuses solely on the city’s growth and influence on American history. There is also a research center on site, and the museum serves both to discover and protect Chicago’s history.

The museum has been in operation since 1856. Unfortunately much of the museum’s early collection was lost in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, but the museum resurged (in a now fireproof building.) The museum demonstrates eight times in history America fought for its freedom, including extensive information regarding the life of Abraham Lincoln. You’ll find exhibits on everything from sports memorabilia to past public transportation to blues and jazz music in Chicago. With paintings, books, manuscripts, sculptures, and photographs, the collection has an impressive amount on local display.

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LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago

LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago

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With over three million pieces of LEGO®, two indoor rides and a workshop hosted by a real master model builder, LEGOLAND® Discover Center Chicago is a child’s dream. Visitors can wander through impressive displays that include intricate Star Wars models and a MINILAND Chicago and learn top tips from expert builders. Families with kids between the ages of three and twelve will find plenty of places to build their own creations, a 4D cinema with LEGO-themed movies and a couple of rides that provide endless entertainment for the younger set.

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Marquette Building

Marquette Building

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Towering over Dearborn Street in the heart of Chicago’s Loop, the Marquette Building is one of the best surviving examples of the Chicago school of architecture and one of the city’s first steel-framed skyscrapers. It was completed in 1895 by Holabird & Roche architectural firm and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Wrigleyville

Wrigleyville

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This popular Chicago neighborhood may be best known as the home of the Cubs, but locals recognize the fun-filled destination about more than just baseball. Even travelers who don't have tickets to one of the big home games will find tons of ways to pass the time during a stop in Wrigleyville, whether it's on a pizza walking tour or a leisurely afternoon on a bike.

In addition to sports bars and popular pre-game restaurants, the neighborhood is home to several interesting shops to pop your head into. With easy access via public transportation, visitors will find getting in and out of Wrigleyville a breeze.

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Miller Park Zoo

Miller Park Zoo

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Home to everything from an endangered Sumatran tiger to Galapagos tortoises, the Miller Park Zoo provides a wide range of indoor and outdoor habitats for wildlife from across the globe. Experience a tropical rain forest, explore the zoo lab, and engage with the animals.

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Chicago Picasso (The Picasso)

Chicago Picasso (The Picasso)

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Towering over the Richard J. Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, the monumental statue known as The Picasso was one of the city's first large-scale pieces of public art. Gifted by the famed Spanish artist himself, the 50-foot (15-meter) steel form is Cubist in style and offers a range of different interpretations.

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University of Chicago

University of Chicago

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Since the late 1800s the University of Chicago has been attracting some of the nation’s (and the world’s) most brilliant minds, and with a newly expanded campus that includes the Booth School of Business, the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, it’s clear this private school offers a broad range of programing for all types of ambitious learners.

The university’s prime location, just seven miles south of downtown Chicago, is a major draw. It also makes planning a visit—or just wandering the 211-acre grounds easy. The campus’s unique architectural blend—which includes the Gothic Rockefeller Chapel, as well as the more modern Gerald Ratner Athletic Center and the towering Henry Hinds Laboratory for Geophysical Sciences is apparent. And while the lush quad and top-tier ranking attract students of all kinds, the University of Chicago’s stunning, well groomed campus also attracts travelers who want to see one of the Midwest’s (and America’s) top schools.

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Harold Washington Library Center (Chicago Public Library)

Harold Washington Library Center (Chicago Public Library)

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The Harold Washington Library Center is the main branch of the Chicago Public Library system. When it opened in 1991, the ten-story library was the largest public library in the world.

Located in Chicago’s South Loop, its design is based on the winning submission in a 1988 architecture contest. The contest was to design the new library called for by then-Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, the city’s first African American mayor.

The Harold Washington Library Center is more than just a traditional library for books. Here, you can research your ancestry in their online genealogy databases. There’s free Wi-Fi throughout the building, art on display from more than 50 artists, music practice rooms, a Maker Lab, and book clubs and reading events for your children. Be sure to visit the glass-domed Winter Garden atrium on the library’s 9th floor as well.

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Biograph Theater

Biograph Theater

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The large marquee of the Biograph Theater in the northerly Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park announces a regular slate of upcoming live performances. The building is a popular cultural destination for Chicagoans and features a 299-seat theater, a 130-seat studio theater, rehearsal hall and space for special events, but the building has enjoyed a long and storied history. First opened in 1914 with 942 seats, the Biograph Theater was one of the country’s earliest movie houses. It now hosts the Victory Gardens Theater.

During the Great Depression, the theater advertised a rare summer perk: air conditioning. Perhaps this is what drew notorious gangster, bank robber, and alleged murder, John Dillinger, to a screening of “Manhattan Melodrama” in July, 1934. Leaving the screening, Dillinger was killed in the adjacent alleyway by waiting FBI agents. As the site of Dillinger’s death, the Biograph Theater has also become a popular for ghost hunting tours.

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Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Science and Industry

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This 14-acre (6-hectare) complex pays homage to both natural wonders and the ingenuity of man. The largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, it features life-size working replicas, a 5-story domed movie theater, 2,000 exhibits, and more than 35,000 artifacts. The museum is designed to spark imagination and inspire creativity.

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Palmer House Hilton

Palmer House Hilton

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A Beaux Arts masterpiece in the Loop District, the historic Palmer House Hilton has been a Chicago landmark, and a favorite of dignitaries and celebrities, since 1875. The longest continually operating hotel in the United States, Palmer House offers guests more than 1,600 luxurious rooms, fine dining, and a full range of amenities.

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Chicago Chinatown

Chicago Chinatown

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This pocket-sized neighborhood is big on flavor and character, and injects a dose of Chinese culture to Chicago’s South Side. Chinatown draws residents and tourists with its pagoda-like architecture, specialty shops, and eateries that dish up dim sum, noodles, buns, and bubble tea.

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Chicago Board of Trade Building

Chicago Board of Trade Building

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In a city of skyscrapers, the Chicago Board of Trade Building stands out. Its history dates back to 1821, though the structure standing today was erected in 1930. Built for the Chicago Board of Trade, today it still serves as a center of Chicago’s financial district as the trading venue for the derivatives exchange. It stood at the tallest building in Chicago for many years. Today it remains a gateway to the city’s financial district.

The traditional art deco architecture draws tourists to the Chicago Board of Trade Building. A three-story statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, stands atop the building on a copper pyramid, drawing visitors from all over the city to see the exquisite craftsmanship. The 6,500 pound Ceres represents the time when agriculture ruled Chicago. The 12-story building has a 19,000 square foot trading floor. Statues adorn the building, each of which tells a different story of the type of work that goes on inside.

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Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden

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Looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the city? Head north to the Chicago Botanic Garden and spend the day taking in the colorful beauty of the natural world. Opened in 1972, the Garden is one of the most visited public gardens in the United States. Covering 385 acres, it includes 24 display gardens and four natural areas spread out across nine islands surrounded by lakes. Visitors can stroll through themed areas such as the Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and English Walled Garden. Bird-watching enthusiasts will be in heaven with 225 different species of birds flying around the grounds and wildlife lovers can keep an eye out for deer, foxes, coyotes and beavers.

For those wanting a quick overview of the Garden, 35-minute tram tours whisk you around the grounds while describing all of the highlights. Photography buffs might consider joining one of the free photography tours offered the first Saturday of each month. Other activities change with the seasons but may include flower shows, children’s story time, and art exhibitions.

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