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Illinois is Worth the Repeat

There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy Illinois. With a major metropolis, presidential history and the beauty of the Mississippi River, the state gives groups reasons to return year after year. From world-class museums in Chicago to Route 66 history and outdoor adventure in scenic national forests and state parks, the menu of travel experiences in Illinois is built for diversity. Consider some of these travel experiences, notable hotels and memorable meals for your next group visit.


Popular Demand

Art Institute of Chicago

One of several world-class museums in the Windy City, the Art Institute of Chicago features the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris. Visitors will see works by such luminaries as Monet, Renoir, Seurat and Van Gogh. The modern wing has masterpieces by Dali, Matisse, Picasso and Pollock. Groups can arrange for gallery tours, performance programs and other special experiences.

Chicago Botanic Garden

A half-hour’s drive from the city, in the North Shore region, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers over 385 acres of wide-open space and horticultural beauty. Among the 27 themed areas await experiences such as climbing a waterfall garden, discovering hidden rooms inside an English walled garden and walking bridges across sparkling lakes. Other highlights include a Japanese garden and a model railroad garden.

Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield

The 16th president began his political career in Springfield, and several attractions around town are dedicated to telling his story. The Lincoln Home National Historic site preserves the place where Lincoln and his wife lived during their time in the city. And the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses state-of-the-art exhibit technology to help visitors connect with Lincoln and his legacy.

Illinois Route 66 Museum

Route 66 famously began in Illinois, and today visitors to Pontiac, a small town in the center of the state, can relive some of the glories of traveling the Mother Road at the Illinois Route 66 Museum. Exhibits inside the museum detail the history of the iconic highway, and groups love taking photos in front of the Route 66 mural on the building’s brick exterior.

Shawnee National Forest

Nestled in the southern tip of Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is an excellent destination for groups that love the outdoors. It sits between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and is known for dramatic rock walls and hiking paths that meander through canyons under forest canopies. One of the most popular trails leads to Garden of the Gods, an overlook with views of towering sandstone cliffs.


Memorable Meals

Obed and Isaacs Microbrewery and Eatery

The Horseshoe Sandwich — an open-face sandwich topped with a beef patty, cheese sauce and french fries — originated in Springfield. Hungry visitors can try this local specialty at Obed and Isaacs Microbrewery and Eatery, located in one of the city’s historic neighborhoods not far from Lincoln’s home. The laid-back environment also features a beer garden with bocce ball, dart games and more.

Aerie’s Resort and Winery

On the Mississippi riverfront in central Illinois, Pere Marquette State park sits on 8,000 acres of hillside wilderness. Visitors can climb aboard an air-lift gondola and ride up to Aerie’s Resort and Winery, which features wine, food and live music on an outdoor patio overlooking the river. After a meal and a drink, patrons can make their way back down the hill on a series of nine zip lines.


Overnight Sensations

Curio Collection at Navy Pier

With a giant Ferris wheel, dining and other entertainment options, Navy Pier has long been one of Chicago’s most popular tourist attractions. This fall, the pier will get its first hotel: the Curio Collection by Hilton at Navy Pier. The 222-room property will feature floor-to-ceiling windows designed to showcase the views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline.

Chestnut Mountain Resort

In the northwestern reaches of Illinois, the city of Galena sits on the banks of the Mississippi River. Groups overnighting in Galena can find lots of scenery and activity options at the Chestnut Mountain Resort, a rustic lodge with three restaurants and great riverfront views. A popular ski destination in winter, the resort offers boat cruises, Segway tours, scenic hiking and an alpine slide during warmer weather.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.