Take Your Pick
Chester, IL
Home of Popeye the Sailor Man
Popeye - Popeye, the spinich eating cartoon character with the enormous forarms and a big heart was created by Chester native Elzie Segar and first debuted in 1929. Starting out as a bit character in the Thimble Theater comic strip, his popularity quickly rose and he became the comic strip's central focus. Popeye went on to star in films, comics, cartoons and even advertisements. The small town of Chester honors Segar and Popeye with a six foot bronze statue of the sailor, a Popeye Museum, and an annual Popeye Picnic. Sing along - I'm strong to the finich 'cause I eats me spinach, I'm Popeye the Sailor Man. Toot Toot.
Chicago, IL
Children's Museum at the Navy Pier
Navy Pier - Chicago's 3,000 foot long and 400 foot wide Navy Pier was originally designed for use as a WWII Navy training dock, but today is the main gathering place for tourists and native Chicagoans alike. Attractions on the pier include a 150 foot tall Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, an old-fashoned carousel, the Chicago Children's Museum and plenty of places to eat. Along side the pier are several dining and sightseeing ships, where you can take a cruise on a traditional craft or a pirate ship. One of the best things to see at the pier is the Venetian Night Festival which features lighted boats parading along the Lake Michigan shore followed by an impressive fireworks display.
Chicago, IL
Outside the Field Museum
Museums - Chicago boasts some of the finest museums in the USA and at the top of the list is the Field Museum of Natural History. The Field Museum holds over 20 million artifacts including "Sue" the most complete Tyranosaurus Rex in the world, Ice Age woolley mammouths, and 5,000 year Egyptian mummies. Within walking distance are the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium, both containing excellent exhibits. Other fine museums include the Art Institute of Chicago displaying the over a quarter million works from the likes of Monet, Cezanne, Hopper and Van Gogh; and the Museum of Science and Industry, highlighting society's technological advances.
Chicago, IL
Dillinger's Last Movie
Gangsters - Chicago has seen its share of gangsters and organized crime - from Al Capone and Bugs Moran (the site of the St Valentine's Day Massacre is near Lincoln Park) to John Dillinger. John Dillinger (1903-1934) was the FBI's first Public Enemy Number 1. Wanted for murder and for robbing dozens of banks, the notorious criminal's last hours were spent watching the film "Manhattan Melodrama" in Chicago with his girlfriend and the Woman in Red. As he exited the Biograph Theater, FBI agents shot him from behind. For an accurate and interesting tour of Chicago's gangster past, take the "Untouchable Tour" which visits all of the notorious mobster haunts.
Chicago, IL
Cloud Gate in Millinneum Park
Millinneum Park - Millinneum Park is a fantastic gathering place, featuring one-of-a-kind sculptures and live performances. Cloud Gate, the 110 ton bean-shapped sculpture designed by Anish Kapoor, is the number one attraction. The highly polished stainless surface bends the reflected cityscape and offers monkeys a variety of photographic opportunities. If you love classical music, the Grant Musical Festival performs a free classical music series at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.
Chicago, IL
Willis Tower Skydeck
Willis Tower (Formerly the Sears Tower) - The 108 story, 1,450 foot Willis Tower is the tallest building in the USA, and Western Hemisphere. To get the full effect of how high the tower actually is, head on up to the Skydeck and enjoy a truly gorgeous view. On a clear day a young monkey can see nearly 50 miles, all the way to Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. You won't be alone taking in the view either; the observation deck attracts nearly 1.5 million visitors a year.
Collinsville, IL
Nation's Largest Prehistoric Civilization
Cahokia Mounds - In the 700 years between 700 and 1400 AD, Cahokia was the site of a thriving culture of Native Americans. At its peak, the area contained over 120 mounds in a six square mile area and was home to over 15,000. It is the site of the largest prehistoric Native American civilization north of Mexico. The area today contains several large mounds that are easily accessible for climbing, Woodhenge an ancient calendar site, and an Interpretive Center filled with information, exhibits and maps. Guided tours of the site are available and the guides give a great lesson on history of the mounds.
Des Plaines, IL
First McDonald's - There have been times I've thought about changing my name to McSocko, because I eat at McDonalds so often. I love their hamburgers, McNuggets, and to me their Coke even tastes better. So a visit to the McDonald's Museum at the site of Ray Kroc's very first McDonald's (which opened on April 15, 1955) was a must. Outside the museum are the golden arches advertising 15 cent hamburgers and underneath the sign a few vintage cars. Peering in through the windows you can spot original paper cups, fryer vats, soda barrels, grills and menus. In the basement is a small collection of original advertisements and photos. You can't purchase any food here, but just across the street is a modern McDonald's where you can get your fix.
Effingham, IL
World's Largest Cross
Giant Cross - Where the north-south running I-57 and the east-west running I-70 briefly converge is the site of the World's Largest Cross. This impressive 198 foot tall symbol of Christianity weighs nearly 200 tons and is 113 feet wide. The cross was completed in 2001 and is estimated to be seen by over 50,000 people a day passing by on the interstates. Near the cross is a small Chapel and Welcome Center, which runs a short film on the construction of the cross.
Galena, IL
Historic Belvedere Mansion
Belvedere Mansion and Grant Home - Galena is an old lead mining town with a population of roughly 3,000. But this little town attracts over one million visitors every year and two of the biggest attractions are the Belvedere Mansion and the Ulysses S Grant home. The Belvedere Mansion has several interesting items, including the green drapes from the movie "Gone with the Wind" and President Roosevelt's Library Suite. The Ulysses S Grant Home was the war hero's primary residence from 1865 to 1868 at which time he became the 18th President of the United States. Tours are available to both houses.
Grand Detour, IL
Take a Grand Detour to John Deere
John Deere - Originally known as the inventor of "The Plow that Broke the Plains", John Deere (1804-1886) went on to create the largest farm equipment manufacturing company in the world. In 1837 Deere, a blacksmith from Vermont who moved to the area just a year prior, created a plow that could easily cut through the clay-like soil of the Midwest. Within a decade his factory was churning out thousands of these revolutionary plows. The John Deere Historic site preserves the original John Deere house and operates a replica blacksmith shop, visitor center and gift shop.
Metropolis, IL
It's Supermonkey!!!
The Super Museum - Located in the town square, standing atop a "Truth-Justice-The American Way" platform, is a 15 foot tall red-capped statue of the man of steel. Welcome to Metropolis, the official "Hometown of Superman". Nearly every business in this small town sells or displays Superman gifts, but there is no Superman store bigger in the world than the Super Museum. Inside the store are comics, capes, dolls, pins, and anything you can stamp an "S" on. The museum has roughly 20,000 items dating back to the 1950s, including a phone booth where Clark Kent (Kirk Alyn) became Superman. A Superman Celebration attracting tens of thousands is held the second full weekend of June with Superman TV and film stars attending along with props, look-alike contests, and all things super hero.
Monmouth, IL
Fast is Fine, but Accuracy is Everything
Wyatt Earp Birthplace - The legendary Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) was born in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois and lived here for year before his family moved to California. It was Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and Wyatt's brothers Virgil and Morgan who shot and killed Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. At his birthplace visitors can see the bedroom where Wyatt was born, a small museum with a variety of historical documents and a replica OK Corral site. Each year the town exsuberently celebrates Wyatt Earp Day with OK Corral re-enactments.
Niles, IL
Scuzi, Your Tower is Leaning
Leaning Tower of Niles - Don't have the time or the money to fly to Italy to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Then come to Illinois and see the Leaning Tower of Niles. This half-sized replica, including the legendary lean, was built in 1934 (roughly 600 years after that other one) and is just as fun to photograph pretending you are holding it up. You're friends won't be able to tell the difference anyway. The structure was originally created as a large water tank to store water for local swimming pools. Today the tower, fountains and reflecting pool are used to attract visitors to the area.
Oak Park, IL
Famous Oak Park Residents
Ernest Hemmingway Birthplace and Frank Lloyd Wright - Both Ernest Hemmingway and Frank Lloyd Wright made Oak Park home during their lifetimes. Ernest Hemmingway (1899-1961) the author of the classic works "A Farwell to Arms", "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea" was born in a two story 5,500 square foot Victorian home that displays artifacts from his life. The Nobel Prize winner's museum is just down the street and includes his childhood diary. The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio was the private residence of the architect from 1889-1909 and is where he designed over 125 structures.
Rockford, IL
Birthplace of Sock Monkeys
Midway Village and Museum Center - The Midway Village and Museum Center features an excellent 24 structure Victorian Village with 1900s period interpreters. But the main reason to stop at the museum is for the sock monkeys. Here you will find dozens of my sock monkey friends ranging in size from one to seven feet displayed along side other articles of Rockford history. The museum also holds the original patent for the sock monkey, making Rockford the undisputed "Home of the Sock Monkey". Every March is the Sock Monkey Madness Festival featuring films, sock monkey making classes, and sock monkey beauty contests.
Springfield, IL
The Prairie State - Statehouse
State Capitol Building - The Illinois State Capitol Building was completed in 1888. The structure was designed by John C Cochrane, in the shape of a Greek cross aligned with the points of a compass. It is the tallest domed capitol building in the USA (361 feet from the first floor to the top of the dome), including the US capitol in Washington DC. The grounds contain over a dozen sculptures representing Abraham Lincoln, the Liberty Bell and a 9/11 Memorial. The interior's four floors house the state's Senate and House along with a number of exquisite paintings and sculptures.
Springfield, IL
President Lincoln's Neighborhood
Lincoln Home National Historic Site - Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln lived and raised their family on the corner of 8th and Jackson streets, from 1844 to the time they left for the White House in 1861. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site not only preserves Lincoln's home, but an entire four block area with 12 historic homes restored to their 1860s appearance. Guided tours of the Lincoln home are available or walk the neighborhood as Honest Abe once did.
Springfield, IL
One of the Best Presidential Museums
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum - The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is a fitting tribute to one of the United States' greatest Presidents. Throughout the museum are state-of-the-art exhibits and dramatic special effects including the animated "Civil War in Four Minutes" and Holavision "Ghosts of the Library". A mixture of Animatronics and live costumed portrayers, gives the museum an authentic and vibrant feel. The entire museum is impressive, form the entry plaza containing Lincoln's boyhood cabin and White House facade, to the "Whispering Gallery" and "Fords Theater". If you visit one Presidential Library and Museum, make it this one.
Tampico, IL
Resting at the Ronald Reagan Museum
Ronald Reagan Birthplace - Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), the 40th President of the United States, was born in this second floor apartment in downtown Tampico. Visitors can take a guided tour of the upstairs apartment and enjoy the Ronald Reagan Museum on the first floor. The museum holds an assortment of movie posters, photographs (including some cute childhood shots), ceramic dishes and other memorabilia. Reagan was only in Tampico 3 months as a baby, but lived for 13 years in nearby Dixon. A beautifully restored boyhood home, gift shop, and visitor center are located there.
Woodstock, IL
Today is Tomorrow!
Groundhog Day Movie Town - One of this sock monkey's favorite comedy movies is "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell and of course Punxsutawney Phil. The movie was filmed in Woodstock and the town looks almost the same now as it did back in 1992 when the movie was made. See the gazebos in the town square, the spot where Phil Connors stepped off the sidewalk into a puddle, the opera house, the B&B (a private residence) where Phil woke up over-and-over again and dozens more. Be sure to watch the movie just before going and then stop in at the Chamber of Commerce for a Groundhog Day attraction map. And don't drive angry!!!