halloweenkidsAccording to a study done by SmartAsset, the Midwest has the overall safest cities to trick-or-treat in. Seven of the top 10 cities were found in the Midwest, including two of our very own cities, Aurora and Elgin.

Aurora was ranked number 4 because of its low crime rates and its population density, which makes it not only safe but gives children the opportunity to have their bags filled by the end of the night. Aurora’s trick-or-treating hours are 4:30 – 7 p.m. on Halloween.

Elgin was also recognized and ranked number 9 as one of the safest cities to trick-or-treat in by having the lowest property crime rate in the study. The city of Elgin has trick-or-treating hours on Halloween from 4 – 7 p.m.

Although the study recognized and applauded the top 10 safest cities, Joliet was close behind, ranked number 11.

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When policymakers and economists discuss economic development, they often speak in terms of manufacturing jobs, corporate relocations, tech incubators and local workforces. One overlooked economic driver that has received more attention with each year of growth is the tourism industry.

The tourism industry is the third-largest employer in Illinois. Over the past two years, the industry has created 20,000 new jobs from Chicago to Galena to Carbondale. Every $1 invested in tourism generates $9 in economic activity and impact. This money pours into restaurants, nightlife and tourist attractions. Tourism industry experts in Chicagoland reported selling 1.27 million hotel room nights in Fiscal Year 2017. Chicago is on pace to attract 54 million visitors by the end of the current year.

In recent years, Chicago has outpaced the national average for tourism growth. With its Michelin-star restaurants, renowned performance venues, famous museums and ample transportation infrastructure, the city is home to plenty of world-class attractions that are easily accessible by planes, trains and cars.

Located just steps from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is Navy Pier, which is the most-visited tourist destination in Illinois and the Midwest. Navy Pier attracts over 9.3 million visitors annually. As Navy Pier celebrates its centennial this year, developers have renovated and updated the premises. They have installed a new 200-foot Ferris wheel, a bandstand, environmentally sustainable landscaping, new docks and a site for a hotel with views of the skyline.

The Ferris wheel is a significant piece of Chicago’s history. The Ferris wheel was invented by Illinois engineer George Washington Ferris for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Ferris wheel built for the World’s Fair stood an astounding 25 stories high and could hold nearly 1,500 passengers. Today, the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier is homage to Chicago’s history.

The work that officials at Navy Pier and countless other attractions around Illinois have done to keep up with trends and priorities in the hospitality and tourism industries exemplifies what keeps Illinois among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Investments to preserve what has attracted crowds in the past and investments to draw in new generations of visitors are important to a region’s long-term success as a tourism hub and strong economy. Condé Nast Traveler readers recently voted Chicago the top big U.S. city for tourism, which is an improvement after third- and second-place showings in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Chicago’s impressive achievement of attracting 54 million visitors in 2017 suggests that tourism efforts are progressing toward the city’s goal of 55 million visitors per year by 2020.

Beyond Chicagoland, tourism is booming in smaller towns like Champaign-Urbana. Like other towns in rural parts of the state, restauranteurs in the central Illinois metro area are taking advantage of Illinois’ strong agriculture by building a culinary scene around local produce. In recognition of the exciting and diverse culinary scene, readers of Midwest Living magazine recently named Champaign-Urbana a “Great Food Town in the Midwest.” Champaign-Urbana is also known for its craft brewing scene, its art and science museums and all of the amenities that go along with having a world-class university in town.

Recent reports show that the tourism sector is poised to continue expanding in Illinois. Public and private interests are working together to incentivize future development and take advantage of the economic growth that comes with a strong tourism industry.

Cabins at White Pines State Park

The wind is whistling through the pines. The changing of the seasons has painted the forest in blazing reds, oranges and yellows. The air is crisp and the one-room cabin at White Pines State Park, built with red cedar and Douglas fir, is the perfect retreat in the woods.

First constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 16 log cabins that make up the White Pine Inn have been recently renovated but still retain their rustic charm. Each cabin is equipped with a shower, a gas fireplace, a queen-sized bed and a television. For a more rugged and pared-down experience, camping is also available for $10 per night. Campsites at White Pines State Park are loaded with amenities including flush toilets, showers and electrical hookups.

Visitors to the park, which is the oldest in Ogle County and the third oldest in Illinois, have a plethora of activities to choose from. In addition to camping in cabins and tents, hiking and picnicking are other popular activities.

A 300 acre plot of land for deer hunting is located within the. Both firearm and archery deer hunting are allowed in an area that includes woods and open fields of brush. For more information, consult the hunter fact sheet.

White Pines State Park is also home to the White Pines Inn Restaurant. The restaurant is famous for its Paul Bunyan Breakfast, which is served family style. Sauk Valley Newspaper regularly awards the White Pines Inn Restaurant with its “Best Buffet” title for the Sunday morning Paul Bunyan Breakfast. The award-winning offerings include all-you-can-eat eggs, pancakes, American fries, toast, sausage and bacon. The lunch menu includes homemade soups, sandwiches and entrees such as chicken pot pie. At dinner time, steak, lake fish and other seafood items are added to the menu. Dinner at the White Pines Inn Restaurant wouldn’t be complete without its famous peach cobbler and red raspberry pie for dessert.

White Pines State Park is remarkable in that it offers something for every taste and interest. It is the perfect place to enjoy a camping trip, a family outing or a business event.

Can you imagine Halhauntedhouseloween without haunted houses? It’s a tradition and the holiday wouldn’t be the same without them. There are a plethora of haunted houses to enjoy around Illinois.

Check out the House of Torment in Morton Grove for a “multi­layered psychological thriller” that has been named one of the scariest haunted houses in the United States.  The attraction boasts zombies, deadly creatures and murderous insects.

Or head to southern Illinois and visit Alton, one of the most haunted small towns in America. Take a haunted ghost tour through the town, based on the best-selling book by Troy Taylor, Haunted Alton. The book includes an in-depth look at all of the locations on the tour, plus the detailed history of Alton and the surrounding region. It's a chilling look back in time at the strange tales, unsolved mysteries, and many ghosts of the Alton area.

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Kickapoo State Park leafs - Photo by Daniel SchwenWith a length of 390 miles from north to south and an ideal climate for deciduous trees, Illinois is one of the most uniquely-situated places to view fall foliage.

Because the state is so long from north to south, fall comes to Illinois several times. It first comes to the northern part of the state in mid-September and works its way gradually south as the weather cools and each region hits its “peak” fall colors at a different time. In northern Illinois, leaves have already begun to change color and will soon reach their peak, turning otherwise mundane vistas into breathtaking, picturesque landscapes.

One of the best ways to experience fall in northern Illinois is to visit the Cemetery Hill Trail at Cook County Forest Preserve’s Paw Paw Woods.

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