A Northern saw-whet owl spotted in Lisle's Morton Arboretum. Photo by Jay Sturner

From the shops and restaurants of Galena to the natural majesty of Shawnee National Forest, tourists added nearly $600 million more to the state’s economy last year. Residents of Illinois may occasionally overlook local attractions, but tourism numbers suggest that people from all over the world are visiting and appreciating the Land of Lincoln in increasingly large numbers.

The Illinois Office of Tourism found that in 2016 alone, foreign and domestic tourists added $37.9 billion to the state’s economy. That is a $571 million increase over 2015. The number of tourism jobs statewide also increased by 20,000.

While Chicago continues to attract visitors from all over the globe, the rest of the state is getting plenty of visitors as well. Not only has tourism revenue increased in Cook County, it has also risen in Lake, DuPage, Will and other nearby counties. McHenry County saw the greatest jump with an 8.9 percent increase in tourism revenue. The DuPage County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently unveiled its “DuMore in DuPage” campaign to promote local attractions like Cantigny Park, the Morton Arboretum and the Naperville River Walk. Local tourism authorities across Illinois are following DuPage’s lead.

Outside of Chicagoland, there are even more varied attractions including the aforementioned Main Street in Galena and Shawnee National Forest as well as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site in Colinsville and many more.

Illinois is a destination for travelers from all over the world. They come for the attractions associated with a world-class city like Chicago, the parks and downtown shopping districts of the collar counties and the historical and natural sites found downstate. People from outside of Illinois continue to pour into the state to appreciate its unique tourism offerings. As the summer comes to a close, there is perhaps no better time to experience all that Illinois has to offer in its own backyard. Plan your trip today.

Located on the West Side of Chicago, Garfield Park is a jewel in the “emerald necklace,” a ring of parks and tree-lined boulevards built around what was the western edge of the city in the middle of the 19th century. The goal of this development was to make urban living more active and healthy. Covering about 185 acres of land with recreation facilities, green space, Prairie-style buildings and its famous Conservatory, Garfield Park remains true to the vision put forth by its founders in 1869.


Garfield Park is best known for its conservatory, which has been described as “landscape architecture under glass.” The Garfield Park Conservatory is about two acres in size. It is designed to resemble a haystack, a nod to the Midwest’s agricultural tradition and connection to nature.


The month of April is the height of The Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show, a yearly exhibition that runs from mid-February to mid-May. In honor of the Chicago Cubs’ recent World Series victory, this year’s theme is “Spring Training.” The exhibition, which features azaleas, tulips, snapdragons and camellias, is decorated with homages to baseball in Chicago. The conservatory is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of Wednesdays, when the conservatory stays open until 8 p.m.


With its rare plants and expert landscape design, the Conservatory has drawn people to Garfield Park since it opened in 1908, but there are numerous other attractions and amenities. Garfield Park is home to several statues and monuments, baseball fields, boxing, basketball, gymnastics and fitness facilities, football and soccer fields, multiple playgrounds, a lagoon for fishing and much more. While the conservatory closes early, the park is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.


As the weather warms and green leaves return to trees, the emerald necklace begins to take on the green hue that has made it popular for nearly 150 years. There is perhaps no better time to take advantage of all that Garfield Park has to offer.

As Feb. 2 quickly approaches, residents of one Illinois town are preparing to celebrate a holiday that has made the town internationally famous.Groundhog day movie 1992 location 2007 03 18 IMG 4245

Woodstock, located 51 miles northwest of Chicago, was the filming location of the movie “Groundhog Day.” Although the film is set in Pennsylvania, director Harold Ramis loved the quintessentially American feel of the Woodstock town square and surrounding neighborhoods.

The lead role of the film would even be played by an Illinois native, Bill Murray, who was born in Evanston and raised in Wilmette.

Since the filming in 1992, Woodstock has held celebrations every Groundhog Day to commemorate both the holiday and the film that was described by the American Film Institute as the “eighth best fantasy genre film” in history.

Different events happening in Woodstock on Groundhog Day include a dinner dance, free screenings of the movie and walking tours showcasing town landmarks seen in the film. For a full schedule of events, you can visit the Woodstock Groundhog Days Committee website.

Did you know? Illinois is home to the only river in the world that flows backwards.

The Chicago River, known mainly for the different colors it is dyed to celebrate different events and holidays, has been a hallmark of Chicago since the earliest days of the city. The first European to permanently settle in Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, built his farm on the north shore of the river’s mouth. Fort Dearborn, the first American settlement, was built right across the river at the south shore of the mouth.

Most people don’t know that the river flows backwards.

To combat the pollution of the river caused by the growing industrial city, the Sanitary District of Chicago made efforts to reverse the flow of the river. The greatest of these efforts began in 1900.

Building a system of locks and canals, the District reversed the flow from Lake Michigan, diverting the water into the newly constructed Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

In 1999, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the Chicago River flow reversal the “Civil Engineering Monument of the Millennium”.

Today, the Chicago River system includes the North and South Branches along with the Main Stem of the Chicago River. Additionally, the North Shore Channel, the Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Calumet Sag Channel make up 52 miles of the river’s constructed waterways.

If you are interested in learning more about what the Chicago River has to offer, you can visit the website of Friends of the Chicago River.

Weldon Springs State Park

The winter weather is no reason to stay inside when there’s an abundance of activities at Weldon Springs State Park and Clinton Lake State Recreation Area. From cross country skiing to ice fishing, hiking and ice skating, these sites offer fun activities for all.

Located southeast of Clinton in DeWitt County, Weldon Springs State Park and Clinton Lake State Recreation Area are a 15 minute drive from each other. 

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