Springfield is in the running to be named the Best Travel-Worthy State Capital. USA Today is sponsoring the competition, which will be decided by votes from the general public.

The capital city has already been selected as one of 20 capitals included in the competition, based on a host of factors including accommodations, attractions, dining and diversity.

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Holiday Lights

Regardless of your faith, there are some holiday traditions that everyone can enjoy. One of the most popular is traveling to see holiday lights. Communities throughout Illinois have turned their streets, parks and zoos into shimmering, shining wonderlands. All of the displays are family friendly, and some are even free.

In Chicagoland, you can visit the Brookfield Zoo to see more than 1 million lights, ice carving, light shows and zoo animal exhibits open at night. You can also travel to Lake County's Vernon Hills to see the Winter Wonderland at Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, one of the largest drive-through light displays in Illinois. Of course, there are too many opportunities in the Chicagoland area to list them all here, so be sure to check what's going on in your local community. You don't want to miss experiences like Chicago's Holiday Train or Aurora's Holiday Festival of Lights!

If you live outside Chicago or want to take a break from the city, there are still plenty of shining displays to choose from. For example, East Peoria's Folepi's Winter Wonderland is known for its giant drive-through displays. Another famous destination is Quincy's Avenue of Lights, which stretches more than 15 miles.

Of course, there's more to the holiday season than lights. You can also visit a holiday market to buy Illinois products and enjoy the fun, festive atmosphere or buy a Christmas tree from a local tree farm.

Whatever you do this holiday season, be merry, celebrate and be safe.

Buy local products at Illinois' holiday markets

With the holiday season in full swing, residents of our state should take the time to shop at our many holiday markets. Around the state, communities are coming together to celebrate the season and provide shoppers with a variety of unique items for the whole family.

Urbana’s Holiday Market, located at 201 Lincoln Square in Urbana, has a variety of vendors selling baked goods, musical instruments and fresh vegetables. The market runs every Saturday until December 20.

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After football season comes to a close, Illinois fans will have another NFL event to look forward to.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have announced that Chicago was chosen to host the 2015 NFL draft. The draft had been held in the Radio City Music Hall in New York since 1965, but earlier this year, the league decided to award the draft to a new city. Los Angeles and Nashville were among some of the other candidate cities, but Chicago’s rich history with the NFL helped it become the front runner.

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Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur

Halloween is centuries-old tradition. The fall holiday has transformed from a day of remembrance to a fun celebration of the supernatural that supports a multi-million dollar horror movie industry and an almost equally lucrative candy-selling business. Spending on Halloween is expected to reach $7.4 billion this year. While that may pale in comparison to spending for other holidays, it still means Halloween is big business in addition to big fun.

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