If you’re planning a trip to Illinois for your spring break or summer vacation and are looking for fun Unique things to do in the Prairie State that would be a perfect idea for families and friends, then make sure you read our list of 10 places you can visit!
10. Experience the Attractions at Navy Pier in Chicago
If you’re looking to tackle a lot in a short amount of space, then add the Navy Pier in Chicago as one of your things to do in Illinois. From the Navy Pier, one can take a sightseeing tour or dinner cruise, ride on one of its outdoor amusement attractions, get lost in a funhouse maze, explore a one-acre botanical garden, discover the Chicago Children’s Museum, see a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and other attractions.
Photo: Choose Chicago
9. See Famous Works at the Art Institute of Chicago
If you’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the image above should be a familiar sight. A portion of the film sees the main characters spending time at the Art Institute of Chicago, and for good reason. The museum is one of the oldest and largest in the country, and features some of the world’s most recognizable pieces of art. Highlights include Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, and Grant Wood’s American Gothic. In total, nearly 300,000 works of art can be found in more than 30 exhibitions and is definitely a thing to do in Illinois for anybody who appreciates art.
Photo: The Skydeck
8. Willis Tower Skydeck
For 25 years, the Willis Tower (then named the Sears Tower) was the tallest building in the world. Though it doesn’t hold that particular distinction anymore, it’s still the second-tallest building in the United States and Western Hemisphere. So what do you do when you have a building that’s nearly 2,000 feet tall? You build a transparent ledge that juts out 4.3 feet from the building, 1,353 feet high in the air. If you’re afraid of heights, you might want to skip this one.
Photo: The Magnificent Mile
7. Magnificent Mile
If you’re looking to do some shopping in Downtown Chicago, then The Magnificent Mile is your destination. The “Mag Mile” is Chicago’s largest shopping district and contains a mix of upscale department stores, restaurants, luxury retailers, hotels, restaurants and more. You’ll also walk past many of Chicago’s landmarks such as the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower, the Chicago Water Tower, and the Allerton, Drake, and Intercontinental Hotels.
Photo: Visit Springfield Illinois
6. Get to Know Honest Abe at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
If you’re looking for things to do in Illinois that’ll satisfy the history buff, visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. One of the most visited presidential libraries in the country, this library and museum is known for its life-size dioramas that include Honest Abe’s boyhood home, areas of the White House, and the fateful presidential box at Ford’s Theatre. Of course, it also contains many pictures, artifacts, and other memorabilia for fans of the president to see up close and personal.
Photo: Lincoln Park Zoo
5. Lincoln Park Zoo
If you’re looking for something fun to do in Illinois that’s also free, then check out the Lincoln Park Zoo in located within Lincoln Park in Chicago. The zoo is one of the oldest in the country and is home to about 1,100 animals from 200 species. The usual favorites are here: big cats, polar bears, penguins, gorillas, reptiles, monkeys and more.
4. Discover Inner Peace at Anderson Japanese Gardens
Looking for a peaceful thing to do in Illinois? Then visit the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford. This 12-acre Japanese garden is considered the finest of its kind in North America according to the Journal of Japanese Gardening and features several waterfalls and ponds, streams, rock formations, winding paths, and a sukiya style tea house. Plants include Japanese maples, cloud pines, azaleas, magnolias, and rhododendrons. You’ll also see colorful fish, minks and ducks around the gardens.
3. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House
Fans of architecture will want to visit the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield. Built by the legendary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, this Praire School-style house was inspired by Japanese prints and drawings, while also reflecting the flat landscape found in Illinois. The house contains around 450 stunning art glass windows, and tons of style cues that could only have been designed by the organic architecture king. Tours of the house are offered daily.
2. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
The Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois is considered the largest and most complex archeological site north of Mexico and was a pre-Columbian Native American city that existed between 1050-1350 CE. The site is around 3.5 square miles and contains around 80 mounds. While astonishing in itself, it’s incredible to think it used to be 6 square miles and had around 120 mounds and one day had anywhere between 6,000 to 40,000 people at its peak. While there, you’ll want to tour the site, climb the 100-ft Monks Mound, and experience the reconstructed ancient sun calendar, Woodhenge.
Photo: Mark Zemnick
1. Experience Authentic Go Kart Racing at K1 Speed
If you’re someone that craves excitement and Unique experiences, then a trip to K1 Speed in Buffalo Grove or Addison should definitely be on your Illinois list of fun things to do. Known as the world’s largest and premier indoor go-karting operator, K1 Speed features go-karts are all-electric, so you don’t need to worry about breathing in exhaust fumes or leaving with stinky clothes. Plus, the power is instant, giving these karts a much faster acceleration than any gas-powered kart you’ve driven before. Junior karts speed up to 25mph and delight kids 4’ or taller, while adult karts rocket to 45mph for racers 4’10” or taller.
The location is immaculate and features motorsport memorabilia fit for a museum, meeting spaces for group events, an arcade for all ages, and an onsite eatery that serves food & beverages. And since everything is indoors, it doesn’t matter if it’s pouring rain or scorching hot – you can still enjoy this popular worldwide attraction, open seven days a week. If you’ve never experienced go-kart racing before or have never been to a K1 Speed – you simply have to stop in for an Arrive & Drive race. If you’ve been to a K1 Speed, try out their track layout – exclusive to this Illinois location.