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Things to do in Central Illinois

Exploring Central Illinois can be an exciting adventure, with a blend of historical, cultural, and natural attractions. Here is a step-by-step guide to some of the top things to do in the region:

Step 1: Explore Springfield

  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: Dive into the life and legacy of one of America’s greatest presidents through interactive exhibits and historical artifacts.
  • Lincoln Home National Historic Site: Tour the home where Lincoln lived before becoming the 16th President of the United States.
  • Illinois State Capitol: Visit the beautiful Capitol building and learn about Illinois’ legislative process and history.
  • Dana-Thomas House: Explore this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home, which is a prime example of his Prairie Style architecture.

Step 2: Discover Champaign-Urbana

  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Walk through the scenic campus, visit the Krannert Art Museum, and catch a show at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Champaign’s Downtown: Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere with its mix of restaurants, bars, and shops.
  • Hessel Park: Relax in this lovely park that offers walking trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

Step 3: Visit Peoria

  • Peoria Riverfront Museum: Engage with exhibits on art, science, history, and achievements of the Illinois River region.
  • Peoria Zoo: Discover a wide variety of animals from around the world in a well-maintained, family-friendly environment.
  • Luthy Botanical Garden: Stroll through beautiful themed gardens, including a rose garden and a conservatory.

Step 4: Experience Bloomington-Normal

  • Miller Park Zoo: Enjoy a charming zoo with a variety of animal exhibits and a historic carousel.
  • Constitution Trail: Bike or walk along this extensive trail system that runs through Bloomington-Normal, offering scenic views and access to various parks.
  • David Davis Mansion: Tour this elegant Victorian mansion, home of Supreme Court Justice David Davis.

Step 5: Relax in Decatur

  • Scovill Zoo: Visit this zoo that features a diverse collection of animals and a charming train ride.
  • Rock Springs Conservation Area: Explore hiking trails, a nature center, and beautiful natural landscapes.
  • Children’s Museum of Illinois: Engage the kids with hands-on exhibits that make learning fun.

Step 6: Enjoy Outdoor Activities

  • Starved Rock State Park: Located near Ottawa, this park offers stunning canyons, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
  • Matthiessen State Park: Just south of Starved Rock, it offers more beautiful hiking trails and unique rock formations.
  • Kickapoo State Recreation Area: Near Danville, this park is great for camping, fishing, and kayaking.

Step 7: Indulge in Local Cuisine and Wineries

  • Local Restaurants: Try local favorites like a Horseshoe Sandwich in Springfield or farm-to-table meals in Champaign-Urbana.
  • Wineries: Visit local wineries such as Mackinaw Valley Vineyard or Illinois River Winery for tastings and tours.

Step 8: Attend Local Events

  • Illinois State Fair (Springfield): Experience the annual fair with its rides, exhibits, and concerts.
  • Ebertfest (Champaign): Attend this annual film festival founded by the famous critic Roger Ebert.
  • Sweetcorn Festival (Urbana): Enjoy food, live music, and fun activities celebrating corn.

Step 9: Historical Sites and Museums

  • Caterpillar Visitors Center (Peoria): Learn about the history of Caterpillar Inc. and see some impressive machinery.
  • McLean County Museum of History (Bloomington): Delve into the history of McLean County through well-curated exhibits.

Step 10: Shopping and Local Markets

  • Farmers Markets: Visit local farmers markets in towns like Urbana, Bloomington, and Springfield to buy fresh produce and handmade goods.
  • Antique Shops: Explore antique stores and boutiques scattered throughout Central Illinois towns for unique finds.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to experience the rich culture, history, and natural beauty that Central Illinois has to offer.

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