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Illinois

June 7, 2017
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 Chicago is one of the biggest cities in the United States and perhaps the most popular tourist site in Illinois. Chicago is famous for its food, cityscapes, and architecture, but there are also tons of theaters, shopping districts, and museums to embrace as well. Chicago may be known for its hot dogs and pizza, but the season restaurant weeks in the city offer up more unique dishes than ever before. During restaurant weeks, you can sample different creations from participating restaurants that will vary in status, from authentic “mom and pop” shops and street BBQ, to five star fine-dining cuisine.

If you like art, head to the Navy Pier for public sculpture displays. Walk through the nearby downtown streets where you will find all sorts of shops to browse for souvenirs, from famous designer brands to local boutiques. Head into Garrett’s popcorn shop for an iconic flavor, available in gift tins and regular bags. Garrett’s has been popping out their Chicago tradition since 1949, and they offer flavors and mixes like Garrett’s mix, a combination of caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn. You can create your own tin and sample all of the other flavors, such as buttery ranch, buffalo cheese, and macadamia caramel crisp.

Summer in Alton is a melting pot of romance, music, riverside events, and family fun, where you will be able to taste local dishes and listen to the fine-tuned sounds of local musicians all season long. Take a drive down the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway for camera-worthy sights and local history lessons. Take a ride on the Hakuna Matata River Rambler Cruise, via Grafton Harbor, where you will be on a 49-passenger tour boat that will take you what locals like to call, “the Key West of the Midwest.” While you’re there, you can visit the floating winery, where you’ll float in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers while enjoying samples and glasses of locally-made wine.

Do you enjoy spooky stuff? Take the Alton Hauntings Walking Tour, a 3-hour long tour that travels throughout the area of Alton, and takes visitors directly to the sites of reported hauntings and even goes inside some of these locations. These ghost tours start at $25 and go up to $40, depending on whether or not you’re interested in taking the Extended Ghost Hunter Tour. Tickets are sold in advance at www.altonhauntings.com, so purchase tickets in advance if you can, as they are sold on a first come, first serve basis. Bus tours are also available upon request and reservation. The tours are award-winning and spine-chilling, so be prepared for a excellent night of creepy, yet historically interesting finds. Most tours begin between 7pm and 8pm, perfect for a ghost hunt!

Springfield is known as Lincoln’s hometown, and there is rich history throughout the city streets. Springfield is also the largest city in central Illinois. Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum for a full day of historical artifacts and information on Lincoln’s early life, presidency, and personal accomplishments. You can also visit the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, which is the two-story home that Lincoln lived in – from 1844 to 1861 – and the only home he ever owned.

Another popular attraction in Springfield is on the famous Route 66, at the Cozy Dog Drive In. The Cozy Dog is a popular restaurant known for its world-famous hot dog on a stick. The batter is a special recipe that is made fresh every day, and the price is more than fair at just around $3 for one of them. The Cozy Dog’s menu also hosts full breakfasts and a variety of family basket deals that are sure to feed the whole crowd. The Cozy Dog’s hours are from 8am to 8pm Monday through Saturday, and closed on Sundays. Be sure to pick up your very own Cozy Dog while visiting Springfield!

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