Perched on the 94th floor of John Hancock Center is 360 Chicago. The observatory, 1,000 feet above The Magnificent Mile, gives visitors the chance to see four states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin — and as far away as 55 miles. On a clear day, anyway. The John Hancock Center is the fourth-tallest building in the city and the seventh-tallest nationwide. To reach the top, guests board elevators that travel 1,800 feet per minute, completing the trip to the 94th floor in a mere 40 seconds.
For more than a decade, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum has provided visitors with a unique insight into the nation’s 16th president. The museum is home to an incredible collection of artifacts, books and documents that help tell the story of the man who presided over the country during one of the most difficult times. The library is not part of the National Archives and Records Administration’s network of presidential libraries. It is administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
Founded in 1879 and located in Chicago’s Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the country. It is home to more than 300,000 works of art, including a range of iconic and instantly recognizable works of art. Among the works in the museum’s vast collection are Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884, Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. Roughly 1.5 million people visit the museum every year. The museum is located in a building built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition.
The sprawling 2,200-acre Cahokia Mounds complex in Collinsville, Ill., are some of the most impressive Native American mounds in the country. While settlement in the area may date to roughly 1200 BC (during the Late Archaic period), the mounds as they are today were settled circa 600 AD (during the Late Woodland period). The mounds were probably built during the 9th century during the Emergent Mississippian cultural. The settlement has the distinction of being the largest, most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture.
The Field Museum of Natural History is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. Known colloquially as The Field Museum, the museum is home to more than 24 million specimens and objects, including gems, meteorites, fossils and cultural artifacts from around the globe. More than 2 million people visit the museum every year. Among the most famous items in the collection are Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton currently known, and the infamous Lions of Tsavo.
Union, IL 60180
The Illinois Railway Museum was founded in 1953 when a group of enthusiasts came together to purchase and preserve an Indiana Railroad interurban car, No. 65. The museum was originally named the Illinois Electric Railway Museum, and the museum’s collection includes an impressive collection of electrics, including interurbans, streetcars and L cars.
The Illinois State Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is the state’s official museum of the natural history. Founded in 1877, the museum was originally located inside the sixth Illinois State Capitol but moved as the state government expanded. Between 1961 and 1963, the state built the museum’s current building, the first purpose-built state museum. Exhibits include local fossils, dioramas of Native American life, a collection of glass paperweights and archaeological and ethnographic artifacts.
Abraham Lincoln went to the Great Western Railroad depot on the morning of Feb. 11, 1861, to begin his inaugural journey to Washington D.C. Lincoln and his eldest son, Robert, planned to leave on the 8 a.m. train, while the rest of his family would follow later that day. Lincoln gave a short speech to the group of friends and family who came to see him off. Today, the privately owned depot features Lincoln-related exhibits.
President Richard Nixon authorized the Lincoln Home National Historic Site Aug. 18, 1971. The park was formally established on Oct. 9, 1972, to preserve and protect the only home ever owned by President Abraham Lincoln. In total, the park’s buildings make up four-and-a-half square blocks on 12 acres. Among the buildings is the home where the 16th president of the United States lived from 1844 to 1861.
The water was vital to Chicago’s growth and success as a city, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum. The five-story museum is located in the southwest bridge house of the DuSable Bridge, better known as the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The museum includes exhibits on the history of the Chicago River and the bridge, and visitors can access the bridge’s gear room.
The Museum of Science and Industry, located in the former Palace of Fine Arts built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, opened in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition. The museum was initially endowed by Julius Rosenwald, the Sears, Roebuck and Company president. Today, the museum is home to more 2,000 exhibits displayed in 75 major halls. Among the most famous exhibits are German submarine U-505 captured during World War II, the Apollo 8 spacecraft that carried the first humans to orbit the Moon and the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train, the Pioneer Zephyr.
Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois, is famous as the final resting place of President Abraham Lincoln, his wife and all but one of his children. Lincoln’s Tomb, Oak Ridge, the third and now only public cemetery in Springfield, is the second-most visited cemetery in the United States, after Arlington National Cemetery. William Saunders designed the cemetery as part of the Rural Cemetery Landscape Lawn Style. The location was selected, in part, because of the rolling hills.
The Old State Capitol State Historic Site, in downtown Springfield, Illinois, sits where the state’s fifth Capitol building once stood. Built in the Greek Revival style between 1837 and 1840, the building served as the state house from 1840 to 1876. The building was extensively altered during its life as a courthouse. So, to restore and preserve the edifice, workers dismantled and rebuilt it between 1966 and 1969. The building today resembles how it looked in 1860 when Lincoln last saw the capitol before leaving for Washington.
The Shedd Aquarium opened on May 30, 1930, and is home to 1,500 species, including fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects. With more than 5 million gallons of water, it was at one time the largest indoor aquarium in the world. Located along the shore of Lake Michigan, Shedd Aquarium was the first inland aquarium with a permanent saltwater fish collection. The aquarium is formally named the John G. Shedd Aquarium.
The Willis Tower observation deck, located on the 103rd floor of the tower, first opened on June 22, 1974. Today, 1.3 million visitors make their way to the deck, today known as Skydeck Chicago, every year. In January 2009, the owners of Willis Tower kicked off a major renovation of the Skydeck. Among the changes was the additon of retractable glass balconies. Known as The Ledge, the balconies can be extended approximately 4 feetfrom the facade of building and allow visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet below. The balconies officially opened on July 2, 2009.
The Vandalia State House is the fourth statehouse of Illinois and is the oldest surviving capitol building in the state. The structure served as the capital from 1836 until 1839, when it moved to Springfield. The two-story painted brick structure later served as a courthouse and was converted into a state monument in 1933.
The Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower, best known as The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle, is the quintessential roadside attraction. Located south of Collinsville, Illinois, the roughly 70-foot-tall former water tower was built in 1949 by the W.E. Caldwell Co. Over the years, there have apparently been numerous offers to donate the landmark, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2002, to the city. They didn’t pan out, and in 2015, the owner of an O’Fallon, Ill., purchased the large bottle.