25 Famous Illinois Landmarks You Must Visit

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A downtown skyline with water in front of it, under a partly cloudy sky
Illinois is a diverse state with many cultural, historical, and natural landmarks

Tucked against the Mississippi, Illinois is home to a melting pot of cultures and has enough history to make it well worth a visit. In fact, you could consider Illinois to be the epicenter of the Midwest and the heart of the United States!

You might wonder, "What is Illinois known for?" Illinois is certainly known for its biggest city, Chicago, and being the "land of Lincoln." You can discover many famous Illinois landmarks across the state, too, including museums, historical sites, and outdoor attractions with stunning views.

If planning to go to the Prairie State, the included map of Illinois landmarks below will also make organizing a trip to all the must-see places of interest easy. Are you ready to see what you're missing by not heading to Illinois right now? Then dive in and keep reading for 25 can't-miss landmarks in this humble state!

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Before traveling to Illinois, book your entrance tickets and tours ahead of time. Here are some top choices to make your trip enjoyable.

☂️ Top tours and experiences in Illinois

25 Famous Landmarks in Illinois

Illinois Landmarks Video

Check out our highlights video of Illinois landmarks.

Illinois Landmarks Map

A map of Illinois landmarks. Use the map to explore all of the points of interest.

Illinois Landmarks Map

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A contemporary, round, glass building with an American flag outside under a clear sky
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum offers a chance to learn more about Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Illinois has the nickname "Land of Lincoln," so it's no surprise that a trip to the state isn't complete without visiting the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Opened in 2005, this attraction is one of the most famous places in Illinois.

The museum, located in Springfield, offers the chance to learn about the life and work of the 16th US president. It notably provides immersive learning about the Civil War and how Lincoln played a role in it.

One of the most famous Illinois landmarks is Cahokia Mounds
Cahokia Mounds is one of the most famous Illinois landmarks

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

If you're a fan of history and enjoy learning about the time before the United States even existed, you have to visit the Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois.

The area where the mounds are today was once part of a pre-Columbian Native American civilization. It's believed that the site was first inhabited in 600 CE. Cahokia Mounds is now a state park and one of the most historically significant natural landmarks in Illinois.

A reflective bean-shaped sculpture with tourists around, against tall buildings
Cloud Gate is completely mirrored, making it a popular spot for photos

Cloud Gate

When you hear the name "Cloud Gate," you might not recognize it at first. That's because this Chicago art installation quickly became known by its unofficial name, The Bean.

Constructed between 2004 and 2006, this sculpture quickly became a world-famous landmark. The sculpture is completely mirrored, which makes it a popular photo location that no trip to the Windy City is complete without seeing.

A vernacular brick house with a green roof, on green grass with a tree
Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Dana Thomas House, inspired by Japanese architecture

Dana Thomas House

If you're fond of architecture, you must plan a trip to the Dana Thomas House. Frank Lloyd Wright designed this landmark in 1902 as a private residence for Susan Lawrence Dana.

The home was inspired by Japanese architecture, which sets it apart from other buildings in the area. Its unique appearance and fascinating exhibits on Frank Lloyd Wright and Dana Thomas have made the home one of the most interesting places in Illinois.

A purple drawbridge over water against two buildings under a partly cloudy sky
DuSable Bridge lifts during the day to allow the boats on the Chicago River to pass

DuSable Bridge

Have you always wanted to see a real-life drawbridge? To cross that dream off your bucket list, all you have to do is visit the DuSable Bridge in Chicago!

Previously called the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the Dusable connects North and South Michigan Avenue. Essentially, it's part of the street! DuSable is a functional drawbridge, so there are times when it lifts to allow boats on the Chicago River to pass. However, if the bridge is down, you're free to walk across it.

A hut-shaped contemporary house with a grey roof, surrounded by green grass
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio has been a National Historic Landmark since 1976

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright's history is peppered all over Illinois, but its heart is in Oak Park, where you'll find the architect's home and studio.

The home was built and fully furnished by Wright himself and hasn't seen many alterations over the years since his death, except for a few restorations.

It's been a National Historic Landmark since 1976 and allows visitors to get a glimpse into the life of one of America's most influential architects.

George Herbert Jones Laboratory

If you're a science buff, the George Herbert Jones Laboratory in Chicago is one of the National Historic Landmarks you must visit. This lab is where the first human-made element, plutonium, was isolated.

As a still-active academic building on the University of Chicago campus, you'll get to feel the past and present come together in a way you don't often see when visiting other historical places in Illinois.

A peach house with green windows, surrounded by a wooden fence
Abraham Lincoln lived in this residence for over 15 years

Lincoln Home National Historic Site

Managed by the National Park Service, the Lincoln Home Historic Site is a prominent part of central Springfield. This area includes Abraham Lincoln's former home where he lived for over 15 years.

Along with seeing inside Lincoln's house, you can also explore the surrounding blocks, which have been practically unchanged since the 1800s. Due to its significance, the area is named one of the can't-miss historical sites in Illinois.

A lake surrounded by green grass and trees, overlooking a skyline on a nice day
Lincoln Park is a perfect quiet place with stunning views of the Chicago skyline

Lincoln Park

Lincoln Park is a well-known Chicago neighborhood that houses a popular urban park of the same name. Not only is Lincoln Park iconic in the Windy City, but it's also considered a highly famous landmark in Illinois as a whole.

The scenic park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, a Chicago landmark in itself, plus beautiful gardens and lakes. Lincoln Park is an ideal place to get away from the crowds found in the rest of the city.

☂️ Discover Lincoln Park on a tour

Inside a lit-up room with a pillar surrounded by mosaic art on the walls
The Marquette Building has a variety of mosaics, grid windows, and wave moldings

Marquette Building

If you've ever wondered what some of the first skyscrapers looked like, the Marquette Building is a Chicago landmark you must see. Located on South Dearborn Street, this building is hard to miss!

Its mosaics, grid windows, and wave moldings make it a piece of architectural art that students around the globe study.

The historical significance doesn't stop there, as even the building's name is historic. It's named after the first European settler to call what is now Chicago home.

☂️ Visit the Marquette Building on a tour

Looking at the tomb of Abraham Lincoln in a darkened room with flags around
Abraham Lincoln's Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois

Oak Ridge Cemetery

While a cemetery may seem like a peculiar landmark, Oak Ridge Cemetery is notable in that it's the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln. Located in Springfield, the Lincoln Tomb is also where his wife and most of his children were laid to rest.

Oak Ridge Cemetery additionally houses the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial to commemorate those who died or went missing during the conflict.

Nauvoo Historic District

The Nauvoo Historic District in Nauvoo, Illinois, is an often overlooked but still important addition to anyone's list of must-visit historic landmarks in Illinois. This site was one of the first settlements of the Mormon Church.

The history you can learn about while walking through the 14 structures that make up the district can't be replicated anywhere else. Nauvoo is definitely one of the most fascinating places to visit in the state!

A waterfront with a Ferris wheel and colorful buildings against tall skyscrapers
Navy Pier is an exciting place with restaurants, a Ferris wheel, and many other rides

Are you looking for a fun way to fill a night out in Chicago? Look no further than Navy Pier! Built along the Chicago River, you won't be able to miss the famous Ferris wheel and numerous other rides, restaurants, and activities that bring life and excitement to this Chicago attraction. You can even take a cruise along the river if you want to see Chicago from a different perspective.

☂️ Experience Navy Pier with a tour

A walkway to a neoclassical building with a red dome against a partly cloudy sky
The Old State Capitol is a fun place to visit for history buffs!

Old State Capitol

If you're looking for fun things to do in Springfield, why not pay a visit to the Old State Capitol? While not the original building, you can still visit a perfect reconstruction of the heart of Illinois' government during the mid-late 1800s.

You can walk the grounds by yourself or take advantage of asking one of the knowledgeable attendants all your questions. The Old State Capitol is the perfect attraction for history buffs, but you'll still have fun at this Illinois landmark even if you aren't that interested in the past.

Union Stockyards Gate

You may not think it, but Illinois was once one of the biggest hubs in the US for meat production, thanks to Chicago's railroad connections. Today, Union Stockyards Gate is all that's left of the city's original and historic meatpacking district.

Although the rest of the structures that made up the area were lost during the 1910 Chicago fire, the Union Stockyards' gates still stand as a symbol of the city's industrial golden age. Due to its history and use as a memorial to brave Chicago firefighters, this is definitely one of the historic places in Illinois worth visiting.

Principia College Historic District

The Principia College Historic District is yet another of the many national monuments in Illinois you should visit. Principia College is still an active university with the historic district at its center.

Once an elite Christian Science college, the architecture of the campus is what earned the school notoriety. Bernard Maybeck was the brain behind the colonial revival-style buildings on the campus that have drawn attention for decades.

While visiting, don't miss the "mistake house," which Maybeck used as a test template for different construction methods and materials for later designs.

Pullman Historic District

Nestled in greater Chicago, the Pullman Historic District, also known as the Pullman National Monument, is a fascinating neighborhood to explore.

Made an official national monument in 2015, the area preserves what's left of the first planned industrial community in the US. The district was planned and initially constructed by the Pullman Company for workers at their train car factory.

Today, visitors can admire the preserved buildings and visit the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum. Notably, the museum covers the contributions that African American workers made to the Chicago and American workforces.

A lock and dam on a river with hut-shaped cabins on a pathway on the left
Rock Island was originally a part of the Sauk tribe's land before becoming a foundry

Rock Island Arsenal Museum

Military history lovers on the hunt for Illinois state landmarks that suit their interests must plan a trip to the Rock Island Arsenal. Though part of Illinois, this particular monument is located on Arsenal Island, also known as Rock Island, within the Mississippi River.

The island is rich with history, having originally been part of the Sauk tribe's land before becoming a foundry and one of the oldest army museums in America. Currently, the museum is closed for restoration, but it's scheduled to reopen in 2023, and visitors can still look around the rest of the island.

Looking at rocky cliffs with a narrow waterfall flowing down from above
Starved Rock has canyons and cliffs that were cut into the Earth during the ice age

Starved Rock State Park

Right in the center of Illinois, you'll find Starved Rock State Park. While Illinois has many forest areas, Starved Rock sets itself apart due to its glacially formed landscape.

Visitors love exploring the canyons, cliffs, and waterfalls that were cut into the Earth during the ice age. A favorite place in the park is Lover's Leap Lookout, which according to legend, is the location where the son and daughter of rival tribes dove into the river so they could be together.

Two tall concrete skyscrapers with a wide building to the side in front of a blue sky
Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world for 25 years

Willis Tower

It might be called the Willis Tower, but if you talk to a Chicago local, you better call it by its former name, Sears Tower. For 25 years, Willis Tower was the tallest building in the world and remained the tallest building in the United States for even longer.

The Willis Tower is home to the offices of some of the biggest companies in America, including United Airlines. Despite its slightly mundane use as an office building, it doesn't stop the Willis Tower from being one of the most famous sites in Illinois.

In addition to offices, there's an observation deck on the 103rd floor. If you want to enjoy some of the city's best views, going to the Willis Tower Skydeck has to be on your Chicago itinerary.

☂️ Join a tour to see Willis Tower

Ulysses S. Grant Home

Galena is a small, picturesque town with its fair share of Illinois historical landmarks. Perhaps the most famous of its landmarks is the Ulysses S. Grant Home.

The town constructed this Italianate home for Grant, a Galena citizen, as a congratulatory gift after the then general contributed to winning the Civil War. The house is preserved in its original state as a memorial to the USA's 18th president and has been open to the public since 1904.

Grandview Drive

If you want a little time to sit back and enjoy some of the natural beauty Illinois offers, Grandview Drive in Peoria is the place for you! Called "the most beautiful drive in the world" by President Theodore Roosevelt, Grandview provides 2.5 miles of beautiful scenic views.

Locals have certainly shown their pride in the moniker as well. You can feel the city's love for the area when you see the care taken to ensure Grandview Drive is pristine for visitors.

University of Illinois Arboretum

Located on the university's Urbana-Champaign campus, the University of Illinois Arboretum is known as a "living laboratory" that attracts visitors from all over the country.

The gardens are open to the public, but unlike other botanical gardens, the university's gardens are ever-changing due to their role in the students' studies. The rotating flower and plant displays mean that no matter how often you visit, you'll never have the same experience twice.

Looking towards rock formations covered with trees under a partly cloudy sky
Shawnee National Forest comprises 280,000 acres of hills and forests

Shawnee National Forest

If you want to go to places in the state that put you in touch with nature, the Shawnee National Forest needs to be on your must-visit list. Located in southern Illinois, visitors enjoy exploring the 280,000 acres of hills and forests that were formed by glacial activity.

Whether you love camping, rock climbing, or hiking, the forest has something for you. You may even spot some bald eagles flying overhead if you visit during the winter when they migrate to the area.

A Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton on an exhibit in a big room
The Field Museum of Natural History houses an almost fully intact dinosaur skeleton

The Field Museum of Natural History

Are you looking for a fun family or date activity in Chicago? Why not check out the Field Museum of Natural History? The museum is known worldwide due to its vast collection of exhibits, including fossils dating back millions of years.

If you or your kids are interested in dinosaurs, you'll especially love seeing the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, affectionately named "Sue." The skeleton is notably one of the most intact dinosaur skeletons ever found!

☂️ Experience the Field Museum with a tour

In Summary

You probably had no idea there were so many famous landmarks to see in Chicago or Springfield, let alone all over the rest of the state. Hopefully, this roundup has convinced you that you need to plan a trip to Illinois.

Whether you're an American history aficionado or love spending time in the great outdoors, there's something for any type of traveler in this great state. So, get planning! An array of famous Illinois landmarks and tourist attractions are waiting for you.

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Written by Gabrielle T

ggtraveler1213 FORMER WRITER Gabrielle loves all things travel and culture. She is originally from the USA, but she has lived in Italy for over a decade. She's always ready to pack her bags, grab her passport, and head out on an adventure!

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