When many people think of Illinois, they think of Chicago. But the truth is there is so much more to this state that former Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and current President Barack Obama have all called home. Whether you're coming to see the nation's third largest city, tour one of its numerous colleges, learn more about its history or take in the wildlife, there is plenty to see and do in Illinois.
If this is your first visit to Illinois, traveling the state by car may seem intimidating, especially if your travel plans include a trip to Chicago. You can avoid the hassles of traffic jams and airport lines, however, when you see Illinois by rail.
Illinois is served by 29 stations and 18 different train services: Illinois Zephyr, Illini Service, Saluki, Carl Sandburg, Lincoln Service, Blue Water, Wolverine, Pere Marquette, Southwest Chef, California Zephyr, Cardinal, Hoosier State, Capitol Limited, Hiawatha, Empire Builder, Texas Eagle, Lake Shore Limited and City of New Orleans. These routes can take you to any of the amazing destinations in Illinois while you relax in big, comfy seats and stretch your legs or take a nap. You'll enjoy the trip you dream of when you travel Illinois by train with Amtrak.
If you're ready to start planning your upcoming Illinois vacation but you're unsure where to start, these destinations will get your mind going.
Chicago is the nation's third largest city and there is plenty to see and do in this metropolitan area. The Willis Tower, The Navy Pier and the John Hancock Center are all popular destinations. You can also head to the lakefront to visit the Field's Museum and the Shed Aquarium for experiences you won't soon forget. And if you're traveling with children, don't forget the Children's Museum. Sports fans will enjoy a trip to watch any of this city's historic teams including the White Sox and Cubs, the Blackhawks, the Bears and the Bulls. And theater fans can't go wrong with a visit to the Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
After a couple of busy days in Chicago, you may be looking for a little peace and quiet. Shawnee National Forest, located between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, is the perfect spot. This 280,000-acre national forest makes up most of southern Illinois. Visitors will enjoy the diversity of the land that includes prairie, hardwood forests, lakes, wetlands, small canyons and rivers.
If you're coming to Illinois to truly visit the Land of Lincoln, then Springfield is your first stop. This town was home to Lincoln's law practice before he became a politician. Visitors will be treated to the various monuments and historical sites throughout the city commemorating Lincoln's life.
If your loved one is planning to head off to college, there are plenty of options in the state of Illinois. The station in Champaign is the perfect drop-off spot for anyone interested in visiting the University of Illinois and the station in Normal will bring you less than a mile from the Illinois State University campus. Take the train to enter Chicago if you plan to visit DePaul University or Loyola University. And Amtrak is also the perfect travel choice if you're headed to Southern Illinois University Carbondale or Northwestern University.
Whether your travel plans include a trip to Chicago or any of the other travel destinations in Illinois, you'll enjoy a relaxing trip when you travel Illinois by train. It can also be a great way to save money. Amtrak offers discounts for kids, seniors, military, students and more, plus SmartFares are available weekly (For sale Tuesday - Friday only, applicable cities vary).
Photo credits: James Cridland (Willis Tower); Jeff Dell (Navy Pier); Kymberly Janisch (DePaul University); Seth Anderson (Steppenwolf Theatre); Alexandra Nahum (Shed Aquarium); Anne Hornyak (Abraham Lincoln Statue)