25 Experiences for the Ultimate Illinois Bucket List

Add a Chicago excursion, state park hiking trails, a pumpkin festival, and a photo op with Superman to your Illinois bucket list!
Written by Pat Roache
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Updated on Aug 02, 2022
From the sights and attractions of
and plenty of gorgeous state park property to a pumpkin-themed festival in Morton and a photo op with Superman in
, these 25 experiences are a must for your
bucket list! 
The Land of Lincoln can often get overshadowed by its major metropolitan center in the northeastern corner. While the city of Chicago offers its fair share of must-sees and -dos, there are so many more destinations in Illinois that first-time visitors and long-time residents alike would be remiss to ignore. 
To help you live out your ode to Illinois and tour the state in style,
—the only super app designed for car owners—has compiled the ultimate Illinois bucket list. Keep reading for museums, historic sites, state parks, architecture, events, and best of all—a tip to save on
car insurance

Chicago activities for your Illinois bucket list

1. Browse the exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago

Where: Grant Park
When: 11am-5pm, Thurs-Mon
Why: The
is one of the country’s best art museums. It’s home to 300,000+ pieces—including famous works like Georgia O’Keefe’s Sky Above Clouds IV, Georges Seurat's “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette”, and the Thorne miniature rooms.
How much? $25/adult, $20/Chicago resident, $22/Illinois resident

2. Catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field

Where: Clark St. and Addison St.
When: April through October
Why: The Cubs have been playing at the historic
Wrigley Field
stadium—rich with tradition—for over a century, making it one of the oldest ballparks in the league.
How much? Check the
MLB website
for single-ticket prices

3. Connect with nature at Lincoln Park Zoo

Where: Lincoln Park
When: 10am-5pm, daily
Why: Established in 1868,
Lincoln Park Zoo
is one of the oldest and most established zoos in the country. Best of all, it’s completely free!
How much? Free! 

4. See the Bean and more at Millenium Park

Where: Randolph St. and Michigan Ave.
When: September through February
Millenium Park
is home to some of the coolest outdoor art and attractions in the state from the famous “Cloud Arch” to the
Jay Pritzker Pavilion Amphitheatre
Lurie Garden
. Take the kids to the neighboring
Maggie Daley Park
for the playground, rock-climbing, mini-golf, and ribbon ice-skating fun!
How much? Free entry; attractions and events may vary

5. Stroll the flowers at Chicago Botanic Garden

Where: Glencoe
When: 10am-7pm, daily
Why: The
Chicago Botanic Gardens
is home to almost 400 acres of 26 different gardens with two million plants.
How much? $8/parking, check the
admission calendar
for daily rates

6. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Where: Grand Ave. and Lake Michigan
When: 11am-8pm, Sun-Thurs; 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat
Why: Some may consider Navy Pier a tourist trap, but everyone needs to stroll the waterfront and enjoy the views from the top of the
Centennial Wheel
at least once! Catch a show at
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
and take a thrilling
speedboat tour
while you’re there!
How much? Free entry, prices vary for attractions

7. Enjoy an unforgettable meal at Alinea

When: February through March
Why: With three Michelin stars,
may just be the best restaurant in Illinois. Chef Grant Achatz wows guests with exquisitely creative multi-course tasting menus at this iconic dining staple.
How much? $295-$475+/person
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Events and festivals for your Illinois bucket list

8. Cheer on the Illini at a University of Illinois Football Game

When: Fall
Why: Nothing quite beats the thrill of cheering on the
Fighting Illini
—or tailgating before! Join the crowds for a football game at
Memorial Stadium
and get that reliving-the-glory-days kind of feeling.
How much? Check the
UI Ticket website
for single-ticket rates

9. Celebrate at the Illinois State Fair

When: August
Why: There’s no better way to celebrate Illinois’s industry and agriculture—and have more fun doing it—than at the annual
Illinois State Fair
How much? $5-$10/adult, $5/parking

10. Celebrate the squash at the Morton Pumpkin Festival

Where: Morton
When: September
Why: Morton, Illinois is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World” and the
Morton Pumpkin Festival
celebrates this unique heritage. Enjoy all things pumpkin—attractions, crafts, food, produce, desserts, and more! 

11. Predict the season with Woodstock Willie during Groundhog Days

When: Late January through February 2
Why: Either you’ve watched the bizarre, yet time-honored tradition of letting a rodent predict the weather, or you’ve seen the popular 1993 movie. Woodstock, IL may not be the original home of Groundhog Day, but they love to celebrate it with its own take on the

Outdoor activities for your Illinois bucket list

12. Camp in Shawnee National Forest

Where: Southern Illinois
When: Year-round, camping April 1 to December 15
Why: Stretching across the southern tip of the state from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, the
Shawnee National Forest
offers 403 miles of hiking trails and endless natural beauty for your camping enjoyment.

13. Hike the Garden of the Gods Trail

Where: Herod
When: Year-round
Why: Considered the most beautiful trail in the Shawnee National Forest, the
Garden of the Gods
offers breathtaking views and fun short, steep grades in a manageable quarter-mile trail. 

14. Explore the waterfalls at Starved Rock

Where: 2678 E 875th Rd, Oglesby, IL 61348
When: 6:30am-sunset
Starved Rock State Park
is home to gorgeous trails and stunning waterfalls unlike anywhere else in the state! Come in the spring or after heavy rainfall to see the falls in full action and consider spending a night or two at the
Starved Rock Lodge

15. Learn about indigenous civilizations at Cahokia Mounds

When: 9am-5pm, Thurs-Sun
Why: The
Cahokia Mounds
in southwestern Illinois are some of the most advanced structures of pre-Columbian civilization this side of the Mexican–American border. 
How much? Free admission, suggested donation of $15/family

16. Find your zen at the Anderson Japanese Gardens

When: 9am-6pm, Mon-Fri; 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun
Why: Refresh your mind, body, and spirit on the grounds of
Anderson Japanese Gardens
, one of the most prestigious traditional Japanese Gardens in North America.
How much? $11/adult

17. Bring a flashlight to Cave-in-Rock State Park

Where: Cave-in-Rock town
When: Year-round
Why: Sitting atop the bluffs of the Ohio River,
Cave-in-Rock State Park
is a must to experience the naturally formed 55-ft wide cave for which the park is named.

18. Park and stroll the Grand View Drive & Park

Where: 3210, Grandview Dr,
When: Year-round
Why: Nestled among the stunning surroundings of the Illinois River Valley, the
Grand View Drive & Park
is 2.5 miles of curated scenic views and recreation. Theodore Roosevelt called it the “world’s most beautiful drive” on his 1910 visit.

19. Trace the paths of Mississippi Palisades State Park

When: Year round
Why: Rich in both Native American history and views of the Mississippi River, the
Mississippi Palisades
offers 2,500 acres of must-explore topography. 
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Historic attractions for your Illinois bucket list

20. Visit the State Capitol Building

Where: 401 S. 2nd St, Springfield IL 62701
When: 8am-4pm, Mon-Fri; 9am-3pm, Sat-Sun
Why: Whether you’re visiting Illinois or any other state in the country, the
State Capital Building
is a given for a state bucket list!
How much? Free

21. Learn at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Where: 212 N. 6th St. Springfield, Illinois 62701
When: 9am-5pm, daily
Why: Being the home state of our nation’s pivotal 16th president, it’s only natural that the
Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
in his honor is an absolute must!
How much? $15/adult

22. Pose with Superman

Where: 517 Market St,
, IL 62960
When: 8am-6pm daily
Why: Leave your kryptonite at home—Metropolis, IL honors the legendary Superman! Take a picture in front of an impressive statue and visit the
Super Museum
to learn about the caped hero’s history.
How much? $8/museum admission 

23. Tour the Ulysses S. Grant House

Where: 500 Bouthillier St, Galena, IL 61036
When: 9am-4:45pm, Wed-Sun
Why: Abraham Lincoln isn’t the only superstar of history with roots in Illinois. The
Ulysses S. Grant House
offers invaluable insight into the life and times of our 18th President.
How much? $5/adult

24. Get inspired in the Ernest Hemingway House

Where: 339 N Oak Park Ave,
Oak Park
, IL 60302
When: 10am-5pm Sat, 1pm-5pm Fri (March through December)/Sun
Why: Fans of classic American literature and Victorian architecture alike will not want to miss the historic
Ernest Hemingway House
—the famed author’s birthplace.
How much? $18/adult

25. Cruise through the Route 66 Museum

Where: 110 W Howard Street, Pontiac, IL 61764
When: 9am-5pm (Summer), 10am-4pm (Winter)
Why: The
Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum
pays homage upon homage to the classic American highway with historic memorabilia and artifacts.
How much? Free! Donations suggested

Live your best life with affordable Illinois car insurance 

Before you hit the road to start checking items off your bucket list, take some time to check your car insurance! Use
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