Illinois has a variety of landscapes and cultures. In the Northwest, you can hike the bluffs of Mississippi Palisades State Park and learn about Native American life in the area long ago. Shawnee National Forest in the South is very green and hilly, and full of state parks with great hiking, canoeing, and more. Black Hawk State Historic Site offers lots of hiking trails by the Rock River. The capital city, Springfield, is packed with Lincoln sights such as his pre-Presidential adult home and his gravesite. Some people have touched this Abe statue’s nose as a gesture of respect, and it shines from the rubbing. Route 66 memorabilia are showcased in collections here and elsewhere in the state. The college towns of Illinois include the twin cities of Urbana-Champaign, Normal, Carbondale, and Evanston.
Chicago is considered the home of the blues and deep-dish pizza. Eastern European communities and alt-country music thrive there. Chicago’s art scene represents the city’s diverse ethnic communities; check out Mexican, Polish, and Ukrainian museums. The Art Institute is world-famous, and the Oriental Institute at the esteemed University of Chicago is a great showcase of antiquities. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture includes the first modern building of the Charnley-Persky House, and you can see Nelson Algren’s old house near Wicker Park. Visit the Printer’s Row where the publishing trade was lively around the turn of the 20th century, and now there are lofts and such. Willis Tower is the current incarnation of the Sears Tower, and by any name it offers views of four states from the top and can claim the title of tallest building in the USA.
Did you know the state snack food of Illinois is popcorn? Cheeseburger, bratwurst, and pies are also popular. Around Chicago, offerings are endless and very interesting. You can bring your own booze or drink an oaty avena at the one Costa Rican restaurant, and Thai cuisine is going strong. You do have to respect a breakfast place on the old Route 66 that gives patrons free donut holes and Milk Duds. Charlie Trotter’s old chef whips up lighter fare at a moderately-priced Japanese restaurant, including small plates with combinations like tofu and chrysanthemum or tuna and taro root. Local goat meat is on offer at the famous Girl and the Goat restaurant, run by a winner of Top Chef. You can also find vegan soul food, Korean/Latin fusion food in a bar, Nepali food, or, whoa, vegan pizza! Start the day with a quinoa berry breakfast bowl.
In Evanston, you can go to a green lunch counter, an Asian sandwich place, or a vegan-friendly tea house chain. Bloomington has a vegan, gluten-free bakery, and today Champaign has Indian, Mexican, and Thai food. Check out a nonprofit vegetarian restaurant in Urbana which uses seasonal vegan ingredients and operates out of the basement of a college building. There is apparently also Swiss cuisine in town. That sounds like neutral, agreeable food.