25 Amazing Things Illinois is Known For (+ Famous For!)

From the busy streets of Chicago to iconic deep dish pizza, if you’re wondering, “what is Illinois known for?” or “what is Illinois famous for?” then you’ve come to the right place!

This is a state of everyone from Lincoln to Al Capone and everything from the Sears Tower to John Deere!

Illinois is such a fascinating and welcoming state with a variety of landscapes, and as someone who’s traveled a ton around the US, I’m really excited to be bringing you this list.

Whether you’re a local or you’re thinking of visiting, enjoy this deep dive into the things Illinois is known for, including foods that Illinois is known for, people that Illinois is famous for, and lots more.

1. Chicago

Chicago, the “Windy City,” is the largest city in Illinois and a global cultural and economic hub.

Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is famed for its stunning architecture, diverse neighborhoods, and vibrant arts scene.

The city’s skyline is dominated by iconic skyscrapers such as the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and the John Hancock Center.

Chicago is also known for its deep-rooted connection to music, with contributions to jazz, blues, and house music that have left an indelible mark on the world’s musical landscape.

2. Great Chicago Fire

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 is a pivotal event in the city’s history.

The fire burned for three days, destroying much of the city’s central business district and residential areas.

While the fire was a tragedy, it led to significant urban redevelopment and modernization efforts, which transformed Chicago into the city it is today.

3. Sears Tower (Willis Tower)

Formerly known as the Sears Tower, the Willis Tower is an architectural marvel that held the title of the world’s tallest building for many years.

Its distinct design, including its iconic black exterior and unique structural features, make it a symbol of innovation and urban development.

The Skydeck, an observation deck on the tower’s 103rd floor, offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan, attracting millions of visitors annually.

4. Deep-Dish Pizza

Deep-dish pizza is a culinary creation that is closely associated with Chicago.

Unlike traditional thin-crust pizzas, deep-dish pizza features a thick, buttery crust that rises up the sides of a deep pan.

The crust acts as a vessel to hold generous layers of cheese, toppings, and tomato sauce, resulting in a hearty and indulgent pizza experience.

5. Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, located in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago, is one of the oldest and most beloved baseball stadiums in the United States.

It is the historic home of the Chicago Cubs, one of the nation’s oldest professional baseball teams.

The stadium’s ivy-covered outfield walls, iconic red marquee, and historic scoreboard contribute to its timeless charm.

6. Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, is one of the most revered figures in American history.

Although he was born in Kentucky, Lincoln spent a significant portion of his life in Illinois, where he pursued a legal and political career.

Notably, he served as a member of the Illinois State Legislature and practiced law in Springfield.

7. Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, situated in Springfield, Illinois, serves as a tribute to the life, leadership, and legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

The museum offers an immersive experience, combining artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays to provide visitors with a deep understanding of Lincoln’s journey from a humble upbringing to the presidency.

8. University of Illinois

The University of Illinois is a prestigious public research university with campuses in cities such as Urbana-Champaign, Chicago, and Springfield.

The university’s Urbana-Champaign campus, in particular, is renowned for its excellence in various academic disciplines, including engineering, computer science, agriculture, and the arts.

9. Al Capone

Al Capone, often referred to as “Scarface,” was a notorious American gangster who rose to prominence during the Prohibition era.

He operated mainly in Chicago, where he established a criminal empire involved in illegal alcohol distribution, gambling, and other illicit activities.

10. Museum of Science and Industry

Located in Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest and most impressive science museums in the world.

It features a vast array of interactive exhibits, hands-on experiences, and immersive displays that cover topics ranging from technology and engineering to space exploration and natural history.

11. Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and most renowned art museums in the United States.

Its extensive collection spans centuries and encompasses a diverse range of art forms, including paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, textiles, and more.

The museum is particularly famous for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collections, which include iconic works like Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”

13. Route 66

Route 66, often referred to as the “Main Street of America,” is a historic highway that once stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, California.

It became an iconic symbol of American road trips and adventure, passing through Illinois and several other states.

14. Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, a visionary architect, left an indelible mark on Illinois and the world of architecture.

His innovative designs emphasized harmony between human habitation and the natural environment.

One of his most celebrated creations is the Robie House in Chicago, which showcases his Prairie School architectural style characterized by horizontal lines and open interior spaces.

15. Illinois State Fair

The Illinois State Fair is an annual event that celebrates the state’s agricultural heritage and offers a diverse range of entertainment, attractions, and exhibits.

16. The Blues

Chicago has played a pivotal role in the development of the blues genre, a form of African-American music that emerged from the Deep South.

The city’s vibrant music scene attracted numerous blues musicians during the Great Migration, leading to the electrification and urbanization of the genre.

17. John Deere

The John Deere Company, founded in Illinois, is a global leader in manufacturing agricultural machinery and equipment.

The company’s innovations in farming technology, such as the steel plow, revolutionized agricultural practices, making them more efficient and effective.

18. Chicago Style Hot Dog

The Chicago Style Hot Dog is a culinary delight that reflects the city’s unique approach to street food.

This iconic hot dog is typically served in a poppy seed bun and topped with an array of distinctive condiments, including yellow mustard, chopped onions, neon green relish, tomato slices, pickle spears, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt.

19. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, borders Illinois to the east and offers breathtaking natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Its expansive shoreline provides opportunities for swimming, boating, fishing, and other water-based activities.

20. Chicago River

The Chicago River is a significant waterway that flows through the heart of the city.

One of its most famous features is the annual tradition of dyeing the river green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

21. The Bean (Cloud Gate)

The Bean, officially known as Cloud Gate, is a captivating public sculpture located in Millennium Park, Chicago.

Designed by artist Anish Kapoor, the Bean’s reflective surface and distinctive shape have made it a popular attraction and a symbol of modern art in the city.

22. Agriculture

Agriculture is a cornerstone of Illinois’s economy and heritage.

The state is a major producer of corn, soybeans, wheat, and other crops, contributing significantly to the nation’s food supply.

23. Springfield

As the capital of Illinois, Springfield holds historical and political significance.

The city is closely associated with Abraham Lincoln, who spent much of his life here.

24. Chicagoland Speedway

Located in Joliet, Illinois, the Chicagoland Speedway is a prominent NASCAR racetrack that hosts various motorsports events.

The speedway’s design and facilities make it a popular venue for racing enthusiasts, attracting fans from across the country.

25. Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield serves as the center of the state’s legislative activities.

The building’s architecture is striking, featuring a distinctive dome that dominates the city’s skyline.

Want to know what things the other US states are known for? Check out our other guides!

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