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Find Something For Everyone In The Illinois State Parks System

High summer is when people start to get restless and a little stir-crazy and are looking for an escape to anywhere but home. The doldrums of July and August are weighing particularly heavy right before back-to-school shopping and the weather breaks into crisp autumn.

It’s the time to hit the road to somewhere, anywhere. But where?

Choosing where to flit off for a quick vacation in the sprawling and diverse tapestry that is the United States can be a daunting task. There is just so much to do and so many places to go.

Should one choose the beach? The pastoral, backcountry plains? Perhaps the bustling metropolis of a major city for a show or a ballgame?

Luckily, one state in the Union offers all of the above and more. The wander-hungry traveler, a weary parent looking for a quick distraction for the kids, or daytrippers who like a tiny bit of adventure on the weekend before slumping back into the weekly grind can find fun in Illinois.

From the glittering lights of downtown Chicago to the pristine beaches of Lake Michigan to the history-packed halls of Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL, there is something for everyone.

Thankfully, many of these uniquely Illinoisan attractions are preserved as a part of its State Parks system. Below are a few can’t-miss spots when visiting the “Land of Lincoln”: 

Castle Rock State Park: Few places encompass the rustic spirit of the rural Midwest, like western Illinois. Sitting deep within the very heart of America, this park near Oregon, IL, is a perfect example. Its namesake sandstone bluff rising out of the Rock River has been a popular attraction for hikers, canoers, kayakers, and fishermen for decades. The unique topography of the Rock River plains and its unusual assortment of northern plant associations make Castle Rock a nature lover’s dream!

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Lincoln Trail State Park: For history buffs seeking an attraction off the beaten path (literally), this site commemorating its favorite son is just what the doctor ordered! Lincoln Trail and its more than 1,000 acres preserve the route taken by Abraham Lincoln’s family on their journey from Indiana, where he was born and grew up, to Illinois, where he rose to prominence. He was first a representative — a small-town, country lawyer — and later the 16th U.S. president. Today, the park is a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts who flock to enjoy the American Beech forest, camp, hike, and fish in the shadow of Honest Abe.

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Fort Defiance State Park: With a name like Fort Defiance, how could anyone pass up the opportunity to visit this incredible destination? The park where the fort once sat is located at the very southern tip of the Prairie State at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. It is regarded as the 10th most important confluence in the world! Once a major hub of industry due to the heavy boat traffic up and down the two mighty rivers, today, visitors can still take in the beauty of this rare natural wonder and still enjoy the teeming boating activity on any given day. Fort Defiance is also a hotspot for picnickers who can appreciate the river-faring happenings from the observation deck on the fort grounds. Fort Defiance has a little bit of everything for nature lovers, tugboat enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a simple afternoon getaway on the river!

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