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Great Outdoors

Variety Awaits Nature, City Lovers In Illinois National Parks

Miguel Bandeira

Where does Illinois fit in the tapestry of America? It’s midwestern, southern, cosmopolitan,  rural, and coastal. It has a little bit of everything!

Indeed, Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, the spiritual home of the 16th president of the U.S., and the Prairie State owing to its pastoral rolling hills and lush green prairies. It also houses the “Second City,” Chicago, with a shoreline on mighty Lake Michigan, making it a truly unique place to live, visit, and learn.

Because Illinois sits in the middle of the continental U.S., it’s considered a bellwether socially, culturally, and politically. As Illinois goes, so goes the rest of the country in many ways.

It should come as no surprise that a state which holds such a vital role in the comings and goings of America would also be a treasure trove of sites and places to visit.

Below are some must-see spots when taking a drive through the 21st state in the union:

Wrigley Field: No trip to Illinois would be complete without a sunny afternoon taking in a game at the second oldest major league ballpark in the U.S., Wrigley Field. As American as apple pie and Uncle Sam, the legendary home of the Chicago Cubs with its outfield walls awash in green ivy, Wrigley field is an institution. Its world-famous bleachers are full of hometown faithful, beers, and brats. Constructed in 1914, the aptly dubbed “Friendly Confines” welcomes sports fans and neophytes. No one is a stranger at Wrigley, which was recently designated a National Historic Landmark. Stop in, grab a box of peanuts and crackerjacks, and don’t forget to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

Photo Courtesy NPS

Shedd Aquarium: At one time, the largest indoor aquarium in the world and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, Shedd is a must-visit for marine wildlife lovers everywhere. It contains more than 5 million gallons of water and is home to more than 1,500 species of aquatic life — some 32,000 animals! Shedd Aquarium, which opened in 1930 and was a gift to Chicago from businessman John G. Shedd, has become one of the most frequented attractions in the city. There is room for everyone and so much to see and do. Make sure to take plenty of time, soak up all the exhibits, and even touch a stingray.

Photo Courtesy Shedd Aquarium

Mazon Creek Fossil Beds: This prehistoric attraction beckons the dinosaur lovers of the world to Grundy County, IL. The Mazon Creek Fossil Beds, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997, act as a conservation site for “lagerstätte,” a natural sedimentary deposit that possesses an exceptional ability to preserve fossils in great detail and precision. The ironstone concentration fossils here formed some 309 million years ago! Extending over a wide area of northeastern Illinois, these fossil beds are open to the public to explore in search of their piece of history. A genuinely singular attraction, Mazon Creek Fossil Beds are yet another of the many unique offerings the great state of Illinois has in store for its visitors.

Photo Courtesy Smithsonian

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