89 Interesting Facts about Illinois, The Prairie State

Illinois, located in the Midwest region of the United States, is a state known for its diverse landscapes, bustling cities, and rich cultural heritage. It is often referred to as the “Land of Lincoln” in honor of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, who began his political career there.

The state’s largest city is Chicago, a vibrant metropolis situated on the shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago is renowned for its stunning architecture, world-class museums, and iconic skyline featuring the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower). The city is also famous for its deep-rooted jazz and blues music traditions, as well as its delicious cuisine, including Chicago-style deep-dish pizza and the classic Chicago hot dog.

Beyond Chicago, Illinois offers a diverse range of landscapes. To the south, the Shawnee National Forest is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting scenic trails, rock formations, and unique geological features. The central part of the state is characterized by its fertile farmland, which has earned Illinois a reputation as a leading agricultural producer, particularly in corn and soybeans.

Illinois has a rich historical legacy, from its role in the Underground Railroad during the Civil War era to the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. Springfield, the state’s capital, is home to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which pays tribute to the life and legacy of the beloved president.

The state’s educational institutions, including the University of Illinois and Northwestern University, are renowned for their research and academic excellence. Illinois also has a strong sports culture, with passionate fan bases supporting teams like the Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Bears (NFL), Chicago Cubs (MLB), and Chicago Blackhawks (NHL).

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield

To know more about Illinois, let’s take a look at these 89 interesting facts about Illinois.

  1. Land of Lincoln: Illinois is often referred to as the “Land of Lincoln” because it’s the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.
  2. Chicago Skyline: Chicago is famous for its stunning skyline, featuring iconic skyscrapers like the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower).
  3. Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs, one of the oldest baseball teams in the U.S., ended a 108-year championship drought by winning the World Series in 2016.
  4. Great Chicago Fire: The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed much of the city but led to its rapid reconstruction and modernization.
  5. The Bean: Cloud Gate, known as “The Bean,” is a popular public sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park.
  6. Route 66: Historic Route 66, often called the “Main Street of America,” begins in Chicago and stretches across the country.
  7. The Blues Brothers: The classic comedy film “The Blues Brothers” is set in and around Chicago and features iconic scenes in the city.
  8. Deep-Dish Pizza: Chicago is renowned for its deep-dish pizza, a thick, cheesy, and tomato-rich pie.
  9. Chicago Hot Dog: The Chicago hot dog is a unique culinary creation, topped with mustard, onions, pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and celery salt (but never ketchup).
  10. Chicago Cultural Center: The Chicago Cultural Center is home to the world’s largest Tiffany glass dome.
  11. Lincoln Park: Chicago’s Lincoln Park is one of the largest city parks in the U.S., featuring a zoo, conservatory, and more.
  12. Al Capone: The infamous gangster Al Capone was a prominent figure in Chicago’s organized crime during the Prohibition era.
  13. The Magnificent Mile: Michigan Avenue in Chicago, known as the Magnificent Mile, is famous for its high-end shopping and iconic landmarks.
  14. Baha’i House of Worship: Wilmette is home to the Baha’i House of Worship, one of only seven Baha’i temples worldwide.
  15. The Second City: Chicago’s Second City is a renowned comedy theater and improv school that has produced many famous comedians.
  16. Illinois River: The Illinois River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River, flowing through the state.
  17. Starved Rock State Park: Starved Rock State Park, along the Illinois River, is known for its stunning canyons, waterfalls, and hiking trails.
  18. Lincoln’s Tomb: Springfield, the state capital, is where Abraham Lincoln is buried, and his tomb is a popular historic site.
  19. Illinois State Capitol: The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield is an architectural masterpiece designed by architect Alfred H. Piquenard.
  20. Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, achieved six NBA championships in the 1990s.
  21. Jazz and Blues Music: Chicago is famous for its contributions to jazz and blues music, with legendary performers like Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters.
  22. First Ferris Wheel: The world’s first Ferris wheel was introduced at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
  23. Windy City: Chicago is often called the “Windy City,” though the nickname likely originated from its boastful politicians rather than its weather.
  24. The University of Chicago: This prestigious research university in Chicago has produced numerous Nobel laureates.
  25. Shedd Aquarium: The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is one of the largest indoor aquariums in the world.
  26. The Art Institute of Chicago: This renowned museum houses an extensive collection of art, including Grant Wood’s “American Gothic.”
  27. Chicago River: The Chicago River is famously dyed green every year for St. Patrick’s Day.
  28. Pullman Historic District: Pullman, a neighborhood in Chicago, is a historic district known for its role in the labor movement.
  29. Chicago-style Jazz: Chicago is known as the birthplace of jazz and was a hotspot for jazz musicians in the early 20th century.
  30. Sister Cities: Chicago has numerous sister cities worldwide, fostering cultural and economic exchanges.
  31. Chinatown: Chicago’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest in North America.
  32. Chicago Public Library: The Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago is one of the largest public library buildings in the world.
  33. President Obama: Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, began his political career in Chicago.
  34. Adlai Stevenson: Adlai Stevenson, a two-time Democratic presidential nominee, was a prominent Illinois politician.
  35. University of Illinois: The University of Illinois has a strong academic reputation and is known for its engineering programs.
  36. Chicago’s Museums: Chicago is home to numerous world-class museums, including the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, and Museum of Contemporary Art.
  37. Haymarket Riot: The Haymarket Riot of 1886, a labor protest in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, had a significant impact on labor rights in the U.S.
  38. Chicago White Sox: The Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005, ending an 88-year championship drought.
  39. Illinois’s State Reptile: The painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) is the state reptile of Illinois.
  40. Lincoln Highway: The Lincoln Highway, one of the earliest transcontinental highways in the U.S., passes through Illinois.
  41. Evanston: Evanston, a Chicago suburb, is home to Northwestern University and the home of the first recorded game of basketball.
  42. Metra: The Metra commuter rail system connects Chicago to its suburbs, facilitating daily commuting.
  43. I&M Canal: The Illinois and Michigan Canal played a crucial role in the transportation of goods between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River.
  44. Chicago Riverwalk: The Chicago Riverwalk offers scenic views, dining, and public art along the Chicago River.
  45. Cahokia Mounds: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site preserves the remnants of the largest pre-Columbian Native American city north of Mexico.
  46. The Great Migration: Chicago was a major destination for the Great Migration, when African Americans moved from the South to the North in the 20th century.
  47. Abraham Lincoln’s Law Career: Abraham Lincoln practiced law in Springfield before becoming President.
  48. Route 66 Hall of Fame: Pontiac, Illinois, is home to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
  49. Sandburg’s “Chicago”: Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” describes the city as the “City of the Big Shoulders.”
  50. Fox River: The Fox River flows through Illinois and provides opportunities for boating, fishing, and recreation.
  51. Jack Brickhouse: Jack Brickhouse, a beloved Chicago sportscaster, is known for his enthusiastic calls of Cubs and White Sox games.
  52. Chicago’s Neighborhoods: Chicago is known for its diverse neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and culture.
  53. Soldier Field: Soldier Field is an iconic Chicago stadium and home to the Chicago Bears NFL team.
  54. Monarch Butterfly Migration: Illinois is an important stop in the annual monarch butterfly migration.
  55. Chain of Lakes: Northern Illinois is home to a chain of lakes that provide boating and recreational opportunities.
  56. Aurora: Aurora, Illinois, is the second-largest city in the state and offers cultural attractions and a riverfront.
  57. Illinois State Fair: The Illinois State Fair in Springfield is a popular annual event featuring agriculture, entertainment, and fair food.
  58. Chicago’s Food Scene: Chicago is known for its diverse food scene, including Italian beef sandwiches, Garrett’s Popcorn, and the Maxwell Street Polish sausage.
  59. World’s Tallest Water Sphere: Collinsville, Illinois, is home to the “World’s Tallest Water Sphere,” an iconic water tower.
  60. Alton: Alton, along the Mississippi River, is known for its historic sites and role in the Underground Railroad.
  61. National Road: The National Road, one of the first federally funded highways, begins in Cumberland, Maryland, and crosses Illinois.
  62. Moline: Moline is part of the Quad Cities, a group of cities along the Mississippi River.
  63. Black Hawk State Historic Site: This historic site in Rock Island preserves the home of Native American leader Black Hawk.
  64. The Original Ferris Wheel: The world’s first Ferris wheel was designed by George Ferris and debuted at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
  65. Grain Elevators: Illinois is home to numerous grain elevators, reflecting its agricultural significance.
  66. Shawnee National Forest: This national forest in southern Illinois offers scenic beauty, hiking trails, and rock formations.
  67. Historic Route 66 Stops: Illinois has many historic stops along Route 66, including old diners and quirky roadside attractions.
  68. Lincoln Home National Historic Site: The Lincoln Home in Springfield is where Abraham Lincoln lived before becoming President.
  69. Superman’s Hometown: Metropolis, Illinois, is known as the “Hometown of Superman” and hosts an annual Superman Celebration.
  70. Cuneo Museum and Gardens: The Cuneo Museum and Gardens in Vernon Hills is known for its beautiful Italianate architecture and gardens.
  71. Pere Marquette State Park: This state park along the Illinois River offers scenic views and excellent bird-watching opportunities.
  72. Starved Rock State Park Lodge: The lodge at Starved Rock State Park is a historic building with stunning views of the Illinois River.
  73. Millennium Park: Chicago’s Millennium Park is famous for its public art installations, including the Cloud Gate sculpture.
  74. Museum of Science and Industry: Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is one of the largest science museums in the world.
  75. Route 66 Hall of Fame: Pontiac, Illinois, is home to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
  76. Black Hawk War: The Black Hawk War of 1832 took place in Illinois and involved conflicts between settlers and Native American tribes.
  77. Union Stock Yards: The Union Stock Yards in Chicago were once the largest livestock trading center in the world.
  78. Galena: Galena, Illinois, is a historic town known for its well-preserved 19th-century architecture.
  79. Pumpkin Capital: Morton, Illinois, is known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World” and is famous for its pumpkin festival.
  80. Chicago Air and Water Show: The Chicago Air and Water Show is one of the largest free air shows in the United States.
  81. Argonne National Laboratory: Argonne National Laboratory is a prominent research institution located in Lemont, Illinois.
  82. Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb: Abraham Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield is the final resting place of the 16th President.
  83. Anderson Japanese Gardens: Rockford’s Anderson Japanese Gardens is a serene oasis of Japanese-inspired landscapes.
  84. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum: This museum in Springfield showcases the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.
  85. Quad Cities: The Quad Cities region includes cities like Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa, along with Moline and Rock Island in Illinois.
  86. Shedd Aquarium: Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is home to a wide variety of aquatic life, including dolphins, whales, and penguins.
  87. Illinois State Police: The Illinois State Police play a crucial role in law enforcement and highway safety.
  88. Blue Island: Blue Island, a suburb of Chicago, is known for its historic architecture and vibrant arts community.
  89. Cahokia Mounds: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site preserves the remnants of an ancient Native American city and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Illinois stands as a state of remarkable diversity, where bustling urban centers like Chicago coexist with serene natural landscapes, historic landmarks, and a deep cultural heritage. It’s a state that has played a pivotal role in American history, producing great leaders like Abraham Lincoln and contributing to the nation’s industrial and cultural tapestry.

Whether you’re exploring the vibrant neighborhoods of Chicago, hiking the scenic trails of Starved Rock State Park, or delving into the rich history of Springfield, Illinois offers a wide array of experiences for residents and visitors alike. Its enduring spirit of innovation, commitment to education, and vibrant cultural scene ensure that it remains a dynamic and enduring part of the American heartland, welcoming all who come to discover its many treasures.