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With the new Illinois Office of Tourism and Atlas Obscura partnership, events are happening throughout Illinois this spring and summer. Sign up for the email list to receive exclusive invites to explore unique and lesser-known places throughout the state. It’s a great opportunity to hang out with like-minded adventurers!

Illinois Society Logo

Check out for unique events and attractions around the state

The partnership officially launched in February at a vintage carnival themed event with more than 450 attendees at Salvage One – an event space in Chicago known for its vintage antiques. It was here where the Illinois Obscura Society was born. Guests were treated to acts of contortion, mind reading, juggling while unicycling, an old-timey brass band and a sideshow fire eater to top it off. The main event was Thom Britton from FreakShow & Tell. He wowed the crowd by eating fire and shared his trade secrets, explaining how it’s possible to eat fire to an enchanted crowd.

Recently, the Illinois Obscura Society conducted a tour of a Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth. The owners of the Gold Pyramid House, Jim and Linda Onan, describe their unique golden home as powerful, mysterious and exotic. The pyramid is surrounded by a moat and guarded by a 50-foot statue of Ramses II. Everything was built in the 1970s when there was a popular New Age belief that pyramids could focus power and improve health. The family now offers tours of their six-story, 17,000-square-foot home.


The Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Illinois (Photo: Steven Glynias)

Gold Pyramid with Statue

An Egyptian sculpture stands guard in front of the Gold Pyramid House (Photo: Steven Glynias)

There are a lot of great events happening on May 30 to celebrate Obscura Day 2015. Mark your calendar and check out all the events below!


Underwater Wonders of Mermet Springs
Belknap, Illinois
Visit this unexpected diver’s paradise without getting wet!

Behind the Scenes at the Blue Waters Supercomputer
Champaign, Illinois
Join us for exclusive access to one of the world’s most powerful computing centers.

The International Museum of Surgical Science
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for a special tour of this unique museum and the mansion that houses it.

Walking in the Footsteps of Leopold and Loeb
Chicago, Illinois
Join us as we revisit what was called “The Crime of the Century”.

The Grounds of Graceland Cemetery
Chicago, Illinois
Stroll amongst the dead and the artwork that commemorates their passing.

Fishes of the Field Museum
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for an exclusive tour of the Field Museum’s Piscine Collection.

The Art of Letter Writing
Chicago, Illinois
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day.

Explore the Busy Beaver Button Company
Chicago, Illinois
Busy Beaver is the button maker to the world. Now you can see just how they do it.

Catching a Flick at Route 66’s Last Drive-In
Litchfield, Illinois
Since 1950, the summer skies of Litchfield have been filled with Hollywood.

Caravanning Illinois’ Route 66
Route 66, Illinois
Join us as we explore the first 300 miles of the mother road.

Exploring Chicago’s Baha’i Temple
Wilmette, Illinois
The Baha’i faith welcomes everyone to find peace in their beautiful temple and gardens.

The Illinois Obscura Society of Atlas Obscura was created in partnership with Enjoy Illinois. Sign up to stay in the know about upcoming, exclusive tours and adventures. Expeditions will continue throughout the spring and summer. Don’t miss out on your chance to explore every quirky corner of Illinois!

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

The mansion hosts many seasonal events and is lavishly decorated for the Christmas holiday

The mansion hosts many seasonal events and is lavishly decorated for the Christmas holiday

Are you a history buff? Then you’ll enjoy visiting Bloomington, Illinois – home of the David Davis Mansion. Travel back in time to learn about David Davis, a friend of President Abraham Lincoln who served as his campaign manager and a Supreme Court justice.

The historic David Davis Mansion

The historic David Davis Mansion

The Victorian mansion was completed in 1872 for Davis and his wife Sarah. It’s comprised of 36 rooms, five outbuildings and a garden, which is still in the style of 1870s. The mansion gives a peek into the life of Judge Davis and his influence on President Abraham Lincoln’s political career. Inside the mansion, visitors will find an impressive collection of mid-nineteenth-century period pieces.

The mansion hosts many seasonal events and is lavishly decorated for the Christmas holiday

The mansion hosts many seasonal events and is lavishly decorated for the Christmas holiday

The mansion remained in the Davis family for three generations before it was donated to the state in 1960 and later added to the National Register of Historic places in 1972. Tours are free with a suggested donation. To find out more about tours of the David Davis mansion and other sites to visit in Bloomington, visit

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Dana-Thomas House

Take a one-of-a-kind vacation by touring the sites of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous architecture in Illinois. Some of Wright’s most interesting work is in the Prairie State, from his hometown of Oak Park to Rockford, Springfield and beyond. The famed architect not only erected his famous structures in Illinois, but he also drew inspiration from the state’s landscape to create his design. This Illinois-inspired architectural style is evident in the Wright homes, studios and public structures that visitors can tour today.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

Perhaps nowhere is his footprint more evident than in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which Wright called home. At the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, you can step into the world of Wright himself and see the way his style of design progressed over the years, literally, as he experimented and added onto his own home.

In the studio portion of the property, stand at drafting tables where countless students studied under Wright and admire the unique features that give the building its distinct character.

Unity Temple

Nearby his home and studio, Wright lent his creative mind to design the Unity Temple, widely considered to be one of the most innovative and imaginative structures of the 20th century.

The Temple also holds the distinction of being the last surviving public building from Wright’s prolific Prairie period, and is the oldest Wright structures to be in the hands of its original owners and still used for the same purpose for which it was built.

Dana-Thomas House

The Dana-Thomas House in Springfield is a well-preserved piece of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early prairie style architecture. In the house is a large collection of about 100 pieces of Wright-designed furniture and stunning art glass; a Wright lovers dream!

With 12,000 square feet, 32 rooms, three main levels and 16 varying levels, the Dana-Thomas House will give those who visit lots to explore.

Wright in Rockford

True design lovers won’t want to miss the recently opened Laurent House in Rockford. As the only building ever designed by Wright for a disabled person, it features elements unlike those you’ll see anywhere else.

This single-story Usonian home is both functional and beautiful, built of Chicago Common Brick and Red Tidewater Cypress. It features a solar hemicycle footprint, fishpond, and outdoor connectivity to the natural landscape.

Wright’s buildings and homes spread even further through Illinois. Find all of his listings, when you can visit, and more on

-The Illinois Office of Tourism


Are you an artist, art enthusiast or just someone looking for a new favorite art piece for your home?  You can discover inspiration everywhere you look in Makanda, Illinois!

One of the key places to enjoy Makanda’s art scene is along the celebrated Makanda Boardwalk. The block of storefronts and studios, also known as the “Valley of the Arts,” is a center for local artists and craftspeople to display their prized pieces of work.

Makanda’s Boardwalk features artists from all over the region during its annual Spring Fest

Makanda’s Boardwalk features artists from all over the region during its annual Spring Fest

Located at the end of the Boardwalk, Rainmaker Art Studio displays incredible sculpture pieces made from bronze and copper by artist Dave Daris. He learned his unique metal smith trade while traveling around the Midwest more than 40 years ago. Dave showcases his awe-inspiring pieces in his studio and in the one-acre garden that rests directly behind the property – make sure to wander into the garden to view his full collection!

To see more local work, visit Visions Art Gallery located just down the Boardwalk. It features hand painted glass, wood working, painting, photography and pottery by more than 60 local artists. Visions Art Gallery is a great place to see a variety of mediums all in one place and find what speaks to you.

Visitors who work up an appetite while wandering along the boardwalk can savor delicious sandwiches at the Makanda Country Store. Remember to save room for the store’s hand-dipped ice cream cones – you’ll thank us later! The Country Store also has a variety of local and international specialty items like jams and coffee to take home.

Enjoy hand dipped ice cream cones from the Makanda Country Store

Enjoy hand dipped ice cream cones from the Makanda Country Store

What are you waiting for? Start planning your art-filled trip to Makanda at

-The Illinois Office of Tourism


My birthday of perusing the family tree continued when we toured the Deere-Wiman House. This was the home of John Deere’s son Charles, who followed his father as head of the company.

Our guide, Gretchen Small, was incredibly knowledgeable, not only about the history of the house, but the genealogy of the family. She laughed that she knows more about the Deere family ancestry than her own.

The house is impeccably preserved with about eighty percent of the furnishings being original pieces owned by Deere. The family lived in the house up until the 1970s and kept almost everything just as it had been a century before.

After touring the Deere home, we crossed the street over to The Butterworth Center.

Originally known as Hillcrest, this is the home that Charles built as a wedding present for his daughter Katherine upon marrying William Butterworth. Butterworth went on to succeed his father-in-law as president of The John Deere Company.

Needing to entertain for business, the couple added on to their home numerous times. They created a dwelling that could host the most lavish of parties.

Each room was more amazing than the next, but it was the library that made our jaws hit the floor. Literally.

Built specifically to fit and display a 40 x 20 foot, eighteenth century ceiling painting that originally hung in Ca’Dandolo in Venice. We craned our necks and spun around, but try as we may there was no way to take it all in at once.

Finally, uncouth as it was, we asked if we could lay on our backs in the middle of the floor… viola, the perfect view. Gretchen insisted that we were not the first ones to do that, but maybe she was just being nice.

Gretchen’s last surprise for me was a walk down the road to the historical society where she produced a book tracing the Deere family all the way down to my father.

Quite a memorable birthday.

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!

View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:


David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!