Category Archives: Central Illinois

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Illinois Presidents Feature Image

Illinois has a history as rich as its food – and if you don’t believe us, just take a trip to Springfield and grab a horseshoe sandwich! Illinois is home to some of the United States’ most famous presidents, and history buffs can find information about these American leaders in all corners of the state.

But, if quirky facts are more your style, take a look below at a few little known details about these great American leaders.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, 1861-1865

Likely the mostly widely recognized Illinoisan, Abraham Lincoln is more than just a former president: he is a state icon. But, Honest Abe is not just known for his policy. With his large frame and long limbs, the tallest president of the U.S. is also enshrined in the Wrestling Hall of Fame. According to, Lincoln has an impressive track record of only being defeated once in nearly 300 matches.

Learn more about Lincoln at one of these exciting Springfield attractions:

MiniAbe Big Ten

Mini Abe knows he’s number one!

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States, 1869-1877

Think you know what to call the 18th Commander in Chief of the United States? Guess again. Due to a mistake by a benefactor on his application for West Point, Ulysses S. Grant is widely known under the wrong name. Born Hiram Ulysses Grant, the “S” in this president’s name actually stands for nothing.

Take a walk through Galena and get a glimpse at a day in the life of this American leader:

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, 1981-1989

Ronald Reagan has left a lasting impression in American history books and on the silver screen, but among former peers and colleagues, President Reagan is known for his sweet tooth. This former Commander in Chief began eating jelly beans to help him quit smoking during his run for Governor of California. This continued into his presidency, and a crystal jar of jelly beans was always available during his Cabinet meetings.

Get off the beaten path and take a look at Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home in Dixon.

Ronald Reagan boyhood home

Stop by to learn more about Reagan’s transition from this white house to one in Washington, D.C. and everything in between.

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, 2008-2016

Too much of a good thing can sometimes be just that: way too much. Our nation’s current president reportedly worked for Baskin Robbins during his youth, and it’s left quite the impression. He now jokes that he still can’t eat ice cream to this day after spending one too many summers scooping ice cream in Honolulu.

Be sure to stop by the Obama Family Home in Hyde Park on your next trip to Chicago to learn more about the life of President Obama, and stay tuned for the Obama Presidential Library coming to Chicago!

For more trip ideas, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Bloomington Getaway Feature Image

Kick off 2016 and beat cabin fever by treating that special someone to a romantic weekend away. The city of Bloomington offers you and your loved one a getaway with big historical charm and a small town feel.

Check out some of the top places to stay, cultural landmarks to see, unique restaurants to visit and perfect date night activities here!

Vrooman Mansion Bed & Breakfast

With a charming history dating back to 1869, the Vrooman Mansion is a luxurious bed and breakfast nestled in the heart of Bloomington. Under the legacy of Julia and Carl Vrooman, the mansion was used for social gatherings for the couple’s friends, including political figures like President and Mrs. Wilson, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, among others. Today, this lavish estate offers visitors the chance to experience a powerful part of history.

Vrooman Mansion - (at) acschultz86

The Vrooman Mansion allows guests to explore the fine restaurants, shops, and attractions of Central Illinois while providing a welcoming and comfortable home base. (Photo by Instagramer (at) aschultz86)

Epiphany Farms Restaurant

Dine like a local at Epiphany Farms Restaurant, a dining experience committed to a “Farm to Fork” concept. This Bloomington favorite offers seasonal dinner menus and creates signature dishes and drinks with handpicked ingredients straight from their farm, ensuring your date night dinner is both fresh and delicious.

Epiphany Farms - (at) leah_horcher

Instagramer (at) leah_horcher captured this yummy shot of Blackberry panna cotta, honey-yogurt, almond florentine, fresh blueberry, mint and mochi.

David Davis Mansion

A weekend away in Bloomington wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the David Davis Mansion, a Victorian home that tells the story of the generation that led United States through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Home to Judge David Davis, mentor and campaign manager to Abraham Lincoln, this must-see historical landmark boasts 36 lavishly decorated rooms and a peek into Davis’ role in Honest Abe’s legal and political career.

David Davis Mansion - (at) ctbruni

Completed in 187, the David Davis Mansion combines Italiante and Second Empire architectural features. (Photo by Instagramer (at) ctbruni)

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

You don’t need to visit a big city to see a critically-acclaimed musical show. Grab tickets for you and your partner to enjoy the diverse repertoire of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra to complete a romantic weekend away in Bloomington.

Illinois Symphony Orchestra

Celebrating its 23rd season, the Illinois Symphony Orchestra performs at several local venues, including the Second Presbyterian Church and Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo Courtesy of Illinois Symphony Orchestra)

For more romantic getaway inspiration, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Feature Image holiday restaurants

The holidays are all about spending quality time with the family and forming cherished memories with loved ones. Those memories are often centered around filling up on amazing, decadent food. Here are five spots in the Land of Lincoln where you and your family can indulge during the holiday season.

 Cahill’s Family Pancake House

Voted the best breakfast in Vermilion County, Cahill’s offers a wide range of hot breakfasts, lunch sandwiches and a kids menu to please all diners. Pancakes and waffles are definitely the specialty, and the cinnamon rolls and biscuits and gravy are some of the staff’s favorites, but the “can’t miss” item at Cahill’s is their unique twist on “pigs in a blanket:” fluffy buttermilk pancakes wrapped around juicy sausage links.


Great family traditions start at Beningo’s in Bloomington. The Beningo family has honored their Sicilian heritage in their Italian restaurant’s original location since 1972. This neighborhood favorite specializes in family style Italian dining, offering a variety of pasta, pizza, seafood, sandwiches and their famous lasagna. There is something for everyone here, and almost every dish incorporates their signature “sweet Sicilian” sauce, a family recipe.

Enjoy one of many cheesy, scrumptious pastas at Beningo’s with their signature Sicilian sauce.

Enjoy one of many cheesy, scrumptious pastas at Beningo’s with their signature Sicilian sauce.

Doc’s Soda Fountain

This Route 66 icon will satisfy your sweet tooth. Doc’s has been around since 1929, and they’ve never changed their old-fashioned method for creating refreshing flavored soda concoctions like cherry soda and root beer. If you’re feeling hungry, make sure to try their ice cream and comfort food as well. Visitors can also take a fascinating free museum tour about the building’s history as a pharmacy when it was first built in the 1880s.


Don’t take a trip down Route 66 without stopping at Doc’s Soda Fountain for their uniquely made soda concoctions and other sweet treats.

Farren’s Pub & Eatery

Treat the family to a hardy meal at Farren’s, an underground brewpub in downtown Champaign. The burgers are legendary, and Farren’s has a large selection of craft beers to complement its delicious beef creations. There is a burger on the menu for everyone’s palette. There’s the Motherlode, with rich layers of sautéed mushrooms, blue cheese sauce and Swiss. There’s also the Fire Burger with jalapenos, red peppers and habanero cheese, or the milder Green Chile Cheeseburger.

Farren’s offers mouth-watering burgers in a unique underground setting tucked away within downtown Champaign. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) lxspnay)

Farren’s offers mouth-watering burgers in a unique underground setting tucked away within downtown Champaign. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) lxspnay)

The Homestead Bakery

Just in time for the holidays, this Amish bakery in Arthur sells made-from-scratch Christmas cut-out cookies for your family to give to Santa, or just enjoy for yourselves! Desserts like caramel cinnamon rolls and angel food cakes are also available in addition to the bakery’s fresh-baked breads.

The people at Homestead Bakery wake up before dawn to have their fresh breads and rolls ready for breakfast.

The people at Homestead Bakery wake up before dawn to have their fresh breads and rolls ready for breakfast.

For more information on delicious destinations in Illinois, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Trails to Adventure Light Festival Feature Image

The holiday season is just around the corner! From sipping hot cocoa with friends to taking pictures with Santa, Illinois hosts sparkling light festivals perfect for to experience with family and friends. Check out these five must-see light festivals in Central and Southern Illinois to make the most of this season!

East Peoria Festival of Lights and Folepi’s Winter Wonderland – November 23-January 1

With more than two million lights, East Peoria’s Festival of Lights and Wonderland is a mesmerizing display for visitors or all ages. The event kicks off November 21 with a three-mile Parade of Lights through downtown Peoria. The festival will crown a Lights Queen on November 15, conduct a citywide ornament hunt on November 25 and judge a Christmas splendor exterior decorating contest on December 8.

And for those looking to start the New Year on the right foot , sign up for East Peoria’s Get Lit New Year’s Eve Fun Run. This non-competitive and festive run starts at 11:50 p.m. on December 31, winding through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland and offering an exclusive view of the twinkling lights.

East Peoria Lights Festival 1

One of the vibrant displays at the East Peoria Festival of Lights.

Shelbyville Festival of Lights – November 20-January 2

Take a leisurely drive through Forest Park to see Shelbyville lit up in the holiday spirit. With new lights and themes every year, this festival of lights is a must-see this season. Families and couples are sure to enjoy the festive features including Victorian Village, Santa’s Shop, the North Pole and more.

Du Quoin Annual Holiday Lights Fair – November 25-December 31

For the holiday season, the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds get a festive makeover, transforming the grounds into a magical place of lights and decorations. Drive through  incredible lighted displays and decorated trees before enjoying live entertainment, delicious food and, of course, visits with Mr. Claus at Santa’s Train Ride and Workshop.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows Way of Lights – November 20-January 1

Illuminating the already beautiful 200 acres of landscape, the Way of Lights festival at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville features fun and festive events such as a new Lego Display play area for children and Tails, Trails and Twinkles, a perfect occasion to share the shining lights alongside four-legged friends.

Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage to admire the twinkling lights at the Way of Lights!

Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage to admire the twinkling lights at the Way of Lights!

Fantasy of Lights – November 30-January 1

Fantasy of Lights in Centralia is perfect for families with kids or couples looking for a spirited night out. Guests can appreciate the lighted displays on a drive through Foundation Park to experience twinkling candy canes or golfing Santa. In December, the ‘Little Obie’ train offers free rides for children – and adults, too – to meet Santa.

For more ways to celebrate the holiday season, visit

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Land of Lincoln Feature Image

The Land of Lincoln is not just one of the most history-rich regions in Illinois, but in the entire country. Springfield alone is home to more Abraham Lincoln historical sites than any other place in the world, and beyond that, there are even more attractions where history buffs can soak up knowledge in Central Illinois. 

Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center

Celebrating the rich history of Litchfield, this museum gives visitors a look at the evolution of the culture, lifestyle and economy of America’s Heartland across several generations through the prism of one Midwestern town. Early agriculture, the growth of railroads, industrialization and Route 66 are all covered by this fascinating museum that just opened in 2012.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

The Litchfield Museum highlights several eras of Illinois history.

Route 66 Arcade Museum

 For a different kind of museum experience, head to Atlanta to see classic video games that date back to the 1930s, many of which are still playable! The interactive museum features more than 40 vintage pinball and arcade games, including the original PacMan game, and cost only a quarter for visitors to play.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

MiniAbe tries his hand at a vintage game at the Route 66 Arcade Museum.

Carlinville Historic District

 This historic downtown district features the “Million Dollar Courthouse,” a destination for artists and architects from all over the world, as well as the Macoupin County Jail, a medieval-looking fortress that has been open since 1869. The Macoupin County Historical Museum also houses exhibits and artifacts reflecting the history of the area in a beautiful two-story Victorian mansion.

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The “Million Dollar” Courthouse in historic downtown Carlinville. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) rmasters78)

The Original Steak’n’Shake

 Brush up on your diner history with a stop at the original Steak ‘n’ Shake at 1219 South Main Street in Normal. It still resembles a 50s-style diner and serves all the quintessential American fast food favorites: burgers, fries and milkshakes.

For more historical attractions across the state, check out for more trip ideas.

-Illinois Office of Tourism