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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 history.com, 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 EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Breweries Beyond Chicago Feature Image

Chicago was recently crowned the craft-brew capital of the U.S., but it isn’t the only place in the region to grab a local pint and relax. Check out these top-rated breweries that are just a hop, skip and a jump – or train ride – from the city.

Two Brothers Brewing Company & Tap House, Warrenville

This 100 percent family owned and operated microbrewery and brewpub has been handcrafting its artisan beers since 1997. Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, this 40,000 square foot facility offers free brewery tours on the weekend where patrons can see the magic happen and snag a sample or two of their favorite craft beer. Don’t forget to stop by the Two Brothers Tap House adjacent to the brewery for a quick lunch before or after the tour.

Solemn Oath Brewery, Naperville

Solemn Oath 1

Check out the wide selection of Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged beers! (Photo courtesy of Solemn Oath Brewery)

Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville offers Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged beers with a free glimpse of how the suds are made. Separated by only a half-wall, the taproom at the Solemn Oath gives visitors a full display of the brewery and a chance to experience all of the sights, sounds and smells of the brewing process while enjoying a flight from their latest beer list. This menu changes frequently, so be sure to order a growler to bring home if you find a favorite.

Carlyle Brewing Company, Rockford

 The Rockford Region’s premiere microbrewery has something for everyone, with 10 to 12 styles of ales and lagers on tap at any time and more than 30 styles of beer brewed onsite throughout the year. This European-style ale house offers a variety of fresh-brewed beer to sample and fun, pub-style foods, making it a perfect stop to sip on a cold beer and relax.

NEW: Alter Brewing Company, Downers Grove

Alter Brewing Company 2

New to Downers Grove is Alter Brewing Company! (Photo courtesy of Alter Brewing Company)

The latest to join the craft beer movement in the Chicago suburbs is Alter Brewing Company located in Downers Grove. It’s founded by three longtime brewers from Chicago’s north side who have been perfecting their brewing technique since 1992. Now, the newly-opened 6,600 square foot taproom and brewing facility will offer continually produced beers, as well as seasonal and limited release selections.

For more places to raise a glass outside Chicago, visit www.EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Andersonville Feature Image

Chicago is famous for its food, and rightfully so. People come from all around the world to try deep dish pizza and the Chicago-style hot dog as only the Windy City can provide. For those looking to venture outside the Chicago classics, take a trip to one of Chicago’s many thriving neighborhoods.

Andersonville is a heavily Swedish-influenced neighborhood and LGBT destination just north of Foster Avenue and a few blocks west of Lake Michigan. There are so many outstanding restaurants in the area that it’s hard to choose where to go in just one day. Here we’ve outlined a full culinary itinerary for strolling down the main drag, Clark Street, in Andersonville.

Brunch at Big Jones (5347 N Clark Street)

Southern cooking is the focus of this neighborhood favorite that puts unique twists on traditional dishes, like buttermilk biscuits topped with hot pepper jelly and an omelet stuffed with both crawfish and Andouille sausage. Big Jones also makes its own breakfast meats in-house and adds them to mouth-watering creations such as the tasso ham, smoked for two days and served with pickles, cheese and crackers. Traditional Southern brunch items such as biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits, gumbo and other Cajun-inspired breakfasts are also available. Brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Brunch at Big Jones

Eggs New Orleans at Big Jones. (Photo courtesy of Instagramer (at) cindyfok)

Lunch at Hopleaf (5148 N Clark Street)

This Belgian-inspired kitchen has 63 rotating beers on tap to accompany its lunch menu of small plates, sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts. The signature item at Hop Leaf is the mussels, which are flown in from Prince Edward Island and served either steamed in Belgian beer with vegetables or with lobster and bacon, doused in chili butter, lemon and cilantro. The frites are another can’t miss item at Hopleaf and can be added as a side dish with any lunch meal.

Lunch at Hopleaf

Hopleaf features 63 rotating tap beers. (Photo courtesy of (at) stephanie_toland)

Drinks at Marty’s Martini Bar (1511 W Balmoral Avenue)

Before stopping for dinner, make a trip to Marty’s Martini Bar, around the corner off Clark Street on Balmoral Avenue. Marty’s is the perfect place to sip creative, original cocktails while sitting out on the patio enjoying a warm summer evening.

Dinner at Anteprima (5316 N Clark Street)

Cap off an indulgent day with traditional Italian home-style cooking at Anteprima. Several unique menu concoctions are the result of the staff traveling to homes throughout Italy for secret culinary recipes. Anteprima offers an extensive wine list to pair with interesting vegetable plates, flavorful pastas and delicious entrees. These rustic Italian dishes are prepared using locally grown organic produce.

Bonus Pick: Treats at the Swedish Bakery (5348 N Clark Street)

If you still have any room left in your stomach, the most authentic Andersonville establishment on the list is the Swedish Bakery. Famous for its friendly, warm customer service and even warmer treats, the Swedish Bakery serves a wide variety of sweet and savory cakes, cookies, pastries and breads. If you are overwhelmed by all the options, a signature authentic Swedish dish is the Toska tart, a moist almond cake surrounded by a flaky short dough crust and topped with caramelized almonds.

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A yellow cake topped with marzipan at the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville.

For more food suggestions in Andersonville, other Chicago neighborhoods and the rest of the Land of Lincoln, find something more at EnjoyIllinois.com.

–Illinois Office of Tourism

Feature Image James Beard

For the first time in 25 years, the annual James Beard awards are coming to the Windy City on May 4. All eyes will be on Lyric Opera of Chicago as world-renowned chefs, restaurateurs, and celebrities converge for the ‘Oscars of Food.’

Many Chicago restaurants like Parachute have already been honored as finalists, including chefs Dana Cree of Blackbird and Tanya Baker of Boarding House. But what’s more, hosting the James Beard Awards is just another example of the excellent culinary scene in Chicago and Illinois.

While most of us may not be attending the awards (you can live stream the ceremony from the James Beard Foundation website), there’s no reason why we shouldn’t indulge in some delicious dishes, and what better way than with a foodie tour?

There are several tour operators that will tantalize your taste buds with excursions all over Chicago, including Tastebud Tours.

Lou Malnatis Pizza

A Tastebud Tour includes some quintessential Chicago cuisine: deep-dish pizza!

Reserving a tour gets you three hours of foodie bliss, tasting some of the quintessential Chicago cuisine like deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs, as well as pillars of Chicago culinary history like Billy Goat Tavern and The Berghoff.

The Berghoff

The Berghoff is a classic Chicago restaurant and one of several stops on the Tastebud Tour.

You can also visit some of Chicago’s hidden-gem markets, like the French Market. Praised by Travel + Leisure and Zagat as one of America’s best food halls, the French Market brings together local artisans in an indoor space that makes it accessible year round. In the summer, Chicago is full of fresh farmer’s markets, like Green City Market, that are a must-visit for both top chefs and casual foodies.

Farmers Market

In the summer months, Farmer’s Markets are a central fixture in Chicago!

If you’re ready to go one step further and put your culinary knowledge to the test, Chicago has several culinary institutes catering to any level of expertise. Kendall College, based in Chicago’s downtown area, offers a variety of classes ideal for everything from a girls night out to becoming a grillmaster or a budding mixologist.

At the end of the day, whether you prefer exquisite Michelin-starred dining or some down-home cooking, almost everyone can agree with George Bernard Shaw, who said, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food.”

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Things to do with the Kids Feature Image

The Chicago & Beyond region has tons of exciting activities for families looking to escape winter’s chill. From retro-themed diners to undersea discoveries, there’s no shortage of fun for families in the Windy City. Check out our round-up of Chicago’s best indoor activities your kids will love below. What are your favorite family-friendly activities in Chicago? Comment below and tell us!

The Field Museum

A trip to the Field Museum in Chicago is the perfect outing for your family’s little scientist. Children can embark on underground adventures, descend into an Egyptian tomb, be dazzled in the Hall of Gems, come nose to nose with the infamous man-eating lions of Tsavo, and walk among dinosaurs in Evolving Planet. The best part? Kids can discover Sue, the largest and most complete T. Rex ever found!

Field Museum

A view of the Field Museum entrance and the largest T. Rex ever found, Sue

LEGOLAND Discovery Center

Located just outside Chicago in nearby Schaumburg, LEGOLAND Discovery Center lets kids dive into the biggest pile of Lego bricks ever! Your kids will “ooh” and “ahh” at outrageous Lego creations and have a blast building their own. They’ll also journey through medieval castles, fly with dragons, pedal in the clouds on the Technicycle, feel a part of the story in the 4D cinema and much more.

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Kids ogling a lion built entirely from Legos at LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, Illinois

Skydeck Chicago: The Ledge

The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago will let your kids enjoy a view unlike any other. Located on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower, the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, the Ledge’s glass boxes jut out from the side of the skyscraper, offering unparalleled views of Chicago and four neighboring states. This is a great attraction for older kids looking for a fun adrenaline rush.

Ledge1

A family admires the view of a lifetime at Skydeck Chicago’s The Ledge

Shedd Aquarium

Have your kids ever been eye-to-eye with a dolphin? Said hello to a penguin on a stroll to the South Pole? Immersed in a flooded Amazon forest? Or met a friendly beluga whale? They can explore it all at Shedd Aquarium. Your kids will have a blast meeting Luna, a baby sea otter recently rescued by Shedd.

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Visitors getting a closer look at tropical fish at the Shedd Aquarium (Photo credit: Choose Chicago)

For more family-friendly trip ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism