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Feature Image NYE

From family-friendly to unique, there are so many wonderful ways to ring in 2016 in Illinois. New Year’s Eve is a chance to take stock of the previous year with an eye towards all the possibilities ahead. Whether you prefer a quiet, intimate atmosphere or a blowout – you’ll find a special celebration in the Land of Lincoln.

First Night Springfield
An Illinois tradition, this year’s First Night Springfield is the city’s 29th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration of the Arts, featuring more than 30 performances taking place on eight stages in downtown Springfield.

The array of musical acts pauses at 8 p.m. for a free fireworks gala. A staple of First Night, the fireworks display bursts over the Illinois State Capitol, wondrously illuminating downtown.

Zoo Year’s Eve at Brookfield Zoo
Rock out where the wild things are this New Year’s at Brookfield Zoo. A live DJ, games, party favors, prizes and an early countdown at 8:00 p.m. headline this family friendly affair.

No need to keep the little ones up late with the 8 p.m. countdown! (Photo credit: Brookfield Zoo)

No need to keep the little ones up late with the 8 p.m. countdown! (Photo credit: Brookfield Zoo)

Before the countdown, head over to the Hamill Family Play Zoo to make your own noisemaker. This event is free with a paid zoo admission, so don’t forget to check out some of the big cats, bears, dolphins, penguins, primates and more!

New Year’s at Pere Marquette Lodge
This year, jettison yourself to a rustic setting in the quiet riverfront town of Grafton at Pere Marquette Lodge. The Lodge’s New Year’s package has everything you and that special someone need to welcome 2016!

Show off your cocktail attire and indulge in a lavish dinner before dancing the night away with a band, champagne toast and plenty of party favors. At the end of the night, you’re just an elevator ride from the comfort of your cozy accommodations.

Chi-Town Rising
For the first time, Chicago’s riverfront will play host to a special New Year’s celebration complete with musical headliners, a grand fireworks display and culminate with a countdown to ring in 2016.

Make way for a new Chicago tradition at Chi-Town Rising this New Year’s!

Make way for a new Chicago tradition at Chi-Town Rising this New Year’s!

Chi-Town Rising’s central location means the party continues all weekend long with plenty of activities throughout the city!

Whatever your plans, have a safe and happy New Year in Illinois.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Holiday Chicago Feature Image

What’s your family’s holiday tradition? If you’re looking for a new way to celebrate the festive time of year, plan a trip to Chicago. From endless shopping and festive parades, to the Chicago Transit Authority’s special Holiday Train, the Windy City is a holiday wonderland. Watch the video for a glimpse of Chicago during the holidays and then check out 10 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in Chicago!

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

The nation’s largest evening holiday celebration features a full day of family-friendly activities on November 21, concerts by top musical artists and the best shopping. The excitement culminates with a grand evening parade down Michigan Avenue that illuminates one million lights on 200 trees!

Chicago Transit Authority’s Holiday Train

The Chicago Transit Authority decorates one of its trains, inside and out, with twinkling lights and festive decorations. As the holiday train pulls into each station, Santa waves to boarding passengers from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar while elves serenade riders between stops.

Christmas around the World and Holidays of Light

The Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Lights features 60 seasonal displays decorated by members of Chicago’s many ethnic communities. The annual celebration offers a glimpse into how cultures around the world celebrate the season. Make sure to stop by the museum between November 19 and January 3 to see the beautiful displays!

Ice Skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink

Located in the heart of Millennium Park, the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink offers family fun with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop starting November 13. Look out for special appearance on the ice by Santa Clause during the holiday season!

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

More than one million twinkling lights transform the Lincoln Park Zoo into a winter wonderland, complete with unique activities like live ice carvings and special holiday treats. In addition, visitors can take advantage of the zoo’s enchanting wildlife, with exhibits open late during ZooLights.

Daley Plaza’s Christkindlemarket

Christkindlmarket Chicago is an outdoor holiday market featuring vendors from around the world. Visitors can browse handcrafted ornaments, toys and unique holiday gifts, as well as enjoy traditional German foods, sweets and beverages November 20-December 24.

The Walnut Room at Macy’s

Since 1907, the Walnut Room at Macy’s has been decked out in holiday décor. The main focal point is the 45-foot Great Tree, which graces the center of the historic room from November through early January.

Caroling at Cloud Gate

Every Friday evening from November 28-December 19, local choral groups sing cherished Christmas tunes during Caroling at Cloud Gate. The event takes place in front of Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate sculpture and lasts about an hour.

“A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre

Charles Dickens’ timeless tale comes to life at the Goodman Theatre every holiday season. The production, now in its 38th season, is called one of the best holiday shows in the city. Celebrate this wonderful time of year by seeing this iconic show, November 14-December 27.

Wreathed Lions at the Art Institute of Chicago

One of the best holiday photo opportunities in the city is a picture in front of the wreathed bronze lions at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue entrance.  The lions are not identical and thus are named for their poses: The south lion stands “In an Attitude of Defiance,” while the north lion is “On the Prowl.”

Have ideas that we missed? Comment below and share with us!

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Southern Illinois Fests

Southern Illinois is full of fun things to do with your family during the fall season. Whether it is a day at one of the many fall festivals or an outdoor adventure exploring the beautiful fall colors, there is no shortage of family friendly activities this season! Here are 10 fall activities on our list. What others do you recommend? Comment and tell us!

 Shawnee National Forest

Make a trip to Shawnee National Forest and Garden of the Gods  with family and friends to enjoy a relaxing stroll through nature or an exhilarating hike. Both are prime places to visit this season especially with the stunning fall colors.

Explore breathtaking fall views at The Garden of the Gods

Explore breathtaking fall views at The Garden of the Gods

Giant City State Park and Lodge

Looking for a day of outdoor adventure? Take your family on an unforgettable horseback riding excursion through Giant City State Park. After a fun day riding, be sure to visit Giant City Lodge for a delicious all-you-can-eat chicken dinner.

Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch

Find the perfect carving pumpkin at Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch in Johnson City from October 1-31. Before you choose your pumpkin, find your way through a corn maze or take a ride on a hayride.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Take a bike ride along the 47.8 miles of Tunnel Hill State Trail to observe the beautiful views of bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. Challenge yourself on this crushed gravel trail, or enjoy a leisurely ride with friends.

Race your bike along Tunnel Hill’s crushed gravel path

Race your bike along Tunnel Hill’s crushed gravel path

Rendleman Orchards Farm Market

Experience classic fall fun at Rendleman Orchards Farm Market in Alto Pass. Open September through December, swing by and pick up farm fresh apples while they’re in season.

Flamm Orchards/ Fruits & Cream Stand

Make a stop at the Flamm Orchards/Fruit & Cream Stand in Cobden for some delicious apples as well as many other tasty treats such as dumplings and pies.

Mt. Vernon Fall Festival

Enjoy a weekend of entertainment at the Mt. Vernon Fall Festival from October 17-19. The festival in downtown Mt. Vernon includes live music, a parade, children’s area, local food, car show, band competition and more.

Fort Massac Encampment

Experience what frontier prairie life was like in the late 1700s at the Fort Massac Encampment October 18-19 in Metropolis. You’ll see military drills, mock battles and enjoy period-style food.

Vulture Fest

Celebrate the vulture’s annual migration at downtown Makanda’s one-of-a-kind Vulture Fest from October 18-19. Your family will see black and turkey vultures soaring through the sky, listen to live music and browse the displays by local artists.

Great Carbondale Pumpkin Race

Nothing says fall like pumpkins, so what better way to celebrate fall than at the Great Carbondale Pumpkin Race this October 25- 26. Just add wheels to transform your pumpkin into a speed racer to compete against others for the top prize!

Build your own pumpkin racer at the Great Carbondale Pumpkin Race

Build your own pumpkin racer at the Great Carbondale Pumpkin Race

For more family-friendly activities in Southern Illinois, check out the Familyland trip starter or visit for more travel ideas.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism



Did you know Rock Island, located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities, hosts a free-admission Grand Prix every Labor Day Weekend? That’s right! If you’re looking for a family-fun getaway, plan a trip to Rock Island for this memorable event.

Rock Island Grand Prix Winner (Photo Credit: Quad Cities CVB)

Famed as the world’s largest and most prestigious street karting race, the Rock Island Grand Prix welcomes more than 30,000 spectators to watch some of the best drivers in the world go head-to-head. The drivers show off their finest racing skills to win one of the top nine coveted spots. Between races, fans can meet the professional drivers and get their autographs, which is a great souvenir to take home after the Grand Prix wraps.

Grand Prix drivers racing to the finish (Photo Credit: Quad Cities CVB)

Grand Prix drivers racing to the finish (Photo Credit: Quad Cities CVB)

Before the big race weekend, visitors can join in the excitement at the week long Grand Prix Festival featuring delicious food vendors, family activities, art galleries and tons of live music and entertainment.  Everything is within walking distance of Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District, so the opportunities for exploration are endless.

If your family is looking for a unique getaway that’s different from the typical Labor Day outing, plan a trip to the Rock Island Grand Prix!

-The Illinois Office of Tourism 


Ebertfest Feature Image

Nearly 72 years ago, one of America’s most beloved film critics, Roger Ebert, was born in Urbana, Illinois. After completing college at the University of Illinois, Ebert began his career as a film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times and rose to be the valued opinion maker when it came to the latest films. Beginning in the mid-seventies, Ebert hosted a series of weekly film review television shows, including “Sneak Preview” and “At the Movies” with fellow critic, Gene Siskel, and the pair began their signature ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ reviews of films. Ebert passed away in April 2013, but his legend continues on today in Illinois and around the world.

Champaign’s Historic Virginia Theatre at the 2012 Ebertfest

Champaign’s Historic Virginia Theatre at the 2012 Ebertfest

Ebert returned to Champaign years after completing his college education with a vision to celebrate great movies by filmmakers that received little recognition during their original runs. To fulfil his vision, Ebert created Ebertfest, a film festival this held annually in Champaign.  Since its founding in 1999, Ebertfest continues to attract visitors from all over the country. This year’s festival will take place April 23-27 at Champaign’s historic Virginia Theatre.

The event will screen 12 unique films throughout the festival’s five days, and offer exclusive meet and greets with the films’ producers, writers, actors and directors. A complete schedule of festivities and list of films is available at For more information about attending the Ebertfest, visit

-The Illinois Office of Tourism