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It’s that time of year again—time to wish one of this country’s most well-loved presidents a happy birthday! There’s no better time to plan a trip around Illinois and the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area than to celebrate Abe Lincoln’s 208th birthday. From storytelling to free museum tours to special annual celebrations, there is no shortage of festivities happening around the state. Gather the family and plan your trip to celebrate Illinois’ incredible Lincoln heritage!

Head to Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston to enjoy a birthday party hosted by Lincoln’s family members. Historical actors will be on-site to share personal anecdotes and stories about life with Lincoln on Saturday, February 11. Bring the whole family to tour this 19th century living history farm and take part in story time and other activities to learn more about the former president’s life.

Children listened to stories about Lincoln at last year’s birthday celebration at the Lincoln Log Cabin in Charleston.

The David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington is also hosting a special celebration for Honest Abe on February 11. Stop by the home of Lincoln’s close friend and former campaign manager to hear tales from costumed characters as they recall their encounters with Lincoln during his time in Bloomington. Be sure to stay and enjoy a special birthday cake and punch to celebrate. You may even catch a glimpse of President Lincoln himself!

Make a trip to Danville on February 12 for a special open at the Vermilion County Museum, built as a replica of the courthouse where Lincoln practiced law. Spend the afternoon exploring the Museum complex, which includes a replica of Lincoln’s law office as it looked in the 1850s and view hundreds of birthday cards for the president from Danville-area fourth- and fifth-graders.

Visitors of all ages will enjoy Lincoln’s Birthday Celebration at Mt. Pulaski Courthouse.

Not only is Lincoln’s family hosting a party, but his friends are celebrating his birthday, too! Visit Mount Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site on February 11 to hear from Lincoln’s former teacher Mentor Graham and sample Abe’s favorite dessert—apple pie with rum sauce! Bring the whole family and let the kids meet Lincoln himself and reenact what it was like to be a student during Lincoln’s childhood.

Enjoy free admission at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield on February 12.

In Springfield, the city Lincoln called home for many years, a number of important attractions will be hosting special birthday events. Enjoy free admission to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum on February 12 to see special artifacts and items from Lincoln’s life, including his stovepipe hat and Mary Todd Lincoln’s 28-diamond necklace. Both artifacts will be on display during the month of February. Historical actors from the Civil War period will also be on-site to chat with visitors and answer any questions.

For an in-depth look at Lincoln’s life and times, both the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site will be hosting a special lecture series on February 11 and 12. The George L. Painter Looking for Lincoln Lecture Series at the Lincoln Home covers a range of topics, from Lincoln’s childhood and upbringing to all of his accomplishments throughout his career and presidency. The Abraham Lincoln Association will also hold its annual symposium at the Old State Capitol on February 11 and 12, featuring special presentations from notable authors on Lincoln literature.

The Vandalia Statehouse Historic Site has been helping visitors celebrate Lincoln’s birthday since 1973.

Continue your trip with a journey back to Lincoln’s time at Illinois’ oldest surviving capitol building—the Vandalia Statehouse State Historic Site. The site where Lincoln started his political career has been hosting a Lincoln Birthday celebration since 1973. This year’s events include musical entertainment and refreshments as well as a presentation and stories from the Bond County Historical Society about Lincoln’s in-laws who sided with the South during the Civil War.

Wind down from an exciting weekend of birthday celebrations with a visit the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington for a special viewing of the 1939 classic film “Young Mr. Lincoln” on February 14. Arrive early to view a display of rarely seen historical artifacts and stay during the movie’s intermission to hear  local Lincoln scholar Guy Fraker speak about Lincoln’s connection to McLean County and the lasting impact its residents had on him.

Illinois is full of Abraham Lincoln history, events and ways to honor him. If you are eager to delve even further into the history, visit EnjoyIllinois.com for more places to go.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Did you know that Chicago is home to one of the largest Chinatowns in the country, with roughly 65,000 residents? Year round, the neighborhood offers unique ways to learn about the culture and history of China. From the Chinatown Gate welcoming you into the neighborhood, to the educational Chinese American Museum of Chicago and even the Ping Tom Memorial Park, which offers visitors a pool, gym and kayak rentals; there is a lot to do in Chinatown for any traveler.

Find lots of authentic Chinese gifts and goodies at the two-level outdoor Chinatown Square Mall. (Instagram photo by @mightymiao87)

Of course, the biggest thing to do coming up is the celebration of the Chinese New Year which starts January 28 and runs through February 12. During that time, you can experience celebrations, parades and fun events to ring in the Year of the Rooster. The festivities don’t stop outside Chinatown though; there are things to see and do throughout the city of Chicago as well.

With strong roots tying back to the old country, the Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood continues to follow the history and culture of China in celebrating the Chinese New Year with a massive celebration; from colorful parades to preparing some of China’s most traditional – and tasty – meals. Not many cities celebrate the way Chicago does and it shows with the abundance of activities around the city.

The entrance to Chinatown, located on the west side of Chicago. (Instagram photo by @rachface.13)

Begin the Chinese New Year by learning how to make an authentic Chinese dish – dumplings! In its 13th year, the annual Chinese New Year Dumpling Making Dinner, hosted by the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, invites newcomers and veteran dumpling-makers to Hing Kee Restaurant on January 21 and February 4 to learn the art of the dumpling, or jiaozi. This traditional dish dates back more than 1,800 years and continues to live on in Chinese culture today.

Delicious dumplings from Hing Kee Restaurant. (Instagram photo by @smallgirlbigplates)

Chinatown isn’t the only neighborhood that gets in on the fun. The Garfield Park Conservatory and the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier also host celebrations that are entertaining for the whole family.

Enjoy an afternoon of activities and cultural learning at the beautiful Garfield Park Conservatory on January 21 for its Chinese New Year Celebration. Visitors will make festive Chinese lanterns, learn about their zodiac sign, attend a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and participate in a dragon dance.

At Navy Pier, enjoy Neighborhoods of the World: Celebrate Chinese New Year. During this nine-week event, the Crystal Gardens are ornately decorated with colorful lanterns and feature a unique and intricate dragon dance.

Colorful dancing dragons at the Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier. (Photo provided by Choose Chicago)

What’s a New Year celebration without a parade? End the Year of the Rooster festivities with two incredible spectacles; one parade in the heart Chinatown and the other on Argyle Street in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Light up the day at the Argyle Street Lunar New Year Parade on February 4 with an amazing kick off near the Argyle CTA Red Line station where firecrackers explode while Chinese culture-inspired floats and large dancing dragons pass by.

Local community groups near Argyle Street participate in the annual parade. (Photo provided by Uptown United)

The following day on February 5, make your way down to Chinatown for the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Each year, more than 30,000 people attend the parade to help start the New Year off with a bang. Make sure to be on the lookout for the 100-foot-long paper dragon and stunning fireworks show at the end.

Bring the whole family to see the beautiful dragons at the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown. (Instagram photo by @jonfromchicago)

The list of fun-filled activities for Chinese New Year never ends! Here are some other educational and awesome events happening around the city to celebrate the Year of the Rooster:

The Citywide Chinese New Year Kick Off at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Photo by Choose Chicago)

There are so many ways to learn about Chinese culture in Chicago, especially during the Lunar New Year. For more information about Chinatown and what there is to see and do throughout the year, check out Things to Do – Chinatown on EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

The countdown to the New Year is on! Whether you’re looking for a night on the town with friends, a romantic fireworks cruise with your loved one or a family-friendly celebration, Illinois has a party for everyone. So what are you waiting for? Start planning this special night with these offerings for New Year’s Eve entertainment.

New Year’s Eve, Chicago Style

It’s no secret that there’s always something going on in Chicago, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. This is a time to celebrate, so why not go all out?

The Midwest’s largest New Year’s party is back for a second year in a row. Chi-Town Rising will be offering themed events throughout the downtown area all day, beginning with a Chi-Town Rise & Shine 5k, followed by a family countdown celebration at Millennium Park before the kickoff of the riverfront festivities. To really amp up the fun this year, the party includes musical performances by Sir the Baptist, DJ Sye Young, Saint Motel and Jim Cornelison.

The Fireworks from the 2016 celebration lit up the cityscape. (Photo credit: Chi-Town Rising)

The Fireworks from the 2016 celebration lit up the cityscape. (Photo credit: Chi-Town Rising)

Want to mix it up this year? Look no further than a New Year’s Eve Cruise at Navy Pier for your NYE celebration. Cruise celebrations have everything from a premium bar, decadent menus and buffets featuring filet mignon, lobster and more, live music and dancing, and a champagne toast at midnight.

Enjoy the fireworks celebration at Navy Pier.

 

If you’re looking for a special, yet relaxed, evening, head to one of the many local restaurants offering special dinner packages, like Momotaro, Spiaggia and Prime & Provisions Steakhouse among many others. Enjoy their prix fixe menus specializing in a variety of world cuisines, from classic steakhouse specials, to decadent sushi, to Italian favorites.

Suburban Celebrations

Around Chicagoland, there are many suburban celebrations perfect for families this New Year’s Eve. First up: Get wild at the Chicago Zoological Society’s annual “Zoo Year” celebration on December 31 at the Brookfield Zoo. Fun will include a live DJ, games, prizes and party favors in the Holly Jolly Theater and a noisemaker creation station at the Hamil Family Play Zoo. Both the Theater and Play Zoo will conduct an early countdown celebration at 8 p.m.

And north of the city, head to the North Shore for First Night Evanston, a community celebration of the arts. A wristband for the evening gets you access to dozens of shows in multiple venues, including live music, poetry readings, storytelling, dancing and even circus acts. Even better? Local food trucks will be scattered about for tasty bites throughout the night.

First Night in Evanston makes for a great family celebration.

Rock the Night Away in Rockford

The Discovery Center Museum in Rockford will be providing an awesome afternoon of artful fun to ring in the New Year during their Countdown to Fun and New Year around the World celebration. There will be music from Kantorei, The Singing Boys of Rockford and a chance to be showered with confetti at the stroke of every hour as you discover where in the world it’s midnight at that time. Next door at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, families can enjoy New Year traditions from across the globe during the hourly countdown.

Light up the Night in Springfield

Presented by the Springfield Area Arts Council, First Night Springfield is an Illinois tradition 30 years in the making. This New Year’s Eve, kick-off the celebration from 1:00-4:00 p.m. with free family-friendly activities ranging from face painting to harmonica lessons at Springfield High School. Then at 6:00 p.m. you’ll want to head downtown to take in the over 40+ performances – including jugglers, magicians, dancers and musicians – followed by a breathtaking fireworks display that will illuminate the city.

Wine and Dine in Southern Illinois

Since New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate with delicious food and drink – especially champagne and sparkling wine – why not spend the holiday along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail in Southern Illinois? Rustle Hill Winery, Blue Sky Vineyard and StarView Winery are all hosting special festivities this season.

Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton offers a New Year’s party package perfect for a rustic getaway for couples. Indulge in the extravagant buffet and open bar. Ring in the New Year with a champagne toast and dance the night away to live music by Accolade. The best part? At the end of the night, all you have to do is retreat into your cozy room, then wake up in 2017 to a marvelous breakfast before returning home.

For more information about where to spend your New Year’s Eve explore Things to Do on EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

This is a big year for Route 66, and people around the world are celebrating the historic highway’s 90th anniversary. First designated as a road in 1926, Route 66 – often referred to as The Mother Road of America – is known for its nostalgia, charm and classic American appeal. While driving the route in Illinois, plan to see kitschy murals and monuments, quaint and historic towns, and people who can tell you all there is to know about Route 66.

Route 66 is a global attraction, and to celebrate this historic year, the Illinois Office of Tourism is spreading our love for the Mother Road with events in Germany, the UK and right here in the states.

London, England

To kick off this year’s 90th anniversary celebration, Illinois brought a taste of the Mother Road to London with a street party and pop-up mural. Well-known street artist Will Vibes created a 52-foot mural depicting iconic attractions along Route 66, which starts in Chicago.

The mural was accompanied by a pop-up party in Central London and included a food truck with Chicago-style hotdogs, a blues band and a classic car.

Ofterdingen, Germany

A bit further away in Germany, Route 66 fanfare was in full effect at the first ever Route 66 Festival in Ofterdingen, just outside Stuttgart. Enthusiasts of the Mother Road from all over the globe came to the festival to share their excitement and celebrate this year’s anniversary. Festival goers even got to experience the Illinois stretch of the road through an interactive photo booth with fun props and by speaking with tourism experts about Route 66 in Illinois.

Chicago, Illinois

And right here in the U.S., Bow Truss Coffee Roasters recently opened a new shop right at the start of Route 66 in downtown Chicago! A pop-up party brought the Illinois Route 66 experience to Chicagoans. Here, they sampled the new Bow Truss Route 66 Blend, interacted with authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum and watched a live mural depicting classic Route 66 stops in Illinois – like the Gemini Giant and Cozy Dog Drive In – come to life before their eyes.

The event featured a 1944 red Ford Coupe, pictured here, and authentic memorabilia from the Berwyn Route 66 Museum. Visitors could even enter to win an official Route 66 road sign.

There are even more celebrations in the works as we move closer to the Mother Road’s official anniversary date this November, like these upcoming events in Illinois:

Stay tuned to Enjoy Illinois’ social channels for updates so you can join in on the fun! And if you’re looking to start planning your Route 66 trip, be sure to visit EnjoyIllinois.com for inspiration.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Summer is here, and that means soaking up the sunny weather and spending as much time outside as possible. Activities that are usually indoors head outside to help you take full advantage of the season. For all you movie buffs out there, we have found some of the top spots to catch a flick outdoors.

There are countless things to do in Galena each season, and this summer, star-gazing gets better. The Goldmoor Inn turns its beautifully landscaped estate and charming Pavilion into an alfresco cinema when it debuts “Classic Movie Nights Under The Stars.” Sitting on 21 acres overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, the luxury Inn will screen classic double features this summer. And just because you’re skipping the theater doesn’t mean you’re missing the snacks. Freshly made popcorn is part of the deal.

GoldmoorMoviePavilion_Credit JumpingRocksPhotography

The Goldmoor Inn in Galena (Photo credit: Jumping Rocks Photography)

“Our gardens and grounds are gorgeous, and the star-gazers will be doubly thrilled to catch classic celebrities on the silver screen beneath the incredible constellations shining above,” says Birgit Radin, co-owner of the Goldmoor Inn. “Guests and visitors wondering what to do in Galena are invited to add to their list an evening of outdoor movies surrounded by the tranquil nature surrounding us.”

The Classic Movie Nights begin at 7 p.m. on select Saturdays during June-October, and the movie schedule includes:

  • June 11: Citizen Kane and Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • July 23: Cool Hand Luke and Some Like it Hot
  • August 20 Casablanca and Roman Holiday
  • September 17 Metropolis and North by Northwest
  • October 29 Dressed to Kill and Frankenstein

Nothing is more American than spending a summer night under the stars watching a big Hollywood movie. So why not take a drive back in time and spend an evening at the McHenry Outdoor Theater? This unique classic cinema experience features all the nostalgia of a classic drive-in theater. You can watch 21st century blockbusters or enjoy favorites from the past. So pack the popcorn, bring a blanket and curl up under the stars for a unique viewing experience.

McHenry Outdoor Theater

The McHenry Outdoor Theater

Get double the nostalgia during a movie at the Route 66 Drive In in Springfield. This restored movie theater along historic Route 66 gives visitors the chance to see new and classic movies in a unique setting.

Route 66 Drive In sign_web

The sign at the Route 66 Drive in Springfield

In Chicago, the Millennium Park Summer Film Series takes place Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. during June-August. Grab a seat in the pavilion or bring a picnic to the Great Lawn and enjoy the free outdoor movies at Chicago’s architectural gem, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The schedule:

  • June 21: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • June 28: Soul Food
  • July 5: A League of Their Own
  • July 12: Thelma & Louise
  • July 19: Full Moon Double Feature – Moonstruck & Silence of the Lambs (1991; R)
  • July 26: Kartemquin Films 50th Anniversary Celebration
  • August 2: West Side Story
  • August 9: Grease
  • August 16: Finding Nemo
  • August 23: Purple Rain
  • August 30: Audience Choice – Favorite Chicago Film
Millennium Park Summer Film Series

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago

Looking for more ways to spend your summer in Illinois? Visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

– Illinois Office of Tourism