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Bike Trails Feature Image

As warmer temperatures roll in, so do bikers, eager to get their wheels back out and put in miles towards another season. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely afternoon ride, there is always somewhere new to explore. Bike trails around the state offer experiences that range in difficulty, from the easy ride to the intense climb, there’s a trail for every rider. So what are you waiting for? Hop in the saddle and get going!

Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Vienna. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one. But if you’re up to the challenge, don’t pass up this Southern Illinois gem.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 1

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.

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Tunnel Hill State Trail

 

And in the opposite direction of Tunnel Hill, head up north to the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, 32 miles of biking, hiking and, in the winter, cross-country skiing featuring the scenic trails of the Fox River. Make this ride as easy or difficult as you like. There are plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the scenery or snap a selfie, like the Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Fox River Bike Trail

The Fox River Trail in St. Charles

 

In Chicago, one the most popular outdoor spots is The 606, celebrating its first birthday this summer. This 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path is one of the newest additions to the city’s green space with gardens and parks lining the trail. Enjoy a more leisurely ride along this path, and in the warmer weather, expect to see lots of dogs, children and people enjoying the trail and various summer events.

The 606 - Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606 in Chicago (Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land)

 

Along the western edge of the state, cyclists nationally and internationally ride the 62.5 mile stretch the Great River Trail that runs from the Illinois Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois. This trail isn’t just for the biking enthusiast. The whole trail system measures 10 feet in width to allow bikers and walkers plenty of passing room.

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Ben Butterworth Parkway

 

From panoramic river views and wooded trails, to prairie areas, backwaters and marsh areas, riders will also enjoy the scenic view and unique towns that call the banks of the Mississippi River their home.

These trails are also part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 10-state network of bike trails and bike-friendly roads that lines the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

Farmers Market Feature Image

Summer is just around the corner, and that means farmers market season. All over the state, markets filled with locally sourced fruits, veggies, meats, pastries, cut flowers, artisan-made goods and more are opening their doors – or should we say tents? – for the season. We’ve rounded up four of the best in the state here:

Green City Market, Chicago

As one of Chicago’s top farmers markets, don’t be surprised if you see some of the city’s premier local chefs buying ingredients for their weekly menu at Green City Market. The outdoor market is open in Lincoln Park every Wednesday and Saturday from May through October offering a wide selection of local produce, flowers, meat, seafood, breads, pastries and more. Check out Green City Market’s website for information on live demonstrations from local chefs and ready-to-eat food vendors at the market. Open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays May 7 –October 29.

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Photo credit: Green City Market

Market at the Square, Urbana

Looking for something outside the ordinary? Look no further than Urbana’s Market at the Square. As one of the largest and most diverse markets in the state, this unique farmers market has 170 vendors featuring arts and crafts, beer and wine, flowers, and locally-grown produce stemming from the richest farmland in the country. This Market also extends well beyond fresh produce – it offers entertainment from local musicians, kids activities with Sprouts at the Market, food trucks with doughnuts and fried egg sandwiches, and much more. Open 7 a.m.-12 p.m. Saturdays May 7-November 5.

Market Entrance

Photo credit: Visit Champaign

Old Capitol Farmers Market, Springfield

The Old Capitol Farmers Market can be found in the heart of downtown Springfield. You’ll find local farm and artisan vendors selling fresh produce, baked goods and cheeses, flowers, and more. The market is just steps from the Old State Capitol historic site and other sites like the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Lincoln Home and Dana-Thomas House – a Frank Lloyd Wright design! Open 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays May 13-October 31

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Photo credit: Visit Springfield

Rockford City Market, Rockford

Rockford City Market features local growers and vendors who sell natural products and unique retail items, live music, demonstrations and kids’ activities. The market is officially up and running as of May 20 and will be open through September. Open 3:30-8:30 p.m. Fridays May 20-September 2 and 3:30-7:30 p.m. Fridays September 9-30.

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Photo credit: Rockford City Market

Looking for more farm fresh ideas? It’s not just these markets that offer the freshest produce and local flavors. Illinois is home to a variety of farm-to-table dining experiences that you can enjoy this summer. Check out more on Travel Illinois online.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Indoor Activities for Kids Feature Image

With kids, we understand that there is no such thing as a “lazy day” while waiting for the weather to warm up. Check out this list of kid-friendly indoor activities!

American Girl Place

Shop, play and let your imagination run wild at the American Girl Place on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. Stop by the Doll Hair Salon where American Girl dolls receive stylish new hairdos and a bit of pampering. Or, indulge in the Truly Me Signature Studio and customize a doll outfit or a personal backpack to take home. Complete your day with brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner at the American Girl Café, where there is always a special seat for your child’s American Girl doll.

LEGO Store

Just a short walk from American Girl Place, the LEGO store features a “Pick-A-Brick Wall”, where you can hand pick and purchase specific LEGO bricks to add to your family’s collection. If that isn’t cool enough, an interactive play area called the “Living Room” gives visitors a chance to get hands-on with the LEGO products with new, creative building scenarios each month.

LEGO store

The LEGO Store in Water Tower Place can entertain all with its LEGO pieces, buildings and games.

Indoor Water Parks

Outdoor water parks may not have opened yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in water park fun just yet. Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort and Enchanted Forest in Utica is the ultimate family getaway that is a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. Enjoy its 24,000 square foot indoor waterpark complete with slides, a lazy river, kiddie pool, wave pool, and even a spa that is located near Starved Rock National Park for a scenic view.

And don’t forget to visit KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee! The water park features a wave pool, whirlpools, body and tube slides, and waterfalls that will entertain adults and children alike. Had enough water for the day? KeyLime Cove also has 10,000 square feet of entertainment including the RipTide Reef Arcade, Pinki’s Pet Palace, and The Enchanted Lagoon Kids Spa.

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KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort boasts family fun with its various entertainment options.

DuPage Children’s Museum

Illinois is home to multiple children’s museums, and one of our favorites is the DuPage Children’s Museum in Naperville. Whoever said that rainy days couldn’t be productive? This unique, hands-on museum offers an early educational experience where kids can learn and play in its multiple exhibits that promote skill development in math, science and art.

For more ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism


 

St Patricks Day Feature Image

St. Patrick’s Day is just a few days away, and in Illinois, there’s no shortage of ways to celebrate the luck of the Irish! From parades to pub parties, you can find Irish festivities in every corner of the state.

Below is a roundup of some of our favorite ways to celebrate this year:

Chicago

The Windy City is known for its St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, including parades, the dyeing of the Chicago River and countless parties at local Irish pubs. Check out these three celebrations coming up this weekend:

  • Chicago River Dyeing, Saturday, March 12 at 9 am – This once-a-year spectacle draws nearly 400,000 people to see the Chicago River erupt into a sea of green. Boats release 45 pounds of eco-friendly vegetable dye into the water to amp up the holiday spirit. The dye only lasts about five hours, so make sure to see it at its brightest!
  • Downtown Parade, Saturday, March 12 at 12 pm – Chicago celebrates St. Patty’s Day with one of the largest parades in the country. This free event features floats, Irish dancers, bands, bagpipers and of course, plenty of green.
  • South Side Irish Parade, Sunday, March 13 at 12 pm – Continue the Irish festivities all weekend with 150,000 people at the South Side Irish Parade on Sunday. Floats, music, dancers and the Emerald Isle Mile make this event memorable for all.
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See the Chicago River light up as it transforms into a sea of green! (Photo credit: Choose Chicago)

Springfield

This year marks Springfield’s 32nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade starting Saturday, March 12 at noon. This parade is a great opportunity for families to celebrate the festivities of St. Patrick’s Day and explore downtown Springfield.

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The theme of Springfield’s 2016 parade is “Family is Thee Pot O’Gold”!

Peoria

Most St. Patty’s celebrations are during the weekend before the holiday, but if you’re looking to sham-rock out on the actual day, make sure to join Peoria’s 16th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Party on Thursday, March 17. The parade starts at 11 am followed by the party at the Peoria Civic Center from 11:30 am-3 pm. Parade winners will be announced at the party, and partygoers can enjoy traditional Irish music from the band Goiste.

Peoria St. Patrick's Day

There’s no shortage of festive floats at the Peoria parade! (Photo credit: St. Patrick’s Society of Peoria)

Rock Island

In Western Illinois, the Quad Cities go all out for St. Patrick’s Day. The weekend of festivities kicks off with Irish music from The Greenmore Irish Duo at the Moline Library on Friday, March 11 from 12-1 pm. The following day features the 31st annual Quad Cities Grand Parade at 11:30 am, named one of the top ten St. Patty’s parades in North America! What makes this parade so unique? It’s the only interstate St. Patrick’s Day parade in the nation.

After the parade, make your way to Kavanaugh’s Hilltop Tap party for plenty of beer or take advantage of one of the 22 holiday specials in downtown Rock Island.

Rock Island St. Patrick's Day Parade 2

The Quad Cities parade draws thousands of spectators! (Photo credit: Visit Quad Cities)

Be sure to share your St. Patrick’s Day photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois on social. For more ways to celebrate, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Unique Winter Activities Feature Image

It’s finally feeling like winter in Illinois, and there are plenty of outdoor adventures like skiing, ice skating and snowboarding to enjoy. But if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy the winter weather, look no further. There are numerous activities where you can unplug from a busy week while still relishing the winter season.

If making winter plans with friends and family is more of a brain freeze than brain storm, check out these three unique outdoor adventures for this winter in the Great Rivers Country.

Bald Eagle Days at Pere Marquette State Park

Take a trip to Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton and participate in Bald Eagle Days, an informative program about the eagle unique to North America. You’ll learn the differences between immature and mature bald eagles, discover what they eat, and figure out why some call Illinois home during the winter months. Open until March 4, this is an exciting opportunity to view the wintering bald eagles.

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A bald eagle perched in a tree at Pere Marquette State Park

Wildlife Prairie Park

This 2,000-acre zoological park allows you to get up close and personal with animals native to Illinois and the Midwest such as cougars, black bears, bobcats, bison and owls. Just 10 miles west of downtown Peoria and open all year round, the adventure never stops with a butterfly garden, wildflowers, lakes and restored prairies to visit as well.

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A Canada lynx at Wildlife Prairie Park. (Photo credit: (at) wildlifeprairiepark)

Luthy Botanical Garden

Experience the jaw dropping colors and spectacular display of flowers and shrubs at Peoria’s Luthy Botanical Garden. Open all year-round, seven days a week, the Garden embraces five acres and offers multiple theme gardens including an Herb Garden, Woodland Garden, Rose Garden and Hosta Glade. If that wasn’t enough, you don’t want to miss out on the Conservatory floral displays showcasing lilies, orchids and poinsettias. If visiting the Peoria Zoo is already on your list of places to visit, use your Zoo receipt at the Garden on the same day for free admission!

Luthy Botanical Gardens (at) erikschims

Check out the beautiful blooms at Luthy Botanical Gardens! (Instagram photo: (at) erikschims)

For more unique winter activities, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism