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Football season is in full swing and that means one thing – tailgates! There is nothing quite like the anticipation of cheering on your favorite team with hundreds of other excited fans. Lucky for you, Illinois is home to big name schools that pull out all the stops for their game day celebrations. From pre-game fanfare to post-game grub, read on to learn about the hot spots on and off campuses across the state.

Northwestern Wildcats

Along Chicago’s North Shore you’ll find the Northwestern Wildcats, dubbed Chicago’s Big Ten Team. The Wildcats are coming off of a 10-2 regular season record last year and looking to continue that momentum, making the game day experience only more exciting for the fans.

Fuel up for the big game at one of Evanston’s many amazing restaurants. Stop for breakfast before an early game at Bagel Art or visit favorites like Edzo’s Burger Shop or Lou Malnati’s for a post-game meal full of local staples like Chicago style hot dogs, mouthwatering burgers and deep dish pizza.

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Photo courtesy of Edzo’s Burger Shop

Northwestern’s own Wildcat Alley is the place to get pumped up before the game. Open to the public for three hours before every home game, you can bring the whole family to find food trucks, live music, and a kid zone complete with face-painting, games and inflatables. At game time, follow the Wildcat marching band as they make their way into Ryan Field for another (hopeful) Wildcat victory!

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Northern Illinois University Huskies

Up in DeKalb, Northern Illinois University Huskies fans know how to have a good time! The winningest program in Illinois and in the MAC over the last decade, the NIU Huskies played in a record sixth straight Mid-American Conference Championship game in 2015 and have their sights set on a return this season.

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The NIU home game experience starts with The Yard. Located on the West Lawn of Huskie Stadium, you can enjoy free live music, grab food from one of several popular local vendors, or stop by the beer garden to have a drink with fellow fans. A giant video screen is set up to make sure you stay on top of games around the country while younger Huskie fans can check out the bounce house, climb a rock wall, or have their faces painted in the Kids’ Zone.

You will also get the chance to meet NIU student-athletes from the “team of the week,” find old friends in the Varsity Club tent, and learn what’s new at NIU. Don’t be surprised if the NIU cheerleaders, Victor E. Huskie and the Huskie Marching Band come by.

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If you want to keep the party going after the game, there’s no better spot than Fatty’s Pub, the official post-game headquarters of the NIU Huskies. Here you can gather with friends to chow down on all the burgers, fries and wings you can eat. When the weather is nice, you will find tons of fans on Fatty’s newly expanded beer garden.

 Illinois State Redbirds

Get ready to ‘Back the birds’ of Illinois State University as they ring that victory bell this season! The football field isn’t the only place to have fun at ISU. Tailgating lots open at 7:00 a.m. on game day and are quickly packed with excited Redbird fans. Bring your family, favorite food and your ISU spirit to hang out in the sea of red outside Hancock Stadium for pregame excitement.

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Don’t feel like grilling your own food before the game? No problem! ISU has no shortage of dining options right on campus. McAlister’s Deli in the Bone Student Center is a campus favorite. Medici and Firehouse Pizza & Pub are two other favorites just a short walk away in Uptown Normal, as are popular local bars Pub II and Maggie Miley’s.

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Photo courtesy of Instagram user @sarahkloo

University of Illinois Fighting Illini

Head to Champaign to catch another one of Illinois’ Big Ten Conference teams—the Fighting Illini! Tailgating before a University of Illinois football game has never been more fun since the addition of Grange Grove in 2015. This free, high-energy tailgating area opens at 7:00 a.m. on game days and is an area that fans of all ages will be able to enjoy. Grange Grove brings out big musical acts, kid’s activities, and the Marching Illini just before the team takes the field.

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Hungry after all the on-field action concludes? Stop by Black Dog Smoke & Ale House to try some of their award winning BBQ. If you’re looking for an iconic U of I bar, look no further than Legends Bar & Grill. Located in the heart of campus town, Legends is the cornerstone of Illini pride. Established in 1998, this bar pays homage to the legends of yesteryear with a range of U of I sports memorabilia on the walls, including an unparalleled life-size replica of Chief Illiniwek.

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Southern Illinois University Salukis

Bring your grill and gather your family and friends to post up along Saluki Row to cheer on Southern Illinois University! Before the game you can join other fans for food, live music and a chance to meet Gray Dawg himself. Saluki Pride runs deep in Carbondale, with fans of all ages headed out for this weekly tradition.

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No trip to Carbondale is complete without a burger from Fat Patties, named one of Illinois’ best burgers by Thrillist. Most of Fat Patties’ dishes are cooked with local veggies, beef from Lick Creek Beef and Bison from Bison Bluff Farms, ensuring that you have the freshest meal possible.

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For more ideas on where to attend live sporting events throughout Illinois visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Illinois is a destination for foodies from all over the world. From gourmet meals to guilty pleasures, you can find it all. This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos of what they were eating around the state. Check out a few of our favorite shots below and be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

8.15 DryHop (at)hyaphoto

We kicked off the week with this mouthwatering photo from DryHop Chicago, shared with us by @hyaphoto.

Illinois State Fair (at)seantmcgill

No visit to the Illinois State Fair is complete without an order of mini donuts from The Donut Family! Thanks to @seantmcgill for sharing.

Reuben Sandwich (at)prairiestreetbrewing

This Reuben sandwich, made with local ingredients, from Prairie Street Brewing Co. has got us planning our next trip to Rockford. (Photo by @prairiestreetbrewingco)

Velvet Taco (at)tornado_ally

It doesn’t need to be a Tuesday to enjoy some tasty selections from Velvet Taco in Chicago. Great capture, @tornado_ally! See more of her travels at http://tornado-ally.com/.

Wrigley Hot Dog (at)rockford_cravings

Get the full ballpark experience with a Wrigley dog while cheering on the Cubs! Thanks for sharing @rockford_cravings.

Skalies at Graham's Fine Chocolates Geneva (at)chocolateuplift

Chocolate can be a food group too. How delicious do these “Skalies” from Graham’s Fine Chocolates in Geneva look? (Photo by @chocolateuplift)

Ron's Cajun Connection (at)sauk_it_to_me

Cajun food right here in Illinois? You bet! Thanks to @sauk_it_to_me for sharing this tasty dish from Ron’s Cajun Connection in Utica.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Summer festival season is officially upon us! From carnivals and state fairs to music and food fests, Illinois knows how to celebrate sweet summertime. This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos of their favorite summer festivals across Illinois. Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

7.18 Heart of Illinois Fair - (at) straublund

We started this week’s challenge with this thrilling photo of the Heart of Illinois Fair in Peoria. Thanks @straublund for the awesome shot!

+Glendale heights Summer Fest - (at) morsecodebecks

Our favorite part of a carnival is the carousel too! We love this shot of the Glendale Heights Summerfest by @morsecodebecks.

+Taste of Chicago - (at)psb_photos

We couldn’t miss a weekend of music, activities and Chicago’s best dining at the Taste of Chicago! Thanks for this cool photo @psb_photos.

+Vernon Hills Carnival - (at)chicagokiddieworld

So many rides! It’s a good thing the Vernon Hills Summer Celebration lasted all weekend so we could ride them all. (Photo by @chicagokiddieworld)

+NW IL Jazz Fest, Stockton - (at) stoned_art_studio

We can’t help but dance at the Northwest Illinois Jazz Fest in Stockton! Thanks @stoned_art_studio for the great photo.

+Heart of Illinois Fair 2- (at) svarttrost

This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Thanks for the exhilarating photo of the Heart of Illinois Fair @svarttrost!

+Young At Heart Festival (at)tyleryomantasphotography

What a ride! Thanks @tyleryomantasphotography for this awesome photo of the Young at Heart Festival in Loves Park.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

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Route 66. It’s a road so mythical, you may wonder if it still exists. And yet, cutting through Illinois is a 300-mile stretch of Route 66 that even today captures the imaginations of travelers from around the world. The kitsch, the nostalgia, the people – it’s got all the makings of a road trip that’s just as much about the journey as the destination. The journey down the Mother Road is sure to be one that won’t disappoint.

Summer is the perfect time to pack your bags, roll down the windows and cruise along the legendary road. Below are the must-visit spots along Illinois Route 66 to get your summer road trip plans started.

First up, stop in to Lou Mitchell’s diner in Chicago to fuel up for the journey ahead. This classic American diner has been around for nearly 100 years, serving all the classics, plus freshly baked donut holes when you walk in the door.

Route 66 is known for its assortment of roadside attractions, and Illinois is home to plenty of them. Make sure to snap an Insta-worthy photo at the Gemini Giant statue in Wilmington. And while you’re there, head ten minutes down the road to the Polk-a-Dot Drive In for a burger, fries and chocolate shake.

Gemini Giant

The Gemini Giant in Wilmington

About 1.5 hours into the trip, you’ll come to a quaint town called Pontiac, one of the most famous Route 66 towns along the way. The nostalgia and charm of Route 66 is what this town is known for. Here you’ll find the Route 66 Hall of Fame & Museum, a tour of hand painted murals around the town, and even the Pontiac-Oakland Auto Museum. This entire museum is dedicated to the Pontiac car.

“The Pontiac Museum has been a wonderful addition to the attractions found here in Pontiac. It’s the second most popular attraction and is slowly gaining on the Illinois Route 66 Museum,” said Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac tourism. “Having the Pontiac-Oakland Museum here has led to dozens of car clubs coming to town, some of them multiple times.”

As you continue your journey, you’ll come to an even smaller town – Atlanta. This little town packs a big punch in Route 66 history. Make sure to grab a bite, or at least a slice of pie and coffee, at The Palms Grill Café. Head across the street and snap a selfie with the Paul Bunyon Hotdog statue, another Muffler man.

Paul Bunyon Hot Dog

The Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue in Atlanta, next to The Palms Grill Café

Keep driving and you’ll come to Springfield, known as the home Abraham Lincoln. But did you know Springfield is also home to the Cozy Dog Drive In? This classic Route 66 diner is the originator of the corn dog, or “Cozy Dog.” Stop by for a true Route 66 experience. And just outside Springfield is a stretch of the original hand-laid brick road.

Doc’s Soda Fountain in Girard was originally a pharmacy built in the 1880’s, and the soda fountain was added to the business in the 1950’s. Stop in for an old-fashioned treat or ice-cream.

Doc's Soda Fountain

Doc’s Soda Fountain and drug store museum

The Ariston Café in Litchfield is one of the oldest along Route 66 and placed on National Registry of Historic Places. Stop in for a bite to eat and then head across the street to the Route 66 Welcome Center to see memorabilia and history from the Mother Road.

Ariston Cafe

The Ariston Café in Litchfield, across the street from the Route 66 Welcome Center

To end your Route 66 journey through Illinois, get a final photo at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville.

Whether you follow our guide or choose your own adventure, a trip down Route 66 is one that you will be looking back on with a smile for years to come.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

 

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Happy Fourth of July Weekend! It’s never too early to start celebrating, so we asked our Instagram followers to share photos themed red, white and blue across Illinois. Check out a few of our favorite shots from around the state below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for upcoming weekly challenges. Share your best photos with us by tagging #EnjoyIllinois and your photo could be featured!

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

+Navy Pier Fireworks (at) mynameisxela

What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than watching fireworks? That’s why we kicked off this week’s challenge with this awesome photo of Navy Pier’s grand firework show. Thanks to @mynameisxela for this great photo!

+ Macy's Chicago (at)Kait.radke

What a great way to showcase the American flag! Thanks for the great picture of Macy’s in Chicago @kait.radke.

+Bloomington (at) selzermusic

Best part of Fourth of July cookouts? Desserts! These cake balls look delicious! Thanks @selzermusic for sharing.

+Bourbonnais Friendship Fest (at) josh.lundmark

The Ferris wheel at Bourbonnais Friendship Fest is all ready to celebrate Independence Day! Thanks @josh.lundmark for this awesome photo!

+Fox River Queen, St. Charles (at)yoga.gal

What a great idea to spend the Fourth of July on the Fox River Queen in St. Charles! Thanks for sharing @yoga.gal.png.

+Galena (at)longhollowcanopytours

Zip lining at Long Hollow Canopy Tours with the American flag, how much more freedom can you get in one picture? Thanks for sharing @longhollowcanopytours!

+Lake Forest (at) elawafarm

Look at those festive sprinkles! Thanks @elawafarm for the great photo!

+Riverside Illinois (at) riversideillinois

How cool is this American Flag from 1976? Thanks for sharing with us @riversideillinois!

+Rt. 66 (at) sauk_it_to_me

Even Route 66’s Lauterbach Muffler Man can’t wait to celebrate the Fourth of July! Thanks for this great photo @sauk_it_to_me!

+Crystal Lake (at)  j_r_petry

Red, white and blue stands out anywhere! Thanks @j_r_petry for sharing this photo of St. Charles!

-Illinois Office of Tourism