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There’s no better place to learn about the nation’s 16th President than Illinois, the Land of Lincoln! There are many ‘Honest Abe’ stories to be uncovered along the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail that runs through the 42-county area of Central Illinois designated by Congress as The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Lincoln spent almost 30 years of his life in Central Illinois and through a series of more than 200 sites and wayside exhibits in more than 50 communities, visitors will find the stories of Lincoln’s life and times in Illinois.

To commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the Illinois Office of Tourism has teamed up with the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition to give visitors a taste of how they can travel Illinois to go “Looking for Lincoln,” starting with a three-day trip through Bloomington and Springfield:

Day 1 – Bloomington

The David Davis Mansion in Bloomington was owned by Lincoln’s close friend, Judge David Davis. (Photo courtesy of David Davis Mansion)

Morning

Start your day at the magnificent David Davis Mansion, once owned by Lincoln confidante and close friend, Judge David Davis. Tour this stately 19th century mansion and its beautiful grounds to get a glimpse of artifacts and technologies from the 1800s and to learn more about the social and political life Lincoln knew.

Next, stop at the McLean County Historical Museum, located inside a beautiful old courthouse on the town square. Here you will find many stories of the rich history of McLean County, including the many stories of the local residents who were Lincoln’s contemporaries as he rose from prairie lawyer to the man who would be president. Don’t miss the Visitor Center on the first floor where you’ll find more information on the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, as well as the Illinois Route 66 National Scenic Byway.

Afternoon

Time to hit the road for a short trip south to Lincoln, Illinois; the only city named for Abraham Lincoln while he was still living. Here you will discover a remarkable collection of Lincoln-related artifacts and documents at the Lincoln Heritage Museum, on the campus of Lincoln College. Treasures include rare artifacts from the Lincoln’s home, including dishware, books and mourning clothing that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln. The museum also has an original correspondence from President Lincoln and information on every member of his cabinet as well as Civil War military leaders.

For a look into the life of Lincoln the lawyer, visit the Postville Courthouse State Historic Site. Step back in time as you imagine yourself arguing a point of law in this rugged, brown-frame building – a replica of the building that served as the seat for Logan County government from 1840-48. Visitors will see exhibits that tell the story of the 8th Judicial Circuit, where Lincoln honed his skills as a successful prairie lawyer.

A visit to Mt. Pulaski Courthouse State Historic Site will take you to one of only two remaining 8th Judicial Circuit Courthouses standing on their original site. A frequent stop along the circuit traveled by Lincoln, the courthouse is restored, furnished and interpreted as a 1850s courthouse to give visitors a feel for how Lincoln truly knew it.

As you head toward Springfield, in the heart of the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, consider a stop at the Palms Grill Café in Atlanta. Not only is this an iconic stop along Illinois Route 66, but visitors will also find a great Lincoln exhibit upstairs that tells the story of Lincoln’s influence on this charming community.

Evening

Journey on until you arrive in Illinois’ capital city of Springfield. This is the city Lincoln and his family called home for more than 25 years and is the final resting place for Lincoln, Mary and three of their children. Check into your hotel and enjoy a relaxing dinner at any one of the 200 restaurants in the historic downtown area.

Day 2 – Springfield

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in downtown Springfield.

Morning

A perfect first stop on your Lincoln journey in Springfield is the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. From the humble beginnings of a young pioneer to the halls of the White House, the story of Lincoln’s life is captured through original artifacts, special effects theaters with high action and ghostly images, and so much more. After exploring all the museum has to offer, step outside to look for Lincoln in the many authentic historic sites and stories told throughout the city.

Just a short walk from the museum is the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Here, visitors step into the daily life of the Lincoln family as you enter the only home the Lincolns ever owned. A stroll through the lovely historic neighborhood surrounding the home will give you a rare glimpse of Mr. Lincoln as a husband, father, neighbor and friend.

After your visit, choose from a variety of downtown restaurants offering everything from a quick soup and sandwich to a full midday meal. A walk through the historic streets will also take you to a number of unique boutique stores, antique shops and galleries.

Afternoon

In the center of downtown, you’ll find the Old State Capitol State Historic Site. Here, you can stand in the very spot where Lincoln made his famous “House Divided” speech, as well as where he argued cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and spent countless hours discussing the issues of the day with his colleagues. It was also at this site that Lincoln served as an Illinois state legislator and was laid in state before his burial at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

Close to downtown is the Edwards Place Historic Home, the 1850s home of Lincoln’s friends, the Edwards Family. Within the home you can find the famous “Lincoln courting couch,” on which Lincoln and Mary had many conversations while courting, and where a number of their wedding guests sat as they watched the future President and First Lady exchange their vows.

For a step forward in time, be sure to check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House. Originally planned as a remodel project of a Lincoln-era Victorian mansion, this home is one of the finest Wright-designed homes anywhere in the United States. While Wright grudgingly preserved one room of the original Victorian home, the house is known as one of the most complete examples of Wright’s prairie-style design and includes virtually all of the original furniture, light fixtures and stained glass.

Day 3 – Springfield to Bloomington

The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site in Springfield is where Lincoln, Mary and three of their children are buried.

Morning

As you head back toward Bloomington, on the edge of Springfield, visit Oak Ridge Cemetery, home to the final resting place of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site. Visitors feel the majesty as you gaze upon the stunning granite monument where Lincoln, his wife and three of their four children are laid to rest. Surpassed only by Arlington National Cemetery, Oak Ridge is the second most visited cemetery in the United States.

A short trip off the main highway along the shores of the Sangamon River is New Salem State Historic Site. Explore the reconstructed pioneer village where Lincoln lived and worked as a young man. Immerse yourself in the daily lives of the villagers as living history interpreters bring the stories of Lincoln the store clerk, postmaster and citizen soldier to life. Beautiful in any season, New Salem will take you back to the days of Illinois’ earliest pioneers. A quick drive north will take you to Petersburg, the quaint small town where ancestors of many of the original New Salem families still make their home today. It’s worth a stop to visit the delightful shops, restaurants and Victorian-era homes.

Along the way back to Bloomington, consider making a quick stop in Athens at the Long Nine Museum, or pick up delicious homemade Maple syrup or Maple candy at the famous Funks Grove Maple Sirup, located just off Illinois Route 66, to complete your journey.

To learn more about more than 200 Illinois sites that make up the Looking for Lincoln Story Trail and begin planning your trip, visit LookingForLincoln.com and EnjoyIllinois.com.

 – Illinois Office of Tourism

Which historic town is located in the northwest corner of Illinois and has outstanding dining, drinks, shopping and hospitality? Galena! With an historic Main Street filled with charming B&Bs, shopping, and dining, Galena offers plenty to do for a weekend getaway. Because Galena is such a great Midwest getaway, we recently sent Chicago-based foodie and Instagrammer Samantha Roby (known on Instagram as @chicagofoodauthority) there to share her experience of tasting her way through the town and her view on the spectacular sites.

Throughout her weekend trip, Samantha captured incredible food pictures and experienced many Galena activities including spa services, wine tasting, cooking classes and more. Below you’ll find a brief look at Samantha’s itinerary, as well as hear her story through a Q&A session with the Illinois Office of Tourism team upon her return. Warning: the food pics below are sure to make your mouth water!

ITINERARY

 DAY 1

Lunch at Little Tokyo Japanese Restaurant

Little Tokyo is home to some of the freshest Japanese sushi in the Midwest. After opening in 2009, Little Tokyo quickly earned its reputation for the finest Japanese food in the Midwest, serving signature rolls made with the freshest yellowtail, salmon and tuna.  In addition to raw fish dishes, Little Tokyo has a wide variety of menu items, including Japanese steaks, Teriyaki and beef dishes to please every palate.

 Cooking Demonstration with The Breakfast Diva

Food Network winner Susan Steffan, better known as “The Breakfast Diva”, shares the secrets of her kitchen during her cooking classes and at her restaurant, Farmers Guest House. Her 80-minute interactive cooking show includes lots of audience participation, laughs, hints, cooking tips and stories from Susan’s Food Network experience. The class menu changes throughout the year to include seasonal ingredients so repeat visitors can always learn something new. After you’ve prepared the food alongside Susan, attendees get the chance to taste the delicious masterpieces they’ve created.

Weekend-long stay at The Goldmoor Inn

Previously a privately-owned estate, the magnificent Goldmoor Inn celebrates 30+ years of hospitality after its transformation. The inn offers guests everything from cabins to suites, and even cottages. During their stay, guests can expect to enjoy top-notch service, decadent dining and relaxing spa services in a romantic setting overlooking the Mississippi River.

DAY 2

Spa Session at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

At Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, visitors can enjoy a soothing, relaxing 50-minute spa session in a remote and quiet area. With more than 6,000 square feet of spa space and 10 signature treatments, you will feel at peace and rejuvenated after a professional masseuse works out your body’s most stressed-out spots.

In addition to relaxation packages, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa offers other activities like golfing on the resort’s four championship golf courses, horseback riding, boating and access to Galena’s hot air balloon experience, Galena on the Fly. Lodging accommodations range from a golf-side villa to a beautifully decorated traditional inn room, perfect for a weekend getaway.

Tour of Galena Wine Cellars Vineyard & Winery

At Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, you can experience Illinois wine and celebrate a 30-year tradition of family winemaking. Enjoy wine tasting, from a choice of 40 different varietals, while relaxing on the comfortable wrap-around deck of the charming farmhouse turned Tasting Room. During a tour and tasting, visitors learn how the 22 varieties of grapes grown in the rich soil go from humble vine to award-winning wine.

The vineyard is open year-round and offers lodging along with the tastings and tours. Galena Wine Cellars Vineyard also hosts special annual events such as the Wine Lover’s Weekend in March, Fall Harvest and Art Festival in September, and Nouveau Wine Weekend in November.

Tour Night of Luminaria and Living Windows

Each December, Galena lights up with nearly 5,000 candle-lit Luminaria scattered throughout the town. But that’s not all; shop windows along Main Street come to life with old-fashioned Christmas decorations and displays during Living Windows, adding to the holiday cheer. During the festivities, many local businesses also set up shop outdoors along Main Street so that visitors can browse while taking in the lights display.

DAY 3

Lunch at One Eleven Main

One Eleven Main brings farm-to-table dining to Galena. The restaurant works directly with local farmers and features locally-sourced ingredients in their tasty, one-of-a-kind dishes. With a wide variety of menu items for lunch and dinner, any foodie is sure to enjoy the delicious dishes One Eleven Main serves up.

Exploring Galena

To take a trip similar to Samantha’s, or to plan your own Galena getaway, check out our Trip Ideas.

Q&A

We chatted with Samantha after her trip, and here’s what she had to say about her Galena adventure.

Q: What were you most looking forward to before beginning the trip?

Samantha Roby: I have always heard wonderful things about Galena from friends that had visited, but never got around to making the trip for myself. As a Chicago resident, I have tried many of the amazing restaurants in the city but haven’t had the chance to experience the culinary offerings throughout the rest of the state. I was really excited to get the chance to not only try out new restaurants in Galena, but explore a part of the state that I had never visited.

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Looking for incredible farm to table dishes? One Eleven Main is the place to go!

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about the trip?

 Samantha Roby: Yes, before I left I had an image of a quiet small town in my head. I knew that there were great restaurants and outdoor attractions, but there turned out to be so much more than I had expected.  As I made my way through the downtown, I could not believe just how much there was to explore. Main Street is bustling with a ton of cute shops and bakeries, like Sweetheart Bakery, as well as a wide variety of locally-owned restaurants and bars that were easy to drop into. One of my favorite places to visit was Galena Canning Company. I loved getting to sample all of the delicious jellies and sauces and talk with the owners about the family history behind their products.

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Your sweet tooth will thank you for stopping to try one of these doughy creations at Sweetheart Bakery.

Q: What is one “must visit” attraction in Galena?

Samantha Roby: Our visit to Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery was definitely a high point of the trip. While the vineyards were closed off for the season, the tasting room and winery were open for us to explore. I have been on a number of wine tours before, but I have never been given such an in-depth look into the wine making process. During our tour, we were led into the fermentation room where we got to taste fresh fruits, such as strawberries and rhubarbs, and then watch as they were pressed to create delicious dessert wines. It was so interesting to see the different machinery in use as the process was happening.

It was clear that the Galena Cellars team has perfected the wine-making process and is committed to making sure their products are made with the freshest ingredients. This became even more evident as we moved into the tasting room to try some varietals for ourselves. Every single wine we tried had a perfectly unique flavor. Our plan was to purchase one bottle to enjoy once we got back to Chicago, but they were so good we ended up buying a whole case!

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Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery was named the 2016 Best Winery in Illinois by Yahoo .

Q: If you only had time for one meal in Galena, where would you recommend stopping?

Samantha Roby: While everywhere we ate was wonderful, I would definitely recommend Otto’s Place. We stopped there for brunch on Saturday and I can honestly say it was one of the best brunches I’ve had in a long time. We ordered the breakfast tacos, corn beef hash and a big side of ham, and everything was delicious. We couldn’t put our finger on exactly what seasoning they used, but my boyfriend and I have not stopped talking about it since we’ve gotten back. I make potatoes for myself at home but the hash there was truly incredible because of how well it was seasoned. We’re thinking about giving them a call to see if they sell any of their special seasonings for us to use at home!

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Take it from Samantha, Otto’s Place is a must visit brunch spot while in Galena!

Q: What would you say to someone who has never visited Galena?

Samantha Roby: What are you waiting for?! After visiting I could not believe that it took me as long as it did to take a trip out there. Galena truly has something for everyone to experience, no matter what your interests are. There are incredible restaurants and wineries, relaxing spas, unique shops, and tons of historical sites, all surrounded by the beautiful Galena Territory. To top it off, everyone you meet is incredibly friendly and ready to offer their recommendation on where you should visit around town.

If anything, I wish that my trip was longer so that I could experience even more of Galena’s great attractions. Now that I’ve visited Galena in the winter, I would love to go back in warmer weather so that I can ride the zip-line at Chestnut Mountain, take a trolley tour to learn more about Galena’s history and maybe even go for a hot air balloon ride. The options are endless!

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-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Illinois is teeming with places to spend time with your family, and there’s also no shortage of history to learn about during pretty much any road trip around the state. We recently partnered with Chicago-based photographer and Instagramer Craig Hensel (@thecraighensel) and his family as they took a road trip around Central Illinois. Along the way, Craig caught some incredible photos as they learned more about Illinois Amish community, took part in some fall activities and learned a bit more about the history of Abraham Lincoln. Below you’ll find a brief look at Craig’s itinerary, as well as a Q&A session the Illinois Office of Tourism had with him upon his return.

craig-hensel-map

A map of Craig’s three-day, Central Illinois road trip.

ITINERARY

DAY 1

The Great Pumpkin Patch, Arthur

The Great Pumpkin Patch has more than 300 varieties of pumpkins, squash and gourds from 30+ countries around the world; all grown on the farm at The 200 Acres. Amazing pumpkin towers, beautiful gardens and a petting zoo with goats, pigs, exotic chickens, rabbits, a llama and an alpaca, make this a great family spot.

Located in Arthur,  a town of 2,200 residents, the Great Pumpkin Patch sits  in the heart of Illinois Amish Country, with more than 1,000 Amish families living in the countryside. Established in 1865 by a handful of families, today more than 4,500 Amish live in the town and surrounding rural townships.

Aikman Wildlife Adventure, Arcola

Located between Arthur and Arcola, Aikman Wildlife Adventure is a drive-through park where you can get up close and personal with animals you’ve only seen on television or behind fencing at a zoo. Visitors have the opportunity to see and take pictures of animals walking around directly outside their vehicles while  driving the one-mile long path through the park. Aikman’s also features a separate walk-through adventure with kangaroos, cavies, wallabies and lemurs, and a large petting zoo area.

DAY 2

Marcoot Jersey Creamery, Greenville

Marcoot Jersey Creamery, a proud maker in the Illinois Made program, is a seventh-generation, family-owned farm that specializes in the handcrafted production of artisan and farmstead cheeses. At the creamery, visitors can take a tour and meet the cows, experience the milking parlor, and sample and purchase a variety of cheeses, ice creams and more.

DAY 3

Abraham Lincoln Sites, Springfield

History comes alive around every corner in Springfield, home to more Lincoln sites than anywhere else in the nation. Visitors can explore everything from the historic Old State Capitol to Lincoln’s home, tomb and  his must-see presidential museum.

To take a trip similar to Craig’s, or to plan an entirely new trip, check out our Trip Ideas.

Q&A

Here’s what Craig had to say about his favorite memories of the trip and some of the information he and his family learned along the way.

Q: What were you most looking forward to before beginning the trip?

Craig Hensel: I was most looking forward to my time on the trip with my family and exploring Illinois. As far as a place I was particularly excited to see, that had to be Arthur and the Amish community. That was really unique to me, and I enjoyed watching my kids experience things they’d never seen before.

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Craig’s daughter running towards a tower of pumpkins at The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about the trip?

Craig Hensel: One thing that really surprised me in Springfield was when we went into this shop that had antiques from Lincoln’s days; like an old muzzleloader. I didn’t expect that to be in the town, and I was impressed that the shop had such old stuff.

The other thing that surprised me was our visit to Marcoot Jersey Creamery. Marcoot’s story is incredible – now run by the family’s seventh generation. You don’t see family businesses handed down from generation to generation like that very much anymore, so it was a really special experience for our family.

The big surprise was when we were driving home, we stopped at Lincoln’s New Salem site in Petersburg, and that blew our minds. We felt like we were walking back in time.

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Unique angle inside the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: After you got back to Chicago, had anything changed in your expectations of the trip?

Craig Hensel: I expected to see the rural towns, but I didn’t expect to see the diversity in the communities, like the Amish County in Arthur. What blew my mind was seeing the Lincoln sites through the historic lens. It was very impressive to learn so much about our state’s history. I felt a deeper understanding of what Illinois is and who we are.

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Craig’s wife, Jenah, was resting on Lincoln’s cabin at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Is there one specific memory or experience from the trip that’s going to stick with you?

Craig Hensel: The Lincoln museum was a big one for sure. The era of pioneer history is very attractive. Lincoln’s New Salem Site was probably the most memorable. We had time to walk through the woods and decompress as a family before heading back to the big city. Another good memory is from Marcoot Creamery. My daughter loves animals, and so here’s my kid in the middle of this little barn with about 25 calves that were just born. That visual memory of my kids is awesome. Also, when my daughter was picking up farm dogs and watching three or four dogs surrounding her. Those little memories in my mind are what will stick.

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An awesome close-up shot of a zebra at Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

Q: Any last advice for other Chicagoans looking to explore downstate?

Craig Hensel: I think people are missing out if people don’t take time to take a three-hour trip. There’s a National Park right in Springfield!

Going downstate, don’t be afraid to take the back roads. Don’t be afraid to follow the brown highway signs. The food and the hospitality are amazing, and anytime you can, take advantage of the farm-to-table dining. If you haven’t already, make a stop in Springfield to visit the Abraham Lincoln sites, and see for yourself what it was like to live back in the 1800s. Experience local restaurants and mom and pop restaurants, which probably have the best food in the Midwest. Try to drive Route 66 if you can and go through the small, historic towns.

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A beautiful rural road near the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur. (Photo by Craig Hensel)

– 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

The journey can be just as rewarding as the destination, and the roads and paths throughout Illinois can bring us on some pretty amazing journeys. This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos of their favorite roads and paths 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.

7.11 Roads kickoff (atjonfromchicago

We started this week’s challenge with this photo leading us to the Loop in Chicago! Thanks (at)jonfromchicago for the awesome shot!

Shawnee National Forest (at)nomadicvisuals

There are incredible pathways all over the state, like this one in Shawnee National Forest. Great capture by (at)nomadicvisuals

+Southern Illinois (at)_skinnyman_

You might be surprised about what you might cross paths with in Illinois! Thanks (at)_skinnyman_ for the great photo of Southern Illinois!

-Galena (at) danreynoldsphotography

You never know where the path may lead especially when exploring Galena! Thanks (at)danreynoldsphotogaphy for the great photo!

-Golf Course Road, Marion IL (at) my_tinfoil_crown

Follow the yellow brick road? We’ll follow the Golf Course Road instead! Thanks for the cool photo (at)my_tinfoil_crown!

-Great Western Trail (at) stufotog

We could spend all summer exploring the Great Western Trail! Thanks (at)stufotog for the awesome photo!

-McHenry County Conservation District North Branch (at) discovermccd (at)iltrailbiker

Listening to Robert Frost and taking the road less traveled to McHenry County Conservation district! Thanks (at)iltrailbiker for the great shot!

-Rockford (at) projectrockford (at)checoimgd

This covered path leads us right to downtown Rockford! Instagrammer (at)checoimgd captured this one for Project Rockford!

Country Roads (at)sheisthewoods

There’s nothing like a trip down country roads, just ask (at)sheisthewoods.

-Illinois Office of Tourism