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Train  Feature

Traveling in Illinois doesn’t have to mean hopping in a car and hitting the road. Riding the rails with one of Chicago and Illinois’ various train operators makes a trip in the Land of Lincoln easy and accessible. Metra and Amtrak are great options for taking a trip to Chicago’s surrounding suburbs or extending your journey to cities across the state.

Exploring the Chicago Suburbs with Metra

Metra makes it easy to get out of the city and explore neighboring communities

Metra makes it easy to get out of the city and explore neighboring communities

The Chicago area is filled with unique restaurants, great shopping and exciting attractions for travelers to discover.  With 241 Metra stations, it’s easy to plan a short trip or weekend getaway to the nearby cities outside Chicago.

Take a day trip to Rosemont, Illinois from downtown Chicago to experience the bustling Fashion Outlets, offering more than 130 designer stores as well as dining and entertainment. Hop on the North Central Service (NCS) from downtown Chicago’s Union Station and in just 30 minutes you’ll be there.

Explore more than 130 designer stores at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago (Photo Credit: Cody Hudson)

Explore more than 130 designer stores at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago
(Photo Credit: Cody Hudson)

Who doesn’t love an outdoor concert in the summer? Plan your journey to the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. This short trip from Chicago offers a variety of outdoor musical performances all summer long. Take the Union Pacific North Line (UP-N) from Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago to the Ravinia Park Station, and in less than an hour you can kick back with family and friends and enjoy live music and dining.

Nothing beats sharing live, outdoor music with family and friends (Photo Credit: Ravinia Festival)

Nothing beats sharing live, outdoor music with family and friends
(Photo Credit: Ravinia Festival)

Expand Your Horizons Aboard Amtrak

This map showcases all the convenient Amtrak routes in Illinois

This map showcases all the convenient Amtrak routes in Illinois

With 35 train stations around the state, Amtrak gives travelers a chance to see all that Illinois has to offer while taking in the beautiful scenery along the way. In just a few hours, you can go from the bustling Windy City to one of the hundreds of cities around Illinois.

Take a weekend trip to Effingham and experience all that the city has to offer. Stop by the Tuscan Hills Winery for a tour and tasting of Illinois wine, and for a true farm-to-table meal, visit the nationally recognized Firefly Grill.

Experience the freshest ingredients and one of a kind meal at Firefly Grill

Experience the freshest ingredients and one of a kind meal at Firefly Grill

If you’re looking for a family-friendly outdoor vacation, Effingham has plenty of trails and parks for you to check out. Plan a trip to the TREC Recreation Trails to enjoy the beautiful scenery and outdoor recreational activities like running, hiking, biking and roller blading.

Enjoy an active, outdoor vacation at the TREC Recreation Trails

Enjoy an active, outdoor vacation at the TREC Recreation Trails
(Photo Credit: Effingham CVB)

For more weekend getaways only a train ride away, check out EnjoyIllinois.com!

– Illinois Office of Tourism

After spending a fall day shopping in downtown Galena, you are sure to crave some of the warm, Italian comfort food Fried Green Tomatoes serves. With a menu full of rustic favorites that of course includes a fried green tomato appetizer, Fried Green Tomatoes is a must-stop spot in Illinois’ Great Rivers Country region.

Housed in one of Galena’s historic buildings, the inviting atmosphere sets the scene for a romantic dinner for two or a night out with friends. The restaurant boasts an award-winning wine list recognized by Wine Spectator. What’s more, you can sample any of the house pours for only $2 a glass every Tuesday night.

An award-winning wine list provides perfect pairing options for any item on the menu (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

An award-winning wine list provides perfect pairing options for any item on the menu (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

This local favorite takes pride in their attention to detail on every plate and unwavering customer service. Fried Green Tomatoes was awarded Trip Advisor’s 2013 Certificate of Excellence for consistent outstanding traveler reviews. This prestigious honor is only given to the top 10 percent of businesses listed on the world’s largest travel site.

Visitors and locals alike flock to Main Street in Downtown Galena every fall (Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

Visitors and locals alike flock to Main Street in Downtown Galena every fall (Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

While the restaurant only serves dinner, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy during the day in downtown Galena. Take the General Grant walking tour to explore the historic highlights of Main Street guided by one of Galena’s most notable citizens, General Ulysses S. Grant.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Galena Main Street

No matter the season, we all need a vacation every now and then. What better way to relax and unwind than with a weekend getaway to a town filled with historic charm, picturesque rolling hills and the “Best Main Street in the Midwest?”

Galena’s historic Main Street looks much like it did during the time of the Civil War, although the historic red brick buildings that line the street are now home to nearly 100 charming boutiques, art galleries, museums and restaurants.

A view of Galena’s historic Main Street (Photo credit: Robert Keeling)

A view of Galena’s historic Main Street (Photo credit: Robert Keeling)

Whether you’re in the mood to shop for treasures, visit some of the eclectic art galleries, sit back and relax while tasting wine from around the region or try delicious cuisine at one of Galena’s family-owned and operated restaurants, a visit to Galena’s Main Street makes for a terrific weekend getaway.

You can enjoy all that the historic street has to offer with a tour around town by Galena Trolley Tours, a night at Miss Kitty’s Grape Escape for a cocktail, gourmet appetizers and live music, or a nighttime ghost tour with Amelia’s Galena Ghost Tours, Inc.

Eager shoppers cruising Main Street

Eager shoppers cruising Main Street

Galena’s Main Street is also home to many cozy hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts, like the DeSoto House, the oldest operating hotel in Illinois, dating back to 1855. If you’re up for some adventure, take a walk, jog or bike ride on the six-mile Galena River Trail.

Come find out for yourself why Midwest Living magazine named Galena’s Main Street the “Best Main Street in the Midwest,” and don’t miss your chance to vote for this fabulous destination as the 8th Wonder of the World by VirtualTourist.com. Click here to vote now through September 30.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

The great Prairie State is known for its many world-famous attractions. With everything from art museums, to Lincoln history and even an entire town dedicated to the incredible Superman, there’s so much to do and so much to take home.

With the help of the new 2013 Travel Guide, we’ve rounded up ten of the best shops for one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Make sure to bring a bag big enough to bring home all of your new found treasures and treats!

  1. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Store

If you’re looking for a great place to find Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, start with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Store. Pick up a reprint of the famous Gettysburg Address or sample Honest Abe’s favorite eats with the A. Lincoln Cookbook.

Find historic treasures at the ALPLM

Find historic treasures at the ALPLM

  1. Art Institute of Chicago Shop

The extraordinary Art Institute of Chicago offers a great shop to find knick-knacks, such as a poster or notecards featuring your favorite artists’ work. Or, go home with your own piece of art with one of the shop’s hand crafted pieces of jewelry.

  1. Cahokia Mounds Museum Gift Shop

At the dynamic Cahokia Mounds Museum Gift Shop, you can find authentic Native American crafts, books on cultural traditions and even replicas of the artifacts found at the site.

  1. Caterpillar Visitors Center Store

Catch an insider’s look of the fascinating work of Caterpillar, the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, at the brand new Visitors Center. Make sure to swing by the Visitors Center Store to pick up a “Cat hat” and so much more!

The new state-of-the-art Caterpillar Visitors Center

The new state-of-the-art Caterpillar Visitors Center

  1. Chicago History Museum Store

Browse Windy City themed books, Chicago inspired gifts or take home a magic trick set from the Chicago History Museum Store.

  1. Field Museum Main Store

At the Field Museum Main Store, find incredible treasures like the “Paint & Play SUE,” a take-home art kit of the museum’s famous dinosaur on exhibit.

  1. Museum of Science and Industry Shops
The exciting toy maker is one of many specialties at the Museum of Science and Industry

The exciting toy maker is one of many specialties at the Museum of Science and Industry

Discover not one, but three unique shops at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Stop by The Kids Stop Shop to bring home fun science themed toys, like the best-selling “brain kits.”

  1. John Deere Store

If you’re a John Deere fan, this store is an absolute must! It’s located next to the John Deere Pavilion, which offers an up-close look at the company’s history, products and solutions to provide food for the world’s growing population. Grab t-shirts with the iconic leaping deer logo or bring a toy home for your smaller farmers.

  1. Museum Store at the Illinois State Museum

While visiting the state capital, visit the Museum Store at the Illinois State Museum to pick up wonderful and unique jewelry, ceramics and paintings by Illinois artists.

  1. Super Museum Store

The home of Superman is filled with extraordinary gifts and tokens celebrating the Man in Steel. At the Super Museum Store, you can pick up a collectible comic book, kryptonite rock candy and even Wonder Woman themed gifts!

Classic Superman treasures you can’t wait to take home!

Classic Superman treasures you can’t wait to take home!

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

2 pink cookies

Pink Cookies at Davis Pastry

The Southern Illinois Town of Anna offers some unique shops, and a family run bakery that has been around since 1953!  Enjoy browsing on Main Street in such shops as This –n- That Flea Market, Down Home Do-dads, and Jim & Dots Western Wear, and be sure and try a sweet treat at Davis Pastry.  The pink cookie is famous, at least in Southern Illinois, and, if you give one a try, you will know why!     I have to admit that the pink iced sugar cookies are my favorite. But there are other items just as delicious. The brownies! The cream horns! The sweet rolls! And the doughnuts!    Try some and tell us your favorite!

Davis Pastry Shop, 206 S. Main St., Anna, IL; (618) 833-2161; hours: Monday-Saturday, 5:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Enjoy Southern Illinois!

Carol