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Feature Image NYE

From family-friendly to unique, there are so many wonderful ways to ring in 2016 in Illinois. New Year’s Eve is a chance to take stock of the previous year with an eye towards all the possibilities ahead. Whether you prefer a quiet, intimate atmosphere or a blowout – you’ll find a special celebration in the Land of Lincoln.

First Night Springfield
An Illinois tradition, this year’s First Night Springfield is the city’s 29th Annual New Year’s Eve Celebration of the Arts, featuring more than 30 performances taking place on eight stages in downtown Springfield.

The array of musical acts pauses at 8 p.m. for a free fireworks gala. A staple of First Night, the fireworks display bursts over the Illinois State Capitol, wondrously illuminating downtown.

Zoo Year’s Eve at Brookfield Zoo
Rock out where the wild things are this New Year’s at Brookfield Zoo. A live DJ, games, party favors, prizes and an early countdown at 8:00 p.m. headline this family friendly affair.

No need to keep the little ones up late with the 8 p.m. countdown! (Photo credit: Brookfield Zoo)

No need to keep the little ones up late with the 8 p.m. countdown! (Photo credit: Brookfield Zoo)

Before the countdown, head over to the Hamill Family Play Zoo to make your own noisemaker. This event is free with a paid zoo admission, so don’t forget to check out some of the big cats, bears, dolphins, penguins, primates and more!

New Year’s at Pere Marquette Lodge
This year, jettison yourself to a rustic setting in the quiet riverfront town of Grafton at Pere Marquette Lodge. The Lodge’s New Year’s package has everything you and that special someone need to welcome 2016!

Show off your cocktail attire and indulge in a lavish dinner before dancing the night away with a band, champagne toast and plenty of party favors. At the end of the night, you’re just an elevator ride from the comfort of your cozy accommodations.

Chi-Town Rising
For the first time, Chicago’s riverfront will play host to a special New Year’s celebration complete with musical headliners, a grand fireworks display and culminate with a countdown to ring in 2016.

Make way for a new Chicago tradition at Chi-Town Rising this New Year’s!

Make way for a new Chicago tradition at Chi-Town Rising this New Year’s!

Chi-Town Rising’s central location means the party continues all weekend long with plenty of activities throughout the city!

Whatever your plans, have a safe and happy New Year in Illinois.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Light Feature Image

This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that surround the theme “light.” 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.

Starved Rock Kickoff Photo - (at) zachspassport

This week we kicked off our “light” challenge with this amazing shot from @zachspassport at Starved Rock State Park.

Sunset - (at) cadhx

Shout out to @cadhx for this incredible sunset shot taken outside Bloomington at Lake Evergreen!

Ewing Manor - (at) visit_bn

We love this shot of the holiday lights at Ewing Manor in Bloomington-Normal! (Photo: @visit_bn)

Cook County Forest Preserve - (at) eddiejski

Instagramer @eddiejski capturing this sunny shot of Cook County Forest Preserve!

Fall in Champaign County - (at) look4magic

How stunning is this shot of the light streaming through the trees in this throwback photo of fall in Champaign County by @look4magic?

Forest Park Nature Center - (at) jsimo3

How cool is this dramatic shot of Forest Park Nature Center in Peoria Heights by @jsimo3?

Illinois Beach State Park - (at) phop444

Instagramer @phop444 snapped this picture of the sun shining over Illinois Beach State Park in Zion this summer.

Lake County - (at) irishvikingdesigns

How gorgeous is this shot of the sunrise illuminating the frosty foliage in Lake County? (Photo: @irishvikingdesigns)

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Feature Image holiday restaurants

The holidays are all about spending quality time with the family and forming cherished memories with loved ones. Those memories are often centered around filling up on amazing, decadent food. Here are five spots in the Land of Lincoln where you and your family can indulge during the holiday season.

 Cahill’s Family Pancake House

Voted the best breakfast in Vermilion County, Cahill’s offers a wide range of hot breakfasts, lunch sandwiches and a kids menu to please all diners. Pancakes and waffles are definitely the specialty, and the cinnamon rolls and biscuits and gravy are some of the staff’s favorites, but the “can’t miss” item at Cahill’s is their unique twist on “pigs in a blanket:” fluffy buttermilk pancakes wrapped around juicy sausage links.

Beningo’s

Great family traditions start at Beningo’s in Bloomington. The Beningo family has honored their Sicilian heritage in their Italian restaurant’s original location since 1972. This neighborhood favorite specializes in family style Italian dining, offering a variety of pasta, pizza, seafood, sandwiches and their famous lasagna. There is something for everyone here, and almost every dish incorporates their signature “sweet Sicilian” sauce, a family recipe.

Enjoy one of many cheesy, scrumptious pastas at Beningo’s with their signature Sicilian sauce.

Enjoy one of many cheesy, scrumptious pastas at Beningo’s with their signature Sicilian sauce.

Doc’s Soda Fountain

This Route 66 icon will satisfy your sweet tooth. Doc’s has been around since 1929, and they’ve never changed their old-fashioned method for creating refreshing flavored soda concoctions like cherry soda and root beer. If you’re feeling hungry, make sure to try their ice cream and comfort food as well. Visitors can also take a fascinating free museum tour about the building’s history as a pharmacy when it was first built in the 1880s.

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Don’t take a trip down Route 66 without stopping at Doc’s Soda Fountain for their uniquely made soda concoctions and other sweet treats.

Farren’s Pub & Eatery

Treat the family to a hardy meal at Farren’s, an underground brewpub in downtown Champaign. The burgers are legendary, and Farren’s has a large selection of craft beers to complement its delicious beef creations. There is a burger on the menu for everyone’s palette. There’s the Motherlode, with rich layers of sautéed mushrooms, blue cheese sauce and Swiss. There’s also the Fire Burger with jalapenos, red peppers and habanero cheese, or the milder Green Chile Cheeseburger.

Farren’s offers mouth-watering burgers in a unique underground setting tucked away within downtown Champaign. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) lxspnay)

Farren’s offers mouth-watering burgers in a unique underground setting tucked away within downtown Champaign. (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) lxspnay)

The Homestead Bakery

Just in time for the holidays, this Amish bakery in Arthur sells made-from-scratch Christmas cut-out cookies for your family to give to Santa, or just enjoy for yourselves! Desserts like caramel cinnamon rolls and angel food cakes are also available in addition to the bakery’s fresh-baked breads.

The people at Homestead Bakery wake up before dawn to have their fresh breads and rolls ready for breakfast.

The people at Homestead Bakery wake up before dawn to have their fresh breads and rolls ready for breakfast.

For more information on delicious destinations in Illinois, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Dusk Feature Image

This week, we asked our Instagram followers to share photos that surround the theme “dusk.” 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.

Kickoff Image Vermillion County - (at) timhagley

This week, we kicked off our “dusk” challenge with this gorgeous shot of Vermilion County from @timhagley.

Gurnee - (at) panagte

How awesome is this photo of dusk in Gurnee from @panagte?

Central Illinois - (at) look4magic

Instagramer @look4magic captured this incredible sunset in Central Illinois.

Chillicothe Recreation Area - (at) oneoutofdirt

Shout out to @oneoutofdirt for snapping this fiery photo of Chillicothe Recreation Area near Peoria!

McLean County Road - (at) bbashamaerialphotography

Instagramer @bbashamaerialphotography captured this snowy dusk shot of McLean County Road in Normal.

Buffalo Grove - (at) igrex50

How beautiful are the pink and blue clouds reflected in the water in this shot Buffalo Grove? (Photo credit: @igrex50)

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Trails to Adventure Light Festival Feature Image

The holiday season is just around the corner! From sipping hot cocoa with friends to taking pictures with Santa, Illinois hosts sparkling light festivals perfect for to experience with family and friends. Check out these five must-see light festivals in Central and Southern Illinois to make the most of this season!

East Peoria Festival of Lights and Folepi’s Winter Wonderland – November 23-January 1

With more than two million lights, East Peoria’s Festival of Lights and Wonderland is a mesmerizing display for visitors or all ages. The event kicks off November 21 with a three-mile Parade of Lights through downtown Peoria. The festival will crown a Lights Queen on November 15, conduct a citywide ornament hunt on November 25 and judge a Christmas splendor exterior decorating contest on December 8.

And for those looking to start the New Year on the right foot , sign up for East Peoria’s Get Lit New Year’s Eve Fun Run. This non-competitive and festive run starts at 11:50 p.m. on December 31, winding through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland and offering an exclusive view of the twinkling lights.

East Peoria Lights Festival 1

One of the vibrant displays at the East Peoria Festival of Lights.

Shelbyville Festival of Lights – November 20-January 2

Take a leisurely drive through Forest Park to see Shelbyville lit up in the holiday spirit. With new lights and themes every year, this festival of lights is a must-see this season. Families and couples are sure to enjoy the festive features including Victorian Village, Santa’s Shop, the North Pole and more.

Du Quoin Annual Holiday Lights Fair – November 25-December 31

For the holiday season, the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds get a festive makeover, transforming the grounds into a magical place of lights and decorations. Drive through  incredible lighted displays and decorated trees before enjoying live entertainment, delicious food and, of course, visits with Mr. Claus at Santa’s Train Ride and Workshop.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows Way of Lights – November 20-January 1

Illuminating the already beautiful 200 acres of landscape, the Way of Lights festival at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville features fun and festive events such as a new Lego Display play area for children and Tails, Trails and Twinkles, a perfect occasion to share the shining lights alongside four-legged friends.

Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage to admire the twinkling lights at the Way of Lights!

Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage to admire the twinkling lights at the Way of Lights!

Fantasy of Lights – November 30-January 1

Fantasy of Lights in Centralia is perfect for families with kids or couples looking for a spirited night out. Guests can appreciate the lighted displays on a drive through Foundation Park to experience twinkling candy canes or golfing Santa. In December, the ‘Little Obie’ train offers free rides for children – and adults, too – to meet Santa.

For more ways to celebrate the holiday season, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism