"Mile after magnificent mile" is how the Illinois Bureau of Tourism bills this great state - the very one that brought us Oprah, the Cubs, the White Sox, the Bulls, da Bears, and, yes, even the Commander in Chief. But Illinois isn't all about the Windy City. How about trading lunch at your desk for lunch at Hallie's, Home of the Famous Schnitzel? Or creating family memories at a place called Grizzly Jack's rather than Chuck E. Cheese? Or even better, how about making your way through a thousand-year-old forest instead of a thousand e-mails? Locum here and enjoy the many wonders of Illinois, starting with these 7.
#1: The Baha'i House of Worship is one of only seven Baha'i temples in the world, and it's truly a "site" to behold. Like all Baha'i Houses of Worship, the unique structure of this temple is circular, has nine sides and is surrounded by exquisite gardens and fountains. For information about visiting click here.
#2: The Great River Road National Scenic Byway follows the flow of the mighty Mississippi as it curves along the western edge of Illinois and meanders for more than 550 miles - traveling through charming small towns and offering beautiful river and woodland views along the way.
#3: Blackhawk State Historic Site is a picture-book forest in the middle of the city with hiking trails that wind deep into the woods and up rugged hills. This rolling 208-acre tract was home to prehistoric Indians, but the area is most closely identified with the Sauk nation and the warrior-leader whose name it bears.
#4: Allerton is a Park and Retreat with 1,500 acres of Mother Nature's beauty including the Sangamon River, a meandering meadow and a
30-acre prairie. See over 100 sculptures and garden ornaments; traverse 14 miles of hiking trails; or tour the century-old, Georgian-style mansion with reflecting pond. A genteel sense of beauty and hospitality is reflected here on a stage set of magnolias, moonlight and manners.
#5: Rend Lake is most often referred to Southern Illinois' Playground, and you'll soon find out why. Here, you can fish, camp, boat, swim, hunt, bike, trap shoot, shop, savor fine fare, visit wineries, dinner theaters and museums, relish opera, and more. Opera and trap shooting, what more could you want?
#6: Starved Rock State Park is where you'll discover unexpected wonders like more than 18 canyons, which were formed by glacial melt-waters that slice dramatically through tree-covered, sandstone bluffs for miles. Waterfalls are also nestled in 2,630 acres of lush forests, where you also catch spectacular views of the Illinois River.
#7: Wrigley Field says it all. The second oldest active baseball park in the major leagues and the oldest standing park in the National League, "Friendly Confines" was the hold-out ballpark against night games until 1988, when baseball officials refused to allow the hometown Cubs to play any post-season games without lights. Wrigley installed lights. But night games are still limited in number by agreement with the city council. Visit Wrigley for thrill of the game, chaw on a Chicago dawg, or for that matter, enjoy the architecture: Wrigley Field has been designated a Chicago Landmark and it's been determined eligible for designation as a National Historic landmark. Now that's something to cheer about.
You can view video footage of the Seven Wonders of Illinois on YouTube.
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