Chicago River © Jim Larrison
The vast mid-Western American state of Illinois offers on one hand the giant, bustling city of Chicago, and on the other the experience of small-town America. Illinois is one of America's major breadbaskets and most of the state is covered in rich farmlands, dotted with agricultural communities and half a million acres of state parks mixed in with the rolling corn fields. Tucked away in the rolling hills are some Amish communities carrying on their traditional rural way of life without modern conveniences.
The metropolis of Chicago, on the shore of Lake Michigan in the north of Illinois, is the focus for most visitors, with its amazing collection of museums and high class shopping areas. Travellers who venture downstate, however, can find plenty of diversions, particularly those interested in history or outdoor activities.
The state capital, Springfield, 200 miles (322km) south of famous Chicago, is a city with a small-town atmosphere, renowned for once being the home of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th US President, who practised law here and was laid to rest in the local Oak Ridge Cemetery after his assassination.
Visitors seeking life in the open air are drawn to the expanse of natural beauty in south Illinois where the Shawnee National Forest offers hiking, biking, camping, and fishing opportunities in serene woodlands.