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Lake Michigan from atop the John Hancock Building, Chicago, Illinois© Julio YesteLake Michigan from atop the John Hancock Building, Chicago, Illinois
© Julio Yeste
Illinois is a lot more than Chicago. There's Lincoln's home in Springfield. There's the scale model of the solar system in Peoria. There's a statue of Superman in (where else?) Metropolis.

And then, of course, we have Chicago. When the city was rebuilt after the 1871 fire, it became a cauldron of inspiration and even produced an architectural style known as the Chicago School. Today, one can walk through the city and see the masterpieces of many of architecture's greatest names: Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and many more.

One of Chicago's most famous buildings is the Sears Tower, once the tallest building in the world and still the tallest in the United States. Head for the Skydeck and check out the view. But Chicago isn't resting on its laurels. In 2010, the Chicago Spire (formerly named the Fordham Spire) is scheduled to be completed, and it will be the tallest freestanding structure in North America.

While your eyes are peering skyward, don't forget to look around at street level. Chicago shopping tempts you with Marshall Field's, as well as the countless shops along the Magnificent Mile. There is also breathtaking outdoor sculpture to look at, including works by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall and Alexander Calder.

Then there's the indoor sculpture, and all the other art. Check out Grant Wood's American Gothic and Edward Hopper's Nighthawks at the Art Institute of Chicago. Speaking of culture, Chicago's theatre district is definitely worth a visit. For comedy, try Second City, whose cast has been raided repeatedly by Saturday Night Live. And, of course, the city is an indispensable part of the history of jazz and blues, both of which you can hear in clubs.

Grain elevator in Logan County near Lincoln, Illinois© Matt TrommerGrain elevator in Logan County near Lincoln, Illinois
© Matt Trommer
If your taste runs more to gangsters, Chicago even offers a diminishing number of monuments to its violent past, most notably the Biograph, the movie house where the FBI finished off John Dillinger.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF