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Illinois is a vast Midwestern state of rolling hills and valleys, glacial plains, sprawling farmlands and a giant metropolis at the heart of it all. The long-time home of Abraham Lincoln, Illinois boasts over 1,000 historic sites, 500,000 acres of state parks and 4,300 miles of shoreline. A trip here is a no-brainer; the only difficult decision is choosing what to do first.

The third-largest city in the United States, Chicago is a massive metropolis that offers countless museums, galleries and iconic sights. The birthplace of the skyscraper is home to everything from jazz, blues and comedy clubs, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern architecture, shopping along the Magnificent Mile and famous stick-to-your-ribs deep-dish pizza. Springfield is not only Illinois’ capital and center of political movement in the state, but the center of the Land of Lincoln. Attractions such as the original home of the former president (and now historic site), Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum, and the Lincoln Tomb are open to the public and allow visitors from around the world to catch a glimpse of the life and career of  one of the nation’s most-beloved presidents.

From the Lewis and Clark Trail in the sprawling plains, to the Shawnee National Forest and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois is a vast state of great natural beauty. The cuisine of the region is inspired by these natural surroundings, as well as by the state’s many diverse cultures. Chicago features deep-dish pizza from Gino’s East, dry-aged steaks from Gene & Georgetti and Italian beef sandwiches from Al’s Beef, while the regions of Glen Ellyn and Peoria feature restaurants serving prairie-inspired game such as venison and wild turkey, and towns like Long Grove and Aledo have annual strawberry and rhubarb festivals.

The two main regional airports in Illinois are both in Chicago. O’Hare and Midway International serve a large area of the region in both domestic and foreign air travel. There are smaller domestic airports located in Springfield, Rockford, Peoria and Bloomington. Except for Chicago, a car is the easiest and most efficient way to get around the state. Train travel is also popular, as both Amtrak and Metra train lines run through several parts of the state, including Chicago and its surrounding suburbs.

Illinois is characterized by having a mid-continental climate, with warm summers and long, cold winters. Though weather can vary greatly in different parts of the state, July tends to be the warmest month of the year, with average temperatures of 85° F (29.4° C) in Chicago, while having a high of 80° F (26° C) in the northern city of Rockford. Winters can be harsh in most parts of the state, with January being the coldest month, with an average low temperature of 16° F (-8.8° C) in Chicago. Whipping winds and heavy snowfall can make the area seem arctic in the winter months, and it is suggested that the best times to visit are from spring through early autumn.

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