The state of Illinois celebrates its 200th birthday in 2018, but you don’t have to travel too far to explore the state’s history.
Chicago plays a major role in what makes the Land of Lincoln so fascinating. From standout architecture to iconic restaurants, the city has a boatload of opportunities to commemorate Illinois history. Here are just a few to take on your bicentennial tour.
Start your bicentennial tour with a visit to The Rookery, the famous 19th-century skyscraper designed by star architects John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham. Erected in 1888 in the heart of the downtown financial district, and featuring 11 stories, soaring columns, a library, a gym and baths, the building was one of the era’s most spectacular structures. In fact, much of Burnham’s planning for the 1893 World’s Fair was done from Burnham & Root’s architectural office in the building. In 1905, Frank Lloyd Wright updated the lobby, adding bronze chandeliers and geometric designs to the signature staircase, and covering the iron columns with white marble. In 1970, The Rookery was placed on the National Register for Historic Places.
Stroll over to Jackson Boulevard and check out Route 66, located at the intersection of Jackson and Jefferson, where the striped awnings of Lou Mitchells have welcomed travelers since 1923. This legendary diner is noted for gut-busting breakfasts and lunches, as well as offering ladies and children mini boxes of Milk Duds, which used to be made in Chicago. A historic stop for presidents, mayors and celebrities, scoot into a booth and enjoy an old-school dish like baked meatloaf or corned beef hash with eggs. Mark your calendars for August 26, when the Illinois Bicentennial Route 66 Motorcycle Ride takes place. The ride will take you through Chicago, Riverside, Joliet, Dwight, Pontiac, Bloomington/Normal, Atlanta, Springfield, Carlinville, Litchfield and Edwardsville, and lasts from 8 am to 7 pm (here’s hoping your motorcycle has a cushy seat)
Continue to Columbus Drive, where Buckingham Fountain (formally named the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain) attracts locals and visitors with water displays and light shows. This Chicago landmark was constructed in 1927, and with water jets that shoot 150 feet into the air, it’s one of the largest fountains of its kind in the world. The fountain represents Lake Michigan, and the four pairs of seahorses that adorn it symbolize the four states that border Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Operating from April to mid-October, 8 am, 11 pm daily, Buckingham Fountain is the ultimate Grant Park attraction.
Field Museum of Natural History
Heading south to the Museum Campus, the Field Museum of Natural History stands as a distinctive tribute to Illinois history. The museum originally was housed in the Palace of the Fine Arts Building of the World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893, until being relocated to its current building on the museum campus. The Field includes many exhibits that were featured during the World’s Fair, including Tiffany gems, pre-Colombian gold ornaments and 600 ethnological artifacts from Africa, the South Sea Islands and British Colombia. Stop in to take a look at one of the museum’s newest residents, Titanosaur, in monumental Stanley Field Hall.
Museum of Science & Industry
@Museum of Science & Industry
With the Field’s relocation, the Palace of the Fine Arts Building became home to the Museum of Science & Industry. Opened in 1933, MSI therefore has the honor of being located within the only remaining building from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Today, through interactive exhibits, daily live science experiences and tours, special events, and 3D screenings in the five-story, domed Omnimax, the fascinating worlds of science, technology, medicine and engineering come to life. Not only that, but this is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere.