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Illinois Office of Tourism

It is Illinois' cities which play the key role in boosting its profile. The biggest is Chicago – an urban giant which ranks as the 3rd biggest metropolis in the US. The capital, Springfield, may be much smaller, but it shines as a haven of history. Yet Illinois is defined by more than this city twosome.

It also owes its personality to water; to Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes of North America; and to the Mississippi River, the liquid icon which forms Illinois' western border. This side of the state is known as 'Great Rivers Country' and it is well worth visiting, proffering pretty towns such as Galena and Alton which are nuzzled by the Mississippi. This is just one of four areas into which – in terms of tourism – Illinois can be divided.

Of the other three, 'Chicago and Beyond' and 'Land of Lincoln' need little explanation, while 'Trails To Adventure' encapsulates the rural, southerly section of Illinois, where Shawnee National Forest is a glorious treescape, also home to Illinois Wine Country. In other words, Illinois is a splendid mixture of a state which demands to be explored.

Visitors can do this partially on Route 66. The 2,451-mile 'Mother Road', which starts its journey to the Californian coast in Chicago. Some 300 miles of its tarmac is in Illinois. Follow it and travellers are glimpsing a destination which – busy and cosmopolitan in parts, but distinctly rural and remote in others – amounts to great deal more than just its largest and liveliest city.

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