Illinois in right at the top of my to-visit list. I mean you can act out the Blues Brothers, learn about the childhood of Abe Lincoln, and sit on the shores of Lake Michigan. Who wouldn’t want to go hang out there? So let’s just dive right into the details of the Prairie State.

Get Your Kicks

The Chain of Rocks Bridge. Thanks on Flickr.

The Chain of Rocks Bridge.
Thanks Marcin Wichery on Flickr.

The classic American highway, Route 66 runs right through Illinois, and with it are some of the weirdest roadside stops you’ll see on any road trip. Driving along this classic and historical road is like a trip back in time. Here’s some cool sights you might encounter:

There are plenty of drive-ins to get Chicago-style hot dogs and ice cream, but I think the coolest one is the Launching Pad, where you can find the Gemini Giant: a fiberglass “muffler man” statue with a space helmet and rocket ship.

For some good natural maple “sirup” Funk’s Grove is not to be missed. They called their product sirup to differentiate from other syrups that add sugar. At Funk’s Grove, the delicious topping is all made from tree sap.

Cross the Mississippi on your way out of Illinois by taking the Chain of Rocks Bridge. Although you can no longer drive across, the bridge is open to foot and bike traffic. It’s named after a natural formation of the river which made it extremely difficult to navigate across, and is famous for a 22 degree bend.

Find Your People

Gorgeous Chicago skyline. Thanks on Flickr.

Gorgeous Chicago skyline.
Thanks bryce_edwards on Flickr.

If you’re going to be around Illinois, it’s good to know where to find other geeks. Luckily, this state is full of them! For big geek gatherings, be sure to check out some of the conventions. Anime-ZAP! is held in early January and Winter War, a war gaming convention is at the end of that month. Chicago Comic Con is coming up this weekend.

For smaller meet-ups, the Chicago Nerd Social Club will keep you up to date on happenings near the Prairie State’s largest city. If you’re a steam geek be sure to visit Steampunk Chicago. For even more geekery going on, read some geek blogs based in good ol’ Ilinois: Fast Times of a Central Illinois Geek, Geek Chicago, and Nerd Atlas are some of the best.

 Museums and Parks

A model steel mill at MSI. Thanks on Flickr.

A model steel mill at MSI.
Thanks fireflythegreat on Flickr.

For some Illinois day trip, you’re going to want to know about the museums and parks that this great state has to offer. Here’s a couple that you absolutely cannot miss!

Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry is the go-to place for science nerds. They have tons of rotating exhibits, like Animal Inside-Out, right now. In addition, they have plenty of exhibits on topics like the farming industry, genetics and baby chicks, and ships through the ages.

For even more on natural history and happenings, be sure to visit The Field Museum, also in Chicago. Right now they have an exhibit on bioluminescence and one on cave drawings –  so you know The Field covers everything from “dinosaurs to DNA” just like they claim.

Flora fan, don’t forget about the Lincoln Park Conservatory where you can find all kinds of gorgeous plants and flowers, like tropical palms and ferns, even in the middle of a cold Chicago winter.

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