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What Illinois is Known For & Famous For

Situated in the Midwest, Illinois is at the southwest corner of Michigan Lake.


Illinois is known as the home of the US’s third-biggest city, Chicago. Its also known for its agriculture and nuclear energy industries, as well as the nickname the land of Lincoln. Illinois’ claims to fame are for being the home of Superman and the home to the first McDonald’s restaurant.


Read on to learn more about what Illinois is known for.




Chicago is the capital of and most populous city in Illinois. With a population of over 2.8 million, it is also the most populated city in the Midwestern United States as well as the third-most populous city entirely in the United States after New York City and Los Angeles, California; it has been rated as one of America’s 25 largest cities. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County which is the second-most populous county in the US and nearly doubles that of any other US county outside of California and Texas (6th and 5th respectively).


Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed and grew rapidly from an influx of European settlers who were spurred by a booming lumber trade.


Chicago is known for its contributions to music, particularly in the form of blues and jazz. Chicago was a center for jazz in the mid-twentieth century, developing the electric style of Miles Davis, who was born in nearby St. Louis, Missouri.


Chicago is also known for its history of corruption with 36 Chicago public officials convicted of crimes committed during the period 1973 through 2012. This includes 17 mayors, 1 congressman, and 23 city aldermen.



The Chicago Bean

The Chicago Bean is an incredibly popular site in public art. According to the Chicago Reader, it is “designed to catch the reflections of pedestrians, skyscrapers, and clouds–not only on its gleaming surface but around the concave mirror underneath.” The Bean was originally called Cloud Gate at its unveiling in 2006, but the name has since been shortened to simply the Bean. It is unique in that it uses a mixture of stainless steel and aluminum, which means that it will not rust or succumb to the elements.


The Cloud Gate has become an integral part of tourism in Chicago, especially considering its location near other significant attractions like Millennium Park and The Art Institute of Chicago.



Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest art museums in the US. It holds over 300,000 works and was founded in 1879 by a group of American artists and businessmen. With such a large collection to choose from, it’s not surprising that so many masterpieces by well-known artists are on display at the museum. Some of these works include Monet’s Water Lilies, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?.


The Art Institute of Chicago is also home to the largest collection of American artwork in the US which spans back to before European settlers set foot on the continent. Sculptures, paintings, and furniture from the early settlers to the modern day help create an accurate representation of American history through its art.



Willis Tower (Sears Tower)

Chicago is home to the well known Willis Tower (formerly named Sears Tower) which at 1451 ft is higher than any other building in North America other than New York City‘s One Trade Center.


Sears Tower was the first ever modern day skyscraper and was completed in 1973.


Related: Top 15 Things Chicago is Known For



The Land of Lincoln

Illinois has been called the Land of Lincoln for more than 100 years, partly because Abraham Lincoln moved to Illinois before becoming President of the United States. Illinois has another more practical reason for being called the Land of Lincoln: it is home to approximately half of all people with the last name “Lincoln” in the entire USA!


According to census data, there are 811,856 people in the United States with the last name Lincoln. Of those, about 400,000 live in Illinois.



The C-word is synonymous with politics in Illinois, and not without reason. This state has landed in the top ten of Forbes’s lists of “Most Corrupt States” multiple times, including number one in 2006. Chicago alone has been ranked the third most corrupt city in America by Forbes. The governor at that time, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached and imprisoned for trying to sell Barack Obama’s senate seat after his election as president.



Foods Illinois is Known For

Deep Dish Pizza

Deep dish pizza is a type of very thick and hearty pizza that is most often served in the United States. This style of pizza was invented in Chicago, Illinois around 70 years ago.


The deep dish pizza crust consists of a bread dough with a high butter and oil content that rises just slightly when baked. The oil makes it able to hold more cheese and other toppings. The high butter content gives it a rich flavor and soft, flaky texture.


The deep dish pizza is traditionally baked in a round pan – though you can often find them in rectangular shapes – that is slightly pressed into with a firm grip so that the dough rises along the sides of the pan and makes them higher than the center where all of the sauce, cheese, and toppings are placed. Once the dough is baked, the pan is removed and all of the ingredients are added directly on top of it.



Chicago Style Hot Dog

The Chicago Style Hot Dog is a classic American meal that is very popular in the city of Chicago. The hot dog itself comes with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, neon green sweet pickles relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt all on a poppy seed bun.



Horseshoe Sandwich

Originating in Springfield, Illinois, the horseshoe sandwich is a popular meal that includes French fries and open-faced ham sandwiches. A local delicacy, this sandwich is typically served on white bread or toast with the fries acting as the “horseshoe” underneath the meat.




Agriculture is the powerhouse of Illinois’ economy, with over 50% of the state’s revenue coming from farming.


One prominent product is pumpkin, as October brings about all things pumpkin-flavored thanks to Halloween. The official state fruit of Illinois is the Golden Delicious Apple, but pumpkins are just as important for their role in local cuisine and seasonal décor.


Corn is the other major crop in the state – it occupies 90,000 acres – and is a major component of the state’s overall economy, resulting in over $1 billion every year.




Corn has been a major crop in the Midwest since the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until farmers perfected methods to grow corn on a massive scale that it became truly profitable. Today, Illinois is the number one producer of corn in the United States, accounting for about 9% of total U.S. agriculture production, and 10% of total U.S. exports .


Illinois farmers began growing corn in 1779, after trading with Native American tribes introduced many new vegetables to early settlers. The first major corn production in Illinois began in 1840, when the state’s first agricultural society was formed. In 1850, Illinois surpassed Iowa as the top corn-producing state, and has since maintained the top spot every year, with some exceptions.




Illinois is known for being the top pumpkin producer of the United States, and one of the top 5 in the world. In 2016, Illinois produced a total of 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins with a value of over $100 million. Not only is the state known for its high production; it also supplies 70-80% of the country’s canned pumpkin and has more than 630 growers that produce 50 different varieties of pumpkins.



National Cornbread Festival

Illinois is home to the National Cornbread Festival in Fairbury where thousands of cornbread enthusiasts gather yearly to celebrate their favorite bread. The festival features live entertainment, games for children, a carnival area, contests ​to see who can make the best cornbread, and of course, food vendors selling all sorts of delicacies.



Strawberry Festivals

Illinois has two annual strawberry festivals that bring over 100,000 people to celebrate their delicious fruit. The Wood Dale Strawberry Festival is set in Wood Dale on the second weekend in June where they have a car show, bingo, live music, and of course, food. The Annual Sycamore Strawberry Festival is held the last weekend in June in Sycamore where bands can be found playing all genres of music while guests enjoy strawberry treats and farm animals.



Nuclear Power Plants

For a long time, Illinois has been a hub for the United States’ nuclear power generation. In fact, according to the “U.S. Energy Information Administration” both of Illinois’s nuclear power plants were ranked among the top five nuclear power plants in terms of total net electric generation during 2009. Within these two plants is a total of six reactors, with one retired and two more scheduled to retire. The first of these plants is located in Braidwood and was built with General Electric reactors; the second plant is located in Dresden, which was built with Westinghouse reactors. Both plants are now scheduled to be decommissioned by 2020.



Land of Trains

Illinois is known as the land of trains and has a rich history with railroads. Chicago is responsible for so much of this, as it was one of the first cities to boast an extensive network of tracks. Many other states have begun following in its footsteps and some may argue that more than half of America’s railways are now found here.


Today, Chicago is home to the Illinois Railway Museum which brings in thousands of visitors every year.


There are many historic sites around the state that represent this rich railroad history including an old clock tower near Grand Central Station. This tower was built with donations from some of the wealthiest men in Chicago at the time. It was used as a landmark for riders of the trains in order to make it easier for them to find their destination.


superman museum by vistavision on Flickr


Metropolis – Home of Superman

Metropolis, Illinois is the self proclaimed home of Superman. In the comics, Superman is from a small town by the name of Metropolis. Though Superman’s Metropolis is actually a fictional town called by the same name as the one in Illinois, it hasn’t stopped the real town from making the best of the coincidental name choice and running with it.


The Illinois House of Representatives officially proclaimed that Metropolis was the Hometown of Superman in 1972 and opened the Amazing World of Superman museum one year later. The city even had plans to build a $50 million Superman themed theme park.


Cheap Trick

This iconic rock band came out of Rockford, Illinois in 1973 and have been rocking hard ever since. Some of their most well known songs include “I want you to want me,” “Don’t be cruel,” “Surrender,” “The Flame,” and “Ghost Town.”



The First McDonalds

The very first McDonald’s restaurant was opened in Des Moines, Illinois in 1955. The restaurant was part of a food chain started by Ray Kroc.


In 1954, the McDonald brothers were operating a successful restaurant in San Bernardino, California. The two had developed a fast-food recipe that allowed for great efficiency and quick service.


Ray Kroc learned about their methods, but was unable to convince them to join his emerging business. Rather, he decided to start his own restaurant using their methods.


Once established, Kroc sent a letter to the McDonald brothers asking them to allow him to use their name in his restaurants. They agreed, and in 1955, the first McDonald’s restaurant in Illinois was established in Des Moines.


By Tristan Denyer20:57, 21 December 2005 – w:Image:Collinsville watertower.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2799661


Home to the World’s Largest Bottle of Catsup

Collinsville, Illinois is the home to The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle. Designed like a giant Heinz Ketchup bottle, the building was originally known as the Thrift-E Thread factory and used for storing sewing thread. It was redesigned in 1965 by Evanston architect John S. Burke and made into a tourist attraction.


The giant bottle is 60 feet tall, made of steel and fiberglass, standing on top of a three story cat-shaped base. It was first opened to the public in 1966 as The Biggest Bottle of Catsup on Earth, but was renamed to simply The World’s Largest Catsup Bottle.


The body of the giant catsup bottle was painted red, and the cap and neck were painted white to resemble a classic Heinz package. The giant bottle even has a “57” on the label – just like the real ketchup bottles! It is one of Collinsville’s most beloved attractions.


This Illinois attraction closed to the public in 2008 due to a lack of funding. However, it was renewed for 2014 and is now open to visitors on select days during May through October.


First State to Abolish Slavery

Illinois was the first state to adopt a constitution that prohibited slavery anywhere in the state. As more states joined the Union, there were more votes on whether or not to allow slavery within their borders, and eventually, all of the states decided against slavery except five: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana.


In the beginning, only Illinois wanted to abolish slavery, and succeeded in doing so when it adopted its constitution in 1819. As a result, Illinois has the honor of being the first state to prohibit slavery within its own borders.



Final Thoughts

Illinois is a prime location for many reasons! The people that live there are full of pride and love their state dearly. Illinois is also the only state to have completely abolished slavery, which should make everyone who lives there proud.