7-9 Days | 1077 Miles | in Offbeat Illinois, 5+ Days
Things can get a little unusual in Illinois. White squirrels, pink elephants, sasquatches, giants, supermen—they all call our state home. So if you’re the type of traveler who thinks normal is boring and the quirkier the better, you’ll fit right in on this trip.
Make sure to check with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date operating hours, travel policies and health and safety information.
Start your time in Chicago with some of the top must-see spots. Head to Millennium Park to snap a selfie with the iconic Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”), then head over to Crown Fountain — an interactive video sculpture showing the faces of 1,000 everyday Chicagoans. Catch a glimpse of some unusual museum sights -- like an actual World War II submarine inside at the Museum of Science and Industry. Or, check out the Museum of Surgical Science for an up close look at all things medicinal. At the McCormick Bridgehouse Museum, you can learn the fascinating history of the Chicago River’s bridges. For some quirky eats, try Recess Chicago.
Time to hit the road for an epic journey through Illinois. As you head toward Pontiac, pull over for a pic with the Gemini Giant, a 30 ft tall statue named after the Gemini space program. Once you get to Pontiac, visit the Museum of Gilding Arts to learn about the use of gold and silver leaf in architecture and in decoration throughout history. As you head towards Springfield, make sure you stop in Lincoln where you can see the World’s Largest Covered Wagon, standing 24 feet tall! There’s plenty of Lincoln-related activities to choose from in Springfield, and don’t forget to stop by the Lincoln Tomb to rub his nose for good luck.
If you've enjoyed the giant roadside figures so far, be sure to stop by Lauterbach Tire and Auto Service in Springfield to add another “muffler man” giant to your photo collection. Your next stop is Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton. Marvel at the emporium of highway and trucking memorabilia, and while you’re there, check out the collection of rabbits (VW and real ones too).
If you’re still looking for more unique trinkets and treasures, the Pink Elephant Antique Mall in Livingston should be your next stop. In Alton, the Robert Wadlow statue is another great photo op. Finish up your day at the World’s Largest Catsup Bottle in Collinsville (yes that’s catsup, not ketchup).
Start your day amongst Popeye memorabilia at the Spinach Can Collectible Store & Museum in Chester. Onward to Alto Pass and you can pull over to admire the Bald Knob Cross of Peace overlooking Shawnee National Forest.
Now it’s “up, up and away” to Metropolis! In this real life namesake of the superhero’s city, you can strike a pose next to a two-ton Superman Statue. Finish your day by snapping a pic with Sassy the Bigfoot near Garden of the Gods.
Today the quirk continues in Olney where you can catch a glimpse of the famous White Squirrels of Olney, a unique spectacle that the town has come to embrace. In Casey, you’ll marvel at the Twelve Largest Things, which includes the world’s largest mailbox, wind chime and rocking chair. In Effingham you can cross off another giant structure — America’s Largest Cross.
The North Pole has moved to Rantoul! At Hardy’s Reindeer Ranch, there’s a 6-acre corn maze, the Grand Prix-style race track, a gift shop and, of course, you can’t miss the reindeer.
Go big with a trip to Manilow Sculpture Park. Enjoy the fresh air as you stroll amongst 30 large sculptures situated in 100 acres of prairie landscape. Onward to Rockford. Check out the stony sentinels at the Rockmen Guardians then head to the most unique museum you’ll probably ever enter: the Sock Monkey Museum. See charming displays and learn the history of the iconic Sock Monkey, then browse through the gift shop for a unique souvenir to remember your trip.