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Illinois Bicentennial Celebrations

Dec 01, 2017 Arts, Culture & History

A large old styled building

Illinois doesn’t turn 200 until December 3, 2018.

But there’s so much to celebrate, the state is starting the party a year early, with kickoff events this December in Springfield and Chicago. Stay tuned for events happening on August 26, 2018—plus a gala at the United Center in Chicago on the official birthday. 

Sunrise with lake and city view

Happy 200th Birthday Illinois!

Explore 10 ways Illinois has shaped the nation’s history, and discover can't-miss events during the year-long celebration.

A crowd around the Cloud Gate sculpture



With more than 70 buildings topping 500 feet, Chicago is a hotbed of skyscrapers and midcentury modern architecture. Stand above it all inside a glass-enclosed Ledge at Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower (the tallest building in the world when it opened in 1973). 

Deep-dish pizza

The Chicago-style pie was born in 1943, when The Pizzeria downtown “inverted” the toppings (sauce on top) in a deep-dish pan. Today, you’ll find dozens of variations at places like Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, Pizzeria Uno and Gino’s East.

Improv comedy

The art of improvisation may not have been born at The Second City, but the Chicago comedy club (opened in 1959) helped make it an A-list event. Famous alums include Tina Fey,
John Belushi and Bill Murray.

Route 66

The Mother Road symbolically begins at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain and continues for 300 miles southwest through the state. Meet fellow road trippers at the Joliet Area Historical Museum’s Route 66 Welcome Center.

World’s Columbian Exposition

Also known as the World’s Fair, Chicago’s 1893 spectacle featured the debut of the Ferris wheel and Juicy Fruit gum. Daniel Burnham, lead architect of the event, drafted blueprints in The Rookery, which he also designed. Visit the building’s skylighted lobby, redesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905. 


Lewis and Clark

William Clark and his men spent the winter of 1803 at Camp River Dubois before beginning their voyage of discovery. See a replica of the expedition’s keelboat at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Hartford (7 miles southeast of Alton).

Highland Park

Music festivals

Launched in 1904, Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in North America. The 2017 lineup includes John Mellencamp, Stevie Nicks  and Smokey Robinson.


Illinois and Michigan Canal

Built in the mid-1800s, the canal connected the Great Lakes to the Mississippi by way of the Illinois River. Take an I&M Canal mule-pulled boat ride to relive 
the 19th-century journey.


John Deere

John Deere’s 1837 invention of the plow has exploded into a global ag industry. Interact with the signature machinery at the John Deere Pavilion.    



Four U.S. presidents were either born in Illinois or spent a significant portion of their lives here: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama. Take a journey through Lincoln’s early life and presidency at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.

A fair with people and rides

Help Us Celebrate

Watch for these upcoming events and projects.

In addition to these can't miss events, the signature legacy project of the bicentennial is the #illinoisproud Awards. Everyday heroes throughout the state can share their stories and dreams through video submissions for a chance to win an award. As part of the bicentennial celebration, the newly restored 1855 governor’s mansion in Springfield will be unveiled, and a new Bicentennial Plaza in downtown Springfield will be dedicated.

From Illinois to the White House:  Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama

March 23, 2018 – December 30, 2018

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will house a major new exhibit about the four presidents who have called Illinois their home: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, and Obama. It will explore will explore each of their connections to the Prairie State, their political battles, the first ladies who helped them succeed and much more.

Illinois Bicentennial Plaza Dedication

August 26, 2018

On August 26, 2018 – the 200th Birthday of the Illinois Constitution – the City of Springfield and Illinois REALTORS® plan to dedicate the new Bicentennial Plaza as part of the Illinois Bicentennial celebration. The new Bicentennial Plaza will be a pedestrian walkway that connects Lincoln’s Home, the Illinois Governor's Mansion (which is currently being restored), and the State Capitol in Springfield.

Illinois Bicentennial Route 66 Motorcycle Ride

August 26, 2018

Governor Rauner will lead a motorcycle ride on Route 66, featuring stops at Illinois’ Route 66 roadside attractions, museums, and restaurants.

Illinois Bicentennial Celebration At Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center

August 26, 2018

In East St. Louis, Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center and Radio One will host an Illinois Bicentennial Celebration to include community vendors, musical entertainment, and a focus on St. Claire County’s rich history.

Illinois Bicentennial Community Rock Concert In Madison County

August 26, 2018

In Edwardsville, radio station KSHE95 will sponsor a Madison County Community Rock Concert

Illinois Bicentennial Birthday Party

December 3, 2018

We will celebrate Illinois’ 200th birthday with a gala party at the United Center in Chicago. For 200 years Illinoisans have made exceptional contributions to their communities, to the State, to the country and to society.  Throughout 2018, municipalities across the state, communities, colleges, museums, organizations and many others will share those names and stories. The Bicentennial Birthday Gala will be the culmination of a yearlong engagement to commemorate and archive the Illinois Bicentennial Hall of Fame. Via video and live presentation, we will introduce and celebrate the Bicentennial Hall of Famers, interspersed with musical entertainment (Illinois artists of different genres; jazz, blues, hip hop, rock, etc.).  Celebrity hosts will present the honorees in a variety of segments. Additionally, the organizations and communities will be able to invite their nominees to the United Center and their names will be registered as part of the Bicentennial Honor Roll.


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