Skip to main content
Shedd Aquarium

Step Back in Time at Illinois' Historical Destinations

Nov 02, 2012 Arts, Culture & History

People dressed in older clothing standing around

Have you ever wanted a time machine to transport you back to the past?

Forget the time machine! Instead, take a trip to Illinois’ remarkable destinations surviving the test of time, such as Springfield, Galena, Bishop Hill or Arthur. Stroll down old-fashioned main streets, unwind at remarkable bed and breakfasts, and discover hidden gems at antique shops. Illinois’ historical towns offer visitors a glimpse of the past and an escape from everyday stressors.

  • Galena & U.S. Grant Museum

    Discover Ulysses S. Grant, one of the most celebrated Generals of the Civil War and United States President, as well as the History of Galena.

    More Info
  • Bishop Hill State Historic Site

    Bishop Hill State Historic Site is an open-air museum. Visit Utopia on the Prairie.

    More Info


Illinois' state capital is filled with historic sites worth visiting, such as the majestic rotunda of the State Capitol Building and the Dana-Thomas House, designed by renowned Illinois architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The real star of Springfield's history, however, is its most famous resident — Abraham Lincoln. Before he became the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln lived and worked in Springfield as a young lawyer. Docents lead guided tours of the Lincoln family home — the only house he ever owned — at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. Though it was only a temporary home, Springfield is also the final resting place for Lincoln and his family. At the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, a 117-foot granite monument marks the place where the Lincoln family is buried.

A bronze bust of Honest Abe himself looks out over the tomb, reminding visitors of the timelessness of his gaze. Be sure to reach up and rub his nose for good luck.

Man standing outside of home Man and daughter looking and touching the Lincoln statue

Bishop Hill

Bishop Hill State Historic Site is a charming 19th century Swedish settlement that looks as it did when the town’s first inhabitants arrived.  Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the picturesque town features historic museums, antique shops and quaint eateries. When in town, check out the Bishop Hill Colony Store to experience an old time mercantile and pick up gourmet Swedish food and souvenirs. In the winter, visit Bishop Hill for Julmarknad, a large Christmas market deep rooted in Scandinavian customs dating back to the middle ages. 


European-style Galena, located on the banks of the great Mississippi River, is a quaint retreat complete with historic sites, beautiful vineyards and an abundance of charming bed and breakfasts. Galena’s Main Street is one of the most historic streets in the Midwest, featuring over 100 storefronts that boast art galleries, rustic antique stores, eclectic boutique shops and world renowned cuisine. Another U.S. President once called Galena home, too. Pay a visit to the 18th President at the Ulysses S. Grant Home Historic Site.


Experience Illinois Amish Country in charming Arthur, a community home to more than 3,000 Amish residents and hundreds of countryside businesses. Visitors can experience the simple life and discover antique treasures, homemade craft stores, and family-run bakeries. When you're there, find helpful guides to exploring the area at the Arthur Amish Country Information Center.

Person driving a horse cart down road with fields on either side of him

More Time-Travel Inspiration


Illinois' historical sites are a great excuse for a time-traveling getaway. For more Abraham Lincoln history in Springfield and elsewhere, find more information on Lincoln Historic Sites. Follow photographer Craig Hensel as he shares more family-friendly activities in Central Illinois with Family Fun and Some History Too. Or hop into your own time machine for a road trip through historic towns with a Journey Along the Lincoln Highway.

Share this story

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get inspired by top travel stories, gain access to exclusive promotions and contests, and discover even more reasons to #EnjoyIllinois.