From metropolitan Chicago to traditional, quaint Galena – this US state has something for everyone
Did you know that Chicago has a beach? Neither did we! Whether you want a chilled day on the sandy shoreline of Lake Michigan (probably only in summer time), incredible shopping on the Magnificent Mile, or history at The Field Museum, the most famous city in Illinois is well worth a trip.
The food, as with most American cities, is extraordinary, with a wide variety of options available. The Blue Door Kitchen, run by Oprah’s chef Art Smith, offers dishes ranging from mac and cheese to kale salads, while for those wanting something a bit more sinful, don’t forget the town is famous for its deep-dish pizzas. Gino’s East is a graffiti-covered tavern of amazing food – the ratatouille deep dish being our favourite. Make sure to order ahead, as they can take some time to cook.
The Tortoise Supper Club is a slice of classic America, with a dark, smoky interior, and serving up a selection of the best steaks you will ever come across. The bar scene here is wonderful, too, with LondonHouse offering great cocktails at very reasonable prices – we recommend the whiskey sour. Don’t forget to visit the roof terrace for an awesome view of the city. It’s ideal for those looking for the perfect Instagram shot of the skyline with bustling metropolis down below.
For late-night fun, the Redhead Piano Bar, tucked into a basement, is the perfect place to let your hair down while putting in requests to the super-talented pianist, playing everything from Elton John to Lady Gaga. It’ll certainly be a night to remember.
Daredevils should also check out Tilt at 360Chicago for a sky-high perspective of the city you will never forget – or may never even recover from!
Get out of the city
Illinois is a massive state, and there’s so much more there than just Chicago. The quaint town of Galena, which is around a three-hour drive from the city, is a must-see on any trip. Take a tour with former president Ulysses S Grant – portrayed by Bob Buman – who will explain the historical importance of the town. Shop along the gorgeous high street, chock-a-block with knick-knacks, and make sure to eat at the lovely Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant for a wide range of American foods. Order light as the portions are huge.
Whiskey fans won’t want to miss a tour at the Blaum Bros Distilling Company just outside the town, although a tasting should probably end with a taxi back to your hotel! Right in the centre of town, the Galena Cellars offer a delightful wine tasting experience with a huge variety of unusual types, including rhubarb and spiced apple, so get ready to find your new favourite flavour.
The town is also not far from the Mississippi River, which offers stunning landscapes if you fancy a drive along it to the nearby states of Wisconsin and Iowa.
For those not wanting to travel too far from Chicago, Geneva is another day-trip option. If you’re looking for a relaxing treat, the Herrington Inn and Spa (Herringtoninn.com) is an absolute must-visit, featuring river-view rooms with roaring open fires. Initially a Swedish immigrant town, Geneva has a lovely mix of European-style shops to visit. And don’t forget to check out the incredible All Chocolate Kitchen, with Food Network star Chef Roby, a brilliant guide who will take you through a chocolate tasting session from across the world. He even has a life-size handmade chocolate astronaut to check out and take selfies with.
Where to stay?
Claridge House (Claridgehousechicago.com) gives a homely feel in a quiet neighbourhood while still being only a ten-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. Make sure to have a breakfast there, too, as the fluffy, light omelettes will perfectly set you up for a day of exploring.
The aforementioned Herrington Inn is perfect for a night out of the city in Geneva, while in Galena, the historic DeSoto House (Desotohouse.com), which was built in 1855 and is the state’s oldest operating hotel, is an ideal choice. It’s very centrally located, meaning that the town’s amenities are all within walking distance.
Need to know
· United Airlines fly from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare Airport. Prices for a return ticket with one checked bag cost from £440.92, taxes included (United.com).
· We stayed at Claridge House hotel in Chicago. Prices start from £62 a night. In Galena, the DeSoto House Hotel is £128 a night and Herrington Inn and Spa Illinois. Prices start from £145 per night.
· For more information on what to do across the whole of the state, visit Enjoyillinois.com.