The most demographically diverse state in the Midwest is home to thriving ethnic communities, pleasant college towns and unexpected pastoral escapes. But it is the grand port of Chicago, linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi via the Illinois River, that continues to capture the nation's imagination. The Magnificent Mile is the glittering stretch of Michigan Avenue that runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street. In addition to the traditional cavalcade of upscale retail stores, this frenetic length of asphalt boasts a number of architectural wonders, from the gothic-style Tribune Tower to the sleek John Hancock Center.
Chicago can be used as a base for delightful day trips to destinations such the sublime Mies van der Rohe-designed Farnsworth House in Plano, the idyllic 385-acre Chicago Botanic Garden in Skokie and the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio in nearby Oak Park. Farther afield, the state’s capital, Springfield, was the home of Abraham Lincoln for 24 years.