36 Illinois Facts: History, Geography, And More

Arkoprabho Sadhu
Aug 31, 2023 By Arkoprabho Sadhu
Originally Published on Aug 31, 2023
Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat
Chicago is the most populous city in Illinois.

Illinois, the Land Of Lincoln! Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, this state is a tapestry of bustling cities, sprawling farmlands, and history that's as rich as its famous deep-dish pizza.

Whether you're a Windy City native, a history buff, or just someone looking to discover a new corner of America, Illinois is packed with surprises. Did you know that the world's first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885?

Or that Illinois is the birthplace of iconic figures like Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan? But Illinois isn't just about what meets the eye.

In this journey, you'll uncover fun facts about Illinois’ history, explore its diverse geography; from the Great Lakes to the mighty Mississippi River; and meet the public figures who have called this state home.

You’ll also take a tour of the awe-inspiring structures that dot Illinois' skyline and delve into the factors that make this state so intriguing.

Buckle up, because you're embarking on a fun and informative ride through the Prairie State, with tips and tidbits that will have you planning your next vacation or family outing to Illinois!

Fun Facts About Illinois

Illinois, the fifth most populous state in the US, isn't just about politics and pizza. With its rich tapestry of stories, it's like a colorful jigsaw puzzle waiting to be pieced together.

Get ready to explore some mind-blowing tidbits about this Midwestern gem. Whether you're a trivia buff or just a curious soul, these fun facts about Illinois are sure to sprinkle a dash of wonder into your day.

  • The state flower of Illinois is the vibrant violet, a bloom that’s as hardy as it is beautiful. Meanwhile, the northern cardinal, known for its bright red plumage, holds the title of state bird.
  • The Illinois state symbols are deeply tied to its heritage. Illinois boasts several state symbols that include both living and inanimate insignias. A few of them are the bluegill, which is the state fish. The white-tailed deer is the state mammal, and white oak is the state tree.
  • Among inanimate insignias, Illinois has the square dance style as the state dance, dolomite is named the state rock, and fluorite is the state mineral.
  • As the third-largest city in the United States, Chicago isn't just Illinois’ largest city; it’s the beating heart of the state. Known for its deep-dish pizza, jazz heritage, and vibrant arts scene, it’s a cultural melting pot that attracts millions of visitors every year.
  • While Chicago is the biggest city, the capital city of Illinois is Springfield.
  • Cook County, which includes Chicago, is the most populous in Illinois, and the second most populous county in the US.
  • The Chicago metropolitan area, often called Chicagoland, is a bustling urban hub home to more than half of the roughly 12.6 million population of Illinois as of 2022. With its vibrant arts scene, mouthwatering cuisine, and impressive music, Chicago also turned into a major cultural, population, and economic center.

Historical Facts About Illinois

Step right into the pages of history as you journey through Illinois. This isn't your typical history class; it's a whirlwind trip through the ages, all from the comfort of your screen.

Did you know Illinois has seen ancient civilizations, pivotal moments, and presidents rise from its soil? From its roots to its star-studded place in the nation's timeline, Illinois has always been more than just a stop on the map. It's time to uncover the historical nuggets that make the Prairie State truly shine.

  • In 1673, French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet were among the first Europeans to explore Illinois. Their adventures paved the way for further exploration and eventual colonization, leaving a lasting French influence in the region.
  • Every Saint Patrick's Day, Chicago celebrates in style by organizing parades and dyeing the Chicago River a brilliant emerald green. This tradition has become a huge attraction, drawing visitors from all over to witness the transformation.
  • The Illinois State Quarter, released in 2003, showcases a young Abraham Lincoln against the backdrop of the outline of Illinois, a farm scene, and the Chicago skyline, with the state slogan 'Land Of Lincoln'.
  • Before becoming a British and then American territory, parts of Illinois were French colonies. Vestiges of French influence can still be found in place names and local culture.
  • Illinois became the 21st member state of the union on December 3, 1818, and gained statehood. Initially, the state capital was Kaskaskia, which changed to Vandalia in 1819. Later in 1837, under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, as a state representative, the capital was successfully moved to Springfield. A total of six buildings were made the capitol of Illinois.
  • Cahokia Mounds, located in southern Illinois, is the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of Mexico. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site that tells the story of the sophisticated Mississippian culture that thrived there about 1,000 years ago.

Geographical Facts About Illinois

Ever wondered what makes Illinois more than just the backdrop for a bustling Chicago skyline? Beyond its iconic cityscapes, Illinois stretches out like a masterpiece, painted with rivers, plains, and hidden wonders.

Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, this state boasts a canvas of geographical gems waiting to be explored. From its winding rivers to its expansive prairies, there's more to Illinois than meets the eye. Let's dive into some interesting facts about the geographical marvels that make Illinois a state of wonder!

  • The mighty Mississippi River forms the western border of Illinois. It's not just a geographical landmark; this river was a major highway for trade and remains a vital waterway for commerce today. It also offers some of the state's most breathtaking vistas!
  • Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes and the only one of the five that is completely in the US graces Illinois with a vast natural shoreline. It’s a water lover’s playground, offering everything from serene beaches to exciting water sports. Lake Michigan is also the largest lake by area in one country, in the world.
  • Illinois was once covered in vast stretches of prairie grass. This ecosystem played a key role in nourishing the rich soil that today makes Illinois a farming leader.
  • Illinois is the meeting point for three major American rivers: the Ohio River, the Mississippi River, and the Illinois River. These waterways were historically significant for trade and transportation and remain vibrant and scenic regions today.
  • Northern Illinois is rich with rolling hills, bustling cities, and vast farmlands. It's a blend of urban charm and rural beauty, offering both tranquil landscapes and lively cultural scenes.
  • Standing at 1,235 ft (376 m), Charles Mound is the state's highest point. Located in the Driftless Area, it’s a serene, gently sloping hill that provides a unique hiking experience for adventurers.
  • Illinois is more than just stunning lakes and rivers. It’s a powerhouse of natural resources, including coal, limestone, timber, petroleum, and fertile soil which makes it a leading agricultural state as well as an industrial hub.
  • Central Illinois is mainly covered in agricultural land, coupled with some small towns and cities. Illinois is also blessed with fertile land with deposits of rich black soil, which makes the state an agricultural powerhouse, known for the production of hogs, corn, and soybeans.
  • Located in northeastern Illinois, Lake County boasts a range of scenic lakes, and state parks, covering a mix of cities and villages and several communities. The county, lying along the shores of Lake Michigan, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering activities from sailing to hiking, and is also home to some of the state's most picturesque small towns.
  • The Chicago River is known for its unique flow reversal, an engineering feat that was completed in the '00s to protect the city’s water supply.
  • Nestled at the southern tip of Illinois, the Shawnee Hills region is a true gem. With its lush forests, unique rock formations, and countless vineyards, it's a nature lover's paradise that also offers a taste of the state's best wines.
  • Most of Illinois lies above sea level, with its lowest point being the Mississippi River at Cairo, which is 279 ft (85 m) above sea level. This elevation has protected it from major flooding.

Structures And Public Figures Related To Illinois

This final list of facts about Illinois presents interesting tidbits about some awe-inspiring structures and important personalities associated with the state. This Midwestern gem has not only produced presidents and industry magnates, but it also showcases some of the country’s most iconic architectural marvels.

Each towering building and influential individual tells a piece of Illinois’ dynamic story. Let's dig in and explore the structures and public figures that put Illinois on the map!

The Obama family after Barack Obama's US presidential election victory speech in Chicago.
  • Although born in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln moved to Illinois at age 21 and began his political career there. Illinois is proud to be known as the Land Of Lincoln, and you can explore Lincoln's life and legacy at numerous sites across the state.
  • The Illinois State Capitol is located in Springfield, which is a grand building with a towering dome where the state’s legislative action happens.
  • The Chicago Public Library, with its expansive collection and stunning architecture, is a haven for book lovers. It offers more than just books; its services extend to free classes, workshops, and community events. As per the volumes held, the Chicago Public Library is the ninth-largest public library system in the US, and the second-largest in Chicago and the Midwestern region.
  • The Home Insurance Building, built in 1885 in Chicago, is widely regarded as the world's first skyscraper. It marked the beginning of a new era in architecture and urban development.
  • Two influential women in US politics, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton have strong Illinois roots. Hillary Clinton was the US First Lady from 1993 to 2001, with her husband Bill Clinton as the president. Also, a former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, held the position from 2009-2017. Michelle was born and raised in Chicago, while Hillary was born in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge.
  • The 40th US President Ronald Reagan, was born and raised in Illinois. He pursued acting before transitioning to a career in politics.
  • The famous film producer, animator, and entrepreneur, Walt Disney, was also born and brought up in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Once known as the Sears Tower, the Willis Tower in Chicago was the world's tallest building when completed in 1973. Stretching 1,451 ft (442.3 m) high, its Skydeck offers stunning views of the city and on clear days, glimpses of four neighboring states. Presently, the skyscraper ranks as the 23rd tallest building in the world.
  • Chicago also has the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). It is a science museum located within the Palace of Fine Arts and opened in 1933. Some of the well-known exhibits in the museum include a massive model railroad, a German U-505 submarine from the Second World War, and the Swiss Jolly Ball, which is considered the world's largest pinball machine.
  • Millennium Park in Chicago is not only an urban oasis but also a hub of art and culture. From the iconic Could Gate sculpture to the mesmerizing Crown Fountain, this park is a fusion of nature, art, and community spirit.
  • Before becoming the 44th US President, Barack Obama made Illinois his home. He served as a Senator from Illinois, and his historic 2008 election campaign was headquartered in Chicago.


And there you have it; a whirlwind tour of the Prairie State bringing you face-to-face with towering skyscrapers, legendary leaders, and the rolling beauty of Midwestern geography.

While Illinois grapples with the challenges of modern urban living, such as bustling traffic and cold winters, it makes up for it with a rich cultural scene, a diverse and impactful history, and an undeniable Midwestern charm.

So why not plan a trip to explore Lincoln's historic sites, marvel at Chicago's iconic architecture, or find a peaceful retreat in the state's sprawling natural parks?

Illinois is a vibrant tapestry waiting for your own story to be woven into it.

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Written by Arkoprabho Sadhu

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Arkoprabho Sadhu picture

Arkoprabho SadhuBachelor of Arts specializing in English

Arkoprabho is an English graduate from Bidhannagar University with experience in academic writing on various subjects such as business management, law, and medicine. He is a published poet and enjoys films, music, and finance. As a member of the Content Updating team, he aims to become an expert in SEO content writing and editing. In his free time, he likes to write film scripts, research the stock market, and indulge in creative interests such as poetry writing, anime, and music.

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Fact-checked by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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