The people here generally do hit the sweet spot between the folks I knew growing up in the South, and the folks I knew being educated in the Northeast. Both of the above are nice, in their distinctive ways, but neither are quite as friendly and open as here in the heart of the Midwest.
The diversity…I love being on a ridgeline in Southern Illinois, beautiful and isolated and in the same day being on the shoreline of Lake Michigan enjoying Chicago. People of all walks of life and hundreds of different languages and backgrounds thankfully call our state home,
The Illinois and Michigan Canal is my favorite place in the state, particularly between Channahon and Morris. You see trees, fields, the Illinois River, Dresden Power Plant, the dam, McKinley Woods with the work of the CCC, Stratton Park with the long line of boats in the summer, Gebhard Woods, the old boy’s camp (reformatory), and of course the product of immigrant labor(my Irish forebears in this case).
Its history. The good parts. It’s also snark in that the best of Illinois is history, but it is my real answer too after thinking about what made this place great. The real pioneers and inventors from the farmers to the real growth of Cat and ADM, the start of Deere, Dekalb, etc.
For honest labor and for learning we stand, and unto thee we pledge our hand, dear Alma Mater, Illinois.
I really think my favorite thing about Illinois is the notion born in Illinois’s greatest citizen, Abraham Lincoln, that the common man deserves dignity and respect for hard and honest labor and also the notion by which educational opportunities can take someone from the lowest rung of the economic/social ladder to the top, as exemplified by President Lincoln.
We need to get back to valuing learning and labor in this state again.
I’m giving two because I’m opposed to regionalism.
Chicago - world class city with world class attractions, top notch dining, and all the culture one could hope for.
Deep Southern Illinois - where I grew up. A place that reminds you more of Kentucky or Missouri than it does central or northern Illinois. Some highlights - Garden of the Gods, Little Black Slough, Burden Falls, Fern Clyffe, Little Grand Canyon and most of the rest of Shawnee National Forest, which is a treasure trove.
Skylines. Chicago’s is second to none. Peoria looks spectacular from the east side of the Illinois River. Courthouses that tower above small towns. And even grain bins and water towers stand out to me.
Growing up here, leaving and coming back, it has to be the mix of cosmopolitan and Midwestern living. People from Illinois- even downstate- are different than anywhere else. I think that is why arguably two of the greatest Presidents hail from this state and the giants of our countries industries and leaderships.
Having lived most of my adult life abroad in what many consider a high-beauty country, I continue to believe that looking out in July-Aug across 1,000 acres of Central IL corn growing in every direction is the most beautiful sight in the world.
I actually tear up at the memory whenever I’m out of the country.
Between Chicago, Cook and the collars, you have the 3rd largest media market with “neighborhood” feels, so different than other cities. Chicago is a large world class city with a small town feel in neighborhoods, names, parishes, Chicago is one of the few places that you can have a neighborhood character that has a big city impact.
Northern / Central Illinois? Rockford, Galena, Quincy, Springfield, Peoria, B-N, C-U, you visit, you see people far removed from the big city but building their own cities abc regions with a knowing respect and ,at times, good deference to that historic place. Love visiting those places.
Southern Illinois? Metropolis, Cairo, Edwardsville, Metro East, Carbondale, while there is a geographic closeness to St. Louis or Kentucky, we are unique to ourselves. There’s no enveloping to our neighbors, it’s Illinoians taking an influence but the finished thoughts, feeling, beliefs, their Illinoisan. Farming, rural Illinois, be it Notthern, Western, Central, Southern, even “Kendall” Illinois, our farming, rural impact l, just on ourselves, we’re not Western Indiana or Eastern Iowa, or even “Norhern Missoura”, our farming communities are prideful to our own uniqueness
No state is like us. A chip on all our shoulders.
I love that. Knowing how we’re different than others, that’s our pride.
I’m a huge fan of living in Chicago and I could list 20 things about it.
Beyond that, the one thing that stands out is O’Hare. Sure it can be a mess. But for business, an airport where I can relatively easily connect to just about any place in the world is a huge advantage. On a personal level (rather than business) it makes it much easier to plan vacations. A lot of people on the east coast don’t want to go to Hawaii because it is such a long trip, and same for people on the west coast going to Europe or even places like St. Barth.
Living in the middle of the country, with a world class airport, is really nice.
The wonderful diversity — cultural, natural, political, intellectual, and more. And I love me those prairie sunsets!
- NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Monday, Dec 4, 17 @ 4:14 pm:
How we still have local control of most of our school districts. In most of the state you have good people who are paid nothing but who care a great deal about future generations working to ensure great public education.
As an immigrant from the Mountain West, the diversity. 90 miles southeast of Springfield, strong hints of the Southern Accent. 90 miles northwest of Springfield, strong hints of the Upper Midwest Accent. In April or September, 90+ degrees in Cairo and frost in Rockford on the very same day. Both actually and metaphorically, Illinois straddles the Mason-Dixon line (just North of Toronto Road in Springfield). Lots more, not enough space.
Everything except the politics the past 20 years. (no snarc) Seriously this is a great state with so much to offer; from world class dinning, wonderful small towns, great state parks, sports teams, historical places etc. The reputation is being tarnished so badly by the politics the last 20 years or so. Illinois’ deserves better.
I like a lot of things about this great state, with all of its problems and challenges. Yes, the people top the list, but if I had to pick one little parochial favorite thing, it’s this: limestone. Limestone is the reason Illinois is flat like a pool table.
I grew up in Kankakee, less than a mile from the river, the nice part or the river below the dam, where is carves through the silt from Indiana and the muddy bottom gives way to limestone. Pretty much anywhere in Illinois, if you dig more than two feet down you hit limestone. This part of the river is shallow, rocky, fast and wide. It’s where the best fishing is too. The bottom in most places is smooth limestone and you can walk all the way across if you’re careful and know what you’re doing. If you’re not careful, you can walk into a hole and get caught in the current.
That signature, Illinois limestone is quarried all over northern Illinois. It was used to build most of the state, from schools to roads to courthouses. The old quarries are now little recreation areas too, filled with water. The best ones you still have to sneak into to fish or to swim. Those were the funnest places to be when you’re young and rebellious and looking for a little danger with your seclusion.
I played little league in a field adjacent to a limestone quarry. Every now and then the earth shook from dynamite exploding. They dug out huge slabs of stone only to turn around and crush it into gravel, the hardest, whitest gravel you’ve ever seen. Enormous machines, pounding and pounding, day and night, to make the most ubiquitous Illinois export ever. In the summers, the county would lay down a thin layer of hot tar and the gravel truck would follow along turning the black road white. They still do it that in lots of places.
As bountiful as Illinois soil is, it’s only 2-3 feet deep. We need to protect it and conserve it because we’ll all starve if it goes away. The only thing that’ll grow on limestone is moss.
Tell me a more beautiful sight than to be on an Illinois river and cruising below the limestone bluffs. I submit that there is no finer landmark in Illinois.
47th ward. Appreciate your appreciation of limestone but bedrock is within 5 feet of land surface in much less than 10 percent of Illinois . In more than 50 percent of the state it is greater than 50 feet often 100s of feet.
A pretty decent transportation system, even though it is starting to fall apart. Our public transit system in Chicago is top notch, and we have two international airports that allow me to get anywhere in the country in a couple hours with a decent airfare, and I can drive to any major city without incident.
I half jokingly say that if one must live in America, one should live in Chicago, for its world class amenities without the exclusivity that typically accompanies them. The history and natural beauty of my hometown of Alton are also a source of pride. I am also awed by the level of civic engagement among the people of Illinois. There is a lot to be proud of here, and I wish more pols would acknowledge and champion it instead of just repeating the “Illinois is dysfunctional” and “Chicago is a deathtrap” rhetoric.
The lakefront from the Museum campuses to Lincoln Park Zoo. I’ll really miss that. NO major US city has anything that compares.
When I lived there, we often had international guests from France, Italy, and Brasil. They were absolutely astounded by the beauty of that area and the views from the skyscrapers. They weren’t even aware that Chicago was a waterfront city!
I’ll come back as a tourist sometime. Great place to visit, but politics is making it unlivable…sigh….
The music man, the music. Buddy Guy, Chess Records, Muddy Waters, Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, Metro, the Riv, Joe’s on Weed, Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, all of house music, Frankie Knuckles, and 1000 acts and a 100 joints I’m forgetting. And Lin Brehmer in the morning too.
Hopefully Rich won’t put me in jail for saying this, but when Chris Kennedy starts at Cahokia Mounds he leaves out a good chunk of Southern Illinois. The tweet/sign isn’t bad, but kinda makes Kennedy look clueless.
Most of my family lives here. This is where we all grew up. Unfortunately, most of our children are leaving the state, so I imagine when most of us retire, we will be leaving too. Love this state, and hate thinking about leaving.