20 Interesting And Fun Facts Illinois [Explained]

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Illinois has long been known as America’s boot heel, home of gangster Al Capone, and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, the first president of the United States. Although it’s a tiny state, there are plenty of interesting facts about Illinois.

Illinois is located at the tip of the U.S. Midwestern region, bordered by Indiana to the west, Wisconsin to the north, Iowa to the east, Missouri to the south, and Kentucky to the southeast. Here are the top 20 interesting, historical, and fascinating facts about Illinois.

Quick Facts And Statistics About Illinois

  • Capital: Springfield
  • Population: 12.48 Million (6th Populous State in the U.S)
  • Land Area: 57,915 sq mi / 149,997 km² (25th Largest in U.S)
  • Nickname: The Prairie State
  • Abbreviation: IL
  • Statehood: January 4, 1818 (21st U.S State)
  • State Bird: Northern Cardinal
  • State Flower: Violet

Historical Facts About Illinois

There are some important and fun historical I.L. states facts to know about.

Fire Is Used To Relieve Stress On The Train Tracks In Illinois

In Chicago, Illinois, fires are started on train tracks to relieve stress and prevent rails from cracking and breaking.

When temperatures in Chicago dropped below zero, gas-fed heaters were installed alongside the tracks to prevent the tracks from freezing and exploding. Cold causes the metal to compress, which causes the rails to separate at their joints.

The heaters are lit manually, and the maintenance crew stays nearby to keep an eye on the flames and the rest of the heating system. Even if some of the rails have been broken, this is still preferable to frozen rails, which can break apart and cause accidents.

The Tallest Man In The World Was Born In Illinois

Robert Pershing Wadlow, dubbed “the tallest man in the world,” was born in Alton, Illinois, and measured in at 8 feet, 11 inches tall, 491 pounds, and a size 37 shoe in 1940.


The Michigan And Illinois Canal Was Built in 1848

Transportation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River valley was substantially enhanced by the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848. This led to the development of the state as a major transportation center.

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Was Hosted in Illinois

Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton hosted the renowned Lincoln-Douglas debates, which sparked nationwide attention on slavery.

The Oprah Winfrey Show Last Episode Was Aired In Chicago

Award-winning talk show “The Oprah Winfrey Show” concluded its run with a final broadcast in Chicago. It set a record for television’s longest-running talk program, beginning on September 8, 1986, and ending on May 25, 2011.

Interesting Facts About Illinois For Travelers

Below are some interesting facts about the state of Illinois for visitors to know when they are exploring the region.


Cahokia Is The Only Site On UNESCO World Heritage List

Cahokia Mounds is the only site in Illinois listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Approximately 80 mounds were built around 1000 AD when the area had more people living there than in London. Location: on the opposite side of the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri.

There Are 88 National Historic Landmarks In Illinois

There are 88 National Historic Landmarks located in the state of Illinois.

A planetarium, aquarium, old churches, residences, schools, lighthouse, lily pool, the Lincoln Tomb, and several archaeological sites are included on this list.

Most of them are famous landmarks in Illinois that are certainly worth making a trip to.


Abraham Lincoln Tomb Is In Illinois

Abraham Lincoln was a member of the Illinois legislature and a successful Springfield attorney before he was elected president. The Lincoln Tomb State Historic Site is located just outside Springfield, where Abraham Lincoln was laid to rest.

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building Is Found In Illinois

Mormons established Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1839, and it quickly grew to be as large as Chicago. That is, until Joseph Smith, the religion’s founder, was executed in an Illinois jail, prompting Mormons to head west to Utah. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building can be found in the metropolis today.


Chicago Airport Was Formerly ORD Airport

Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was formerly known as Orchard Field, hence the “ORD” designation. Lieutenant Commander Edward H. O’Hare was honored with the naming of Chicago’s airport. “Butch” O’Hare.

The Baha Temple Was Built In Illinois In 1912

Wilmette, Illinois, is home to the Bahá’ House of Worship, the spiritual center for the entire continent of North America. The oldest Bahá’ temple in the world is located in Illinois; it was constructed in 1912, making it the successor to a temple in Turkmenistan that no longer stands.

Fascinating Cultural Facts About Illinois

Below are some facts about Illinois that explain the local culture today.


Ice Cream Sundae was Coined in Illinois

Evanston was the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.

Because of pressure from local churches, the town’s leaders decided to ban the sale of ice cream sodas on Sundays to appease the town’s more devout citizens. The latter felt cheated by the soda fountain’s distracting atmosphere.

Confectioners and pharmacists who followed the rules by serving ice cream with syrup instead of soda had to go creative. Some people back then objected to naming a meal after the Sabbath.

To rectify this, the word “Sunday” was re-spelled. It became a popular dessert, and the term “sundae” was coined to describe it.


Illinois Has Most Number Of Personalized Plates

In Illinois, more people than in any other state have license plates with their names on them.


Chicago Is Home To Many Sports Clubs

One of the most exciting Chicago facts for sports fans is that the city is home to many professional sports clubs. These include the NFL’s Chicago Bears, NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, NBA’s Chicago Bulls, MLB’s Chicago Cubs and White Sox, and MLS’s Chicago Fire.

The Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station Was The Only Building To Survive The Chicago Fire

The Chicago fire is one of the major disasters that happened in the city’s history. The fire spread incredibly fast, and to this day, the exact cause is still unknown. The only buildings in the affected area that survived the Great Chicago Fire are the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station.

Illinois is Home To Academically Educated Population

Illinois has the seventh highest rate of people with bachelor’s degrees or above in the U.S., with one-third of the population holding one. There are over 100 colleges and universities in Illinois.


Other Fun Facts About Illinois

The University of Illinois Is One Of The Best In The World

The University of Chicago is regarded as one of the top 10 universities in the entire globe, and it holds the position of sixth best in the United States. It is consistently considered the best business school in the United States.

Illinois Has The Most Governmental Subdivision

Compared to other states, Illinois has the most governmental subdivisions (i.e., city, county, township, etc.). Greater than six thousand. The township governments, which typically cover an area of six square miles, could be a factor.


Chicago Was Headquarter Of McDonald’s

From 1955 until 1971, McDonald’s called Chicago home for its corporate headquarters. After that, the company relocated to Oak Brooks, remaining until moving back to Chicago in 2018.

Other major corporations and brands such as Walgreens, United Airlines, Sears, Kraft Foods, and John Deere all got their starts in Illinois or now have their headquarters there (bankrupted in 2018).

That said, fast food doesn’t quite define the culinary scene as there are many other famous foods from Chicago that are worth exploring.



World’s First Ferris Wheel Was Designed In Chicago

George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. created the first Ferris wheel in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The wheel was named after George Washington Gale Ferris.

One of the most well-known landmarks in the city of Chicago is the Navy Pier, which is home to the Centennial Ferris Wheel.

Discovering More Fun Facts About Illinois

These are some of the cool facts about Illinois. The state of Illinois was established on January 4, 1818, after winning the War of 1812 against Britain.

If you want to learn more about the state and its rich history, consider taking a trip down to Springfield, the state capital. There, you can tour the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is one of the best presidential libraries in the United States.

Or, if you’re a fan of sports, you can check out the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field or the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Whatever you’re interested in, you are sure to uncover more exciting facts about Illinois.



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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