What Is Illinois Known For? (15 Things It’s Famous For) 

Illinois is a state in the midwestern region of the US. It shares a border with five other states and borders Lake Michigan. As of the 2020 census, Illinois had a population of approximately 12,800,000 people. This state mainly consists of plains and has a total area of 149,997 km².

Illinois is known for its main city Chicago, its soybean production, and its many nuclear plants. This state is also known as the land of Lincoln and the world’s first skyscraper was built here. Illinois is home to Metropolis, Superman’s hometown, and Morton, the world’s pumpkin capital.


When mentioning Illinois, most people immediately think of Chicago. This is the biggest city in the state, with an area of 606 km². The famous Millenium Park is situated in the heart of this metropolis. This place is home to the iconic Cloud Gate State, aka ‘The Bean’.

Chicago is also known for the Shedd Aquarium, the Navy Pier, and the Adler Planetarium. Here, Daniel Hale Williams performed the nation’s first open-heart surgery. The city is also home to the tallest building designed by a female architect. In addition, the first atom was split here, marking the start of the Atomic Age.

US first soybeans producer

Illinois is also the US first soybeans producer. In 2020, this state produced more than 605 million bushels of soybeans! Most of the beans cultivated here are used to feed animals. 

In particular, 94 percent of the supply is used for pig farming. However, some of the soybeans are also used to feed fish. Despite being the first soybeans producer in the US, the main crop in Illinois is actually corn. 

Hometown of superman 

Metropolis, in the south of the country, is considered the hometown of Superman. The city is located on the shore of the Ohio River and has a population of roughly 6,500 inhabitants. 

But why is this city connected to this superhero? 

Have you ever read a Superman comic? Then you will know that he lives in a fictional city, called Metropolis! That’s how this city became the hometown of this fictional character. 

Every year, Metropolis also holds a festival dedicated to Superman. The event gathers up to 60,000 people from all over the US! 

This tiny village also has a 15-ft bronze statue of this superhero in its center. In addition, Metropolis has a DC-approved Superman, Josh Boultinghouse. He occasionally performs on the streets of the city.

World’s first skyscraper

Illinois was also home to the first skyscraper in the history of mankind. It was built in Chicago and was known as the Home Insurance Building. Architect Wiliam LeBaron Jenney designed the building in 1885. He decided to opt for a steel frame that allowed for greater height and more stability. 

The structure was completed in 1885. It originally had 10 floors and was 138 feet in height. Five years later, in 1890, two extra floors were added. After this addition, the building reached 180-feet in height.

The Home Insurance Building stood until 1931 when it was demolished to erect another building. 

The highest number of nuclear power plants in the US

Illinois can also boast an unusual record. This state has the most nuclear reactors in the US. In fact, Illinois is one of the few states in the US that produces more than 50 percent of its electric energy through nuclear plants. 

This state has 11 reactors and the most nuclear generating capacity in the country, 11.6 gigawatts. Despite this, the largest nuclear reactor in the US is in Mississippi.

World’s largest catsup bottle 

Do you like catsup? Then Illinois will positively surprise you with its 170 ft tall catsup bottle! This is the largest in the whole world and can be seen next to route 159. 

This tower was built in 1949 and for more than 70 years has attracted thousands of visitors. In 1995, this roadside architecture was meant to be destroyed. Thankfully, the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group managed to save it from demolition. In the same year, the bottle was also restored to its original look. 

In 2002, the largest catsup bottle was also named to the National Register of Historic Places. 

First female African-American Senator 

Illinois is quite a progressive state. In fact, the first African-American woman to serve as a U.S senator came from here. Her name is Carol Moseley Braun, she was born in 1947, and represented Illinois in the US senate from 1993 to 1999. 

But Ms. Braun did not have an easy childhood. Her family lived in a segregated middle-class neighborhood and her parents divorced when she was still young. Consequently, she had to move in with her grandmother. 

She started to study Urbana-Champaign at the University of Illinois but left after a few months. Later in life, she graduated in political science and in 1972 earned a Juris Doctor degree. 

Land of Lincoln

In 1955, Illinois adopted ‘The Land of Lincoln’ as its own official slogan. This may seem peculiar at first, as Lincoln was not born here. The 16th president of the US was in fact born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. 

However, at the age of 21, Lincoln moved to Illinois from Louisiana. He remained here till his election to the presidency in 1961. 

Lincoln represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives for one term. He also served for four terms in the Illinois Legislature. 

The house where he used to live in Springfield is today a state historic site. 

World’s pumpkin capital

The little town of Morton is considered the pumpkin world’s capital! This city is located in the very heart of the state, east of Peoria. It seems incredible but this little village produced up to 80% of the world’s canned pumpkin!

Morton is also home to the famous Morton Pumpkin Festival. This event gathers about 35,000 people each year. If you consider that this city has a population of only 17,000 inhabitants, you’ll be easily impressed by this number! 

Center of the US rail network

Not many people know that Chicago is the center of the US rail network. This city Chicago is in fact the largest interlining center in North America, handling around 10 million TEUs per year.

Chicago has the perfect location, between the east and west coast. It is also very close to Canada making it the ideal conjunction point. 

Sandwich Fair

The Sandwich Fair is the biggest county fair in Illinois. Officially known as the DeKalb County Fair, this event is held in the little city of Sandwich.

The fair was first held in 1888 and is currently the oldest in Illinois. This festival takes place every year, from Wednesday to Sunday, following Labor Day. 

At first, the Sandwich Fair extended over 20 acres of land but it now occupies 185! Vendors, exhibitors, and musicians come from all over the Midwest to participate in this unique event! 

Replica of the ‘first’ McDonald’s

Everybody knows that the first McDonald’s was opened in Downey California. However, Illinois housed McDonald’s No. 1 Store Museum. This was the replica of a former McDonald’s, located in the area, opened in 1955 by Ray Kroc. 

The building used to have the original cartoon mascot ‘Speedee’. This used to represent the Speedee Service System with which McDonald’s always served its clients.

The company usually referred to this building as the first McDonald’s. Unfortunately, this is not true, as this was the ninth to open. The original restaurant was demolished in 1984.

Unfortunately, McDonald’s had to tear down its No. 1 Store Museum in 2017 due to the regular floodings of the site.

The prairie state

Illinois is also known as the prairie state. This is because much of the state used to be covered in prairie grass before the arrival of the European colonizers. 

Today, roughly 21 percent of the land is still covered in prairie, about 6,100 acres. However, more than 80% of these are quite small, less than ten acres in size.

The actual name ‘Illinois’ is derived from the Native American ‘iliniwok’. This means ‘best people’ and referred to the approximately ten tribes that lived in the area. 

Deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches

When it comes to culinary delicacies, Illinois has a variety of dishes to offer. Most of them are inspired by Italian cuisine, ranging from pizzas to paninis. 

First on our list is the famous deep-dish pizza also known as Chicago-style pizza. This is characterized by high edges that allow room for extra cheese and tomato sauce. 

Another popular dish from Illinois is the Italian beef sandwich. This consists of thin slices of seasoned roast beef on a long French roll, served au jus. 


Last but not least, Illinois is also known for its corruption. Between 1976 and 2012, Illinois has been the third state for federal criminal convictions for public corruption. To give you an idea, the corruption of this state has its own dedicated Wikipedia page! 

Five governors and seven State Officials have been convicted of some sort of crime. The same can be said for plenty of other U.S. House Representatives.