Abraham Lincoln is without question the favorite son of Illinois, known as The Land of Lincoln. However, Lincoln was actually born in Kentucky!
Illinois has a long and varied history. From being the place where Lincoln started his political career to being home to some of the most infamous organized crime personalities in history, Illinois has always been full of action, and there is always something going on here to this day. From the rolling prairie land in the middle part of the state to the geologic wonders from the last Ice Age in the southern areas, Illinois has a lot to offer both the resident and the visitor.
Places to live in Illinois depend largely on where you are trying to find house rentals. Expect to have the most hoops to jump through in major cities. Smaller cities and towns tend to make it much easier. Some basics will be the same: security deposits along with first and last month's rent are the norm all over the state. The extent of the credit and background check done will run from nothing to something so extensive that you might feel like you are applying for a job with the F.B.I. Take heart, most people get the place they want, it just takes time. Depending on the area where you are looking, you should be able to find two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom apartments or even a duplex for rent according to your needs.
If you ask the locals, the state is divided into Chicago and not Chicago. That pretty well sums up the thought processes of most in the state regarding the regions. In reality, you have the main urban centers of Chicago and Springfield and then various other cities.
Southern Illinois: The downstate area, which is generally everything south of Mount Vernon, is comprised mostly of rural towns and farmland. This area also has the Shawnee National Forest, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and it's home to Shawneetown, famous for refusing to once give a loan to the upstart village of Chicago, claiming that no town so far north would ever amount to anything. In the southern part of the state, especially in the areas of Franklin, Pope and Saline counties, the people are warm and welcoming, and you might get a sense of the South being in this southern region of a northern state. People here have more in common with their neighbors in Kentucky than they do with their fellow Illinoisans in the north!
Winters here range from extremely mild to extremely icy. Large amounts of snow at any given point are rare, but when it happens, just wait a day and it will melt. There are generally a few days of good 50 to 60 degree weather in January and then again in February. Spring tends to arrive in mid April. Summers are hot and humid.
Renting a home or apartment in this area is typically a pretty simple process and probably the easiest in the state. Often you need to do no more than call the number on a 'for rent' sign and hand them first and last month's rent to get a key! In the larger towns like Carbondale and Marion, you will probably need to fill out an application. The credit check will be cursory and you will need first and last month's rent along with a security deposit. You may also need a pet deposit, but that isn't typical in the area.
Activities and entertainment in this area range from fairs and festivals to tractor pulls and hunting. The fishing is great in this area, and the hiking is some of the best in the state. A trip to The Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest is a popular weekend getaway. The well-marked hiking trails range from beginner to expert. There are also horse trails, and renting a horse from one of the nearby stables is quick and easy. For lovers of fishing, the primary fishing areas are Dolan Lake in McLeansboro, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge in Crab Orchard and Glen O. Jones Lake in Harrisburg. The fish species range from catfish to bluegill and bass. Every now and then, someone catches a walleye and it makes the local paper! This is also true of the guy who grew a giant sunflower.
Just because you are in the southern part of the state, don't think you have to hunt or fish to survive! There are plenty of dining choices and some of the most popular in the area are Mackie's Pizza, 17th Street Bar and Grill and the Asian Bistro. All of these can be found in Marion with additional locations for Mackie's and 17th Street Bar and Grill in Harrisburg and Murphysboro, respectively.
Chicago: Chicago makes up the urban powerhouse of Illinois, far more so than the capital of Springfield. Chicago is a frequent travel and tourist spot for those living within the state as well as those from other places. In much of the state, you will frequently hear complaints about Chicago. This is because Cook County, the county in which Chicago resides, has a larger population than all of the other state counties combined. This makes people in the other areas a bit touchy. Beyond that, Chicago offers everything you could ever possible want. From world-class shopping and dining to the world-renowned Field Museum, Chicago is always bustling with culture and activity.
Winters here are cold and snowy. Accept that and move on with your life. The rest of the time, it's windy. Hot and windy, cold and windy, cool and windy. This is the Windy City after all, and it didn't get that nickname by accident. Expect summers to be hot but not unbearably so.
Renting an apartment in Chicago is going to be more difficult than in any other part of the state. This is where you will find the most hoops to jump through, and you need to be aware that the best places are usually snapped up quickly. Chicago is not a place to dawdle in your decision making; if you see something you like, you need to move quickly.
If you can't find something to do in Chicago, you aren't trying very hard. It really is that simple, and you need to get up and leave the house. If you like museums, start at the Field Museum, which is one of the finest natural history museums in the world. If art galleries are more your style, you will find them all over Chicago. Look for one having a showing and you can make an evening of it! Shopping is your favorite activity? Fantastic, because you live in one of the greatest cities for shopping in the entire world! Everyone is represented here. You can find Gucci and Prada, Kate Spade and Dior.
Springfield: The area where the capital is located, roughly in the middle of the state, is primarily softly rolling prairie land with a major city jutting out. At least, that's how it started. Today, you will find the entire region has the amenities of a large city with the quaintness of a small town. There are plenty of cultural activities to choose from in and around Springfield. From music to museums, there is a lot to see and do. This is the area where you will find the most information about President Lincoln and his life in Illinois. You will travel back in time to his boyhood and see how it shaped him into the man he would later become.
Renting here isn't difficult. There will likely be an application with references, a credit check and the obligatory security deposit accompanying the first and last month's rent. Beyond that, know that in some areas, the housing market for rentals is tighter, so you need to move fast. In others, it's a renter's market, so take your time.
If you are looking for fun things to do, you are well situated in the near-center of the state. There are tons of Lincoln attractions, and if you believe all the hype on local signs, Lincoln apparently never slept anyplace more than once! Springfield is loaded with museums dedicated to Lincoln, but you will also find natural history museums, art galleries and everything else you expect from a capital city. You will even find the governor living here. A certain past governor preferred to live in Chicago and fly into Springfield on a daily basis.
Depending on your viewpoint, Illinois's designation as the state with the most corrupt government officials is either disgraceful or proof that at least Illinois is doing something about corruption! Several of the past governors have gone to prison, including the two previous governors, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. Few residents in the state were not glued to their televisions watching the spectacle of the arrest and trial of Blagojevich.