For the second year, readers nominated their favorites in a variety of categories in the northern, central or southern regions. Each participant cast their ballot in 40 different categories, ranging from eateries and destinations to their favorite service locations. We asked you to vote for the Best in Illinois – varying from your favorite day trip to the best regional attraction.
Several votes were cast for outdoor activities. Your favorite northern regional attraction was Chestnut Mountain Resort. For the best place to get married, readers voted for Allerton Park, and the best place to take the kids in the central region goes to Children’s Discovery Museum. Foodies also voted for their favorites selecting Giant City Lodge, in the southern region, as having the best home cooking.
Awards were delivered to 118 businesses during the Best of Illinois contest. All are listed at the bottom of this page. Below you can discover more about six of the Best of Illinois winners from across the state selected by Illinois Country Living magazine readers.
Myrtle’s Café & Pie has with locations in Princeton and Galena. Myrtle’s pie shop is known for making a variety of homemade pies in a casual atmosphere. Each bakery offers seasonal pies from Malted French Silk, Lemon Cheesecake, Dutch Apple and more!
The Princeton bakery is located at 927 North Main Street, call 815-915-8397. The Galena bakery is located at 228 North Main Street, call 779-214-0356. Visit their Facebook page @MyrtlesCafeAndPie for more information.
Best performing arts venue & theatre
According to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), it presents national and international touring artists and holds over 500 events annually, between classes, meetings, seminars, presentations, life events and more. When you enter BCPA’s historic space, your artistic experience begins at the door. The intimate auditorium provides a unique setting to enjoy a dynamic season of artists.
To view the BCPA’s current season, visit artsblooming.org or call the BCPA ticket office at 309-434-2777. The performing arts venue is located at 600 N. East St. in Bloomington. Ticket office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Best place to take the kids
The Science Center (TSC) in Carbondale provides kids over 65 hands-on science exhibits, in-house sculptures and educational programs. According to the museum’s website, it is dedicated to awareness and exploration of hands-on science to infant children through teen years and their families in southernmost Illinois. Its mission is to nourish and preserve each child’s innate curiosity through hands-on, inquiry-based exploration. The center has approximately 70,000 visitors every year and features free day on Thursdays with free admission to all members of the community.
The museum is located at 1237 E. Main, Carbondale, call 618-529-5431. The Science Center is open Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is $5 per person, infants 2 and under are free. TSC also offers seniors discounts. Visit Yoursciencecenter.org for more information or to learn more about becoming a member.
Best college or university
According to Aurora University (AU), it offers more than 40 bachelors, masters and doctoral programs that are grounded in real-world experiences and led by experienced, dedicated faculty members. An inclusive community dedicated to the transformative power of learning, AU is a private, nonprofit, independent university accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Approximately 5,600 students are enrolled at different AU locations, including its main 37-acre campus located 40 miles west of Chicago as well as the Orchard Center in Aurora, the Woodstock Center in Woodstock, George Williams College on Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, and online.
AU’s main campus is located at 347 S. Gladstone Ave in Aurora, call 630-892-6431, email email@example.com or visit aurora.edu.
The Annual Dutch Days Festival is held in the first Friday and Saturday in May. Originated in 1974, the festival celebrates the area’s Dutch heritage. The 44th Annual Dutch Days Festival will be held May 4 and 5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The whole family will enjoy a variety of events. Some of the activities include an Authentic De Immigrant Dutch Windmill, Dutch costumes and dancing, an antique tractor show, live music and authentic Dutch pastries. Besides the 100 arts and craft vendors, attendees can enjoy several area attractions including the Fulton Marina, the 1800s Village at Heritage Canyon and the Martin House Museum.
Visit the only Dutch Festival in Illinois. To find out a complete list of events and attractions, visit cityoffulton.us or call 815-589-3925. Follow @CityOfFulton on its Facebook page.
Best regional attraction
Garden of the Gods is nestled in the beautiful Shawnee National Forest. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Garden of the Gods, made of sandstone, is about 320 million years old.” Hikers can enjoy the Camel Rock, Table Rock and Devil Smokestack rock formations. Several trails are offered for different skill levels. Visitors can visit and camp year-round. The Garden of the Gods has several facilities, which include a picnic area, 12 campsites and an observation trail. The U.S. Forest Service encourages visitors to obtain detailed maps before entering the area.
Campsites are $10 per night. For more information, contact Shawnee National Forest headquarters at 50 Hwy. 145 S. in Harrisburg, call 618-253-7114 or visit their website.
Complete list of 2018 winners
|Route 66 Restaurant||Central||Ariston||Litchfield|
|Route 66 Restaurant||Southern||Weezy’s||Hamel|
|Family Friendly Dining||Northern||Forest Inn||Morrison|
|Family Friendly Dining||Central||Neimerg’s||Effingham|
|Family Friendly Dining||Southern||West Union Café||West Union|
|Buffet||Southern||Reid’s Harvest House||Chester|
|Home Cooking||Northern||Calico Café||Sheridan|
|Home Cooking||Central||Rossville Family Restaurant||Rossville|
|Home Cooking||Southern||Giant City Lodge||Makanda|
|Milkshake/Ice Cream Shop||Northern||American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor||Galena|
|Milkshake/Ice Cream Shop||Central||Carl’s Ice Cream||Bloomington|
|Milkshake/Ice Cream Shop||Southern||Accee’s||Goreville|
|Barbecue||Northern||Big Papas Barbecue||Rockford|
|Barbecue||Southern||17th Street Barbecue||Murphysboro|
|Pizza||Central||The Greathouse of Pizza||Casey|
|Bakery||Central||Sweet Norma Jean’s||Casey|
|Bakery||Southern||Larry’s House of Cakes||Marion|
|Food Truck||Northern||Yum Dum Truck||Chicago|
|Food Truck||Central||Twyford’s BBQ||Jacksonville|
|Food Truck||Southern||Haute Weels Food Truck||Murphysboro|
|Hamburgers||Northern||Top Notch Beefburgers, Chicago||Chicago|
|Hamburgers||Central||Moonshine Store, Martinsville||Martinsville|
|Hamburgers||Southern||Fat Patties, Carbondale||Carbondale|
|College/University||Northern||Aurora University, Aurora||Aurora|
|Performing Arts Venue/Theatre||Northern||Timber Lake Playhouse||Mt. Carroll|
|Performing Arts Venue/Theatre||Central||Bloomington Performing Arts Center||Bloomington|
|Performing Arts Venue/Theatre||Southern||McLeod Theatre||Carbondale|
|Place to Get Married||Northern||Williams Tree Farm||Rockton|
|Place to Get Married||Central||Allerton Park||Monticello|
|Place to Get Married||Southern||Buck Valley Wildlife Preserve||Marshall|
|Host a Wedding Reception||Northern||Chestnut Mountain||Galena|
|Host a Wedding Reception||Central||Walton Centre||Fairbury|
|Host a Wedding Reception||Southern||Alto Vineyards||Alto Pass|
|Regional Attraction||Northern||Chestnut Resort||Galena|
|Regional Attraction||Central||Big Things in a Small Town||Casey|
|Regional Attraction||Southern||Garden of the Gods||Harrisburg|
|Art Gallery||Northern||Chicago Art Institute||Chicago|
|Art Gallery||Central||Table Stawn Art Gallery||Jacksonville|
|Art Gallery||Southern||Southern Illinois Art & Artisans Center||Whittington|
|Place to Take the Kids||Northern||Shedd Aquarium||Chicago|
|Place to Take the Kids||Central||Children’s Discovery Museum||Normal|
|Place to Take the Kids||Southern||The Science Center||Carbondale|
|Day Trip||Northern||Starved Rock||Oglesby|
|Day Trip||Central||Abraham Lincoln Museum||Springfield|
|Day Trip||Southern||Garden of the Gods||Harrisburg|
|Antique Shop||Northern||Rubies n Rust Antiques||Rockton|
|Antique Shop||Southern||Countree Peddler||Goreville|
|Automotive Dealership||Northern||Palmer Automotive||Elizabeth|
|Automotive Dealership||Central||KC Summers Auto Group||Mattoon|
|Automotive Dealership||Southern||Volger Ford||Carbondale|
|Grocery Store||Northern||Sullivan Foods||Savanna|
|Grocery Store||Central||Dave’s Supermarket||Fairbury|
|Grocery Store||Southern||Goreville Food Market||Goreville|
|Mattress Store||Northern||Muehleip Furniture||Galena|
|Mattress Store||Central||Just Beds||Springfield|
|Mattress Store||Southern||Sterling Mattress Factory||Herrin|
|Eyewear||Central||Vision Care Associates||Springfield|
|Eyewear||Southern||Marion Eye Center||Marion|
|Furniture Store||Northern||Good’s Furniture||Kewanee|
|Furniture Store||Central||Martins Home Furniture||Bloomington|
|Furniture Store||Southern||Stearn’s Furniture||Sparta|
|Jewelry Store||Northern||Gem Shop and Diamond Source||Rockton|
|Jewelry Store||Central||Jack Lewis||Bloomington|
|Jewelry Store||Southern||Wickers Jewelry||Steeleville|
|Mall/Shopping District||Northern||Downtown Galena||Galena|
|Mall/Shopping District||Central||Marketplace Mall||Champaign|
|Mall/Shopping District||Southern||University Mall||Carbondale|
|Seed/Garden Store||Northern||Corn Crib Nursery||Coal Valley|
|Seed/Garden Store||Southern||Harper Feed Store||Herrin|
|Shoe Store||Northern||Honest Johns||Galena|
|Shoe Store||Central||Heal to Toe||Urbana|
|Shoe Store||Southern||Shawnee Trails Wilderness Outfitter||Carbondale|
|Financial Institution||Northern||Farmers National Bank||Geneseo|
|Financial Institution||Central||Busey Bank||Bloomington|
|Financial Institution||Southern||South Porte Bank||Marion|
|Heating/Cooling Company||Northern||Grassers Plumbing and Heating||McNabb|
|Heating/Cooling Company||Central||Davis Electric||Rushville|
|Heating/Cooling Company||Southern||Jacobs Air Conditioning and Heating||Carbondale|
|Roofing Company||Northern||Rutherford Roofing||Geneseo|
|Roofing Company||Central||West End Builders||Beardstown|
|Roofing Company||Southern||DS Roofing Systems||Ava|
|Home Improvement Company||Northern||Hoskin’s Elizabeth||Elizabeth|
|Home Improvement Company||Central||West End Builders||Beardstown|
|Home Improvement Company||Southern||Home Improvement Warehouse||Carbondale|
|Assisted Living Facility||Northern||Resthave Nursing Home||Morrison|
|Assisted Living Facility||Central||Fairview Haven||Fairbury|
|Assisted Living Facility||Southern||Burnsides||Marshall|
|Optometrist||Central||Heyman & Heyman||Paxton|
|Optometrist||Southern||William Fix, O.D.||Marion|
|Hearing||Central||Midwest Ear, Nose and Throat||Peoria|
|Hearing||Southern||Carbondale Hearing Center||Carbondale|
|Dentist||Northern||Dr. Dean Park, Geneva Smiles Dental||Geneva|