in the world. It opened in 1973 and cemented Chicago’s place in architectural history.
Although it was passed by other buildings in the last 20 years, the renamed Willis
Tower is still a top draw for groups. The
Skydeck on the 99th floor is the loftiest observation deck in the country, and visitors
can see Illinois plus three other states from
the deck when the weather is clear. The
Skydeck is also available for meetings, and
can handle up to 300 for seated events or
up to 400 for standing receptions. With a
360-degree view, sunset cocktail events are
a top choice for groups as well. Although
Sears Tower is in the heart of Chicago, it’s
still a short distance from properties like
360 Chicago, Renaissance Schaumburg
Convention Center Hotel and the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort.
“While the Willis Tower, formerly called
the Sears Tower, and Soldiers Field are best
known, they are representative of dozens
and dozens of museums, galleries, theaters,
ballrooms, parks, attractions, restaurants and more that can provide meeting
planners with tremendous opportunity
and flexibility when choosing a venue or
alternative event space to book in Chicago,”
said David Whitaker, president & CEO of
Soldier Field, Chicago
Like most Chicago icons, Soldier Field has
had a colorful history. It opened in 1924
and was named as a memorial to those
lost during World War I. Soldier Field has
served as a kind of town square for Chicago
through the decades, hosting myriad
events, from football games to tractor pulls.
It gained the most fame, however, as the
home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, and was
even de-listed from historical landmark
status in order for the stadium to be renovated and keep its hometown team.
In a sports world where newer is always
Lincoln Home National Historic
better, Soldier Field remains and is the
second-oldest stadium still in professional
use. Planners have a host of options for
meetings and events, from a behind-the-
scenes tour that includes the visitor’s
locker room to renting the whole field for a
private concert or holding receptions and
meetings in the stadium’s various event
spaces. Many spaces look out over Lake
Michigan, and meetings can even use the
venue’s massive video boards as part of the
Illinois has long been known as the Land
of Lincoln, and the Lincoln Home National
Historic Site in Springfield preserves the
16th president’s private home as a monument to liberty and the American Dream.
Lincoln went from a Kentucky log cabin to
this 12-room Greek Revival house, the only
one Lincoln actually owned in his lifetime.
Tours of the home are free, and tickets are
available on a first-come, first–served basis.
Groups can round out their historical
day with a trip to the Lincoln Presidential
Library and Museum ( www.illinois.gov/
alplm), which boasts incredible research
materials and immersive exhibits into
the life and times of Lincoln. The library
welcomes daytime events like luncheons
for groups, while the museum is best suited
for evening gatherings such as dinners and
receptions. Planners can also select from a
variety of historical presentations and talks
to enhance their event.
Just a few minutes outside Springfield in
Petersburg is a living monument to Honest
Abe’s life. Lincoln’s New Salem Historic
Site ( www.lincolnsnewsalem.com) is a
faithful reconstruction of the village where
Lincoln spent his early adult years doing
different jobs, from postmaster to store
clerk. Craft demonstrations by blacksmiths,
rail splitters and more are available, and
visitors can shop for handmade goods or
tour through 12 reconstructed log buildings, all containing antiques used in the
period. Group tours are available.
LINCOLN’S NEW SALEM STATE HISTORIC SITE, PETERSBURG
SOLDIER FIELD, CHICAGO
Illinois Kicks on ROUTE 66
It’s only right that the Mother Road roars through Illinois. Route 66 is part of American pop culture, along with rock ’n’ roll and drive-ins. Attractions along Route 66 were just as unique and individual as Americans themselves, and that
spirit remains today.
One new attraction captures that wild and free Route 66 spirit:
the Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum & Resource Center
( http://pontiacoaklandmuseum.org) in Pontiac opened in 2011
with a stunning collection of Pontiac and Oakland cars along with
other related memorabilia. Groups can take the regular tour or
ask for the behind-the-scenes tour and see all the cars not currently on display, since the museum regularly rotates the exhibits.
The world has changed, but Doc’s Soda Fountain (www.
facebook.com/docs-soda-fountain-182160969897) remains the
same. Located in Girard, the business started as a drugstore in
1884, and when the newfangled craze of sodas hit in the 1920s,
a soda fountain was added. Doc’s is under new ownership in this new century, but
the sodas are still old-fashioned and ready for the Mother Road’s thirsty travelers,
along with lunch, ice cream and pie. Groups are welcome.
How often does a bottle of ketchup land on the National Register of Historic
Places? When it’s 170 feet tall, of course. Route 66 is known for wonderfully
odd photo ops, and the World’s Biggest Catsup Bottle ( www.catsupbottle.com)
is no exception. The bottle is actually a water tower built in 1949 in downtown
Collinsville and meant to serve the Brooks catsup manufacturing plant. Saved by a
dedicated group of fans and restored to its original luster, this landmark is a Route
66 legend. Groups can stop for a photo or swing by in July for the bottle’s annual
festival and birthday party. For an amazing amount of roadside oddities and attractions on Route 66, visit Illinois Route 66 ( www.illinoisroute66.org).