You cannot imagine how excited we are to finally share the highlights of our first-ever trip to Illinois and, of course, to Chicago with you. The city of wind by the great Lake Michigan was already for so long on our gay travel bucket list. But first things first! We started our Illinois adventure for our Gay Illinois Travel Guide with a road trip visiting Galena, one of TripAdvisor’s top ten “Charming Small Towns” in the US right at the northwest border of the US states of Iowa and Wisconsin. Known and loved for its mid-century architecture, Galena is becoming more and more popular among the LGBTQ+ community of Chicago and beyond.
– in paid collaboration with Visit Illinois –
On our way back, we put a one-day stop in Rockford on our list. Visiting the Murals in the city enter as well as the Japanese Garden and the Laurent House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright made this stop worthwhile. Before finally arriving in Chicago, we spent a night in Geneva, another beautiful community just a one-hour train ride from Chicago. Next time when visiting Illinois, we want to explore the highlights of the famous Route 66, Illinois’ capital city Springfield and, of course, see more of Chicago. For now, we collected the most important information for your Illinois travels in our Gay Illinois Travel Guide from our first trip. Read more about our Road Trip to Galena here >
Gay Illinois Travel Guide
Known for its unparalleled architecture with countless bridges over the north and south branch of the Chicago River and hundreds of spectacular skyscrapers, Chicago as the third-biggest city of the United States of America has been on our bucket list for ages! Back in Chicago, after our road trip to Galena, we were so excited to be able to attend the 50th edition of the Chicago Pride Parade, exploring the gay neighborhoods Boystown and Andersonville and their famous nightlife.
Chicago is located right at the shore of Lake Michigan which means, LGBTQ+ tourists actually can combine a city trip to Chicago with some relaxed days at the beach, experiencing the diversity and freshness of great culinary highlights of Illinois while exploring the urban city life. And to be completely honest, one of the reasons Karl is so excited about visiting Chicago is the US TV series ER (Emergency Room) he grew up with and telling the story of an ER in Chicago. This brings us back to the architecture and the Chicago River.
All Blog Articles about Illinois and Chicago
Our Chicago Highlights
Of course, we jumped on a Shoreline Architecture Cruise boat to join one of the best architecture tours in the world. The view from a river perspective was spectacular and could only be topped by the view of Chicago by night from the 360 Chicago Observation deck and its thrilling experience TILT. Don’t miss the view of the unique Chicago skyline from the Navy Pier, the world’s biggest rooftop bar.
Were you aware that Illinois is known for its Frank Lloyd Wright trail? This unique route makes it possible for fans of his modern architecture to actually see some of the buildings he designed from inside and outside. We spent a whole day in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, some other houses designed by him across the street as well as the Unity Temple. We aimed to see as much as possible of his work, especially after having a private tour at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House in Rockford. Read more about Chicago’s Gay Life here >
How to get to Illinois and the northern USA?
How to get to Illinois and Chicago? We found some great flight opportunities with flights from Europe and Amsterdam with KLM with some pretty good deals starting from 500 Euro return. There are plenty of direct connections from Amsterdam to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) including KLM partner airline DELTA. Click here for Amsterdam- Chicago – Amsterdam > with KLM and Delta.
Gay-friendly Hotels in Illinois & Chicago
Lesbian, gay, and queer travelers from all over the world can find LGBTQ+ and gay-friendly accommodations not only in the gay neighborhoods of Chicago but also across the Illinois state. In our Gay Travel Guide Illinois we are focussing on the hotels we have actually stayed at and the ones known to be run or owned by gay couples. Let us start in Galena where we, unfortunately, did not stay in one of the gay run bed&breakfasts in a historic mansion. But we visited some really cool ones and connected to them via Instagram.
First on our list is the Jail Hill Inn, a 135-year-old, 4-story high brick building operated and owned by local gay man Matthew Carol. He turned the former jail into an Inn with six private suites. Second on our list: The Felt Manor Guest House overlooking the city of Galena, run by the new innkeepers, gay couple Geoff and Alex. The third gay-friendly accommodation on our list is the Aldrich Guest House, with the innkeepers, Douglas and Robert. On our way to Chicago, we stayed at The Herrington Inn in Geneva, with a distinguished European popular for honeymoons. In Chicago, we spend our first night at the Hilton Orrington/Evanston before actually traveling to Chicago.
If you want to explore the gay neighborhoods Boystown and Andersonville, we can recommend the comfortable, spacious suites at the BW Plus Hawthorne Terrace Hotel on Broadway. In Downtown Chicago, we spent some nights at the 4 Diamond Kimpton Gray Hotel on West Monroe Street.
How gay-friendly is Illinois and the USA?
Generally speaking, the United States of America is considered to be frankly LGBTQ+ and gay-friendly including equal marriage since 2015. Especially in the bigger cities such as Chicago or the LGBTQ+ getaways like Galena, are places in the US and Illinois that can be considered safe and secure for lesbian, gay, and queer travelers in general. Nevertheless, we genuinely hope that the current US administration will continue supporting lesbian, gay, trans, and queer people and see LGBTQ+ rights as what they really are, human rights. If you are traveling to Chicago, don’t forget to check our Chicago Gay City Life article!
Gay Travel Guide Illinois: Please consider our tips as suggestions with no guarantee that it still will be like that when you are traveling there. Though we did our research and all our opinions written in this article are honest, authentic, and true. We would like to thank Illinois Tourism for their invitation, support, and the possibility to experience the gay-friendly side of Illinois and Chicago in a special way. For any clarifications about your plans for traveling to Illinois and the USA, follow us and email us or drop us a line on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. See you around the world and the next time in Galena, Chicago, Illinois, and the United States of America!
Karl & Daan.