welcomeilThis just in! According to a recent U.S. News & World Report, a few of the best places to live in the country, as well as the most affordable places to live and the best places to retire, are right here in Illinois.

The report analyzes the 150 most populous metro areas in the U.S. and named Rock Island, Peoria, Chicago and Rockford as some of the best places to live and to retire. Rock Island and Peoria were also named most affordable places to live.

Rankings were determined through an analysis of public data and user opinions. Additionally, they took into account the job market, the housing market, and other factors that relate to resident satisfaction like crime, the educational level of residents and air quality. Below are the four Illinois cities that made the list and their scores!

If you would like to learn about these cities, you can read the report here.

  • 6.4/10 overall Moline-Rock Island, Illinois − Quad Cities ranked #54
  • 6.3/10 overall Peoria, Illinois ranked #70
  • 5.9/10 overall Chicago, Illinois ranked #123
  • 5.7/10 overall Rockford, Illinois ranked #133

1oattrationsIllinois is home to the first Ferris wheel, Abraham Lincoln’s house and “The Bean” in Chicago, but did you know Illinois also contains some amazing, and less well-known, tourist attractions? When driving around our great state, one can come across some cool and peculiar things that will definitely make you want to stop and take a look. Illinois has 10 larger than life attractions that everyone should go see when they have the chance.

Of these attractions is the world’s largest rocking chair, a statue of the world’s tallest man, Robert Wadlow (who was born in Illinois), the largest bottle of ketchup, the world’s largest wind chime and the world’s largest wooden shoes! Looking to send mail? In Illinois you can also find the world’s largest mailbox. Illinois truly does have attractions that are larger than life. If we ever need to host a giant, we will be prepared. The wooden shoes featured above are 11.5 feet long and 5.5 feet wide.

To read more about the 10 larger than life attractions every Illinoisan needs to see, click here.

ASockMonkeyThere’s some fun monkey business going around the Sock Monkey Museum in Long Grove. Established in 2019, the museum holds thousands of sock monkeys that have been collected by owners since 2006. Whether they were donated, from estate sales, garage sales, antique stores, previously amassed collections, heartwarming gifts, or purchased from the internet, the collection needed an entire building of its own.

The collection continues to expand, as more Sock Monkeys find their way to the Museum. For the last 16 years, the museum has been fortunate to discover over 2,000 sock monkeys. In addition to housing sock monkeys, the museum also offers events where you can make your own sock monkey in remembrance of your trip. The origin of sock monkeys was even in Rockford.

John Nelson settled in Rockford in 1857 and formed the Nelson Knitting Company in 1880. They produced what they called “Celebrated Rockford Hosiery” and sold them under the name of the “Nelson Sock”. Production of these brown socks with the tan toe, heel and top, reached 450 dozen pair per day in 1904. In 1932, the Nelson Knitting Company added the trademark red heels to their durable work socks to distinguish them from their competitor’s.

During the Great Depression, money was scarce, so families found ways to make things at home, including toys for their children, with items they already had. Cutting and sewing a pair of worn out work socks, they created their own Sock Monkey dolls. They stuffed them with what they had on hand at home, such as sawdust, foam, rice, or nylons and decorated them to their own liking to make them unique. The red heels became the mouth and bottom of each sock monkey, and from there the famed sock monkeys rose to popularity.

MilksnakeUSFWSCropHiss hiss, we got a new state snake here in Illinois! The Eastern Milksnake is our new state snake effective Jan. 1 thanks to a very dedicated seventh grader, Gentry Heiple, a student at Carterville Junior High School. The seventh grader researched the snake to promote his passion of snakes and highlight their importance.

The legislation that made it official was HB 4821, which was sponsored by State Senators Mike Simmons and Patrick Joyce last year.

The Eastern Milksnake is prominent throughout the state, mainly living in fields, hills, rivers and woodlands. Though it looks similar to the copperhead snake, it actually is not poisonous and can even be kept as a pet. Typically the snake can be found in more northern regions in Illinois, whilst the red milksnakes are found in the southern regions. Their name came from the rumor that the snake could milk cows, which was started by farmers to evade the low volume of milk produced by their dairy cows.

Heiple grew interest in snakes due to the Shawnee National Forest being located near his hometown. For the last 50 years, a 2.5-mile segment of Forest Service Road No. 345, also known as Snake Road, is the only known place in the world to have an annual snake-related road closure for spring snake and amphibian migration in mid-March to mid-May for the spring snake migration and in September and October in the fall.

DishwasherJosephine Garis Cochran was the first person to design a practical dishwasher in the year 1886. She designed the first model in a shed behind her house in Shelbyville. Cochran desired to help relieve tired housewives and mothers of their duty of doing dishes after cooking meals. She reportedly went around saying, "If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I'll do it myself."

Cochran received the first U.S. patent for her commercially successful dishwasher on Dec. 28, 1886. She later unveiled her invention at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. She expected the invention to take to homes immediately. However, at first only restaurants and hotels were interested by her idea, and it was not until the 1950s when dishwashers became popular accessories for American homes.  

Her invention had dishes fit in compartments in a wheel that turned inside a copper boiler. It was no surprise Cochran was able to come up with a brilliant idea, as she was born into a family of inventors. Her grandfather was awarded the patent for the steamboat. She built her prototype for the machine alongside mechanic George Butters. Eventually, her invention led to the creation of the company that would later be known as KitchenAid. For her invention, Josephine Cochran was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

Cochran built her prototype in Shelbyville and unveiled it at the Chicago World’s Fair. She succeeded in her goal of helping the American housewife, even if it took a few decades for the idea to take off in American households. A common household appliance and its inventor can trace their origins back to Illinois.