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The Wright stuff: Visit these architectural icons

Frank Lloyd Wright is America’s greatest architect—tour some of his most notable creations on this five-day trip through Illinois.

Rookery Frank Lloyd Wright Interior
Credit: Nick Ulivieiri/Illinois Office of Tourism

Illinois is a larger-than-life gallery filled with many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpieces. Take the self-guided tour through 13 of his most renowned buildings, including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and walk the halls designed by the legend himself.

Many attractions have reopened with limited capacity or different operating hours. Inquire with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date travel policies and health and safety information.

Days 1-2: Chicago

Your Frank Lloyd Wright exploration starts in Chicago. Begin with a tour at the Emil Bach House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright residence in Chicago. It also doubles as a vacation rental, so you can stay the night, too. Next, head to the Charnley-Persky House Museum. Wright was a junior draftsman to Louis Sullivan on this project, which is recognized as a pivotal work of modern American architecture. Continue your architectural adventure with a trip to The Rookery, an icon in the center of Chicago’s downtown Financial District, featuring a spectacular main lobby and light court that is one of the most elaborate interior spaces in the whole state. Located where Michigan Ave. meets the Chicago River, the Chicago Architecture Center features nearly 10,000 sf of exhibit space with super-sized models and views of iconic skyscrapers, making it a must-see. 

It wouldn’t be a trip to Chicago without some incredible food! You can’t go wrong with a mouthwatering steak and an incredible view of the Chicago River at Gibson’s Italia. Or, take in some of the city’s jaw-dropping views while enjoying a glass of wine at Cite at the top of Lake Point Tower. For an even more unique vantage point, glide along the Chicago River aboard an Odyssey Cruise (seasonally), which offers both lunch and dinner, to marvel over some of the city’s most stunning architecture. For even more architectural wonders, head south to the Frederick C. Robie House, a quintessential Prairie-style home that was once named one of the 10 most significant buildings of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In the city, you have plenty of lodging options that will continue the architectural theme of your trip. The Robey is housed in an art-deco building and known for its unique design. For something more classic, book a room at The Drake, a beaux-art hotel that was built in 1920 and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

Days 3-4: Oak Park and Rockford

Discover the beginning of greatness at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio. This landmark structure served as Wright’s private residence and studio from 1889 to 1909—the first 20 years of his career. Stop for breakfast at Delia’s Kitchen or for a fine dining experience at The Little Gem Cafe—known for its intimate and welcoming atmosphere. Or, Citrine Cafe features unique, eclectic dishes for everyone to enjoy. Take in the wonder of the Unity Temple, Wright’s only surviving public building from his golden Prairie period that doubled as his personal place of worship, also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Upon arriving in Rockford, stop at the Laurent House to tour the only building ever designed by Wright for a person with a disability. The single-story Usonian home is both functional and beautiful (and decades ahead of ADA accessibility requirements). If you’re looking to take in even more sights in Rockford, discover the tranquil beauty of the Anderson Japanese Gardens and discover the city’s incredible brews—both coffee and craft beer—at the Rockford Roasting Co. and Prairie Street Brewing Company, respectively. Stop for a tasty Swedish meal at the Stockholm Inn and get some rest at one of Rockford’s many hotel accommodations including Embassy Suites by Hilton Rockford Riverfront and the Hilton Garden Inn.

Days 4-5: Kankakee and Springfield

The journey continues on the way to Springfield! Stop in Kankakee for a trip to the B. Harley Bradley House which is widely acknowledged as Wright’s first Prairie-style design. Just 40 minutes away, you can see the Frank L. Smith Bank in Dwight, designed with a simple, dignified aesthetic that Wright believed all banks should feature. 

End your Frank Lloyd Wright excursion with a trip to the state’s capital of Springfield. The Dana Thomas House is reputed to be one of Wright’s largest and most elaborate Prairie-style designs, featuring 35 rooms with more than 100 pieces of original furniture and 250 art glass windows. Stop for a roast to order cup of coffee at Custom Cup, then take a stroll to the nearby Old State Capitol, a reconstruction of Illinois’ fifth statehouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, served as a legislator and gave his famed House Divided speech on slavery in 1858. Discover more historic Abraham Lincoln sites peppered throughout the city like the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, the Lincoln Tomb (don’t forget to rub Lincoln’s nose for good luck) and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. At the museum, explore more than 40,000 square feet of galleries, theaters, historic and interactive displays that will give you an in-depth look at Lincoln’s life. Stay the night in Wyndham Springfield City Centre or the Inn at 835 Hotel in historic downtown Springfield. 

During your time in Springfield, you have endless options for great dining. Maldaner’s, established in 1884, offers a contemporary fine dining experience, while D’Arcy’s Pint is more of a cozy neighborhood bar with authentic Irish fare. Be sure to stop in for a delicious craft brew at Illinois Made Maker Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery & Eatery.