Venues throughout the state range from the expansive open-air Illinois State Fairgrounds to opulent theaters and arenas for spectacular live performances
By Heather Dale
Illinois is home to a gamut of impressive entertainment venues that provide a kaleidoscope of live shows, music concerts, theatrical performances and cultural events. Whether your group is visiting the southeast, northwest or somewhere in between, there are plenty of entertainment places throughout Illinois for an unforgettable experience.
Some Entertainment Venues in Illinois Include:
- Millennium Park
- Coronado Performing Arts Center
- Wildey Theatre
- Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts
- The Rust Belt
- And plenty more
ENTERTAINMENT VENUES IN ILLINOIS
Tucked away on the quaint Rock Valley College campus in northern Illinois is a structural work of art. Since 1967, the Starlight Theatre in Rockford has been providing live performances for the community and beyond. The theater was formed by a group of Rock Valley College students in the 1960s who wanted to create a culture-rich performing arts program to showcase the community’s talents.
What started as modest acts performed outside on the beautiful campus grounds grew into a striking one-of-a-kind theater in 2003. Designed by world-renowned architect Jeanne Gang, the 135,000-square-foot edifice has a 200-foot retractable star-shaped roof that opens like a blossoming flower. Performances have wowed over one million audience members over the decades, including Finian’s Rainbow, the first show held in 1967, to classics like Little Shop of Horrors.
Groups can also enjoy a show at the Coronado Performing Arts Center, which has hosted artists, shows, concerts and events since 1927. This iconic Rockford venue is a place where history and entertainment merge.
Rebuilt in 1927, the Illinois State Fairgrounds Grandstand in Springfield hosts a unique variety of live events. Some artists who have graced the stage include Willie Nelson, Demi Lovato and Jason Aldean. If your group is looking for thrills, the Grandstand also presents horse and automobile races.
The historic Wildey Theatre in downtown Edwardsville is a reinvented 1909 opera house putting on musical concerts, classic films, dance performances and theatrical shows. In its original form, the Victorian-style Illinois theater was designed with lavish plaster ornamentation, stately balconies and two 50-person viewing boxes, one on each side of the stage. In 1937, the Wildey received an art deco makeover showcasing a vibrant lighted marquee with red, orange and yellow stripes, and neon lighting inside. Today, audiences can enjoy live concerts of all types, comedy shows, classic movies shown on the Wildey Big Screen, Dueling Pianos concerts and much more.
Old Mill Creek is home to the spectacular Tempel Lipizzans. The Tempel Lippizans’ history spans more than six decades while the story of the Lipizzan and classical riding spans more than five centuries. Each performance is set to music and is a study in classical horsemanship and amazing athleticism.
Since 1921, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA) has been known by many names, including Bloomington’s Scottish Rites Temple and The Consistory. Since then, BCPA has undergone a large-scale renovation. This exciting Illinois entertainment venue hosts many performing and visual arts and arts education events. The BCPA proudly provides a diverse range of entertainment for all audiences and holds more than 500 gatherings each year. Former big ticket names include renowned musician Duke Ellington, the Bloomington Symphony and the Boston Pops Orchestra.
Bloomington-Normal is home to numerous theaters including the Community Players Theatre and the Historic Normal Theater. The area also hosts multiple festivals including the Sugar Creek and Arts Festival in Normal where more than 170 arts and crafts vendors display their impressive creations. Lively music and delicious food accompany the art displays.
A summer staple in Bloomington-Normal is the Illinois Shakespeare Festival. Drawing nearly 10,000 visitors each year, this professional repertory company produces work by Shakespeare and contemporary plays created in his spirit. Enjoy family-friendly entertainment, behind the scenes tours and live music.
MORE ILLINOIS ENTERTAINMENT VENUES
The new multi-million dollar Fox Pointe outdoor arena in Lansing is a state-of-the-art entertainment venue that hosts many diverse events. Fox Pointe features an outdoor amphitheater, an ample concessions building, an open-air pavilion and climate-controlled restrooms. Combine that with high-grade acoustics and modern amenities, and this Illinois entertainment venue has it all. Besides amazing concerts, they also organize holiday events like tree lighting with Santa and spooky Halloween activities for kids.
Millennium Park in Chicago is an award-winning cultural space that hosts an array of live entertainment, community events, music concerts, group tours and other cultural activities. More than 20 million people visit this expansive Illinois entertainment venue annually. The park offers docent-led and self-guided walking tours of the comprehensive campus, including a half-mile exploration of seven public artwork displays from April through October. View “live” art at the Crown Fountain and view the famous Bean sculpture in the Cloud Gate section of Millennium Park.
While at the park, catch a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an impressive outdoor amphitheater that can accommodate 11,000 fans and often features free performances. Memorable past shows include acts from the comical music duo Flight of the Concords and the talented female rock group Sleater-Kinney.
In East Moline, the former 1900s Moline-Knight Automobile Company’s manufacturing plant is the newest addition to the unique Quad City entertainment venue space. The Rust Belt is an entertainment place that hosts music concerts, wrestling events, house music festivals, comedy acts and big-name musicians. World-renowned artists who have performed here include Bon Iver, Jimmy Eat World and Nathaniel Rateliff. This 22,000-square-foot arena can hold 3,500 fans and has hosted more than 50 bands and musical performances.
Savor a tasty meal and a magnificent theater performance at Circa’ 21 Dinner Playhouse. Once a grand movie house, this lovely Art Deco space offers a delectable buffet and Vegas-style seating for groups to enjoy Broadway-caliber musicals and murder mysteries.
Before the Marion Cultural and Civic Center (MCCC) in south central Illinois was destroyed by fire in 1997, it was the place to go for live entertainment. The flagship theater of the Orpheum Play House circuit was host to many notable performers and vintage entertainment during the turn of the century. Beginning as a vaudeville and silent movie theater, the Orpheum put on live shows from world-renowned performers like Harry Houdini and Anne Case, “The American Soprano” from the Metropolitan Opera. With extensive rebuilding and renovations completed in 2004, along with a name change, MCCC hosted its first community event, the Marion High School prom. Today, MCCC puts on over 200 events annually, including music performances, concert events and theatrical plays.
Illinois has plenty more venues and places worth traveling to, so if you’d like more ideas for things to do in Illinois be sure to Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel magazine for FREE and find out what else is worth seeing in Illinois.