We've been long-time supporters and admirers of the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) and their work to make Rockford a "must-see" city.

There's good reason (and the numbers to back it up) for supporting not only the efforts of the RACVB, but of the entire state's push to bring more people to Illinois.

Those efforts continue to work. Or, continued to work right up until the COVID-19 pandemic threw a monkey-wrench into everything, putting a virtual halt to folks visiting our state in any significant number.

The Illinois Office of Tourism Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity released some of their numbers on Friday of last week, and they're really good--right up until this COVID-19 mess jammed on our collective brakes.

For the 9th straight year, Illinois' tourism numbers have been on the rise. Last year, Illinois welcomed 120 million visitors, up 3 million from 2018. When those tourists arrived, they spent about $43 billion. That's also up 3% from the year before.

The Illinois Office of Tourism points out that the money taken in from tourists directly supported 344,100 jobs, which is up from 342,000 in 2018. Tourism also accounted for $2.5 billion in state sales tax revenue.

COVID-19, and all the restrictions it has brought along have certainly slowed down not only visits to Illinois, but pretty much every other tourist spot in the country, too. But once we get through all of this, there's no reason to think that our state won't rebound.

So, where are people going when they visit us here in Illinois? Here's what TripAdvisor says are the top 10 attractions:

  1. Art Institute of Chicago
  2. Lake Michigan
  3. Blaum Bros. Distilling Company
  4. Shawnee National Forest
  5. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
  6. Woodfield Mall
  7. Grand View Drive
  8. Wolff's Flea Market
  9. Caterpillar Visitor's Center
  10. Six Flags Great America

Rockford's own Anderson Japanese Gardens (AJG) comes in at #21 on their list. AJG ranks much higher on several other lists of Illinois attractions, but sure, go to a flea market if you want to.