Decatur, population 81,860, was founded in 1829 and grew rapidly in the 1850s when the railroad came to town. Decatur was home for a time to Lincoln and the Chicago Bears predecessors, the Staleys. The city has a manufacturing- and agriculture-based economy. Leading soybean and corn processing companies are headquartered here. A central location within the state makes Decatur a popular stopping point for travelers and site for conventions and meetings.
Scovill Park holds many of the city's main attractions including the zoo and the Children's Museum of Illinois, where hands-on exhibits are the main event. A large outdoor playground, Project Playground, and the Japanese-style Scovill Oriental Gardens round out the mix.
Decatur host several large festivals and events throughout the year. The largest event, the Farm Progress Show, comes to town every other year. This agriculture tradeshow draws more than 250,000 visitors to the area. Decatur Celebration, a yearly event each August, is a 3-day family street fair with music, food and games along 22 blocks of the downtown historic district.
For outdoor adventure, Rock Springs Center for Environmental Discovery offers more than 1,000 acres of interactive environmental exhibits, hiking and biking trails, and the 1860s Homestead Prairie Farm, a National Register of Historic Places site. Decatur has a variety of city parks, there are four public golf courses in the area and Lake Decatur provides boating and fishing.
Museums and historic homes preserve the town's history. The Macon County Museum Complex houses an 1830s courthouse with Abraham Lincoln ties. The African-American Cultural Museum and Genealogical Society of Illinois exhibits documents recording local and national African-American history. In the city's downtown historic district, Millikin Homestead, the home of banker James Millikin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. On the university campus bearing Millikin's name, the Birks Museum features a collection of more than 1,000 pieces of art glass, lamps and vases.
Decatur is located 38 miles east of Springfield and 46 miles south of Bloomington. It is accessible via Interstate Highway 72, U.S. Highway 36 and 51 and State Highways 48, 105 and 121. There are several national hotel chains in Decatur, locally owned hotels, and bed and breakfasts.