Canton, Illinois, has a history of inspiring innovators. A creator of the Monopoly board game and an early car pioneer, for example, called the city home.
And now, modern innovators in this town 35 miles southwest of Peoria have turned their attention to Canton itself. Thirteen restored buildings around the town square recall early-20th-century grandeur. In the 131-year-old Randolph Building, One East Boutique stocks sweaters and blouses, Vera Bradley bags and jewelry. The shelves at K&L Antiques hold delftware and Griswold cookware. Nearby, The Sweet Shoppe’s original checkered-tile floor still leads to a soda fountain.
Twenty miles south of Canton near Lewistown, each season brings renewed opportunities for birding, fishing and hiking in the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. Thousands of birds, including terns and pelicans, stop at this park along the banks of Lake Chautauqua during spring and fall migrations.
Back in Canton, even new buildings feature a nod to the town’s past. The 1880-style architecture and furnishings at Canton Harvester Inn fit in with the restored town square—even though the inn’s cornerstone reads 2011.
For more information: Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development (309) 647-2677; visitcantonil.org 
Wildlife (and wildlife-watchers) flock to the area around Canton. Across the Illinois River from Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in Havana, Illinois, attracts birders keen to spot bald eagles and dozens of species of waterfowl and songbirds. And 6 miles east of Chautauqua, Sand Ridge State Forest encompasses more than 55 miles of hiking trails, plus rare-in-the-Midwest plants like prickly pear cactus.