A bustling city of 32,000, Pekin, Illinois is nestled along the Illinois River just 10 miles southwest of Peoria. It’s the county seat of Tazewell County, and home to an array of small businesses, community organizations and unique amenities. With affordable living, outdoor adventure and so much more to offer, Pekin is a great place to visit — or to call home.
Amy McCoy, Executive Director of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, has lived in Pekin for nearly 20 years. She’s seen firsthand its camaraderie and community spirit, from cheering on the Pekin Dragons at high school football games to participating in beloved traditions like the Pekin Marigold Festival. Events like these, McCoy feels, contribute life and vibrancy to the city. “The sense of community in Pekin is strong,” she declares. “We know how to come together to make our town better.”
Notable for its rich history, Pekin is proud to be the hometown of the late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen, who played a key role in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and championed the marigold to be named our nation’s official flower. Though that dream never came to pass, Pekin was later dubbed the “Marigold Capital of the World” in his honor. Today, the Dirksen Congressional Center promotes research and scholarship related to the U.S. Congress, hosting authors and other visitors from around the world.
Known as a family-friendly community, Pekin plays host to a range of events year-round. The Downtown Concert Series fills Main Street with concert goers, food vendors and live music throughout the summer months, while Christmas on Court is another family favorite, featuring hot cocoa, live entertainment and of course, an appearance from Santa Claus.
The Pekin Marigold Festival is Pekin’s longest-running and best-known tradition, having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. The annual event takes place the weekend after Labor Day and includes a parade, carnival, food court and craft vendors. Pekin residents, along with community members from Greater Peoria and beyond, come out to partake in the festivities.
Created to honor Sen. Dirksen’s favorite flower, the festival is a yearly reminder of the city’s sense of community. “The Marigold Festival is one of Pekin’s favorite events,” McCoy shares. “Celebrating Marigold weekend is a tradition for many families, including my own.”
Fun For Everyone
From food to fashion to the great outdoors, Pekin offers a little something for everyone. The Pekin Park District hosts classes and activities for kids and adults alike, including hiking and horseback riding at McNaughton Park, a pair of 18-hole golf courses, aquatics, mini-golf and more. Enjoy the beautiful lagoon in Mineral Springs Park for fishing, paddle boats or just strolling its perimeter — or lounge at the pool and enjoy the water slides at Dragonland Water Park. Nearby, Veterans Memorial Arena is home to tumbling, dance and ice skating classes, hockey leagues and other recreational programs.
Spend a leisurely afternoon browsing local shops — check out Classy Girl Boutique for the latest in women’s fashion, or Curvy Chic Boutique for trendy plus-sized clothing. Dive into the arts with a painting class at Leo’s Art Studio, or catch a show at the Artistic Community Theatre of Pekin, both located in the historic downtown. Don’t forget to check out the hand-painted murals that decorate the streets while you’re there!
Top off your day by eating local. Grab a drink and buffalo wings at Kouri’s Pub, stop by Jimbo’s Jumbos for a meatball sub, or pay a visit to Maquet’s Rail House for a craft brew, burger or brick oven pizza. Enjoy dessert at Double D’s Ice Cream — and don’t miss the photo op next to the giant ice cream cone!
Live, Work and Play Here
Pekin also boasts a robust business community with a wealth of government, professional, industrial and manufacturing jobs. It’s home to Carle Health Pekin Hospital, the headquarters of Pekin Insurance and one of the nation’s largest ethanol facilities. The Chamber and business leaders work together to support and attract businesses through initiatives like Launch Pekin, a networking group for entrepreneurs. “There are so many great businesses in Pekin,” McCoy shares. “We are really proud of what they bring to the community.”
Pekin is also a critical player in Greater Peoria’s talent attraction efforts. Its quaint downtown, historic sites, affordable living and abundance of outdoor activities make it an excellent place to live, work and play. Whether you’re a visitor or a resident, there’s always an adventure to be had in Pekin! Learn more at discoverpekin.com.