As you’ve probably noticed by now, we cover 21 counties in Downstate Illinois. That makes us the largest tourism bureau in the state, but it also makes us one of the most diverse regions because each community has something unique that they’re known for. Let us shine a spotlight on each county that makes up this wonderful area.
City of Highland – Believe it or not, but Highland is THE community to visit if you have a sweet tooth. Pat Jacoby owns Patty Cakes on the square, and she has won the ‘Ultimate Cake Off’ on TLC twice! That is reason enough to go try her baked goods! Highland is also home to The Chocolate Affair, which is an ‘Illinois Made’ recipient, as well as City Scoops Creamery and Urban Farmhouse if you’re craving ice cream or pie.
Monroe – Did you know that the first road in Illinois used for walking and stagecoaches can be found in our region? It’s true! The Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail runs through three different counties, including Monroe. It cuts through communities like Waterloo and Columbia, making for a GREAT weekend road trip.
Randolph – One of the neatest hikes in our area is the Kaskaskia River Confluence Trail near Modoc in Randolph County. It’s handicap accessible and is only about a mile long. This out-and-back trail runs right along the water and provides AMAZING views of where the Kaskaskia and Mississippi Rivers meet. There’s also a rock amphitheater to sit down and take it all in!
St. Clair County – World Wide Technology Raceway is located in the northern portion of St. Clair County and it brings more than just racing fans to our area. Tough Mudder is bringing their massive following to the track in the spring of 2023, and we couldn’t be more excited about it! MidAmerica Airport is another great asset to St. Clair County, as this facility offers non-stop flights to a dozen different markets. They’ve recently undergone a renovation as well, so be sure to check it out.
Bond – If you’re traveling along Interstate 70, a stop in Greenville is a must. It’s an agritourism mecca, because Greenville is home to both Rolling Lawns Farm & Marcoot Jersey Creamery. Pick up a bag of fresh cheese curds and a few bottles of chocolate, orange cream, and strawberry milk!
Clinton – When you go to Breese you’ll notice two restaurants that sit right across the street from each other - Wally’s and Dairy King. They’re both staples in the community, both will have long lines of loyal customers, and they both offer AMAZING burgers. Which one will you choose? Just ten minutes east you’ll find Carlyle Lake, the largest man-made lake in the state. This 26,000-acre lake has a reputation for being one of the best sailing lakes in the Midwest. It’s home to the Carlyle Sailing Association, which hosts numerous sailing events in Carlyle every year.
Fayette – Vandalia is obviously known for Abe Lincoln and the State House, but it’s also home to Vandalia Lake. Located just a few miles from town, this lake has 12 miles of shoreline including a beach! It is the place to be during the summer months.
Marion – Here’s a fun fact! Former MLB player Gary Gaetti is from Centralia. Yes, he played for the Cardinals and the Cubs, but he also opened the Gaetti Sports Academy on the grounds of the Castle Ridge complex in Centralia. Check it out!
Perry – The largest State Recreation Area in Illinois can be found just a few miles from Pinckneyville. Pyramid State Recreation Area boasts over 19,000 acres, 48 camping sites, and more than 20 ponds and lakes. Perry County is also home to the Du Quoin Holiday Lights Fair, which has over three miles of lighted displays and other entertainment for families in the Expo Hall.
Washington – If you’ve never been to Nashville, we highly recommend a trip in mid-July when they’re celebrating the Washington County Fair. It’s several days long with everything from a carnival to demolition derbies, and of course all the fair food you could stomach.
Clay – Did you know that in 1960 Flora was named Ford Town USA? Ford Motor Company provided Flora families with a brand-new Ford vehicle to drive for a week. The community still celebrates the occasion to this day!
Clark – We’ve mentioned Casey has 11 of the World’s Largest items, but there are actually 12. One of them sits a couple towns east in Marshall at the Clark County Courthouse, and it’s the World’s Largest Gavel!
Cumberland – One of the longest running county fairs in the entire state can be found in Greenup. The Cumberland County Fair has been going strong since 1888 and will celebrate their 134th year this August.
Crawford – There is an ‘Illinois Made’ maker in Palestine that has certainly made his mark on the community. Steve Meadows of S.D. Meadows Folk Art Gallery not only has his quirky items on display in his shop – but you can find them scattered throughout Palestine, including a face with a giant tongue coming out of a resident’s garage!
Edwards – Here is a fun fact! Albion is home to the oldest public library in Illinois. It was established in 1819, and still operates as a library today.
Hamilton – Some of the best camping in Downstate Illinois can be found at the Hamilton County State Fish & Wildlife Area. There are 60 tent and trailer sites, but we recommend the cabins!
Jasper – Newton Lake has some of the best bass fishing you’ll ever experience. If you’re a fisherman, we highly recommend a visit as well as the accommodations at The Outdoor Sportsman’s Lodge near the lake.
Lawrence –Red Hills State Park in rural Lawrence County features 967 acres of outdoor wonder - including over 8 miles of trails that can be used for hiking, biking, and equestrians. Pause to enjoy the spectacular scenic view from atop Red Hills, the highest point of land between St. Louis and Cincinnati.
Richland – For the first three weekends each October, the community of Olney hosts their ‘White Squirrel Count.’ Locals and folks from afar partake in the tradition of charting the number of white squirrels in town.
Wabash – One of the biggest events in Mt. Carmel each year is Wabash Roots ‘N’ Que. There is great barbecue, fantastic music, and the Wabash Cannonball Downhill Derby!
Wayne – In rural Wayne County near Barnhill, a local artist known as Tammy Lee owns ‘Junkyard Art by Tam I Am.’ She welds together pieces of scrap metal to form masterpieces. Her work has gone viral on TikTok!
White – Our friend Claudie Parson at Sunflower Broom Shop in Crossville is the real deal. She crafts handmade brooms with 19th century machines that require foot pedaling, not electricity. She’s made everything from witches brooms to quidditch brooms, and they’re ALL amazing.
*This article comes from our 2023 Visitor's Guide. Visit our page to learn more, read online, or request a physical copy.**