Tis’ the season for all things outdoors: beaches, grilling, and of course camping. ILLINOISouth has plenty of options when it comes to pitching your tent and making summer memories. Take a look at what our Western, Central, and Eastern Counties have to offer.
Cahokia RV Parque
4060 Mississippi Ave., Cahokia, IL 62206
With close proximately to the St. Louis area, Cahokia RV Parque has been a popular destination for travelers since 1991. The campground is open all year long and includes amenities such as a propane station, on-site laundry, outdoor swimming pool, children’s playground, and a RV storage area for winter months. There is also an onsite restaurant, Sawmill BBQ serving up home cooked barbecue Monday through Saturday from 11AM to 8PM.
Tent camping rates start at just $20/night and RV camping at just $40/night. To check current rates or to find out more information, you can visit their website at http://www.cahokiarvparque.com/
Randolph County Recreation Area
4301 South Lake Drive, Chester IL 62233
The Randolph County Recreational Area boasts a plethora of outdoor activities including fishing, hiking, picnicking, boating, hunting, and of course camping. The campground is located just 5 miles northeast of Chester on Randolph County Lake. This lake is over 65 acres and is stocked with walleye, saugeye, channel catfish, redear and bluegill sunfish, and rainbow trout. The lake also contains game fish such as largemouth bass, green sunfish, bullhead, and crappie.
After a day full of outdoor activities, travelers can unwind at one of the many campsites. Rates start at just $10/night. To check current rates or to find out more information, please call (618) 826-2706.
Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area
PO Box 97 Ramsey Lake Road, Ramsey, IL 62080
The Ramsey Lake State Recreation Area is located on the beautiful shorelines of Ramsey Lake. Campers can enjoy great fishing and hunting, as well as take in the picturesque landscapes. The area also offers hiking trails and secluded picnic areas. Not interested in a full camping experience? This location also offers cabins for your comfort and convenience.
Rates for campsites start at just $10/night and cabins start at just $45/night. To check current rates or to find out more information, please call (618) 423-2215.
Coles Creek Campground
801 Lake Road, Carlyle, IL 62231-9703
Cole’s Creek Campground is located on the eastern shore of Carlyle Lake. Campers can enjoy this 26,000-acre lake for the scenic views as well as the recreational activities. Aside of fishing for white bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and freshwater drum, visitors can use the walking and biking trails or just enjoy the shoreline of Lake Carlyle.
This location features 119 campsites all with electric starting at just $16/night. To check current rates or to find out more information, please call (618) 594-5253
1248 East 1250th Road, Casey, IL 62420
This campground is known for its close proximity to everything the “Land of Lincoln” has to offer. The campground also features a pool for guest convenience or your can rent a boat for the day to fish on the lake. Unwind each evening in the game room or by catching a hayride. Memorial Day to Labor Day visitors can also enjoy biscuits and gravy every Saturday morning, pancakes on Sunday mornings, and an Ice Cream Social every Saturday night. There are 3 different ways to stay at KOA including tent camping, cabins, and RV camping.
Rates vary according to needs of your stay. To check current rates or to find out more information, please visit: koa.com/campgrounds/casey/
Hamilton County State Fish & Wildlife Area
8 mi. southeast of McLeansboro off Rt. 14
This campground is located on Dolan Lake and is about 8 miles from McLeansboro. This 75-acre lake has 3 miles of shoreline and a maximum depth of 18 feet. The campsite features both tent and trailer sites with electricity, sanitary dump stations, and a shower house. There are also 5 cabins with heating and air conditioning on site for added comfort. After a day on the lake, picnicking at one of several shaded picnic areas, or hiking one of the trails, the campground offers a concession stand for a quick bite before retiring to your site for the evening.
Tent camping starts at just $8/night and cabin use starts at just $45/night. To check current rates or to find out more information, call (618) 773-4340.
I went down to the crossroads…but not the ones Clapton sang about. I’m referring to Marshall, IL – the crossroads of I-70, the Lincoln Heritage Trail, The Historic National Road (Hwy 40), and IL-1. Marshall is nestled just minutes from Terre Haute, IN, and is the Seat of Clark County – one of three new counties covered by ILLINOISouth Tourism. Clark County is home to rich history, pristine parks and plenty of unique attractions.
“Marshall is the kind of town that makes you want a hot dog and an ice-cold lemonade on a summer night” says Jennifer Bishop, Economic Development Director, and Head of the Marshall Chamber of Commerce. “Summers here are incredible, from concerts on the Courthouse lawn, to the seemingly endless parade of boats heading to Lincoln Trail and Mill Creek Parks each weekend; the town just comes alive!”
This Summer will be one to remember……. Jennifer and her team are planning a “Walldogs” mural-painting event June 22 – 26 welcoming over 100 artists from around the world to paint 16 murals in town. Visitors can sign up to help with the painting, or just observe. A Vendor Fair sponsored by the local Gaslight Art Colony and other festivities round out the event. The new murals will join an existing mural commemorating the Historic National Road.
Across the street from that mural is Harlan Hall, a gorgeous three-story brick building, established as an opera house and delivery stable in 1872. It now houses the Illinois National Road Welcome Center, as well as meeting and event space. Another historical spot can be found under the water tower, at 717 Archer Ave. Archer House is an inn established in 1841, that on several occasions housed a young lawyer named Abraham Lincoln when he held court in Marshall.
ut grabbing a bite at the West Union Café? The Café is the recipient of not one, but two “Best of the Wabash Valley” awards – and is the only eatery that has won two. One for their broasted chicken, and the other is for their homemade pies. I opted for chocolate/peanut butter…save room for dessert.
Nearby Martinsville typifies the heart of rural America. The charm is felt from the retro water tower to the two side by-side parks just off the main drag. Linn Park, across from the city’s Veteran’s Memorial Park, is home to the small town’s array of summer events and concerts.
Can you think of a better way to celebrate a small town than with really big things? I’m talking gargantuan, tremendous, colossal, and in some cases the bona fide World’s Largest things…
Casey, near the western border between Clark and Cumberland Counties, is among the most unique towns I’ve seen. Visitors will find The World’s Largest (as verified by Guinness) Rocking Chair, Mailbox, Golf Tee, Pitchfork, Wooden Shoes, Wind Chime, Knitting Needles and Crochet Hook. These and other incredibly large items like a giant #2 Pencil can be found throughout the town with more on the way.
All of these big things can inspire a big appetite. We’d recommend a tiny store called Moonshine. This small, quaint shop is about 12 country miles out of town and is world-famous for shelling out some of the best burgers in Southern Illinois. They’ve even made national T.V.!
Be sure to visit the second annual, authentic German Christmas Market held in the Public Square, downtown Belleville. Modeled after the German open-air markets, CHRISTKINDLMARKT (Christ Child Market) features merchants from Europe and across the Country, selling their items. Gifts, food, drinks and local/ regional specialties will be sold in individual wooden booths/chalets in a festive environment.
Children can enjoy free Trolley rides, Gingerbread creations and of course Santa! Live Reindeer will appear on Saturday, December 19 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and Sunday, December 20 from 11:00 a.m. – 1 p.m.
For adults, beer and gluhwein (hot spiced wine sold in souvenir mugs) will be served along with authentic German food. A heated tent will be set up for eating and drinking–with entertainment Friday and Saturday evenings.
The Markt is open daily through December 23 and admission is FREE!
Sunday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Friday & Saturday: 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Click Here or call 800-677-9255 to learn more.
This information originally appeared in the Holiday Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
Can you believe that it’s November already? Boy, how time flies!!!
We still have bellies full of Halloween candy and, contrary to what the Hallmark Channel would have you believe, there’s still a little bit of time before we go into “Ho Ho Ho” mode.
In the mean time, let us highlight a few great events coming up around ILLINOISouth in the next few weeks!
Happy Days: A New Musical • November 5 – 7
Open House Theatre, New Athens
Art & Wine Walk • November 7
Winter Rendezvous • November 7 – 8
Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher
Wood Carvers Show • November 7 – 8
Belle-Clair Expo Center, Belleville
Olde Tyme Christmas • November 13 – 14
Beer Pairing Dinner • November 15
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
The Nutcracker Suite Ballet & Concert • November 21 – 22
Scottish Rite Bodies Cathedral, Belleville
Craft Show • November 21 – 22
The Holiday Motel, Olney
12th Annual Native American Holiday Market • November 27-28
Cahokia Mounds, Collinsville
Girls Day Out • November 21
National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, Belleville
On top of these great events, there are several other fun, family events before the communities turn their Christmas lights on at the end of the month. CLICK HERE for our online calendar to find out more!!!
Travel on the King’s Road…King Louis XV of France, that is! French colonists gave this name to the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail (KCT) in the early 1700s. More than 300 years later, the road is still used today in southwestern Illinois.
In this region, the Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Kaskaskia and Meramec Rivers converge with the Mississippi, and throughout history provided reliable transportation for exploration, settlement and trade. Overland trails were used to access interior lands beyond and between the rivers.
The KCT can be traced to American Indian people around 11,000 BC, who over time built large civilizations with mound cities along the trail. When the French established permanent settlements at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, they named these villages after the native Illini people.
Other forts and settlements grew over the next 100 years along the east side of the Mississippi River Valley. This first road spawned other routes that led to Illinois becoming the 21st state in 1818, with Kaskaskia serving as the first state capital.
The 60-mile long corridor connects visitors with many opportunities to discover the region’s diverse history. Explore the evolution of native cultures, French colonial roots, Revolutionary War era settlement, early Illinois statehood, westward expansion, European immigration and agricultural significance along the Trail.
The dramatic bluffs of the scenic Mississippi River Valley shape the natural landscape of the Trail. Rolling oak-hickory forests, prairies and farmlands including quaint, historic villages and rural back roads make this 60-mile journey one you will never forget.
In 2014, the Illinois General Assembly proclaimed the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail as an Illinois Historic and Scenic Route. Monroe, Randolph and St. Clair Counties and their respective municipalities, are working together to improve and promote this historic and scenic corridor for the world to explore, appreciate and enjoy.
Call our office today (800.442.1488) to request a brochure detailing the attractions along the trail or email firstname.lastname@example.org for other inquiries.
It’s a brew-volution, and your old best friend Bud should be wiser for it by now. Well, if you’re starting to prefer wheat, fruit- or pumpkin-flavored beers brewed in smallish batches, you won’t mind that poke at the region’s biggest, all-American (Belgian) brewery. (I mean, what’s this strawberry-rita swill the maker of the so-called Great American Lager is trying to make us swallow nowadays?)
Craft beers are the rage all around. A new proponent of the “designer” beer is Bill Meier of Excel Bottling Co. in Breese, makers of Ski and more than a dozen other soda flavors. Excel launched a new division, Excel Brewing Co., just shy of two years ago. One variety is Lefty’s Lager, named for the grandfather who founded the local bottler in 1936.
Soda sales are declining, says Meier. Meanwhile, beer industry experts say the market share of craft beers has risen sharply, more than 20 percent in the last two years. To coin a phrase, looks like Meier et al. are in the clover… well; hops, that is.
Increasingly, beer makers are coming out of their basement or garage operations to fashion brews that are local-local-local. Aficionados of these frosty, foamy adult beverages need only visit the nearest bar or family-owned pizza joint to see that there are at least a half-dozen more options nowadays than Stag or Bud Light. There may be Schlafly from St. Louis, which started almost 25 years ago as not much more than a tap room.
Or there may be a couple varieties from Kaskaskia Brewing Co. in Red Bud… and, if not today, then soon. The new owner has seen sales increase three-fold since he took over the business. In March.
Mature adults prefer a better beer, beer crafters say. The kids? From underage to legal, they don’t really care. Most just want it cheap. You certainly don’t have to be a beer snob to enjoy a superior product, but you also don’t have to put up with weak, flavored yellow water, as some beer crafters call today’s corporate product.
Meanwhile, fresher product just tastes better, notes Meier. So he tries to keep his inventory as low as he can. Would you sell a pizza that’s been out of the oven too long? The four DeGonia brothers sure wouldn’t. But the DeGonia Bros. don’t spin dough; at this writing, the longtime home brewers were planning a microbrewery in a revitalized section of downtown Granite City. (OMG… how about a double chocolate stout?)
Making beer is a labor of love. But to survive in a fragmented commercial market, expansion is key, so long as you don’t get too big or grow too fast. Obviously, craft brewing is economically feasible, with industry observers today counting upwards of 3,000 microbreweries from coast to coast.
Did we say pizza and beer? In O’Fallon is Peel Wood Fired Pizza and Brewery, which hasn’t yet celebrated its first birthday. Neither has Recess Brewing in Edwardsville. Meanwhile in Madison County, Alton will welcome a second location of Belleville’s 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., if it hasn’t already. And in Centralia, you can sample Makraft Brewing Co.’s product at their tap room.
So, let’s click glasses and raise some luscious local foam to our mouths!
This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
The art scene in ILLINOISouth is thriving. Along with museums, galleries and specialty shops, art fairs are a mainstay for many communities across our region. Ranging from small festivals to multi-day events, art fairs draw tens of thousands of visitors and millions in revenue and economic impact to Southern Illinois.
There’s no better time to see art in full display than the fall travel season. Here are four great events coming up that you should definitely check out.
Midwest Salute to the Arts
Fairview Heights • Last Weekend in August
One of the area’s biggest shows, this event features over 100 artists, live entertainment and more. The three-day event fills a ball field at Moody Park at Long Acre in Fairview Heights. Two music stages, interactive children’s area with entertainment, food and cold beverages accompany the art showdrawingthousands of people every year.
While you’re there, take a walk around the park or let your kids play on one of the playgrounds!
Highland Street Art FestivalHighland • 3rd Saturday in September
The Highland Street Art Festival is not your typical art show. Over 50 artists gather to create colorful, complex works of art on the street with chalk. It certainly is a sight to behold! The depth and beauty of these pieces is astounding. A local art expo and standard art-show attractions can be found as well.
Onley Arts Council Fall Festival
Olney • Last Saturday of September
Visit Olney City Park on the last Saturday in September to find art and crafts from local creators! Proceeds from the events vendor booths and concessions support the Olney Art Council’s workshops, performances and more.
While at the event, keep your eyes peeled for Olney’s famous white squirrels. These adorable creatures spend the Fall months scurrying around collecting food for the Winter!
Art in the Park
Highland • 2nd Weekend in October
This annual affair takes place in Lindendale Park amidst an array of fall colors. The natural beauty, and crisp, Autumn air create the perfect setting for an exciting art show featuring demonstrations, food, wine tasting, creative children’s activities and more. Find everything from photographs and paintings to jewelry and sculpture by artists from surrounding areas and beyond!
As we’re transitioning from Summer to Fall in Illinois South, one of our FAVORITE things to do is…well…eat. Fortunately, opportunities to do so are plentiful this time of year.
August is filled with several towns breaking out the grills for one last hurrah. Pair the delicious barbecue with entertainment, like the car shows in Maeystown or New Baden, or live music and a bags tourney in Beckemeyer and you can make a day of it.
For a taste of something different, check out the Crawfish & Gumbo Festival at the Kaskaskia River House in New Athens at the end of the month.
Further down the line, several communities hold Chili Cook-offs – some as big events where the chili takes center stage and some as part of other big events. Other locales will feature Oktoberfest Celebrations to celebrate the rich German heritage in our region. There will be more bier and bratwursts in the area than you can shake a stick at!!!
Some events feature locally made wine, beer or ciders – tasty!
Find more information below or CLICK HERE for our online calendar!
August 14 – 15
Sips & Tastes
Enjoy delicious food and great music.
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
Maeystown Fire Dept. BBQ & Show Us Your Ride
Enjoy great barbecue while seeing cars, trucks, motorcycles and tractors.
Little Pig Cook-Off
BCDC Park, Beckemeyer
In addition to blind judging awards, attendees will determine by popular vote, the “Best Porksteak” and the “Best Site.” Music will be playing all day, and other activities include a bags tournament, raffles, kid’s area and more.
Annual Fun in the Sun BBQ & Cruise-In Car Show
New Baden Village Park
Held annually on the 4th Saturday of August, there will be all licensed makes and models, trophies and dash plaques, awards presentations, food, drinks, 50/50 raffle, music and attendance prizes.
August 28 – 30
25th Annual Bluegrass & BBQ
Bryan Memorial Park, Salem
Bluegrass music and barbeque festival featuring live bluegrass music.
National Crawfish & Gumbo Festival
The Kaskaskia Riverhouse, New Athens
The National Crawfish and Gumbo Festival will feature chefs from Louisiana, Florida and points all across the country! Entertainment includes legendary Zydeco Crawdaddies, “The Sauce Boss” Bill Wharton, The Funky Butt Brass Band and more.
Berryville Community Bldg., Berryville
Line up and fill a bowl with this local favorite!
Lincoln Place Heritage Festival
Lincoln Place Community Center, Granite City
Armenian, Mexican, Macedonian and Bulgarian ethnic foods and pastries for sale. Free, continuous ethnic entertainment, featuring dancers, vocalists and music from Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Armenia, Mexico, Spain, Croatia, Scotland, Celtic Harp, Appalachian mountain dulcimer and Italian opera. Lincoln Place historical displays, quilts, Eastern European costume displays and children activities.
Autumn Art Walk
Fine art, savory food and wine and delightful music are featured at this event sponsored by Our Common Ground. Artists from the St. Louis metro region are spotlighted at this outdoor event.
October 2 – 3
Belleville’s Chili Cook-off features the culinary creations of individuals, local organizations & area businesses, as well as a children’s area, 5K run and entertainment throughout the weekend!
October 9 – 10
The fun begins Friday evening with a parade and continues with food, beer, music, craft fair, washer tournament, kids’ activities and a variety show.
Freeburg Chamber of Commerce Chili Cook-Off
Freeburg Village Park
Make a day of tasting delicious chili and more.
It’s chili tasting for all, and prizes for the best chili, people’s choice and best decorated booth. Kids activities, wine tasting, additional food items, beer, soda and other beverages are also available.
Browse more than 50 artisans, crafters, dealers, and numerous food stands. The village specialty shops, bed and breakfast, restaurants and museum are open.
Chili Cook Off & Arts and Crafts
Dupo Community Park, Dupo
In addition to the great chili booths there will be arts and crafts, prizes, food, music, games and walk of honor.
Fall Fest & Chili Cook-Off
This annual event has something for the entire family. There’s a Chili Cook-off, Car Show, craft & product vendors, children’s area, food and entertainment. In the Chili Cook-off you can sample over 20 kinds of chili.
Chili & Soup Cook-Off
New Baden Village Park
There’s a Tasters’ Choice competition for both chili and soup with prizes awarded in both categories. Families will find a craft fair, touch-a-truck equipment display, bounce houses, etc.
Hidden Lake Winery, Aviston
Enjoy German food, beer, wine and live music.
People who love to trade in antiques are a very special breed. They live for the “find,” like the couple who buy the rickety old wooden chair at a garage sale for 15 bucks—then, before driving off to the next poor soul’s house, can’t resist telling the clueless sellers that it’s antebellum.
Few are that snarky, of course. They’re a community not unlike the experts on Pickers or Pawn Stars. They see through the rust, grime and flaking paint to see what’s beneath. They recognize character. And, value.
Plenty of antiquers buy and sell in ILLINOISouth, the 20-county corridor that stretches from St. Louis east to the Indiana border like a belt that holds up a paunch facing west.
Some are big, some are small, some are malls. Some trade in true antiques… that is, items that have been around a century or more… some in “collectibles.” Most have a little of some, a little of the other. For many, antique just means that they don’t make ’em like they used to, or you had something similar at home growing up, or you collect fine French china. (And don’t mind the little “flea bite” on that glazed white pitcher from around 1920. Turn the chipped side to the wall and nobody will notice.)
Some collectors love to display well-used farm implements, inside and out. There’s plenty of that around here, from Fairview Heights to Olney.
One thing to remember: Wherever it is, no antique store is ever the same place twice! So come early, come often.
St. Clair Antique Mall, Fairview Heights: 618-628-1650
One of the region’s several antique malls is only 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis. Two hundred dealers offer a dizzying array of goodies, so make a day of it. If there was a specialty here, it would be primitives, crock ware, glassware and furniture. Just across I-64 is one of the region’s major retail malls and dozens of big-box stores, where you can take a break to shop for some new stuff.
Windows on Broadway, Highland: 618-651-4401
There are nearly 100 windows on this building, thus the name. Want some old magazines or 45 RPM singles? Check. A butter churn or bowling pins? You got it. But the 2,100-square-foot atrium graced by all those windows? Probably not. It’s more than an antique store; it’s a destination for intimate special events with a kitchen and bar.
The Antique Mall of Perry County, Nashville: 618-336-5300
Seventy-plus vendors have it all, from quality antiques to vintage collectibles…
all on one floor, in 12,000 square feet of space.
Vintage Collections Antique Mall, Mt. Carmel: 618-262-2513
Some collectors want things that are vintage or “retro,” regardless of whether they’re truly antique. You’ll find those here, too. Various genres are available, from primitives to costume jewelry. Dealers are always welcome.
Prairie Albion Antique Mall, Albion: 618-302-2146
Are you a “repurposer”? This place is chock full of stuff you’ll want to work with. There are stoneware crocks, primitives and pottery, and blue “canning” jars. Or, select one-of-a-kind decorations for a banquet or country wedding!
Fabulous Finds by Jerri Allen, Olney: 618-919-0532
This unique emporium offers French Country, shabby chic, primitives, upcycled and repurposed treasures. You crazy kids might even find items that you could fashion into “steampunk”… simply from picking through what other shoppers passed off as “just junk”… here or at any other of stores we featured.
This information originally appeared in the Fall Tourism Times Newsletter. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
Last week the Illinois Office of Tourism came to town to announce record breaking tourism numbers across the State. The event was held Monday at the Hettenhausen Center for the Arts at McKendree University in Lebanon.
Cory Jobe, Director of the IOT, reported more than 109.4 Million Visitors came to Illinois last year – a 3.5% increase over the previous year. These visitors spent more than $36.3 Billion generating over $2.7 Billion in state and local taxes.
In Illinois South alone, over $1.14 Billion was generated – an increase of over 4.5% from the previous year. In our region, tourism is responsible for over 8,200 jobs according to the most recent data. All in all, our thriving industry saves the average Illinois household $1,300 in taxes through state, local and hotel/motel taxes generated. We’re incredibly proud of these numbers and extend our gratitude to everyone who makes this growth possible.
In addition to the 4th consecutive year of record-breaking numbers, the Office of Tourism unveiled two new initiatives. The first is a new travel magazine called “Enjoy” which will take the place of the state’s annual visitors guide. Enjoy will feature editorial content and information aimed at leisure travelers. The magazine’s production schedule, which will feature a Spring and Fall issue annually, will allow for more diverse coverage of attractions and events from all over the state.
Another new program, called “Illinois Made,” will feature videos, online and print content focusing on items produced in Illinois. The initiative was introduced with a high-quality film featuring a multi-generation family wood shop in Dow, IL. The craftsman in the video was working on what would wind up being a large, 3-D logo for the campaign that was revealed on stage following the video.
If you have any ideas of great Illinois-made products that have a great story behind them, click here to email them to us.
We, at Illinois South Tourism are excited about the phenomenal economic impact tourism created last year, and look forward to everything the State is working on to keep our industry growing. Thank you to every one who came out to the event last week, and to Hidden Lake Winery and Marcoot Dairy for donating products for our reception!