Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup - National Family Fun Month

Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup - National Family Fun Month

Posted on 08/10/2021 by Andy Waterman

Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. In case you didn’t know, August is actually National Family Fun Month - so we’ve compiled a ton of family-friendly activities that may just pique your interest!

 

Effingham

Effingham is the perfect place to celebrate “National Family Fun Month!” We have plenty to explore before (or after) school starts with the whole family! Effingham is an arts-friendly community and we invite you to kick off your fun-filled experience and start your day by walking along the streets of Downtown Effingham and exploring our Sculptures on the Avenues. This outdoor art exhibition features over 25 works of art from some of the Midwest’s best known and unknown sculptors. Stop by the Effingham Visitor Center to get a Culture guide with a map, including additional information on each piece and the artists who sculpt them. Next, you’ll watch to curb your appetite with a town favorite, Joe’s Pizza & Pasta, also in the downtown area. Grab a slice of one of the best pizzas in town and enjoy all they have to offer. Joe’s is known for its great pizzas and pastas, which feature homemade sauces from the Trupiano family’s secret recipe, as well as delicious sandwiches, salads and desserts. After you’ve had your fill, putt around after lunch at Evergreen Mini Golf. Team up and enjoy 18 holes on their jungle-themed course. If you’re looking to amp up your afternoon, schedule a visit to Bent Key Escape, a fully-interactive and immersive escape room experience for all ages. Win or lose… after a day like today, you’ll feel like a champ (and your kids might just agree with you). Finish off the day by fueling up at Gopher’s Grill, where lunch or dinner includes elevated bar food, classic arcade games and challenging simulators for golf, hunting and more! For day two, start your morning off with the best cup of coffee in town at Joe Sippers Café. Locally-owned, Joe Sippers offers a true coffee house experience with their famous coffee, homemade baked goods and various blends of tea, along with numerous items for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Spend the remainder of your day at beautiful Lake Sara. Catching some waves while soaking up some rays... We can't think of a more perfect way to cool off on a hot, sunny summer day! After you hit the water, make sure you grab a bite to eat, or partake in some refreshing beverages, at one of our local lakeside restaurants: Pinky's, Heron Cove or The Rusty Reel. Here, you’ll find wide-open spaces, great food, brews and wine, a bit of culture around every corner and hospitality that rivals the South. Come spend a few days exploring our unique City!

 

ILLINOISouth

DAY 1:

Start off the trip with a HUGE experience! Located right off of Interstate 70 lies Casey, also known as 'Big Things in a Small Town.' Here you can park the car and go on a scavenger hunt for over two-dozen BIG things scattered throughout town. Eleven of these items are Guinness World Record holders, including the World's Largest Teeter-Totter and the World's Largest Mailbox.From Casey, head south to Robinson and make sure to bring a swimsuit! Robinson's City Park has an AWESOME pool and splash pad area, complete with a pirate ship for the kiddos to play on. Once you are dried off, head to the square in Robinson for a sweet treat and some history. Robinson is the birthplace of the Heath Bar, and the Heath Museum and Confectionery is the best place to learn about this chocolate covered toffee bar - while munching on a fresh piece! Once nightfall is near, head west to Jasper County - home to one of the few remaining drive-in movie theaters left in the southern portion of Illinois. Folks drive from counties around to watch a flick at the iconic Drive N' Theatre, located not far outside of Newton.  Once the movie has finished, head south to Olney for a great night's sleep.

DAY 2:

Begin the day with a great cup of coffee and some breakfast from an Olney staple, Ophelia's Cup. Take your food out to Miller Grove Park to dine al fresco, while watching the beloved White Squirrels of Olney scamper around! Hit the road for a short drive west to Flora, where you will find the Little Toot Railroad located at Charley Brown Park. If there are any train lovers in your family, they are definitely going to have fun riding this 1/4 scale railroad around the park! After the locomotive has come to a stop, head southeast to Wabash County. Just south of Mt. Carmel you will find Beall Woods State Park, a great place for families to take a hike. Beall Woods features a handful of easy and moderate trails, and this park has one of the last remaining tracts of virgin timber east of Mississippi River. Trees at Beall Woods State Park can be as tall as 12 stories, and 3 feet in diameter! Wrap up the day with a quick drive south to Westwood Recreation in Grayville. They have plenty of camping opportunities, including cabins to rent. This western-themed venue features SO many things the family will love. Westwood has plenty of playground equipment, 27 holes of mini-golf, and an electronic shooting range. Not to mention, they have great food at the Saloon on-site.

*PC: Leah DiMaggio 

 

Metropolis

As school resumes the quick weekend getaways become all more important.  Metropolis is a great place to spend quality time with your family!

DAY 1:

Arrive in Metropolis to eat a local breakfast favorite: Yesterday’s BBQ with a wide variety of breakfast favorites you and your gang are sure to find something that will keep you satisfied until lunch!  Take the fun underwater at Mermet Springs.  Mermet Springs is a full service dive site and scuba training facility that offers on-site scuba instruction and travel. We strive for excellence and cater to dive shops, instructors, students, and certified scuba divers of all experience levels and certifying agencies. Mermet Springs offers submerged training platforms, easy entry docks, dives from 15 to 120 feet in depth, and numerous sunken treasures to explore including the Boeing 727 airplane used in the movie "U.S. Marshals". Once you have explored underwater life, be sure to take a drive around Mermet Lake Fish and Wildlife located just a few miles from Mermet Springs!  You will be sure to see some of the most amazing wildlife in Southern Illinois.  If you have a photographer or a fisher in your family you will definitely want to bring your gear! By now, if you didn’t catch and eat your lunch, you are probably pretty hungry.  When in Metropolis you simply cannot miss eating at Fat Edd’s !  This bar and grill has anything your heart may desire fresh from the grill!  From delicious burgers to full dinners this is a place you don’t want to miss.  After dinner you can take a stroll down Ferry Street to Harrah’s Hotel and Casino for a night of rest in one of their 4 star hotel rooms!  Children are allowed in the lobby, hotel and restaurant area.  Plus the views of the Ohio River are spectacular! After a much needed night of rest you can simply head down to Bridges Dining Company in the hotel lobby for breakfast or brunch, depending on when you wake up!  

DAY 2:

Start your day at the one and only Super Museum! The museum features 70,000+ items from the life's work of longtime Superman enthusiast and collector, Jim Hambrick who has amassed one of the greatest collections of Superman memorabilia in the world. Among the items showcased in the museum from the iconic superhero's 75+ year history are virtually every Superman toy ever produced as well as movie props and promotional materials from all the Superman movies & TV series (including "Smallville" and "Man of Steel") and one of the only George Reeves Superman costumes still in existence. Once you are in a “Super” mood, you must get your #SuperSelfie with the 15 foot Superman Statue!  This newly refurbished statue has served as the backdrop for many travelers’ pictures as they stop in Metropolis.  Superman overlooks Market St. in Metropolis, so after your picture, be sure to visit the many shops and restaurants  located there.  There is also a statue of Noel Neill as Lois Lane located at the opposite end of Market St.  This is another must stop selfie spot where you can have your picture with Lois Lane and the iconic Metropolis Planet globe! Now it is time to head to one of Illinois’ oldest treasures; Fort Massac State Park.  But on your way there, be sure to stop by Just Like Mama’s Home Cooking for a fried chicken dinner to go!  This will be the perfect food for your picnic lunch at the park!  Once you have gobbled down the last bite of cobbler you can now explore Fort Massac! The best place to start at Fort Massac is the Visitors Center.  Here you will find a museum that showcases the history of the park and how it was vital in the settlement of the United States of America. Once you have had your history lesson, it’s time for history to come to life.  Step out to the replica of the 1803 American Fort, see the statue of George Rogers Clark and take in the breathtaking views of the Ohio River.  If you have brought your bikes, take a ride down the George Rogers Clark Discovery Trail.  This fully paved, ADA-Accessible trail is a great way to get your exercise, or have the kids burn some energy, all while taking in the gorgeous Shawnee National Forest.If hiking and biking aren’t for you, but sports are, then you may want to try your arm at disc golf!  Fort Massac State Park has one of the premier disc golf courses in Southern Illinois.  The 18 hole course covers the entire upper park area, so it is a great way to not only have fun but also see the park.  The park also has numerous picnic shelters and playgrounds for family fun. Just in case, the weather isn’t your friend on day 2 of your family fun in Metropolis, you can always take in a couple games of bowling at Metropolis Super Bowl! This state of the art bowling center has 16 synthetic bowling lanes and offers video arcade and gambling. Metropolis Super Bowl also has great food!  So even if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with your plans, you can always find family fun in Metropolis! For more information about Metropolis, visit: www.metropolistourism.com

 

Mt. Vernon

DAY 1:

Pack up the kids in the car for a family fun extravaganza they won’t forget! Bouncing, creative art, swinging, running, bowling, and more. Discover new ways to make memories together in Mt. Vernon. We recommend starting your trip on a Friday with a picnic lunch at Veteran’s Park. There are plenty of picnic tables, shelters, and other sitting areas perfect for a picnic in the park. If visiting in the summer, stop by Mary’s Sno Cone stand for a mouthwatering blue eagle or ice cream sno cone. Let the kids swing, ride down the slides, or take a walk around the park lake. After your picnic at the park, head to Cedarhurst Center for the Arts. If you’re wanting to spend more time outdoors, they have a more than 70-piece outdoor sculpture park with a beautiful pond and trails to adventure through. Inside the Mitchell Museum, the Beck Family Center offers free fun for all your little ones. This hands-on, interactive learning environment allows children to experience the textures, colors, and excitement of art. The Beck Family Center includes an “Artist Hub” activity center, giant liteworks station, a curator station, collaborative sculpture, a giant indoor tree to read stories around, and more!

DAY 2:

After a lazy morning, start your Saturday at The Zone around noon and let the kids run crazy for a couple hours! Between inflatables, bounce houses, arcade games, a toddler play area, and more, there is something for every child and child at heart. They even hold gymnastic classes for all ages, including adults with special open gym hours in the gymnastics area. The Zone also holds birthday parties and serves pizza and other concession items. The fun doesn’t stop at The Zone! R & J Tactical Laser Tag & Shady Acres Mini Golf, located in Woodlawn, IL, about 4 miles outside Mt. Vernon from The Zone, a late afternoon of play awaits! Kids and adults alike can embark through the woods as they battle in outdoor laser tag. The outdoor property also offers paddle boats, a climbing wall, and an Artic Oasis sno-cone stand. Enjoy an 18-hole mini golf course in the shade at Shady Acres located on the same property. It’s sure to be an unforgettable afternoon! No worries if the weather is too hot or raining... R & J has an indoor Lazer Tag venue at Times Square Mall where you can play laser tag, pool or a variety of arcade games. On Saturday night, Nu Bowl Lanes is the perfect place to finish off your weekend of family fun. Grab some bowling shoes, and bowl as many games as you’d like! Order pizza or burgers from their Back Office Grill, drinks for the parents, and other snacky bowling night treats. In between bowling games play air hockey and racing cars in the arcade area. With their bowling dragon ball ramps, children as young as 3 years can enjoy bowling too! Every Saturday night features cosmic glow bowling from 8 p.m. until close.Be sure to check out our events section for other events and happenings at www.enjoymtvernon.com/events! 

 

Visitsi

 

Summer is the best time of year to experience Williamson County! With an extensive offering of outdoor recreation, there is something for everyone! If you’re planning a quick getaway before the school year begins or a weekend trip, we invite you to experience Williamson County! Our area has a great selection of accommodations including hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and camping! We also have great local restaurants and boutique shopping! For a family-focused trip, we have a few fun suggestions! After enjoying a delicious breakfast at the Country Cupboard in Carterville, pick up a tasty picnic lunch at Louie’s P&R in Herrin. Then head out to the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge for a day full of adventure. You’ll find trails with varying difficulty, so you can pick which hikes will work best for your crew! Enjoy beautiful scenery that includes a wide variety of wildlife and plant species. Before your trip, schedule a kayak rental and delivery with Fisheye Kayak Rentals. They will meet you at any of the three lakes within the Refuge, unload the kayaks, and pick them up afterwards! All you have to do is enjoy the experience on the serene waters! After a long day, head to downtown Marion for a kid-approved dinner at Bennie’s Italian Foods! This local staple offers great entrées with generous portions as well as options for even the pickiest eaters! After dinner, take a stroll around the square to tour our mural district or pop into a few of the local shops! For day two, check out our website for fun activities and local events

 

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