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November 10, 2017

Conservation Group Issues Challenge for Metro East Residents to Get Outdoors this Holiday Season

HeartLands Conservancy is partnering with the Alpine Shop and Davey Resource Group to challenge people to get outdoors in the Metro East this holiday season. The 2nd annual Jingle Hike Challenge begins on Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 23th and runs through Monday, January 1st, 2018.

Jingle bells are tied to a tree within twelve Metro East parks. Participants have six weeks to find each tree, take a selfie, and post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #jinglehike or email to For each submission, they will be entered to win prizes. If a person finds six or more of the trees, he or she will be entered to win the grand prize – a Felt Café 24 Adult Bicycle from the Alpine Shop.  Bonus entries will be awarded for correctly identifying the type of tree.

Participants in the “Jingle Hike Challenge” will be entered to win prizes, including a new adult bicycle. Other prizes include outdoor gear from the Alpine Shop in O’Fallon.


“We created this challenge to increase awareness of the Metro East’s outstanding parks, hidden gems, and quality of life,” said Mary Vandevord, President/CEO of HeartLands Conservancy. “Part of our mission is to engage people with nature – even in the winter. The challenge encourages people to take a break to enjoy nature and explore our beautiful region.”

Locations include The Gardens at SIUE, New Baden Park, Storck Woods in Washington County, Red Bud City Hall Park, Gordon Moore Park, Willoughby Farms, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve, Waterloo Lakeview Park, Belleville Bicentennial Park, Mascoutah Scheve Park, and Kingsbury Park District Nature Preserve.

There is no cost to take the challenge, but participants must be at least 14 years old to win prizes. A map of all twelve parks and instructions will be available at the HeartLands Conservancy, the Alpine Shop in O’Fallon, and several other locations in the region. More information and a printable map can also be found online at

Winners will be drawn January 3 and announced on social media and the HeartLands Conservancy website. Follow HeartLands Conservancy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for hints on the bell locations and more information.


HeartLands Conservancy, a nonprofit serving Southwestern Illinois since 1989, is devoted to the conservation of open spaces, sustainable and environmentally friendly community planning, and engaging our neighbors with nature.  We are investing in the nature of Southwestern Illinois. Visit: for more information.


August 9, 2017

Tourism to ILLINOISouth Tourism Helping to Drive Economic Growth for Illinois

ILLINOISouth Tourism generated $1.3 billion in travel expenditures and $32 million in local tax revenue

Today, the Illinois Office of Tourism announced domestic and international travel expenditures reached $37.9 billion in 2016 – a $571 million increase from 2015. This follows the state’s record-breaking domestic Illinois tourism figures released in May, which highlighted an increase of one million travelers to the state in 2016.

ILLINOISouth contributed to Illinois’ robust economic domestic growth, to the tune of $1.3 billion in travel expenditures (a 3.3% increase) and $32 million in local tax revenue (a 9.8% increase). Additionally, the tourism industry created 9,800 new jobs across the state, with 260 of them in ILLINOISouth.

“One of the beautiful things about Illinois is the variety of experiences you can enjoy across the state – whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, outdoor adventure, delicious food or an amazing road trip,” said Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. “By bringing new money to our stores, hotels and attractions, visitors have the power to create a tangible economic impact for our communities. Our success as a state depends on each county doing their part to promote the diverse ways visitors can experience their own amazing moments in Illinois.”

Fast facts about Illinois Tourism in 2016:

  • Every $1 invested in Illinois tourism generates $9 in economic impact
  • Illinois welcomed 110 million domestic visitors (an additional one million visitors over 2015)
    • Of Illinois’ 110 million domestic visitors, 17% were for business and 83% for leisure
    • In the past 10 years, domestic travel to Illinois has increased by 19 million visitors
  • Domestic travelers spent nearly $35.1 billion in Illinois during 2016, a 1.8% increase over 2015
    • In 2016, domestic travelers to Illinois generated $2.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, an increase of $122 million over 2015
  • Length of stay per visitor increased by 3%, surpassing the US average of 2.4%

These numbers, provided by the U.S. Travel Association, are preliminary numbers only. Final visitor statistics will be made available later this year.

For more press material and to download images, visit For travel inspiration and trip ideas, visit


The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism manages industry efforts that result in sustainable and significant economic and quality-of-life benefits for Illinois residents.


August 2, 2017

Southern Illinois Takes Center Stage for Total Solar Eclipse August 21

NASA identifies southern Illinois as location to experience longest duration; Illinois Tourism reveals latest ways to experience total solar eclipse

CHICAGO – On August 21, as many as 200,000 people are expected to travel to southern Illinois to experience total darkness in the middle of the day during the first solar eclipse in nearly 40 years. NASA has identified the Carbondale area and village of Makanda Ill. as the location to view the eclipse’s greatest duration, up to 2 minutes and 41.6 seconds. The eclipse will happen at approximately 1:20pm CDT in southern Illinois, which is also in the central path of the next total solar eclipse in April 2024.

To celebrate this rare event, the Illinois Office of Tourism released Solar Eclipse trip ideas to encourage visitors to experience the best local flavors and hidden gems throughout the area. The trip ideas feature Illinois Made wineries, craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and other artisans located within a two-hour drive of Makanda and Carbondale.

“We look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far to experience the eclipse in southern Illinois,” said Illinois Tourism Director Cory Jobe. “We’re proud to shine a spotlight on this part of our state and share the local experiences, encounters and escapes here that tourists can’t find anywhere else.”

This total solar eclipse in southern Illinois is different from the partial eclipse much of the rest of the country will see. As the path of totality moves directly over Makanda and Carbondale, it will get dark enough for street lights to turn on, the temperature will drop and bright stars will be visible in the sky.

In Carbondale, Ill., more than 50,000 people will view the eclipse, while NASA streams the eclipse live around the world from Southern Illinois University’s Saluki Stadium. As solar eclipse fever spreads across the country, there is only one place to experience the eclipse come August 21 – southern Illinois. Here are just a few of the exciting events planned:

  • Moonstock Music Festival Watch Ozzy Osbourne perform “Bark at the Moon” when he headlines this four-day music festival at Walker’s Bluff Vineyard in Carterville, Ill.
  • Solar Eclipse Paddle 2017 Paddle a canoe in total darkness through the ancient cypress swamp on the Cache River
  • Bald Knob Cross Eclipse Day View the total solar eclipse from Bald Knob Cross, the only 360-degree, unobstructed viewing location for this rare event.
  • Eclipse Day at Saluki Stadium Grab your eclipse glasses and join NASA Eclipse 2017, the Adler Planetarium of Chicago and the Louisiana Space Consortium for a major eclipse viewing event at Southern Illinois University.

To view the Solar Eclipse Illinois Made trip ideas click here.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism manages industry
efforts that result in sustainable and significant economic and quality-of-life benefits for Illinois residents.