For many years, the quintessential spa experience was provided by Elizabeth Arden’s The Red Door. This is fine if you don’t mind traveling to Washington, D.C., Connecticut, New York, Arizona, Texas or Chicago. Thankfully, here in the ILLINOISouth region it’s no longer necessary to make a major trip to enjoy being pampered. With the opening of The New Leaf in Lawrenceville, IL a quick drive to this small town near the Indiana border takes you to one of the most upscale, luxurious spa and fitness facilities in the state. If there’s someone on your holiday gift list who deserves to be pampered, a gift certificate to this place is a must!
The City of Belleville really comes alive for the holidays with over 2 months of activities from November 4th to January 6th. These great happenings are just 30 minutes east of Downtown St. Louis.
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!
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!
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!
You don’t have to go to Charlotte, Talladega or Daytona for a great auto race. To get in gear, you need only venture across Southern Illinois, from the burgs of Madison to Highland to Flora.
Of course, ladies can start their engines, too. And they don’t have to be named Danica Patrick. Gateway Motorsports Park provides plenty of opportunities for bona fide racers to neophytes—say, a kindergarten teacher or a British squash team—to get behind the wheel of a race-prepped Camaro. Many corporate team-building getaways are held here. Not including karting, 230 events will be held this year at Gateway, within sight of I-55 and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.
Curtis Francois is a racer who’s parlayed his time behind the wheel to owner of the radically refurbished track and stands. Much more happens here than cars speeding around a 1¼-mile paved oval.
“The idea is to make it an entertainment,” says Francois, “and sometimes a race breaks out.”
And the karting is in a different league than what you’d find at an amusement park in Branson. These are built in France, not by Sears. You have no idea how fast these rascals go until you see and hear them up close and personal. Neither could you imagine what it’s like to be among as many as 75,000 roaring fans, even on an 80-inch screen. Want to try it yourself? Try “arrive and drive” at the new Kartplex, located within the oval itself.
April starts the season out at most tracks and speedways, whether you’re in the mood for off-road trucks in Baja-style contests, to every other type of racecar competition, officially sanctioned or not. There’s SCCA racing (Sports Car Club of America) and heart-stopping 1/8-mile NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) drag races. You can thrill to a Grand Am or marvel at pre-1972 muscle car “nostalgia” runs.
Gateway only reopened a few years ago and work is still going on to add features so would-be racers can get a feel for all racing surfaces, from the classic oval to an impossibly curvy 1½-mile road course… hold on to your stomach!
Compared to new and ever-improving Gateway, Highland Speedway is not far from collecting Social Security. It opened in 1962… and excitement is building for its 54th season. UMP (United Midwestern Promoters) DIRTcar racing here ranges from Street Stocks to KidModz (12-18).
Did we mention that nearly anyone can get involved with this sport?
The racetrack in Clay County, 2½ miles north of Flora, has been renamed Route 45 Raceway. As many as 3,500 can enjoy all classes of UMP DIRTcar racing on the 1/3-mile high-banked dirt track. And would it be auto racing without sponsors and ads on every square inch of car, uniform or grandstand? This season 480-feet of fence will be festooned with 8-foot billboards.
In Pontoon Beach, just south of I-270, Tri-City Speedway is a 3/8-mile dirt oval (as measured 20- feet from the outside wall). The track features 10 degrees banking in the corners and is 70-feet wide all the way around.
Rather watch drivers bust stuff up? Keep tabs on whether a demolition derby will be scheduled somewhere, probably at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville. At this writing, plans for the season there were still being formalized.
Yes, racing is exciting, whether you’re watching or participating. But, as Francois says, you don’t have to white-knuckle yourself around tight turns at a high rate of speed. Just focus on the orange cone at the apex of each curve.
As he points out, with a grin: “Racing is more of a geometry problem than guts and gonads.”
This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here and sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!
In a magical land called O’Fallon, hundreds of antique cars come to life at Gateway Classic Cars. Actually, from a slew of classic Chevys to a least one collectible Jaguar, they’re not going anywhere right now. This impressive exhibition of rolling stock is on display in an expansive new building that allows each vehicle plenty of room for admirers or prospective buyers to walk around, peer inside, but please don’t touch!
Well, for a few grand their new drivers could make them roar to life. Meanwhile, antique car aficionados may appreciate them in all their two-tone glory, red fuzzy dice optional, at a standstill. The $3 admission fee is more than worth it. But just one visit won’t do justice to this fine collection.
About 140 cars, trucks and other rides are on display any given day, but this inventory is anything but static. John Busch at the showroom-cum-museum says about 85 percent of the cars on the showroom floor go home with new owners. Gateway doesn’t actually own any of them; they are there on consignment from their owners. And cars are switched out and transferred between the company’s nine stores (as of this May), so no two visits are the same. There are about 1,000 cars from which to choose throughout the company, from Houston to Fort Lauderdale to Chicago.
And these cars aren’t just boss… they’re, well, cherry.
The information sheets on the inside of the windshields are all a labor of love by the sales staff—also curators or docents, if you will. There are no guided tours, at least not officially, but these folks really have a gas showing off these automotive wonders. They love their work, and they know their stuff, says Busch. The information on each vehicle is exhaustive, mostly because the owners know them so well.
“Not everybody here knows everything about all the cars, of course, but everybody knows at least something about each,” he says. Most are antiques, if you go by the yardstick of 25 years old or older. But there are some recent editions, too, mostly muscle cars from a few model years back.
OMG; you’ll want to have one all for yourself.
The brand-new building, opened about this time last year, is replete with a banquet area and conference center. About 29,000 square feet of convention or tradeshow space can be configured for gearheads and wannabes. Fundraisers and business meetings fit right in. There hasn’t been a wedding booked here yet, but just you wait. Meanwhile, a movie theater runs auto-themed movies whenever anyone is in the mood. It only seats eight… although in extremely comfortable recliners… but visitors can have a glimpse at, or kick back and take in, such high-powered fare as “Smokey and the Bandit”.
And the gift shop has been lovingly stocked with die-cast metal replicas, T-shirts, plus vintage signs and placards that evoke service stations from the middle of the previous century. You could spend half your time in here.
Visit today, or check out their website for a calendar of upcoming events!!!
This information originally appeared in the Tourism Times Seasonal Guide. Click here to read it online or sign up to receive three issues every year at no cost!