Fall is a beautiful time of year across the entire midwest but some of the views in Illinois are absolutely breathtaking. With the combination of changing colors, rich history, and quaint towns, ILLINOISouth’s portion of the Great River Road is the perfect place to pack up and head for the weekend.
Day 1 on the Great River Road
The portion of The Great River Road that runs through ILLINOISouth should be on the bucket list for any Fall enthusiast. There is so much history along this road making it not only gorgeous to look at but interesting to stop and explore.
Some of the cities along the road are Columbia, Waterloo, Ellis Grove, and Chester. Each of these cities makes great stops while traveling.
Start your journey in Columbia for a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants along Main Street or head to Waterloo to take in some historical sites. Waterloo is home to the Bellefontaine House which is the first settlement in the entire state. While you are in Waterloo, also check out the History Museum of Monroe County for more information about the area including information about the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail.
After your history lesson, you can head to the town square for a cold beverage from one of their two local breweries, Hopskeller Brewing or Stubborn German Brewing Co.
Off the beaten path a little bit, but definitely worth the drive is the Village of Maeystown. This German town makes you feel like you stepped back in time with 19th-century storefronts, rolling hills and of course the stone bridge you have to cross to get into town. Grab a hand dipped ice cream from the Corner George Inn Sweet Shoppe or grab a cup of tea at Vici’s Front Porch & Tea Garden.
Hunker down for the night at the Corner George Inn Bed and Breakfast to get ready for the day of adventures tomorrow!
Day 2 on the Great River Road
One quick drive to start the day off with is to Prairie du Rocher to see Fort du Chartres. See reconstructed parts of the French fort. Inside the fort, visistors can see the restored power magazine (believed to be the oldest building in Illinois), Catholic chapel, and an operating bake oven. There are also recreational facilities on site with tables and bbq grills.
Randolph County is not only home to the Great River Road but also home to Illinois first state capitol, Kaskaskia. This means there is just as much history and plenty of sites to see while you are driving through.
After you visit the fort, make sure to stop at the Great River Road information kiosk in Ellis Grove to grab some information about the area. While you are in Ellis Grove make sure to stop by Fort Kaskaskia State Historic Site. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy it on the blufftop overlooking the Mississippi River. Visitors also enjoy the remains of what was once Fort Kaskaskia, the region’s principal commercial center and the first state capitol.
Keep going just a little further and see the Kaskaskia Bell State Memorial and the Liberty Bell of the West in Kaskaskia. Also while you are there check out the sites from the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail.
The last stop for the day is the river town of Chester. The city’s claim to fame is Popeye the Sailorman and it is evident around the whole town. Take a stroll on the Popeye Character Trail to learn more about the author (originally from Chester) and the characters.
All this exploring and sightseeing is sure to work up an appetite. Stop into Jodie’s Ol Farmhouse and Bakery for some home cooking. Guests rave about the coconut pie, onion rings, and selection of homemade dressings. If you have a hankering for breakfast, try the Farmhouse Hay Stack (you won’t be sorry!) Grab some cinnamon rolls to go and enjoy your serene drive home.
You don’t have to go far to enjoy the changing colors of fall. ILLINOISouth has everything you need to experience a beautiful fall trip on the Great River Road.
For a full map of the Great River Road and points of interest, click here.