Cultural, Historic and Natural Southern Illinois Attractions
With so many things to do in Southern Illinois, this trip itinerary offers tours of the history and culture through attractions like vineyards, art centers and natural beauty.
Enjoy These Great Southern Illinois Attractions and More:
Marvel at over 70 works of art through the Goldman Kuenz Sculpture Park
At Ten Pin Antique Mall, thousands of items are for sale in a repurposed bowling alley
Breathe in the calming aroma of lavender at the vibrant purple fields of Lavender Falls
Relax with a glass of local wine and enjoy the postcard views at Kite Hill Vineyards
and plenty more
SOUTHERN, ILLINOIS DAY-TO-DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: STARTING YOUR SOUTHERN ILLINOIS ADVENTURE
Your Southern Illinois adventure starts in the morning in historic Mt. Vernon. Fuel up at the Farmhouse Bakery & Café for delectable scratch-made pastries and rich caffeinated beverages. Your group sojourn commences at the Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, a magnificent pastiche of culture and art spanning more than 80 acres. Marvel at over 70 striking works of art on your group tour through the Goldman Kuenz Sculpture Park and immerse in the diverse styles and media. Afterward, head to the 33,000-square-foot heritage center and explore its four galleries, interactive learning center and performance hall.
Grab lunch at Aneil’s Restaurant, serving the most tender smoked BBQ, burgers, catfish, ribs and other Southern favorites. If BBQ isn’t your jam, share a pie at Joe’s Pizza & Pasta for classic Italian American cuisine.
Groups can also make a short drive to the Centralia Area Historical Society Museum in downtown Centralia. Two floors of a former wholesale grocery warehouse are filled with railroading, mining, oil industry, agricultural and Civil War artifacts. Groups can also travel west to Carlyle and stop at Ten Pin Antique Mall, where thousands of items are for sale in a repurposed bowling alley that still has the old signage, bowling lanes and scoring monitors.
There’s more history to be had at the Jefferson County Historical Village, where your group can take a self-guided or docent-led walking tour of this unique Southern Illinois attraction. Explore a true community-inspired and built showpiece based on life in the 1800s. Over several decades, generous monetary donations, gifting of historic and other buildings, land contributions, and thousands of local artifacts collected have made the village a popular Southern Illinois attraction.
Breathe in the calming aroma of lavender when your group explores the vibrant purple fields of Lavender Falls. This family-owned U-Pick farm has everything your group needs to unwind, like essential lavender oils, sprays, soaps, honey, lavender bundles and more.
Another tasty option is St. Nicholas Brewing Company in Du Quoin, a brewpub housed in a former hotel dating from 1879. Menu favorites include catfish with hushpuppies and fries, gourmet mac & cheese, barbecue pork and sourdough-crust pizzas.
DAY 2: THINGS TO DO IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
Venture out on a tasting tour at some of the finest local vineyards and breweries in Southern Illinois. Start in Ava at the Scratch Brewing Company, a farmhouse microbrewery located five miles from the pristine Shawnee National Forest. Stop in for lunch and a hand-crafted beer that will awaken your taste buds.
Travel 30 minutes southeast to Carbondale and walk off those liquid calories at the University Museum at Southern Illinois University (SIU). Opened in 1874, the museum represents the whole of humanity through stories, history, cultural arts and science with a focus on Southern Illinois heritage.
Just 10 minutes away at the Kite Hill Vineyards in the Shawnee Hills, relax with a glass of local wine and enjoy the postcard views. Plan a visit to their tasting room by appointment for a unique group activity. Located along the Ponce Wine Trail, Monte Alegre Vineyard/Cellars invites guests to tour the impressive wine cellar and enjoy a glass of their red or white. Sold exclusively from their vineyard, Monte Alegre wines are a true taste of the area. Both vineyards offer relaxation for something to do in Southern Illinois.
While in Carbondale, enjoy a robust dinner at Flame, serving up char-broiled steaks, Southern-style catfish, slow-cooked prime rib and more comfort cuisine, including an extensive beer and wine menu. After dinner, head down the street for an evening show at The Varsity Center, a performance arts venue originally home to the historic Varsity movie theater, before ending your night.
DAY 3: MORE SOUTHERN ILLINOIS ATTRACTIONS
Check into the historic Giant City Lodge in Makanda and enjoy quaint cabins or lodge accommodations specializing in Southern hospitality. Once your group is settled, make your way to the Makanda Boardwalk in the charming downtown area. The village of Makanda was incorporated in 1888 and was named after a prominent local Indian Chief. Stretch your legs and peruse the unique shops and artisanal merchandise for sale.
Those who wish to stretch their legs and explore can visit Shawnee National Forest, which abounds with wilderness recreation areas across the state’s southern tip. A group visit to Giant City State Park, located within Shawnee National Forest near Makanda, can include a hike on the one-mile Giant City Nature Trail, known for the narrow passageways threading through huge sandstone walls. Explore natural outdoor Illinois attractions on the Red Cedar Hiking Trail Twin Falls or the Giant City Nature Trail.
Enjoy a scenic drive to the eastern side of Shawnee National Forest, where the more adventures can explore the Garden of the Gods, the region’s most popular recreation site. Observation Trail, a quarter-mile stone path with interpretive panels describing the area’s geology, weaves through massive boulders affording spectacular overlooks of the pristine woodlands.
It’s time to relax and refuel with a glass of wine and lunch at Blue Sky Vineyard, a few miles southeast of the park. Share a pizza, order a deli sandwich from the café and savor hand-crafted vintages surrounded by a grape paradise.
After a long day of touring Makanda, retire back at the Giant City Lodge for a low-key evening and dinner at the lodge restaurant.
DAY 4: FINAL DAY OF TRAVEL IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
Wake up refreshed and grab a warm breakfast at the lodge before exploring Goreville and Marion. Both towns boast unique Southern Illinois attractions that will keep your group entertained.
Pack the water bottles before you leave Makanda and head southeast to Goreville and the magnificent Ferne Clyffe State Park. Take the Bork Falls Waterfall Trail for spectacular photo opportunities and breathtaking scenery.
Spend a few hours enjoying the pristine natural surroundings before heading to the Longhorn Café in Goreville for lunch. They serve classic southern staples like okra, pork fritters, catfish and fried chicken. If you’re in the mood for something different, try another local Goreville eatery.
Another option is a visit to Metropolis, which is known as the “Home of Superman.” Pay a visit to the Super Museum, which contains one of the world’s largest collection of memorabilia relating to the TV, movie and comic book hero. Artifacts range from Hollywood costumes and props to lunch boxes, toys and food products bearing the Superman logo. Across the square, pose with the 15-foot-tall bronze Superman Statue by the Massac County Courthouse.
Drive to Marion and see a live show like standup comedy, a tribute band and dance performances at the Marion Cultural & Civic Center (MCCC). Most acts perform at night, but there are afternoon shows to enjoy.
Depending on what time the show starts, enjoy a cup of coffee at Crown Brew Coffee Co., around the corner from MCCC. Enjoy a cup of award-winning brew in a warm sophisticated café setting. Choose from select international coffees made by friendly baristas.
Take your coffee and head over to the Mandala Gardens and immerse in the sweetly scented flora aromas. The 7-acre gardens are an unforgettable outdoor Southern Illinois attraction boasting a unique labyrinth of winding pathways through magical garden landscapes. Explore the gardens, including rock sculptures and natural settings, at your leisure.
Your Southern Illinois adventure concludes at the Warehouse Antique Mall in Marion for shopping. Peruse a plethora of booths displaying vintage oddities and nostalgia-inducing toys from yesteryear. You’re sure to find something unique for that special Southern Illinois souvenir.
Southern, Illinois still has plenty more for travel groups to experience, so be sure to Subscribe to Leisure Group Travel for FREE and get even more travel ideas and tips