All About Alton, IL
Across the Mighty Mississippi from the metropolis of St. Louis, MO sets a World of Wonder—the historic river town of Alton, Illinois.
Though small in size, the Greater Alton “River Bend area” is big on hospitality—and rich in history, attractions and activities—that make it a place you will want visit again and again.
Paralleled much of the way by the Mississippi River and the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail, this section of Highway 100 is one of only 26 national scenic byways in the entire country. Voted one of the “Seven Wonders of Illinois,” the Illinois Legislature described it as, “the most beautiful stretch of the entire Mississippi River.”
Be sure to stop by the Alton Convention and Visitors Center and pick up your free Scenic Byway brochure and CD tour that will tell you about the byway communities and historic sites along the way. The tour is also available on Ipods that are available for loan to visitors.
The Byway is also paralleled part of the way by the Heartland Rivers Wine Trail. What could be better than exploring the area while sampling wines at one or more of the area’s five different wineries?
You will also want to visit Pere Marquette Lodge and State Park, the largest state park in the state of Illinois. Pere Marquette is also home to horseback riding, miles and miles of hiking trails, and scenic overlooks with fabulous panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley.
Every autumn people from around the country converge on Alton to enjoy the incredible fall foliage. Described as “the New England of the Midwest”, you can only describe nature’s display as, “spectacular”‘ Fall foliage driving maps are available at most bed and breakfasts or at the Alton Convention and Visitors Center.
Every winter the Alton area is an American Bald Eagles watchers paradise with the largest congregation of eagles outside Alaska. Be sure to take advantage of one of the many bus, trolley, limousine, or self guided eagle tours.
With the nearby Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary the area is also a haven for white pelicans, egrets, blue heron, geese, and migratory birds of almost every kind.
Popular river front attractions include the Alton Marina; the $7 million Great Rivers Museum and Interpretive Site, Argosy Alton Casino; boat, kayak, and canoe rental; and narrated and themed river tours aboard the excursion boat Heron.
Steeped in history, Alton was the site of the sixth and final Lincoln – Douglas debate, the infamous Alton Confederate Prison, and the native American Piasa Bird cliff art. Minutes away in Wood river is the Lewis & Clark point of departure trail site #1 and $8.5 million museum. Re-enactments and other special events are scheduled at the facility throughout the year.
The Alton History Museum is a treasure trove of area historic items and artifacts from the time when the Native Americans roamed the land through the twentieth century. You will also find a permanent display there about Robert Wadlow, ‘Alton’s Gentle Giant’, the tallest man who ever lived.
The Alton area is host to over fifty antique shops, nine golf courses (including the only Arnold Palmer designed and managed course in Greater St. Louis or the state of Illinois,) fifteen bed and breakfasts and guest houses ranging from the quaint to the luxurious, national chain motels, spas, restaurants, fine dining, and night life.
What are your favorite things to do in the Alton, Illinois and Riverbend area?