Archive for  June 2012

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All of us here at Starved Rock State Park (Utica, IL) are incredibly honored to be voted Enjoy Illinois’ Facebook Fan Favorite Attraction, capturing 63% of the votes. Having to go up against strong finalists such as the Museum of Science and Industry, Galena’s Historic Main Street and Brookfield Zoo, how did Starved Rock State Park collect the most votes? Perhaps it’s because the park offers a combination of family fun, outdoor adventure, architecture and history – the four original categories in the contest.

The unique park, which is home to the rustic, beautiful, and historic Starved Rock Lodge, is nestled in over 2,600 acres of trees along the banks of the scenic Illinois River. One would not expect to find such picturesque canyons and seasonal waterfalls amidst the rolling hills and fields of Illinois. Chances are if you’ve ever been to Starved Rock, it holds a special place in your heart long after you leave. Starved Rock Lodge and State Park are full of memories that have been accumulating for generations, some dating back 10,000 years. Before your parents or grandparents came to the park on their honeymoon or a family vacation, Native Americans lived here. The tale of two rivaling tribes that fought until one starved to death on top of a 125-foot sandstone bluff was the inspiration for the legendary name, Starved Rock. Stories about Starved Rock have been passed on from generation to generation and one common thread links them altogether – the landscape has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years.

Starved Rock State Park is a year-round downstate destination, where fall is transformed with autumn colors; winter with eagles and frozen waterfalls; spring with wildflowers; and summer with a vast array of outdoor adventures. Admission and parking for the park are free and so are many of the events and activities.  With Starved Rock being a natural playground for visitors of all ages, it’s no wonder it was voted the Fan Favorite attraction. Over the past 20 years, the park has welcomed an increasing number of visitors, and last year, an all-time attendance record was broken with over 2.1 million guests.

As Marketing Director, I am amazed at the ever-changing nature of nature. It seems to stay the same, but really, it’s always changing. There are different flowers here now which have never bloomed here before. It’s a live-action-attraction that will surprise you, even if you’re here day after day. It’s important to keep exploring because there is always something new to see and do. Unlike with video games and modern technology, Starved Rock allows you to disconnect from the day to day hustle and bustle and enjoy true and natural beauty. Starved Rock State Park is just one of the great destinations that await you in Illinois. From the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, to the rich presidential history in the Land of Lincoln, to the picturesque landscape along the Mississippi River, there’s always something to explore and enjoy in Illinois.

Kathy Casstevens-Jasiek

Director of Marketing

Starved Rock Lodge

While in Chicago for Amtrak Tourism Day in Union Station representing Great Rivers Country, one of four tourism regions in the state, I was reminded of just how vast and varied the Illinois landscape is. From the hurried streets of Chicago to the wine country of the Shawnee Hills, the state is filled with destinations that provide adventure, breathtaking views, family fun, educational experiences, couples retreats and some much needed rest and relaxation.

One of the questions from a visitor to our booth really struck me. They pointed to the Illinois sign hanging behind me and asked, “Where are those mountains?” Confused, I turned to see what they were pointing at. It was the image of the Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois: Camel Rock to be specific. I continued the conversation and let them know that that mountain was located in the Shawnee National Forest in southern part of the state. They were in disbelief, which was understandable due to the difference in landscapes between the northern and southern part of the state.

Having spent some time living in the Carbondale area in southern Illinois myself, that conversation reminded me of all the enjoyable times I had while traveling and recreating in the lush landscape of this portion of the state. Like the times I went kayaking on Cedar Lake, backpacking through the Shawnee National Forest on the River to River Trail, rode my bike on the Tunnel Hill State Trail, or took a hike in one of the many parks and natural areas.

Within the forests of southern Illinois, there are plenty of opportunities for viewing wildlife and bird watching. The Pileated Woodpecker is a must see and hear, as there is nothing quite like the sound of a natural jackhammer while hiking through the forest. The Indigo Bunting flourishes in the forests and is a stunning contrast to its emerald backdrop. Wildflowers in the early spring are a photographer’s dream when the floor of the forest comes alive in a blanket of color. Giant City State Park is a great place for photography. Make sure to take a hike on the Giant City Streets Trail that winds through rock formations the size of 2 story buildings. Look closely at the rocks to find names carved by locals, Civil War Soldiers and Civilian Conservation Corps members. If you plan to stay a while, the park offers cabins for rent and a lodge with a restaurant. Just like many of the National Park Lodges, the Giant City Lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Southern Illinois University, where I spent a considerable amount of time, is just up the road from Giant City. You can’t miss the turn for the park as the bright yellow smiley face water tower marks the spot. The tower is also adorned with a black bow tie in honor of the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, who lived in Makanda while teaching at Southern Illinois University.

Whether it is a weekend trip or an extended vacation, southern Illinois delivers on diverse experiences. Its rich and varied landscapes, as well as the abundant history of Illinois, are what draw me to back to visit southern Illinois as often as I can.

Here are more pictures for you to enjoy!

Giant City State Park Trail

Tunnel Hill

Tunnel Hill

Elisha, Great Rivers Writer

My second day excursion took me deeper into the life of Abraham Lincoln. My day began with visiting the home of the late President that he inhabited with his wife and young sons during his time practicing law in Springfield. The bi-level home was filled with period accurate objects of the past and allowed each visitor to step into the life of not only Lincoln but his family and his help at the home.  Each room possessed such accurate detailing down to the wallpaper that was recreated from a small swatch found and model toys that his children would have played with at the time.  Our tour guides made sure to fill us in on the stories and traditions that took place within the home and made each room come to life.  It was extremely interesting to view how the family lived during a time without many of the modern luxuries that we all experience today, yet, there was such a touch of class and elegance within the space.

Not only was it a treat to see where Lincoln dwelled during his time before Presidency but it was even more fascinating to see where Lincoln grew up as a young man.  I had the privilege of visiting New Salem, a place where the young Abe Lincoln discovered his many crafts and talents that developed into the man that later led a nation.  New Salem molded Lincoln into a man of purpose where he began to develop a love for law and politics after stints with several practices and jobs.  I was taken aback by the level of detail and the recreation of the entire town.  Each home was crafted as replicas of a town that once stood and housed several families and businesses.  There was also an indescribable passion within our guide who was filled with knowledge and facts surrounding New Salem.  Walking along the path I was taken back in time as I viewed several of the log cabin homes and had the opportunity to step inside and view the furnishings and objects used for survival, leisure, and simple decoration.  What would have topped off the entire visit would have been the opportunity to see New Salem in action.  In the summer the town comes to life with actual reenactments of the neighbors and families that occupied the town and you can actually see characters performing duties and tasks as you would have years ago.

As the final destination of my visit to Springfield it seemed appropriate to visit Lincoln’s Tomb.  My entire trip I learned about the life and triumphs of a man that faced his demise after going through several obstacles and challenges.  Reflecting on my trip and the life of Lincoln was a great eye opener and I made sure to take it all in.  Great times were had on my weekend excursion and I am looking forward to heading back this summer to see Lincoln come alive in a place so crucial to the development of a great man and a great state, Springfield Illinois.

Of course I rubbed Lincoln’s nose for good luck before leaving as well.

MeechyMonroe, born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, is a lifestyle blogger at

Super Friends

Super Friends

Metropolis’ biggest week of the year is drawing near!   While it is fun to visit Metropolis any time of year,  Thursday, June 7, through Sunday, June 10 the town of fewer than 7000 people will become a real metropolis, or at least close to it, as thousands of visitors from around the country, and even around the world, visit for the annual Superman Celebration.

It’s a chance for people of all ages to come together and just enjoy a weekend of fun!  You never know who you’ll meet…and you never know what you’ll see!

As always, a big draw for Superman enthusiasts is the lineup of celebrities. Special guests at this year’s festival have been posted on the official site:

In addition to the always present, Superman Statue, Lois Lane Statue and the Super Museum,  there will be events for all ages during the festival.  The Celebration will include a “Smallville” tent where free children’s activities are held each day, the “Man of Steel” tent where super strength competitions will draw interest, and the “Metro” tent were live music will be performed daily.  The Artist’s Alley will welcome visitors as a place to learn about the creation of comic books.

Many popular events include the $1000 Costume Contest, Super Car Show, Supertrek Bike Ride, The George Awards

costume contest

and Auction, Superman Trivia, Color-A-Cape for kids, Superman Road Race, Super Dog Contest, and Supergirl and Superboy pageants, just to name a few.  Right in the middle of all of the activities visitors will have the opportunity to pose with the world-famous 15-foot-tall bronze statue of Superman and tour the SuperMuseum, which holds the largest collection of Superman memorabilia in the world.Metropolis, Illinois is the only town with the same name as the fictional city made famous in comic books. It is located at the southern tip of Illinois along the Ohio River.  A complete schedule of events for the Superman Celebration can be found at, or by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 800-949-5740.

Who are your favorite Super Heroes? Come to Metropolis, you might see them!

Enjoy Southern Illinois!