Archive for  September 2012

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The Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton is fitting for almost any occasion, from a couples retreat to a family reunion and everything in between.

Set in the rolling bluffs of Great Rivers Country, the lodge impressively overlooks the Illinois River. It has fine dining, access to a winery and a wonderful location nestled between the river and Pere Marquette State Park. The heritage of Pere Marquette Lodge dates back to the 1930s, recognizable from the native stone and rustic timbers.

The lodge offers a variety of packages to travelers, including the special romance package designed for impressing a sweetheart.

As the weather becomes cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, visitors should take advantage of a treat sure to warm the body and the heart. Everyone can indulge in fine dining with home-style classics like fried chicken or catfish being served up regularly in the dining room.

While the lodge is an excellent choice for a getaway and dining, plenty of other activities await travelers. By taking a little more time, visitors can experience all that this area of Great Rivers Country has to offer.

In nearby Grafton, a new attraction is zipping through the trees and pleasing visitors from all over. The Grafton Zipline is home to a two hour tour of nine different ‘zips’ through picturesque forests. Brave souls partaking in the fun will fly through the air spying sights usually reserved for the birds.

Only a short drive away, Alton offers some of the region’s best antique shopping. Boutiques line Broadway downtown, luring shoppers from all over looking for just the right piece of history. A full list of shops can be found at Visit Alton.

In addition to shopping, Alton is home to the National Great Rivers Museum at Melvin Price Locks and Dam where guests learn the history of the Mississippi River. Any visitor to the site will surely rave about the experience, the heritage and seeing the dam up close!

At the end of the day, retreating back to the Pere Marquette Lodge is a welcome break from the excitement in Great Rivers County. Be sure to plan out your trip at and don’t forget to request a free 2012 Illinois Travel Guide.


-The Illinois Office of Tourism

The leaves on trees are beginning to transform into vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow, and the crisp scent of autumn is creeping over the Midwest. Illinois’ harvest season is in full swing and vineyards throughout the state are buzzing with excitement.

Photo credit: Mark Segal

September is a great time to visit to the state’s grape growers and taste some of the country’s best wine. Creekside Vineyards Winery & Inn, located just outside the downtown area of the Quad Cities, is a serene destination to escape from it all and unwind for a weekend. The quaint Creekside Vineyard Winery & Inn boasts four unique rooms with vineyard views, perfect for a romantic weekend getaway.

Creekside Vineyard Winery & Inn is a hidden gem, secluded in a valley along the winding Case Creek. Visitors can stroll through vineyard trails, sample a variety of wine and relax in comfortable accommodations. In addition, the winery has live music on Saturdays and a yoga class with Indigo Wellness on the third Sunday of every month through October.

The nearby Quad Cities offer a variety of events and activities for visitors who wish to explore the region. Comprised of four Mississippi River towns, the Quad Cities is an Illinois destination with no shortage of history, culture and fun. Here is a sample of things to do in the area:

Channel Cat Water Ride – Explore the mighty Mississippi River aboard the Channel Cat. The open-air, pontoon-style boats allow visitors to explore a variety of Quad Cities’ destinations by water. Riders can even get a taste of an area once known as the Rock Island Rapids. Tickets are for all day, unlimited use on the day of purchase.

John Deere Pavilion – The newly redesigned Pavilion offers an up-close look at the company’s history, products and solutions to provide food for the world’s growing population. New interactive displays, original artifacts, product simulators, an expanded children’s area and a plethora of media make a trip to the Pavilion an enriching experience. The John Deere Pavilion is a free attraction.

Lagomarcino’s – Take a trip back in time and visit an authentic soda fountain. In 1908, Angelo Lagomarcino, an Italian immigrant, founded the sweet confectionery.  The Moline destination offers succulent homemade chocolates, tasty ice cream sundaes and creamy malts.  Visitors can witness the preparation of the tasty treats while seated at one of the old fashioned mahogany booths.

Niabi Zoo – Located in Coal Valley near Moline, the 40-acre zoo features 900 animals representing 160 species. Visitors can experience the zoo by train on the Mel McKay Express or take a ride on the Endangered Species Carousel. The zoo offers a variety of free days, including Fridays in September.

For even more Quad Cities attractions and to plan your getaway to Creekside Vineyard Winery & Inn, check out

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Cutting through Illinois is a 300-mile stretch of Route 66 that still captures the imaginations of travelers from around the world. The midway point of Route 66 in Illinois is the state capital, Springfield – home to a variety of museums, roadside attractions, diners and more, all bursting with the nostalgia of the Mother Road’s golden age.

The Annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield pays homage to all that the road has to offer, including classic cars, drive-in movies, quirky roadside attractions and diners. Taking place September 25-27 this year, the fun-filled event features more than 1,100 automobiles and expects more than 85,000 spectators to converge on historic downtown Springfield.

Springfield, Illinois- International Mother Road Festival

The International Annual Route 66 Mother Road Festival is an event that draws visitors from all over each year!

While exploring Route 66 history in Springfield, travelers must visit the birthplace of the battered, fried, hot dog on a stick that most people call a corn dog today. Springfield’s Cozy Dog Drive In is the home of the hot dog on a stick phenomenon – and coined the phrase “Cozy Dog” for their variety. Considered a historic Route 66 landmark, the drive-in has been a popular local spot since its opening in 1949.

Cozy Dog Drive In Nathan

The Cozy Dog Drive In is home to the original corn dog! (Photo credit: Instagramer (at) nathanmichael)

The original brick road of Route 66 still exists in Auburn, about a 30-minute drive from the city center. Visitors can cruise the brick road, getting a feeling for what the original drive was really like.

Auburn, Illinois Brick Road

The original brick road in Auburn.

Along Route 66, you’ll see a number of quirky roadside attractions, such as the large “Muffler Men” statues. Springfield is home to the Abe Rail Splitter and the Lauterbach Muffler Man statues, both offbeat attractions perfect for a road trip photo op!

Lauterbach Giant5

The Lauterbach Muffler Man statue is stands tall in front of the Lauterbach Auto Service in Springfield.

The kitsch, nostalgia, and people make this a road trip you’re sure to remember. Plan your Springfield trip today at

–Illinois Office of Tourism

Amateur grill masters swear by their special sauce, special rub or secret ingredient.

But do you have what it takes to put your status as pit master to the test?

Every summer and fall Americans fire up the grill and toss on countless numbers of hot dogs, hamburgers, steaks, pork chops, kebabs, chicken breasts and of course ribs.

Although most grillers claim to be the best, many don’t have accolades to back up their presumption of grandeur. The exception is Mike Mills, Murphysboro’s griller extraordinaire who boasts piles and piles of accolades.

Down south in Murphysboro, Mike Mills has accrued quite a few awards and honors for his barbeque, in particular his ribs. Included are Grand World Champion at Memphis in May three times over, Grand Champion at Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue Cooking Contest, as well as the title at the Sauce Contest and the honor of Best Ribs in America from Bon Appétit magazine.

Mike “The Legend” Mills, as others call him, is such an authority on the barbecue that even the book he wrote won multiple awards.

Mike put together the Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-Off to give others a chance to take the title!

This year, the general public can sample and judge for the title of People’s Choice BBQ & Sauce Awards.

So whether you think your secret recipe is enough to pass with the judges or you just love the smell of grilling in the fall, make Murphysboro a destination this September 20-22!

However if you’d rather sample from the king, head to Mills’ flagship restaurant in Murphysboro, 17th Street Bar & Grill, or any of the four locations statewide. At 17th Street Bar & Grill they believe in a simple recipe, but no, it’s not the recipe for their ribs. They believe that barbecue = food + family + love. It is a barbeque experience like none other.

Take a trip down to southern Illinois to taste some of the best barbeque in the U.S. The original 17th Street Bar & Grilll is located at the corner of 17th Street and Walnut Street down in Murphysboro.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

My second day in Alton, Illinois was just as eventful as the first. At the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Hartford, I was surrounded by the past and learned all about the excursions of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as they set off to explore America. Their travels brought them to the Alton area as they explored and traveled up the river. It was very interesting to view the 55-foot keelboat, reaching over 30 feet high. There was also an outdoor camp area, a replica of Camp River Dubois, based off of Clark’s very own drawing. The level of detail, plus the surrounding wooded area, made the camp seem especially authentic. It was nice to see how these brave men lived during a time of such uncertainty and new discoveries around every turn.


Next, we were off to look upon the majestic views from the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower, which rises a staggering 150 feet above the meeting of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. I am a tad afraid of heights, but that didn’t stop me from visiting each of the tower’s outdoor levels, displaying the confluence and the surrounding vast area of green land and trees. Each level exposed a broader sight until reaching the third and final tier overlooking the panoramic view of the rivers.


But my trip did not end there, as there was much more to see! Making our way back into town, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful architecture that graced each block, complete with century crafted homes, churches and office buildings. I am a huge fanatic of all things vintage, so you can imagine my excitement when pulling up to the Beall Mansion located on Millionaire’s Row. The Beall Mansion is a massive piece of property converted into an exquisite bed and breakfast. I was taken aback by the detailed objects and elegant style displayed throughout the home. Each room featured hardwood floors, oriental rugs and period pieces of furniture that fit with the character of the home. There was such a level of care present within the home, which offered special touches for guests, like the full 24 hour complimentary chocolate bar that is sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

The great thing about Alton is that during a simple weekend visit like mine, I was only able to simply scratch the surface of what this great river town has to offer. I experienced so many levels as I took several tours of the historic locations and the modern marvels. Often when we think of taking a vacation or a trip, we seem to steer toward larger cities and well known destinations, but I find it intriguing to explore new and uncharted territory. These locations offer not only relaxation, but a bit of substance and a sense of history with old world charm blended with contemporary undertakings. The place was Alton, Illinois. Maybe it was the spirit of Lewis and Clark and their desire for exploration, but I certainly feel the need to come back and relish in this best kept secret along the Mississippi.

–Meechy Monroe