Archive for  January 2013

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Travel is something Nick and I enjoy very much. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many worldly destinations, so wrapping our head around “vacationing” in Alton, Illinois was a bit of a challenge at first.  But wow! We were SO impressed with how much this Mississippi River town had to offer!  We experienced rich history, architecture (old and new) and delicious cuisine.

Muralist Euripides "Rip" Kastaris created this piece to celebrates Alton's rich history along the Mississippi River.

Muralist Euripides “Rip” Kastaris created this piece to celebrates Alton’s rich history along the Mississippi River.

Alton, Illinois is a city chock-full of history.  The people we encountered along our journey were full of interesting facts, which added greatly to our overall experience.

Alton is perhaps most famous for being Site #1 on the National Lewis & Clark Trail.  The Lewis & Clark Historic Site is dedicated to telling the Illinois side of the Lewis & Clark exploration. Cindy was a great guide for this hands-on tour! We felt inspired to lift, touch, and explore every detail of this exceptional place. Most impressive was the 55-foot, full-scale “cutaway” keelboat modeled after the original vessel of 1804.  If anything can make you appreciate the modern conveniences of our day, this museum will.

Lewis & Clark’s cutaway Keelboat at the Lewis & Clark Historic Site

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Be sure to make time to explore the camp site replica located on the back lawn.  The scene they’ve set gives a true sense of how these men lived.

A short distance from the Historic Site is the Lewis & Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford, IL. Here we climbed (in an elevator, thankfully) 150 feet and stood above the joining of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. This is the exact point where Lewis and Clark began their journey westward so many years ago on May 14, 1804.

We learned a remarkable fact from our tour guide, Amy. The town of Hartford (population 1,429) privately funded the construction of the entire tower. Through grants and donations, the community came together to create their own monument to history; a five million dollar fundraising accomplishment!

The Confluence Tower and surrounding views via a 500mm telephoto lens.

The Confluence Tower and surrounding views via a 500mm telephoto lens.

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Don’t discount the view to the east. You’ll see the Conoco Phillips refinery 2.7 miles away. It’s a unique perspective of an industry which catapulted America to the forefront of progress. Whether or not you think this is a “beautiful” view, the functions performed here are an important part of our society’s day to day life.

Our tour guide at the Alton Museum of History & Art, Norm, was a WWII vet and knew details about the history of Alton that could fill volumes. The details he shared painted a vivid picture of the past.  He taught us about the legend of the Piasa Bird; the tallest man ever known, Robert Wadlow; a bit of history about the Lincoln-Douglas debate of 1858; and so much more.

Riverboat models and Amy standing next to Robert Wadlow.

Riverboat models and Amy standing next to Robert Wadlow.

*#ILMileMarkers Tip* Bonus points if you can find the bell and ring it!


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Stay tuned for more from our adventures in Alton.  Up next: amazing feats of modern engineering!

— Nick Ulivieri and Amy Larrick, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Holiday Inn Alton. Want to follow in our Mile Markers’ footsteps? Travel the below map!

View Illinois Mile Markers: Alton Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:


Nick Ulivieri

Nick is a Chicago based photographer specializing in commercial photography with a focus on food, and commercial/residential architecture. Nick began his professional career in the advertising industry where he developed a passion for the impact branding and design have on a business.

Nick’s creativity, and affinity for working a camera naturally led to photography as a career at Nick Ulivieri Photography. With a prominent following on Instagram, Nick looks forward to spreading his love for photography throughout the Land of Lincoln!

Amy Larrick

An Illinois native, Amy was born in Bloomington, grew up Rockford and moved to Chicago 10 years ago for college. She studied Interior Design at Harrington College of Design and during school began working in the restaurant industry.

She’s worked for Phil Stefani in the restaurant business for nearly nine years. A foodie at heart, Amy loves dining out at restaurants, as well as cooking at home. She’s always been adventurous with food and enjoys trying new ingredients and flavors. The same can be said for her love of travel. A love for discovery of new places and soaking up the culture that goes with it lends itself to the adventures ahead in Illinois!

There’s something about the story of Flesor’s Candy Kitchen, located in the town of Tuscola in Illinois’ Land of Lincoln region, that makes it an instant classic. Forget the fact that the candy is delicious, innovative and all handmade. Forget the quaint wooden booths or old style candy parlor façade. No, what makes Flesor’s so special are the people behind the bar.

Devon and Ann Flesor, Tuscola's sweetest sisters

Devon and Ann Flesor, Tuscola’s sweetest sisters

Granddaughters of a Greek immigrant, reunited after years by a decision to bring their grandfather’s candy store back to its old luster, Devon and Ann Flesor are living a dream of American ingenuity. The sisters joined forces to reopen the confectionary with the same principles that guided their grandfather more than 100 years ago.

Flesor’s Candy Kitchen, after closing in the 1970s, fell into disrepair. The sisters knew the task of reopening would be a gigantic undertaking, but felt up to the challenge. Devon and Ann went to work to restore the Tuscola landmark to its original glory, locating the buyer of all the original machinery and fixtures, even down to the original wood.

After many long days and lots of hard work, Flesor’s re-opened in 2004. Today, Devon and Ann create works of sugary art that tantalize their community, the town of Tuscola, home to “4,500 people, when everyone is home,” as the sisters told the Chicago Tribune. Folks in Tuscola are elated with the transformation and head to the store in search of sweet treats, buzz bark and traditional fountain sodas.

So whether you live near or far, know that a trip to Flesor’s will be a memorable one. Maybe you’ll find yourself reminiscing in century-old seats, or ogling over traditional candy-making methods, or you might just fall in love with the chocolates. Either way, make sure to say hello to Devon and Ann because what do they really love, more than candy or an old family shop?

In the words of the Felsor sisters, “What we love more is meeting people from near and far away and making them happy serving up tasty food and confections and lighthearted conversation.”

(Thanks to Illinois Partners Magazine for the video. Read the magazine’s article about Flesor’s here.)

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

Winter offers a whole new world of opportunities at Starved Rock State Park. For those who love peaceful wintry scenery, venturing to Starved Rock in the winter provides an entirely different experience than other times of the year. The park frequently hosts guided winter hikes, children’s activities, bald eagle watching and more.

Starved Rock Winter by Instagrammer angelavs

Photo Instagramer @angelavs snapped while hiking in Starved Rock State Park

Maybe you’ll spy a view otherwise obstructed by trees full with leaves in the summer, or perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of some wintertime wildlife. No matter the experience, there’s something special about nature in the winter. Crisp cool air beckons hikers to cross through frozen terrain while the crunch of snow underfoot.

StarvedRockWinter from Instagrammer dirtylightning

A frozen waterfall captured by Instagramer @dirtylightning at Starved Rock State Park.

Nearby Matthiessen State Park.offers many winter experiences, including cross-country skiing.

bobbyreys Mattheissen State Park

Mattheissen State Park in winter [photo by (at) bobbyreys

Winter offers a unique way to see some of the most popular destinations around the state, so go and enjoy the frosty outdoor experiences Illinois has to offer this time of year!

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Imagine seeing Marilyn Monroe’s beauty supplies, costumes worn by Angelina Jolie and Elvis Presley’s guitars all in one place. The truly unique Americana Hollywood Museum, in Metropolis, is home to thousands of examples of kitschy memorabilia from past and present American movie icons.

When you step foot inside the Americana Hollywood Museum, you can tell it’s not your ordinary exhibit. Gigantic statues of beloved icons, original costumes, old-time movie posters and Americana collectables fill the museum.

The Americana Hollywood Museum and Super Museum collectables in Metropolis

The Americana Hollywood Museum and Super Museum collectables in Metropolis

If you’re a horror movie buff, the Americana Hollywood Museum will not disappoint. Relics from favorite villains are on hand, from Dracula and Frankenstein to Chucky, Freddie and Michael Myers. The museum even has The Phantom of the Opera figurines and Hannibal Lecter collectables.

Be sure to see the impressive collection of Elvis mementos, complete with photographs, clothing and a guitar played by the “King of Rock and Roll.” And don’t miss the Jimi Hendrix section, with its prized piece, the original lyrics to Purple Haze handwritten by Jimi himself.

After the museum, step outside for photo opportunities: pose with the Blues Brothers, Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. Hop on a pirate ship or pretend you are in the Old West.

Extend your star-filled adventure with a visit to the nearby Super Museum, and see collectables honoring the “Man of Steel.” The $5 admission fee to the Americana Hollywood Museum also gets you access to the museum dedicated to Superman, the town’s most-celebrated hero.

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

Have you ever wondered what the U.S. was like at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, or what it would have been like to explore unchartered territories with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark? Begin your own exploration of the past in Illinois at the preparation point for the famed Lewis and Clark expedition.

Take in the views at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford, IL

Take in the views at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower in Hartford, IL

President Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition, or Corps of Discovery, to find, “the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.” The exploration’s objective was scientific and economical – to study the area’s plants, animal life and geography and to discover what natural resources were available throughout the largely unexplored section of the United States.

Before the journey commenced, approximately 30 people spent the winter at Camp River Dubois, near present day Hartford, Illinois. Today, you can explore the camp and see what life was like more than 200 years ago. The Lewis and Clark Memorial and the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site will give you a chance to experience life as it would have been in the days of the explorers. The site’s museum is a great destination for a quick winter getaway and the spectacular view from the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower is just as impressive in the winter as it is in the summer. The 150 foot tower provides sweeping panoramas of the Great Rivers Country region and overlooks the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Illinois rivers. After taking in the views from the tower, head to nearby Grafton, to see the magnificent bald eagles that call the area home. Winter is the best time of year for eagle watching.

The Great River Road follows the scenic western edge of Illinois along the Mississippi River(photo credit: Mark Segal)

The Great River Road follows the scenic western edge of Illinois along the Mississippi River
(photo credit: Mark Segal)

The area where that great expedition began so long ago can also be the starting point of your own adventure! Extend your travels in Great Rivers Country and through the rest of the state by venturing out on any of the 550 miles of the Great River Road National Scenic Byway that line the western edge of Illinois, along the Mississippi River. Travel north to Galena, stop in the Quad Cities or visit the historic town of Nauvoo. The Great River Road is full of adventures, scenic views and characters to make your exploration a memorable one.

–The Illinois Office of Tourism