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Reveal Mermet Springs FEATURE

Southern Illinois is known for its winding nature trails, breathtaking cliffs and spectacular vineyards. Many don’t realize that Southern Illinois is also home to an array of offbeat museums and wacky monuments. Check out these four quirky attractions you didn’t know were in Southern Illinois!

The Super Museum—Metropolis

Childhood heroes come to life at The Super Museum in Metropolis, Illinois. The museum features more than 20,000 items of Superman memorabilia collected over 60 years—the largest collection of its kind on earth!

Super Museum visitors love learning about this mythical caped hero. (Photo by Donnelle Waldschmidt)

Super Museum visitors love learning about this mythical caped hero. (Photo by Donnelle Waldschmidt)

The Americana Hollywood Museum—Metropolis

After an afternoon exploring the Super Museum, Metropolis visitors won’t want to miss a trip to the nearby Americana Hollywood Museum. The museum is an amazing tribute to America’s most famous Hollywood icons, which features life-size figures, wardrobes, costumes, movie props, statues and celebrity collectibles from around the world. Travelers will love learning about the lives of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and more!

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tours—Makanda

Always wanted to try zip lining above a lush forest canopy? You don’t need to travel far! Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tours in Makanda consists of eight zip lines that crisscross the property’s stunning bluffs and valleys. A canopy tour is an exciting way to experience the flora, fauna, geology and history of Illinois’ great outdoors!

Instagramer @trashhand loved zooming through this leafy forest.

Instagramer @trashhand loved zooming through this leafy forest.

Mermet Springs—Belknap

Mermet Springs in Belknap is a unique spring-fed stone quarry where divers marvel at underwater treasures such as a submerged motorcycle and cement petting zoo—deep sea adventurers can even explore the airplane used in the movie U.S. Marshals! A dive at Mermet is the perfect way to explore something new on a summer day in Southern Illinois.

Planes, trains, and automobiles have all been sunk as attractions at this Illinois diving spot. (Photo by Mermet Springs)

Planes, trains, and automobiles have all been sunk as attractions at this Illinois diving spot. (Photo by Mermet Springs)

For more information on fun places to explore in Southern Illinois, check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

–Illinois Office of Tourism

Obscura Society Image USE THIS ONE

With the new Illinois Office of Tourism and Atlas Obscura partnership, events are happening throughout Illinois this spring and summer. Sign up for the email list to receive exclusive invites to explore unique and lesser-known places throughout the state. It’s a great opportunity to hang out with like-minded adventurers!

Illinois Society Logo

Check out AtlasObscura.com for unique events and attractions around the state

The partnership officially launched in February at a vintage carnival themed event with more than 450 attendees at Salvage One – an event space in Chicago known for its vintage antiques. It was here where the Illinois Obscura Society was born. Guests were treated to acts of contortion, mind reading, juggling while unicycling, an old-timey brass band and a sideshow fire eater to top it off. The main event was Thom Britton from FreakShow & Tell. He wowed the crowd by eating fire and shared his trade secrets, explaining how it’s possible to eat fire to an enchanted crowd.

Recently, the Illinois Obscura Society conducted a tour of a Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth. The owners of the Gold Pyramid House, Jim and Linda Onan, describe their unique golden home as powerful, mysterious and exotic. The pyramid is surrounded by a moat and guarded by a 50-foot statue of Ramses II. Everything was built in the 1970s when there was a popular New Age belief that pyramids could focus power and improve health. The family now offers tours of their six-story, 17,000-square-foot home.

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The Gold Pyramid House in Wadsworth, Illinois (Photo: Steven Glynias)

Gold Pyramid with Statue

An Egyptian sculpture stands guard in front of the Gold Pyramid House (Photo: Steven Glynias)

There are a lot of great events happening on May 30 to celebrate Obscura Day 2015. Mark your calendar and check out all the events below!

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Underwater Wonders of Mermet Springs
Belknap, Illinois
Visit this unexpected diver’s paradise without getting wet!

Behind the Scenes at the Blue Waters Supercomputer
Champaign, Illinois
Join us for exclusive access to one of the world’s most powerful computing centers.

The International Museum of Surgical Science
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for a special tour of this unique museum and the mansion that houses it.

Walking in the Footsteps of Leopold and Loeb
Chicago, Illinois
Join us as we revisit what was called “The Crime of the Century”.

The Grounds of Graceland Cemetery
Chicago, Illinois
Stroll amongst the dead and the artwork that commemorates their passing.

Fishes of the Field Museum
Chicago, Illinois
Join us for an exclusive tour of the Field Museum’s Piscine Collection.

The Art of Letter Writing
Chicago, Illinois
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day.

Explore the Busy Beaver Button Company
Chicago, Illinois
Busy Beaver is the button maker to the world. Now you can see just how they do it.

Catching a Flick at Route 66’s Last Drive-In
Litchfield, Illinois
Since 1950, the summer skies of Litchfield have been filled with Hollywood.

Caravanning Illinois’ Route 66
Route 66, Illinois
Join us as we explore the first 300 miles of the mother road.

Exploring Chicago’s Baha’i Temple
Wilmette, Illinois
The Baha’i faith welcomes everyone to find peace in their beautiful temple and gardens.

The Illinois Obscura Society of Atlas Obscura was created in partnership with Enjoy Illinois. Sign up to stay in the know about upcoming, exclusive tours and adventures. Expeditions will continue throughout the spring and summer. Don’t miss out on your chance to explore every quirky corner of Illinois!

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

Thinking about escaping on a weekend getaway in Illinois, but don’t want to take your car? Chicago-based photographers Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen) and Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor) recently escaped the city to explore two Illinois towns via Amtrak’s Illinois Zephyr line during a three-day, two-night trip. The duo departed from Chicago on a Friday morning and spent the next two days exploring picturesque Galesburg and Quincy. Read about their experience below.

Q: Out of all the stops you visited on your adventure in Illinois, what stands out as most memorable and why?

Steven Sampang: Galesburg. It had such a great small town energy to it. Everyone’s generous hospitality and willingness to give us advice and show us around town was a nice warm welcome.

Alina on stage at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina on stage at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor: Galesburg was very lovely; everyone was warm and welcoming. We talked to so many locals and I think that made a huge difference in how the rest of our stay was at Galesburg. The hot air balloon race was one of the highlights. It was the first time I’ve witnessed how it’s done and it was great to see the whole community come together for the festival.

Gearing up for the balloon race in Galesburg. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Gearing up for the balloon race in Galesburg. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: Which attraction or location surprised you the most and why?

Steven Sampang:  When we were in Quincy, we visited Villa Katherine {Quincy Visitors Center}, which overlooks the Mississippi River. It is a Moroccan-inspired home built in 1900 on a bluff with a beautiful interior decor. It was amazing to see in person and made us feel like we had teleported to Morocco!  

Exploring the awe-inspiring Villa Katherine. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Exploring the awe-inspiring Villa Katherine. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor:  Definitely Villa Katherine! I expected maybe more like a winery, but never a Moroccan-inspired home. It did not feel like we were in Illinois at all.

After seeing Villa Katherine, the Mile Markers biked around Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

After seeing Villa Katherine, the Mile Markers biked around Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: Did you realize how many places can be visited in Illinois by Amtrak?

Steven Sampang: I have been taking the Amtrak for nearly seven years between Chicago and Mendota when I visit my mom in central Illinois. We took this same route to our destinations during our trip. It was really cool to finally visit and see the places I would always hear the conductor announce over the radio while riding the train. I’d love to see what other cool towns Amtrak can take us to next.

The view from the last car on the Amtrak train. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

The view from the last car on the Amtrak train. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor: This was my first time on Amtrak, so I had no idea what to expect. Going through Illinois there are so many stops, and looking out the window, I was so curious about all the other towns in Illinois. There are so many places to stop and visit in Illinois.

Beautiful Illinois sunset captured from the Amtrak train’s window. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Beautiful Illinois sunset captured from the Amtrak train’s window. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who might want to plan trip via Amtrak in Illinois?

Steven Sampang: Wear some comfortable clothes and bring a camera! Unlike flying, you can get up and move around freely through the train, which is a huge perk too. There are so many beautiful views along the routes that Amtrak takes, so keep your eyes out the window.

Union Station in Chicago where Amtrak trains depart. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveen).

Union Station in Chicago where Amtrak trains depart. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveen).

Alina Tsvor: Pack very lightly and dress comfy.

Discovering all there is to do and see in Illinois. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Discovering all there is to do and see in Illinois. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: What destination do you think was the most beautiful and why?

Steven Sampang: Quincy was definitely the most photogenic in terms of scenery. Sitting on the Illinois side of Mississippi, Quincy offered great sunset views of the beautiful bridges that connect Illinois to Missouri. 

Sunset over the Mississippi River in Quincy. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Sunset over the Mississippi River in Quincy. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor: Quincy was lovely. Its charming historic homes and the fact that it sits on the water makes the city very appealing.

Incredible home in Quincy’s historic district. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Incredible home in Quincy’s historic district. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Q: Of the photos you took on the trip, which one is your favorite?

Steven Sampang: The hot air balloons in Galesburg! Unfortunately there was a little too much wind in Galesburg to get the balloons up and off the ground but we still managed to get some glowing at dusk at they showed off their balloons at ground level. It was my first time seeing hot air balloons in real life, so it was a treat to shoot them at dusk when the blue hue of the sky mixed with the orange flames; that made for some great color.

Hot air balloons over Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Hot air balloons over Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor: I love the Bayview Bridge sunset shot in Quincy. I remember how excited we were that the sun finally came out that evening, and we ran from the hotel to the river to explore and shoot some photos. I think we both can see a good photo opportunity and it was funny that without even having to say anything we both knew we had to get over to the river to catch that sunset.

Sunset over the Bayview Bridge in Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Sunset over the Bayview Bridge in Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: Where did you eat your favorite meal during the trip? What did you order?

Steven Sampang: I know I can vouch for both of us… Baked in Galesburg. Kevin, who owns the pizza shop, was nice enough to make two of the meals we had in town. His attention to detail in keeping his grandmother’s tradition in how she made pizzas was a privilege to watch and of course eat!

Even MiniAbe enjoyed Baked in Galesburg! Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Even MiniAbe enjoyed Baked in Galesburg! Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor:Baked was so good. We had dinner there our first evening; we ordered a pizza to split. During dinner, we decided that breakfast would have to be at Baked too. For breakfast the next morning, we had farmers dish with eggs and fresh veggies that the owner Kevin picked up at the farmers market in the morning.

Delicious breakfast at Baked in Galesburg. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Delicious breakfast at Baked in Galesburg. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?

Steven Sampang: Breezy. Small town life can often be viewed as boring when there isn’t much to do, but coming from a big city it was relaxing to slow down and shoot the breeze for a few days.

Wandering through the ivy at Knox College in Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Wandering through the ivy at Knox College in Galesburg. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor:Calm. Nothing was rushed like it sometimes can be in a big city. We were just kind of going with the flow and taking our time on everything.

Downtown Quincy at nightfall. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Downtown Quincy at nightfall. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Q: Anything else you’d want to share about experiencing Illinois?

Steven Sampang: Let your imagination run wild and get creative. There are so many hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered and explored. We only visited a couple of those in a few days and still had a blast. I can only imagine how much fun we would have if we had more time to #EnjoyIllinois.

Planning the next Illinois exploration. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Planning the next Illinois exploration. Photo by Steven Sampang (@esteeveeen).

Alina Tsvor: Having long conversations with people you meet and local business owners can really give you a huge perspective on what life is like in those cities. I think it’s really important not to just go see beautiful sites, but to talk to people who live there. It made all the difference on my trip!

Classic car in Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Classic car in Quincy. Photo by Alina Tsvor (@alinatsvor).

Thank you to our partners for making this trip possible, including Galesburg Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Holiday Inn Express Galesburg, Quincy Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Quincy.

Want to follow in our Mile Markers’ footsteps? Travel the map below! 

Route 66 Post

Do you have a favorite food destination you always stop at when on a road trip? Do you get a burger and shake, or maybe some other succulent treat? The roadside diners you love originally sprouted up on Historic Route 66, which runs through Illinois. Therefore, it’s no surprise that today Route 66 in Illinois offers loads of yummy dishes for travelers to get their fill while exploring the historic road. Cozy Dog Drive-In, The Palms Grill Café and Ariston Café are just a few of the Route 66 staples that will provide you with delicious food, lots of kitsch and great memories.

Take a bite of the famed Cozy Dogs from Springfield’s Cozy Dog Drive-In

Take a bite of the famed Cozy Dogs from Springfield’s Cozy Dog Drive-In

Cozy Dog Drive-In

The Springfield drive-in is famous for being the home of the Cozy Dog, which is similar to a corn dog. While dining on your mouth-watering Cozy Dog, you can gaze at an eclectic collection of Route 66 memorabilia that the drive-in obtained since its opening in 1949. If you love corn dogs and old-fashioned diners, Cozy Dog needs to be on your list of places to visit!

Atlanta, Illinois- Palms Grill Cafe Pie

The Palms Grill Café

The Palms Grill Café in Atlanta is a revitalized relic from the heyday of Route 66. Originally opened in 1934, some of the Palms Grill’s famous dishes from back in the 30s are still served to hungry travelers today. No meal at the Palms Grill Café is complete without trying the restaurant’s famous pie. There is a reason why it has won state pie competitions, so make sure you order it to find out for yourself!

The front of the oldest Route 66 restaurant, the Ariston Café

The front of the oldest Route 66 restaurant, the Ariston Café

Ariston Café

The Ariston Café is thought to be the oldest restaurant on Route 66. Opened by Pete Adam in the 1920s, the original location was housed on Route 4. Pete relocated the café to Litchfield in 1935 so that it could be on the Mother Road. Today, the Ariston Café is still owned and operated by Pete family. It’s a great place to go to for fish, steak and hearty favorites like onion rings and burgers. With so much history, wonderful service and amazing food, it truly represents what Route 66 is all about.

For more Route 66 foodie destinations, check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

Are you an artist, art enthusiast or just someone looking for a new favorite art piece for your home?  You can discover inspiration everywhere you look in Makanda, Illinois!

One of the key places to enjoy Makanda’s art scene is along the celebrated Makanda Boardwalk. The block of storefronts and studios, also known as the “Valley of the Arts,” is a center for local artists and craftspeople to display their prized pieces of work.

Makanda’s Boardwalk features artists from all over the region during its annual Spring Fest

Makanda’s Boardwalk features artists from all over the region during its annual Spring Fest

Located at the end of the Boardwalk, Rainmaker Art Studio displays incredible sculpture pieces made from bronze and copper by artist Dave Daris. He learned his unique metal smith trade while traveling around the Midwest more than 40 years ago. Dave showcases his awe-inspiring pieces in his studio and in the one-acre garden that rests directly behind the property – make sure to wander into the garden to view his full collection!

To see more local work, visit Visions Art Gallery located just down the Boardwalk. It features hand painted glass, wood working, painting, photography and pottery by more than 60 local artists. Visions Art Gallery is a great place to see a variety of mediums all in one place and find what speaks to you.

Visitors who work up an appetite while wandering along the boardwalk can savor delicious sandwiches at the Makanda Country Store. Remember to save room for the store’s hand-dipped ice cream cones – you’ll thank us later! The Country Store also has a variety of local and international specialty items like jams and coffee to take home.

Enjoy hand dipped ice cream cones from the Makanda Country Store

Enjoy hand dipped ice cream cones from the Makanda Country Store

What are you waiting for? Start planning your art-filled trip to Makanda at EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism