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Looking for an activity to enjoy the gorgeous fall weather in Illinois? Escape for a weekend and hit the trail on one of the state’s bike trails. Illinois’ bike trails weave in and out of luscious forests and swaying fields. Trail-goers can ride through spectacular fall colors and experience the state’s natural beauty. Spend a weekend enjoying fresh air, adventure and fun. Learn more about Illinois’ bike trails and plan your trip by visiting EnjoyIllinois.com.

Here are a few suggestions for Illinois weekend bike trips:

Chicago & Beyond

Gorgeous Matthiessen State Park in Utica offers nine miles of mountain biking trails that pass through canyons, streams, prairies and forest. After spending the day outdoors, unwind at the Starved Rock State Park Lodge. The Lodge offers comfortable rooms or cozy cabins in the woods and is located just minutes away from Matthiessen State Park.

Cabins at Starved Rock State Park Lodge (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

Land of Lincoln

Accessible from Forest Park in Shelbyville, the General Dacey Trail features over 50 miles of multi-purpose trails. The Lake Shelbyville section of the General Dacey Trail offers 10.5 miles of pathway for visitors to explore. While in the area, enjoy a stay at one of Lake Shelbyville’s resorts or inns. Many resorts offer spas and recreational facilities in addition to plush amenities.

Great Rivers Country

The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail, a 14.5-mile trail from Alton to Grafton, offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country. The trail runs along the scenic Great River Road, next to the mighty Mississippi River, and concludes at Pere Marquette State Park. Bikers can see towering bluffs and maybe catch a glimpse of bald eagles soaring overhead. After exploring the Great River Road, spend the night at one of Alton’s quaint bed and breakfast destinations.

Biking along the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail (Photo credit: Alton CVB)

Trails to Adventure

The beautiful Tunnel Hill State Trail stretches 45 miles in scenic Southern Illinois from Harrisburg to Karnak. Formerly a bustling railroad, the Tunnel Hill State Trail passes through farm country, bluffs and wetlands. Twenty-three picturesque trestles, leftover from the old railroad, line the trail. The trail ends at the Cache River State Natural Area, featuring giant cypress trees with base circumferences exceeding 40 feet. While in Southern Illinois, spend a night at a charming bed and breakfast and explore the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

Tunnel Hill State Trail (Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

What’s your favorite road trip memory? Discovering quirky roadside attractions, photo opportunities, historical sites and natural wonders can help make the journey half the fun. Load up the car and escape on a road trip this fall to explore Illinois’ seven scenic byways during Illinois Scenic Byways Week, October 6 – 13.

Illinois’ scenic byways are found in all regions of the state and the sites along the routes help tell the story of Illinois. Each byway is recognized by the United States Department of Transportation as National Scenic Byways for archeological, cultural, historic, natural recreational and/or scenic qualities.

To celebrate Illinois’ Scenic Byway Week, a plethora of events will take place along the routes. Visitors can plan their byway trip and learn about each scenic route through a new interactive website feature on EnjoyIllinois.com.

Here is a sampling of each scenic byway’s offering:

Great River Road

Spanning 550 miles along Illinois’ Western border, the Great River Road National Scenic Byway offers breathtaking views of the banks and bluffs surrounding the mighty Mississippi River. Passing through towns like Galena, Moline, Quincy, Alton and Cairo, the Great River Road is perfect for a weekend trip to unwind in Illinois’ Great Rivers Country. To learn more, visit greatriverroad-illinois.org.

Beautiful view along the Great River Road (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

Illinois Lincoln Highway

The Illinois Lincoln Highway National Scenic Byway pays homage to Illinois’ most famous resident, Abraham Lincoln. Passing through communities like Joliet, Geneva, DeKalb and Dixon, the highway stretches along a 179 mile path from Chicago’s south suburbs, then west toward Fulton on the Mississippi River. To learn more, visit drivelincolnhighway.com.

Start your trip on Illinois Lincoln Highway with a visit to the Joliet Area Historical Museum

Historic National Road in Illinois

Known as ‘the road that built the nation,’ The National Historic Road was created in 1806 by President Thomas Jefferson and opened the state up to settlement. Today, the road in Illinois stretches 164 miles from Marshall to East St. Louis. Travelers can journey along the road to see where Lincoln’s political career began. To learn more, visit nationalroad.org.

Make a pit stop at Cahokia Mounds, the largest prehistoric civilization north of Mexico

Historic Route 66

America’s most famous road, the historic Route 66 originates in Chicago and stretches across America. In Illinois, travelers can get their kicks along the 436 mile historic Route 66 from Chicago to East St. Louis, soaking in kitschy roadside attractions, iconic classic American diners, museums and heartwarming Americana along the way. To learn more, visit illinoisroute66.org.

Shea’s Gas Station Route 66 Museum in Springfield (Photo credit: Springfield CVB)

Illinois River Road

The Illinois River Road meanders along the Illinois River from Havana to Ottawa. Natural areas like Peoria Wildlife Prairie State Park, Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge and Starved Rock State Park provide a beautiful setting, allowing travelers to experience Illinois’ natural resources and countless species of birds, plants, fish and other wildlife. To learn more, visit illinoisriverroad.org.

St. Louis Canyon at Starved Rock State Park on the Illinois River Road

Meeting of the Great Rivers

The Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway offers one of the most breathtaking road trips in the Midwest, through the majestic landscape where the Missouri and Illinois Rivers meet the Mississippi. The road winds along a 33 mile path, following the Mississippi on the western edge of the state, from Hartford to Grafton. The byway passes through towns like Elsah, Alton and Godfrey. To learn more, visit greatriversbyway.com.

Scenic views near Alton (Photo credit: Alton CVB)

Ohio River Scenic Byway

The byway is a 188 mile journey along the majestic Ohio River, from the Indiana border to the Mississippi River at Cairo. Passing through towns like Golconda and Elizabethtown, the Ohio River Scenic Byway offers a glimpse into an area of Illinois rich with Civil War history, outdoor adventure, geological wonders and more. To learn more, visit ohioriverscenicbyway.net.

Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

The St. Charles Scarecrow Festival, one of the most anticipated events of the fall season, is back again this year to bring smiles to the faces of both children and adults. Festival-goers can enjoy the best of fall with an arts and crafts show, carnival, petting zoo, live entertainment, great food and the famous Scarecrow Contest. The weekend happenings will take place from Friday, Oct. 5 to Sunday, Oct. 7 in downtown St. Charles. Admission, parking, trolleys and parking shuttles are free.

Photo credit: Mark Segal

Scarecrow contest entries will be on display throughout the festival weekend. Individuals, families, businesses, clubs and organizations can enter the contest and compete in a variety of categories. This year, categories include mechanical, traditional, whimsical, St. Charles Business, Children’s Clubs and Organizations, and family. Try your hand at creating your own scarecrow masterpiece and enter the contest here.

The festival weekend is a great opportunity to spend time in St. Charles, located only one hour west of Chicago along the banks of the Fox River. St. Charles bursts with natural charm and offers paddlewheel riverboat cruises, parks and trails, antique and boutique shops, public art displays, theater, fantastic dining and a picturesque downtown area. Families can unwind after the festival and stay at the Midwest’s largest entertainment resort, Pheasant Run Resort or the historic riverfront landmark, Hotel Baker.

Photo credit: Mark Segal

Here are some great attractions to visit while in town for the Scarecrow Festival:

St. Charles Paddlewheel River BoatsHop on board the Fox River Queen or St. Charles Belle paddlewheel riverboats and cruise the scenic Fox River.

Hickory Knolls Discover CenterExplore an indoor turtle pond and wetland exhibit live animal displays and interactive floor-to-ceiling murals.

Great Western TrailAdventure on the 17-mile trail connecting the communities of St. Charles and sycamore in the beautiful LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve.

Fabyan Villa Museum and Japanese GardenUncover the splendor of the former George Nelle Fabyan estate, remodeled in 1907 by famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Kuipers Family FarmEnjoy apple picking, pumpkin picking, an orchard store and delicious bakery at the family-run farm.

Kane County Forest PreserveDiscover over 18,000 acres of woodlands, wetlands and prairies.

To learn more about things to do and see in St. Charles this fall, check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

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 enjoyillinois.com and don’t forget to request a free 2012 Illinois Travel Guide.

Enjoy!

-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 EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism