8 Things to Do In Southern Illinois


Jun 27

Compared to the other parts of the state, Southern Illinois is significantly different in terms of nature and the landscape. When it comes to things to do in Southern Illinois, you will never run out. It is a beautiful region with interesting attractions you should not miss when you visit.
In this article, we listed some of the things you would not want to miss when you visit Southern Illinois along with other useful tips to make your trip more exciting.



Fort Kaskaskia

A couple of miles south of Ellis Grove, Fort Kaskaskia is located next to the river. The French constructed it in 1759 to defend themselves against British attacks. Today, all remains are lonely barriers around the perimeter, a burial ground from the late 1800s and breathtaking views. It is a nice spot for a picnic, with grills and tables openly available.

Fort Kaskaskia view

If you are into French colonial structural design, check out the Pierre Menard Home, constructed in 1802 for the person who became the first lieutenant governor of the state.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site

Another site to go if you are a history buff is Cahokia Mounds, which is located about 13 kilometers northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. This is North Mexico’s biggest pre-Columbian settlement. It was occupied mainly throughout the

Mississippian period

With a lot of satellite mound centers and copious remote villages and settlements, it’s a remarkable example of a complex chiefdom society. This beautiful society is believed to have had 10,000 to 20,000 between the years 1050 and 1150. The main features at the location include the biggest prehistoric earthwork in the continent, Monks Mound, which covers more than 5 ha and stands 30 meters tall.

Lewis & Clark State Historic Site

Thos 14,000 square-foot exhibit area has 6 galleries that showcase the story and history of the Lewis and Clark excursion from its beginning to its significance for what America is today.

Lewis & Clark State Historic Site

The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site honors Camp Dubois, the 1803-1804 winter camp of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It was at Camp Dubois where Corps of Discovery members set their trip to the Pacific Ocean.

Today, they offer kid-friendly exhibits that offer a chance for hands-on engagement. A renovation of the winter camp, Camp Dubois, is situated on the grounds close to the visitor center. The design of this place imitates 1803 U.S. Army guidelines for the military posts construction. There are interpreters on-site in the camp every day to explain more of the history.


Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge pond

Situated in the southernmost part of Illinois, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge covers parts of Pulaski, Johnson, Alexander, and Union Counties. This refuge was built in 1990, which meant to protect, restore, and maintain bottomland and wetland forests. 

Cypress Creek offers an excellent home for freshwater bird and other animals, along with many endangered species. The objective of this refuge is to support biodiversity and to educate the public about nature and give them the chance for recreational activities like bird watching, fishing, as well as nature photography


Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

One of the unique things to do in Southern Illinois is to visit a historic bridge. Funded by tolls, The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge was built in the year 1929 as part of the famous Route 66. In the year 1967, a new bridge that carries I-270 was built over the Mississippi and shut down the old bridge. It was left abandoned for 31 years. During that period, this bridge was included in the 1981 film called “Escape from New York” which was named as the 69th Street Bridge.

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

This bridge also had a bad name for crimes and violence while it was unused due to rape and murder that took place here. In the year 1999, the bridge was formally reopened for the use pedestrian and bicycle riders after renovated and its security have improved. 

Today, at the length of one, the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge is the longest bridge for bicycles and pedestrians in the world. The bridge extends to the Mississippi River and offers an important connection in the b-state trails system, which connects to Missouri’s St. Louis Riverfront Trail and Illinois’ MCT Confluence Trail. In the year 2006, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its rich and interesting history.


Shawnee National Forest

Situated in southern Illinois, the natural beauty of Shawnee National Forest is perfect for every type of outdoor activities. Settled between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the landscape of the forest features forests, rolling hills, open lands, creeks, lakes, and rugged cliffs. The mild weather of the area all year round makes it a perfect destination for traveling any season.

The Shawnee National Forest

The Shawnee National Forest is popular for its breathtaking Garden of the Gods and is where the Rim Rock Recreational Trail located. If you are planning to hike, expect to be greeted by wonderful huge walls of rock covered with bright green moss, and trails that roam through canyons below the canopy of the forest.

Some of the must-see locations include Jackson Falls, sited close to the town of Ozark in Shawnee National Forest’s Hidden Springs Ranger District. 


Ariston Cafe

If you want to have a unique approach to America’s history, then make sure to check out Ariston Café. Author Michael Wallis labeled this café as “one of the best the old road has to offer.” As soon as you set your foot here, you can easily tell why.

Ariston Cafe

The owners, Demi and Nick Adam, serve exceptional food and offer excellent service with reasonable rates while continuing the tradition that Nick’s late father began in the year 1924.

Putting up a business in the pits of the Great Depression throughout the 1930s may not be the best idea as per many people, however, Pete Adam along with his partner Tom Cokinos proved otherwise when they opened the Ariston Café in 1935 in Litchfield, Illinois along Route 66.

The Ariston Café now stands out as an erratic survivor of family-run businesses that thrived along the Mother Road throughout the mid-21st century. 


LaRue Pine Hills

Soaring on a 150-foot bluff, the chaotic world seems to simply go by as the eeriness and wonder of the Mississippi plain is sprawling underneath your feet. LaRue Pine Hills is possibly the best spot to make the most of the beauty of the Shawnee National Forest.

LaRue Pine Hills

From the top of the decomposing limestone ridge, suitably called Inspiration Point, you are able to look off to the south, north, and west part of the state and see the majestic Mississippi River. Wonderful nature has formed one of the most diverse and naturally rich environments in not only Southern Illinois but as well as the Midwest. The steep limestone cliffs yield to vibrant swamplands that are copious in rare vegetation and environment. Underneath, you will find the only used roads shut down two times a year for snake migration.


Little Grand Canyon

Little Grand Canyon

While the words little and grand are not commonly used together to describe something, this site proves that they can collide. The Little Grand Canyon is located along the valley of the Big Muddy River and has a huge area of sandstone that has gradually worn into the canyons that we enjoy today.
Hiking the 3.6 loop trail is the best way to experience this place. This will allow you to see the two-side canyon that both direct you to the main canyon. The erosive force has formed sinkholes and curves that will leave you in awe. 


Giant City State Park

Your trip to Southern Illinois wouldn’t be complete without exploring Shawnee Hills. This is a 4,000-acre park that boasts long miles of hiking trails, which of course, includes beautiful sceneries along the way. The Giant City Nature Trail is the most popular trail in the park that guides you through the Giant City’s sandstone "streets".

Giant City State Park

On top of that, the park is home to one of the most rural and gorgeous lodges in the state. Built in the 1930s, this nature-made stone lodge is famous all over the state not only for its pleasant atmosphere as well as its home-fried chicken!

These are only 8 of the many things to do in Southern Illinois. Hopefully, this article has helped you decide which places you should not miss throughout your visit. If you find this article helpful, make sure to share this with your family and friend. If you have other questions or suggestions, let us know in the comment below!

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    About the Author

    Hi, I’m Alice Ross, a long-term traveler who left the corporate world to travel the world. I chose to live life on my own phase and live day by day while immersing myself in new experiences, new knowledge, and new people in a different walk of life I met along the way.

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