Points of Interest
These are places & activities we think are fun, kid-oriented, and available to area residents:
Our Lady of the Snows Shrine: This 200 acre setting is the largest in the country. During the six weeks before Christmas, almost 400,000 people visit the shrine to see the spectacular "Way of Lights". There is a gift shop and a motel, an apartment community for seniors and a very good restaurant.
Cahokia Mounds Museum: The Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site marks the location of an ancient native American Indian city. Cahokia is a 2000 acre site where the Mississippian indian culture thrived for over 1,000 years. The 65 man-made burial mounds and wooden sun calendar are some of the finest existing examples of high native American indian culture in the country. A recently completed interpretive center explains the world of Cahokia in an astonishing way. It also offers year-round craft classes, tours and lectures. 618- 346-5160
Splash City- 12 acres of interactive water play for the whole family nearby in Collinsville. The Water Park features include: endless river, two water slides, radio-controlled lagoon and more. If you want to experience even more thrills in the water, head out to Raging Rivers Water Theme Park: Open in the summer, it's the first phase of "The Palisades" development in Grafton. The 1,200 acre tract will also include a hotel, condos, a golf course and a tennis court. Kids love it.
Eagle Watching... especially in the Alton area and north. Feeding on fish, large numbers of bald eagles are wintering along the river, especially at Alton. Contact the Alton Chamber of Commerce for details. A few stay year-round.
Apple Picking...and pumpkins, and raspberries, and strawberries and peaches. There are a large number of fruit farms in southwest Illinois that cater to families wishing to pock their own fruit, and enjoy a family picnic on best fall days. The season is short, starting around Labor Day and running into November. The Jonathan is the most prominent apple, but most varieties are available. There are a large number north and east of Alton, at Marine and around Belleville. Prominent are Mills at Marine, 887-4732 (which includes wagon rides, fresh baked goodies and a restaurant), Eckert's, 786-3445 (at Grafton and Belleville), Schlueter's and many many others.
Shopping: This seems to top everyone's list! The area is anchored by two large shopping malls:St. Clair Square Shopping Center in Fairview Heights and Alton Square in Alton. Both rival the large shopping malls of St. Louis, with St. Clair contending for the busiest anywhere. There are naturally a wide variety of specialty stores and boutiques, specialties for almost every occasion. Of course the major malls of St. Louis are only minutes away, too!
Antique Hunting....everywhere! There are lots of shops around, in most country towns, many in Belleville, and several blocks along Broadway in Alton, more than 50 stores in the same neighborhood. We know of families that make money at it, and have a good time, too. Craft Fairs are also plentiful in Southern Illinois, with a couple of monsters at Belleville Fairgrounds and the Campus at SIUE. A little farther to drive, but Branson, Missouri has all kinds of crafts, almost all year long.
Fishing...There are a thousand ponds and a hundred lakes for Bass, Bluegill, and Crappie...but don't miss Catfish fishing. Locals do jugs, trout-lines, floaters and a variety of techniques to outwit this Midwestern phenomenon. Even bullheads are fun, but "channels" even better...and good eating, too. And you could even learn to appreciate Carp at one of the great restaurants at Grafton. (The "Fin Inn" even has a freshwater aquarium with river fish, including a rare albino catfish.) There are commercial fisherman at Grafton in fact...great fun to watch and talk to.
The Great River Road Country : Truly a national treasure! Running alongside the Mississippi to the west and the great limestone bluffs to the east is so much more than a pleasant Sunday drive in the country. The area, tretching north from Alton to Grafton and Elsah, is chock full of historical significance and natural beauty. It's a superb day trip for an historical lesson and taking in nature's wonders. The area was first viewed in the late 17th century by Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. Marquette recorded seeing the Piasa Bird, an indian creation of a bird-like monster painted on a cliff. The historic village of Elsah is an important stop, and in the winter especially, you need to look for eagles who winter here, fishing for food in the river...one of their dives for fish is memorable! There are several bed and breakfasts along the way...one in Elsah and one high on the bluffs overlooking simply everything! Antique shops are found in Alton, Elsah and Grafton. The Alton Marine hosts hundreds of pleasure boats that ply Alton Lake, created by Lock and Dam #27, a marvel in itself. Across the lake you'll see "Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine", where an annual blessing of the boats place in spring. Paralleling the river road is a paved bike trail, (Vadabalence Bike Trail"...a name pointedly significant to the author...ask Merrill about it.) At the road's north end is a ferry across the Illinois River to Brussels and Hardin and beautifully remote Calhoun County. At Alton is the just-opened Clark Bridge, featuring a one-of-a-kind suspension system where cables are suspended from just two concrete pilons...gorgeous! At the north end is Pere Marquette State Park...a lodge on 8000 rustic acres with views of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, a great restaurant featuring a 700 stone fireplace and the world's largest chess set. The area also offers commercial and private fishing of all kinds, and the area is on the Mississippi flyway...geese and ducks abound near round...and all kinds of wildlife! The following are related:
State Parks...of Missouri and Illinois are all available...lots of woods and trails and lots of water. There are probably 30 within easy driving distance.
Sailing & Boating... Southern Illinois has several lakes, all within driving distance, including Carlyle, Alton, Lake of the Ozarks, Crab Orchard and others.
Cycling...There are many places to go besides Vadabalene Trail, obviously, but country roads everywhere. The Katy Trail in nearby Missouri is super. So are "Bluff Roads" near Columbia, and in front of SIUE, and they are flat.
Bridges...Two bridges you must see: The old Eads Bridge, (walk below it and on it, if possible...) and the new Clark Bridge at Alton, (one of a kind design...incredible!) The supports for the Eads Bridge are made of cut stone and absolutely massive! They go to bedrock, (deeper on the Illinois side), and the story of construction (using cassons far below the water line) is incredible. Steel was also new! And it's still used. It played a part in history, too, focusing the railroads east instead of northeast ... bypassing Alton for the moment. Also of interest to bridge lovers, the Lock and Dam # 26...offering tours of the single biggest Corps of Engineers project ever! Brand new and awesome! Eagles look for fish below the dam in the winter.
City of O'Fallon, IL
255 South Lincoln, O'Fallon, IL 62269
Tel: (618) 624-4500 Fax: (618) 624-4508
City Hall Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm