Did you know that Sunday, May 7 is National Tourism Day? What better way to spend the day than rediscovering Madison County?! In celebration of National Tourism Day, we’ve compiled a list of 13 places we think you should visit in Madison County. Check them out below!
Alton Museum of History and Art – Stop by the Alton Museum of History and Art to learn about some fun and interesting historical events that took place in Alton! From the Civil War to the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, this museum has a lot of great information about the historic town. Don’t forget to visit the towering statue of Robert Pershing Wadlow, Alton’s Gentle Giant, close by!
Brooks Catsup Bottle Water Tower – Travel south on 159 through Collinsville and you will notice the famous catsup bottle tower gracing the horizon. This unique structure has been garnering the attention of many travelers nationwide since 1949. We think it’s definitely worth a drive-by!
Chouteau Island – Located only 8 miles north of the Arch, this manmade island was created during the construction of the Chain of Rocks Canal between 1946 and 1953. Drive over on the Canal Bridge and enjoy the 3,200 acres that Chouteau Island has to offer, including walking and biking trails, recreational areas, and more!
Confederate Prison in Alton – History buff? You’re going to want to check out the ruins of the Alton Federal Military Prison, also known as the Confederate Prison. This prison, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was used during the Civil War to house more than 11,000 Confederate prisoners. Closed in 1865, the prison was later demolished – all that stands is the ruins of one of the walls.
Confluence Tower – There’s a true sight to behold at the top of the Confluence Tower in Hartford! See the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers as they collide together in a breath-taking view. The tower has 3 different height levels – 50 feet, 100 feet, and 150 feet – for your viewing pleasure, and you can enjoy interactive exhibits, videos, graphic panels, and maps at the tower as well.
Great River Road – If you’re looking for a nice drive to get away and enjoy the scenery, the Great River Road is it! Enjoy the beautiful Mississippi River and gaze at the beautiful limestone bluffs that border the road. Want to bike or hike instead? Try out the Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail, which spans between Alton and Pere Marquette State Park!
Horseshoe Lake State Park – Did you know that this lake is the 2nd largest natural body of water in Illinois after Lake Michigan? Yep! Horseshoe Lake State Park is home to at least 287 bird species, including the wintering Canadian geese and American bald eagles. This picturesque park is the perfect place for a picnic, and there are 3 playgrounds, 2 volleyball areas, and areas for you to fish, camp, and do a bit of hiking through the island’s natural vegetation!
Lewis and Clark State Historic Site – At the southern end of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route lies the camp of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, an adventure that occurred between December 1803 and May 1804. Check out the outdoor replica of Camp River Dubois and the interpretive center, which has a theater, several hands-on exhibits, displays, and even a 55-foot full-scale cutaway keelboat!
Lincoln Douglas Square – Step back in history and check out the Lincoln Douglas Square, which is located in Alton! This is the exact location where the debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place when both were campaigning for the same US Senate seat in 1858. It’s also a great place for a photo-op!
Melvin Price Locks and Dam – Head about 17 miles north of St. Louis and discover this impressive engineering feat in Alton! You can also visit the National Great Rivers Museum at the locks and dam and learn about its history and importance through the museum’s fun exhibits.
Monks Mound at Cahokia Mounds – Of course, a tour of Madison County would be incomplete without a stop at Cahokia Mounds! The largest mound, Monks Mound, stands at 100 feet and is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas. Waiting for you atop the mound is a beautiful view, which includes the city of St. Louis to the west. Don’t forget to check out the nearby exhibit and gift shop afterward!
The Piasa Bird Painting – If you’ve read our previous blog, you probably know quite a bit about the legendary man-eating bird that once terrorized Alton. When you’re traveling north on the Great River Road outside of Alton, make a pit stop to gaze up at the mysterious Piasa Bird painting!
The Watershed Nature Center – Tucked away in the northwestern portion of the city of Edwardsville is the beautiful Watershed Nature Center! It’s home to more than 40 acres of prairie, forest, and wetland habitats. You can enjoy walking on the paved walking trails while surveying creatures of all sorts in their natural habitats!
Where do you plan to visit and rediscover this Tourism Day? Tell us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!