Bring the Family to Grafton

Looking to escape on a family adventure?

Grafton Illinois, burrowed into the limestone bluffs of Jersey County, has an abundance of thrills throughout its hills and hollows- and with easy access to the Mississippi River, all ages can enjoy water and wildlife that only the outdoors in the Midwest can offer- travel through four distinct seasons of activities in Grafton and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Adventure in the Hollows

Grafton’s stony landscape is the perfect setting for family activities- Take the 300 feet high Grafton Skytour uphill for scenic panoramic views leading to Aerie’s Resort. Zing down on one of Grafton Zipline Adventure’s fast-paced excursions or on the upcoming Aerie’s Alpine Coaster- a gravity-propelled rollercoaster through the hills and bottoms of the Grafton countryside!

Seeking pure open-air exploration? Pere Marquette State Park, the largest state park in Illinois, is on Grafton’s doorstep offering stays at the expansive Pere Marquette Lodge, RV and primitive camping, multi-difficulty hiking trails, and regular nature events like wildlife hikes, fishing festivals, and conservation days- it’s a great place to see the region’s diverse plant and animal life and catch an unforgettable family photo!

Want a more hooves-on-the-ground approach to see the area? A trail ride on horseback might be what you’re looking for! Pere Marquette Riding Stables offers leisurely hour-long rides through the Jersey County forests. Spend a family day in the saddle and, lasting from September to October, finish your evening at the stables with a roaring bonfire, hay ride, or carriage ride!

Grafton Zipline Adventures

Adventure on the Water

Grafton’s community is built on the Mississippi; the unobstructed riverfront is bustling with businesses and ideal for docking boats and watersport access.

Dock your own vessel at Grafton Harbor or rent a tritoon boat for the day. The Hakuna Matata specializes in public day excursions and holds themed outings with music, food, and holiday themes- bring out your river pirate and cruise the same storied waters as the outlaw Jesse James- the magnificent sunsets and views alone are worth the cruise!

Want more one-on-one time on the water? The wetlands surrounding the river are great places to explore by kayak, canoe, paddleboard, or by taking the kids on a fishing trip! All of the above is possible by visiting Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge- plus you can spot animals like wintering American Bald Eagles, white-tailed deer, pelicans, turtles, and more!

Take a river journey on the Hakuna Matata -- sailing out of Grafton Harbor.

Adventure Through the Seasons

There is something to do all times of the year in Grafton- cool off on a hot summer day at Raging Rivers Water Park or take the littles to Turtle Park to see the sculptures and Grafton Lighthouse. From May to August, families can enjoy a variety of live music during the Grafton Music in the Park series held at The Grove Memorial Park.

Fall in the river city brings leaf-peeping opportunities as the trees don their brightest shades and renowned Calhoun peaches and crisp apples ripen across the region. Pick your own fresh at Eckert’s Country Store and Farms- take a wagon ride, select a perfect carving pumpkin, and savor the sweetness of home-grown produce!

As winter sets in, the colder months allow The Loading Dock Ice Rink to open. Skate in the frosty air, have some hot food, and gather around an after-skate fire with a cup of hot cocoa to warm your bones. In spring, the rink is converted into The Riverside Flea Market, one of the largest markets of its kind in the region, offering local goods, crafts, and antiques.

No matter the temperature, Grafton’s warm atmosphere is open for families to explore, restore, and seek the outdoors!

About the Author

Kayla Howland

Kayla Howland is a local writer and artist who lives in Alton, IL with her Cairn Terrier, Ripley. She enjoys fiction and non-fiction writing, graphic design, painting, drawing and photography. Kayla is a graduate of Southwestern High School and Lewis & Clark Community College. She has worked doing freelance graphic design, photography and commissioned paintings since 2012.