Beautiful hand-crafted bowls from Mississippi Mud Pottery make wonderful Christmas gifts for people of all ages.

Great Rivers & Routes Made Holiday Gift Guide

Have yourself a merry little Christmas this year, and brighten your season with gifts and special treats from the Great Rivers & Routes region in southwest Illinois.

Local makers are in the holiday spirit this year and ready to put a little jingle in your holiday gift giving plans. Looking for that great holiday gift for a one-of-a-kind friend or family member? Check out the locally crafted pottery, furniture, wines, craft beer, baked goods and more in this online gift guide!

7 Spots to Find Local Hand-Crafted Gifts from the Great Rivers & Routes Region

1. Mississippi Mud Pottery: When it comes to creating beautifully distinct and useful products, look no further than local potters at Mississippi Mud Pottery in Alton and Crocker & Springer in Elsah. Chad Nelson and Felicia Breen at Mississippi Mud Pottery bring their skills as artists and passion for clay pottery to their Alton storefront where a wide variety of mugs, plates, dishes, platters and beyond are available in a wide variety of patterns and colorways. Want a specific piece? Special orders are no problem.

3. Crocker & Springer: Founders Jonathan and Jan Wright bring to life early American salt-glazed and redware pottery. Choose from crocks, plates, platters, ornaments and more.

4. David Stine Furniture in Dow features custom-crafted furniture created from the heart of American hardwoods. Each piece has its own character and flavor. Stine creates the magic in his workshop where traditional craftsmanship and sustainable practices come together. Stine grows, harvests and mills the wood used in the furniture from his family's 500-acre wooded property. Stine's story is as engaging and creative as his handcrafted pieces.

5. Alton Stained Glass Works: The beauty of handcrafted stained glass is on display at Alton Stained Glass Works in downtown Alton. Since 1993, the store has offered custom stained glass pieces ranging from windows, mirrors, mosaics, lamps, jewelry and more. Classes and materials for creating your own stained glass beauty are on hand.

6. Cox's Mill: Recycled and reused metals have a new life at Cox's Mill in Grafton, located just below Aerie's Resort. A gift shop and metal art studio highlight the new addition to Grafton's downtown retail scene.

7. Water Sweets Soaps: Pick up a handcrafted natural bath and body product at Water Sweets Soaps in Edwardsville. An in-house soap crafter creates the soaps, bath bombs, lotion bars, sugar scrubs and more. All products are created without preservatives or chemicals and are perfect stocking stuffers.

santa with a bottle of wine at the Grafton Winery & Brewhouse
Make the holidays merry and bright with a bottle of locally crafted wine from Grafton Winery & Brewhaus.

Holiday Craft Flavors

Put some extra cheer in the holidays with local craft beers, wines and spirits! Take your pick of local craft beer in growlers or six pack cans from a variety of craft brewers scattered throughout the region. Here are 6 top spots to check out!

1. Old Bakery Beer, Alton: Did someone say they want a Beermosa for the holidays? You are in luck! Old Bakery Beer, which celebrated five years of brewing up creative brews, has several new blends ready for holiday giving. Grab a four-pack of Beermosa, a wheat beer flavored with oranges, or OPE, a cream ale with its lightly sweet grainy flavor. Or discover a new IPA, amber, stout or pale ale -- all perfect for the beer connoisseur on your list.

Old Herald Spirits bottles of spirits on display
Get in the spirit of the holidays at Old Herald Spirits.

2. Old Herald Brewery & Distillery, Collinsville: Beer and spirits are on tap at this local brewery and distillery housed in a former newspaper production building in downtown Collinsville. Take your pick of gin, rum, agave and vodka -- all distilled onsite. While the spirits are guaranteed to be perfect for sipping and mixing, have some fun with the bottle labels which celebrate the spirits' Midwestern heritage! If spirits aren't on your holiday gift list, check out the craft brews which range from a local hefeweizen to cream ales, kolsch and dark ales. Not sure what to choose? Old Herald has gift cards available.

3. Opera House Brewing Company, Hillsboro: Discover some truly inspiring craft brews created in this historic opera house in downtown Hillsboro. Grab some growlers and fill them with beers like Stamps Wygale, West Coast Wisdom or Burdock. Many other craft brews available.

4. Bluestem Vodka, Bethalto: This local vodka is distilled from corn and cut with reverse osmosis water. Pick up a bottle during a holiday weekend tour.

5. Grafton Winery & Brewhaus, Grafton: The wine makers at Grafton Winery have been in the wine business since 2008 and have developed some of the best Illinois crafted wine in the state. From it's festive "Holiday Crapple" wine to Peach, Apple Crisp, Raspberry Kiss, and newer blends Vignoles and Vidal Blanc (both wines produced from grapes grown in its Grafton vineyards), there are plenty of gifting choices. Select from bottles or give the gift of the Grafton Winery Wine Club for year round enjoyment.

baker making cookies at Kruta Bakery
Kruta Bakery has been delighting customers in the region with their mouth-watering sweet treats for over 100 years.

Local Bakers and Chefs Dish Up Holiday Treats

A highlight of the holiday season is the abundance of holiday treats. The Great Rivers & Routes region is full of local bakers and cooks who pull out all the stops when it comes to creating the perfect holiday confection.

Great Rivers & Routes Bakeries

Don't show up empty handed at your next holiday event. Stop by Kruta Bakery in Collinsville and pick up a mouthwatering stollen, strudel, coffee cake, pie or cookies. Kruta has created tempting treats daily for over 100 years and is famous for its Eastern European-based family recipes. Shop early. Treats sell out quickly!

Looking for more sweet treats? A Little Taste of Heaven Bakery and The Cup, both in Edwardsville, Duke Bakery in Alton and Jubelt's Bakery in Litchfield specialize in delectable pastries, cookies and baked goods. Check out more options here.

Regional Coffee Houses

What pairs well with sweet holiday treats? Coffee, of course. Several local businesses roast their own coffee beans and serve up the hot -- or icy -- cup of joe daily. Gather up freshly roasted beans, or have some ground, and give the gift of local coffee this year. Goshen Coffee in Edwardsville sells its beans at its new Goshen Coffee Cafe. Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters in Hillsboro brings coffee roasting methods perfected in Central America to the Midwest. Alton's Post Commons has started roasting its own sustainably sourced coffee beans and has new blends available under its Idle Roasting Company brand. Stop by for bags of single sourced coffee or a growler of fresh brewed heaven.

Where to Find the Spice

Warm up this holiday season with a bowl of chili from Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor. The chili is cooked up in Carlinville from a 100-plus year old recipe which has been preserved to this day. The secret recipe chili is available in cans or in fresh quarts directly from the Carlinville restaurant. Better yet, treat the gang and dine in at the chili parlor located on the city square.

Spice up your holidays with some award winning sauces and seasonings from Collinsville BBQ Supply in Collinsville. The spice blends were created by barbecue enthusiasts and grill masters who wanted to take their grilling skills to a new level. Variety gift packs are available at the Collinsville store along with all the necessary grilling supplies every backyard cook desires.

Nothing like a steaming bowl of spicy chili from Taylor's Mexican Chili Parlor to warm you up on a cold day.