It's almost that time again -- summer days are getting shorter and the kids are heading back to school. All those seemingly endless sunny days are coming to a close.

The Great Rivers & Routes region in southwest Illinois has many options for the family to get out and have a blast, just bring on the energy. Some spots you need to reserve ahead of time, but others you can just hop right in. Escape the 'end of summer' blues by gathering up the kids and creating picture perfect fun with these family-friendly activities.

Outdoor Fun

Remember it isn’t going to be hot like this for long, so it is important to soak in the sun and what better way to do that than with a fun water filled day!

Relax on the lazy river at Raging Rivers Waterpark while your kids wade in the large wave pool or overcome some fears by riding down the shark slide. Another wet spot for some family fun would be the Leon Curlew Park and Splash Pad where your kids will have a blast jumping and playing in the water followed being dunked on by the large water bucket. Collinsville Aqua Park has an aqua climb wall and 7 different slides that are sure to get the whole family’s hearts pumping.

After such a fun day at any of these locations you and the family will need some ice-cream to cool you down. Shivers Frozen Custard in Godfrey is a great spot to go when you are looking for amazing frozen custard with an endless amount of topping. Bobby’s Frozen Custard is a landmark and should be celebrated with the family as it will definitely rock your socks off with it’s fun rock and roll theme.

Water isn’t everyone’s thing, but nature could excite the family. Eckert’s Country Store and Farm in Grafton has a very cool and inviting pick your own produce depending on what is in season. Take a ride on the hay wagon and enjoy a day with the family while chowing down on fresh fruit. While in Grafton you may want to visit Pere Marquette State Park as it is a fantastic spot to see some jaw-dropping sights of the river and wild life surrounding it.

Past Grafton you can find the Brussels Ferry which is always a fun way to travel to the other side. Once in Brussels there are a few farms and roadside stops you need to make. Eberlin’s Orchard and Hagen Family Orchard are two spots that offer fresh produce straight from the farm. As of right now the most sought after fruit are Calhoun County’s fresh picked peaches and if you would like to learn more about where these peaches are, find them here.

Visit Willoughby Heritage Farm in Collinsville and get a true feel of 1940’s farm life with tractors, barns, and live animals. This farm will has an upcoming event that will teach the family how to take care of horses and other cool insights.

Bring It Inside

Staying indoors might be the move on some of these really hot summer days. Don’t let the heat get you down. This region has a lot of fun things to participate in.

Have you ever been to an escape room? Try it with family at the Safe Escape Rooms in Glen Carbon where you will all have to put in some big brain power to try and get out of the selected room. The 7th Stone is one of the rooms that is centered around an old Egyptian tale of a pharaoh named Karbaza. You and your family must find the seven tablets within 60 minutes or the pyramids will bring you to your doom. This escape room is kid friendly and has other room options as well.

The Omnidome Virtual Reality also offers an escape room from VR power, but has many other games and fun for the whole family. As of right now they are taking appointments only on Facebook to limit the amount of people they have.

Edison’s Entertainment Complex in Edwardsville is lively in many aspects. Get an all-access pass for the family which lets the whole family bowl, blast it in laser tag, and kill it at the arcade. This will entertain for hours and the plus side is they have a restaurant and drinks for the worn out parents. (Quick tip: They often have specials going on so check the website). Knock some pins down at the Airport Plaza Bowl in Bethalto and if you go online to there website you can sign up and allow your kids to bowl for free. That would save money and create long lasting fun!

Relaxed And Laid Back Fun

Your family has been busy this summer and may need a moment or two to relax and watch a movie. With movies you have a few fun options. One of them would be Marvel Theatre 1 & 2 in Carlinville where the popcorn is freshly popped and you can get a great deal of popcorn, drink and, of course, your movie admission for just $8. Their sister theatre located in Hillsboro is the Orpheum Theatre where they keep the movies sensory friendly in efforts to create a more family oriented atmosphere. The Orpheum Theatre also offers a wide variety of home made flavored popcorn like toffee and cinnamon candy flavors.

A little uncomfortable with the idea of sitting around a large number of people? No problem. Skyview Drive In Theatre in Litchfield is the perfect place for you and the family to catch a classic in the comfort of your own car. Watch some fan favorite movies like Beetlejuice and more. You can sit outside of the car or you can snuggle close to your loved ones in the car. Enjoy this nostalgic way of seeing a movie with the whole family.

Educational Fun

Kick start your kids' brain by showing them some local historical spots and teach them about history. The Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail is a great way to teach your kids about the huge things Lincoln did and how the Civil War changed the way we live today. Check out the diversity in the region and learn more about monuments in the area here. Take a step into the Curiosity Museum where you can find unusual oddities, illusions, and historic torture devices located in the Mineral Springs Mall. Let the kids wonder and question practices followed in the past.

Cahokia Mound’s Interpretive Center showcases the remains of a prehistoric native civilization. Immerse yourself in the past with an exploration of this ancient culture. Outside there are picture perfect views that will attract anyone. There are occupancy limits for a visit to the center so make reservations in advance.

The Treehouse Wildlife Center and H&B Bremer Wildlife Sanctuary are two spots for the family to learn a large amount about the animals that have been protected on the premises. They both are just offering trail walk-through but the family can still learn a lot with pamphlets and other educational tools.

Any of these spots could help end the summer with a bang and make the school year that much better for you and the kids. Keep in mind that quality family time is required for any of these activities. Also be sure to check times and availability to ensure maximum fun.

About the Author

Cailyn Tegel

Cailyn Tegel is a senior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She joined the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau as its Summer 2020 Intern. She is an avid traveler and plans to pursue a career in travel or public relations upon graduation. She is planning a trip to Greece in the Spring of 2021 and has plans to visit all 50 states in the U.S. in the next few years!