It's that time of year again when we all resolve that the new year will be better. That it will be different. And, of course, those resolutions are tough to keep!

Make the resolution process easier and more rewarding this year by visiting the Great Rivers & Routes region in southwest Illinois.

The area is chock-full of amazing adventures, exciting events, and fabulous fun throughout the year. From family-friendly river escapes to discoveries along America’s Mother Road, Route 66, there are countless reasons to plan an escape to southwest Illinois, just outside St. Louis.

But just to whet your appetite we narrowed the list down to just 10!

Ride to the top of the river bluffs on the Grafton SkyTour (Photo by Scott Evers)

1.    Grafton SkyTour Aerial Lift: Soar 300 feet from Grafton’s Main Street to the tops of the limestone bluffs overlooking the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers on the aerial lift. Choose from an open air chair lift or enclosed gondola for your leisurely ride to up to Aerie’s Resort. While there, enjoy the views, sip a favorite beverage, or enjoy an afternoon of live music on the festival deck. While at Aeries Resort, be sure to schedule a zipping adventure. Fly through the trees on the Grafton river bluffs with a 2 ½ mile zip line adventure with Grafton Zipline Adventures. This family-friendly activity includes two rope suspension bridges, small hiking trails and, a surprise ending.

Fly through the treeline with Grafton Zipline Adventures.


Explore the historically haunted McPike Mansion in Alton. (Photo by Marty McKay)

2.    Ghostly Adventures: Find out why the riverfront community of Alton is considered "one of the most haunted small towns in America". Explore the Mineral Springs Hotel which is known for its EVP readings, disembodied footsteps and more. Spend an evening at McPike Mansion, a once elegant country home, that is now inhabited by spirits of previous owners. 

Route 66 in southwest Illinois (Photo by Scott Evers)

3.   Route 66: Follow the same path that renowned gangster Al Capone took as he journeyed down Route 66 on his rum running adventures. From Virden, just south of Springfield, to Collinsville, minutes from downtown St. Louis, the Mother Road provides a glimpse of nostalgia and a tip of the hat to quirky fun.

Pink Elephant Antique Mall

4.    Pink Elephant Antique Mall: A giant pink elephant greets travelers along the Mother Road joined by a (retired) Uniroyal gal dressed as a waitress, a giant frontier man, an enormous bicycle and bright green UFO Futuro House. But that’s not all! A former school gym on the site, converted into an antique mall, has row after row of displays featuring antiques, collectibles and, vintage goods.  Stop in at the Twistee Treat Diner for some 1950’s replica fun and an ice cream cone. The Pink Elephant Candy Shop has old fashioned penny candy, saltwater taffy and, homemade fudge.

Top of Monks Mounds. (Photo by Mark Ahlvers)

5.    Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Get lost in the past at one of the most intriguing and mysterious places in southwest Illinois. Once one of the largest civilizations in the world, Cahokia Mounds is home to a prehistoric mound civilization that blossomed in the famed American Bottoms between 600 and 1200. The largest of the mounds, Monks Mound, stands 100 feet tall and can be climbed through a series of stairs on the east side of the earthen structure. Visit the interpretive center for a 15-minute movie about the civilization and then tour the more than 80 remaining mounds.

6.    Stay the Night: Plan a weekend getaway, romantic overnight, or family-friendly escape in the Great Rivers & Routes region. From quaint guest houses in historic Mississippi River communities, to elegant bed and breakfast inns to centrally located hotels and motels with all the amenities, we make the decision to spend the night easy. Where you stay is up to you!


Great places to eat and drink just outside St. Louis.

7.    Dine Around:  When it comes to food, the Great Rivers & Routes region has it all. Homestyle fried chicken, juicy steaks, sandwiches, soups, salads, secret-recipe chili and butter bean soup. Take a look at our complete list of restaurants here. You won't leave hungry! Be sure to stop at the six different craft breweries and numerous wineries in the area.


Chain of Rocks Bridge (Photo by @travellinggiraffsen)

8.    Chain of Rocks Bridge: It stretches one mile across the mighty Mississippi River just outside St. Louis and was once a part of Route 66. Now this quirky bridge that has a 20-degree kink in the middle is only accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.


Stomp some grapes at the annual Collinsville Italian Fest.

9.   Festivals: Just about every month of the year, one of the communities within the Great Rivers & Routes region is celebrating something. It could be a festival honoring that pungent root, the horseradish. Or maybe barbeque. Fireworks and the Fourth of July. Food Trucks. Italian Heritage. You name it, there’s probably a celebration for it. Find your next favorite festival here.

Hike along the Madison County Transit Trails or alongside the Mississippi River. (Photo by Mike Cruz)

10.    Miles and Miles of Hiking/Biking Trails: Nearly 200 miles of hiking and biking trails connect the six counties that make up the Great Rivers & Routes region.  From paved paths running alongside the Mississippi River to trails snaking through the prairies, woodlands, beside lakes and throughout the largest state park in the state, the great outdoors beckons.

These are just a few reasons why Great Rivers & Routes should be part of your travel resolution in 2020. For more, click here!