Over the past three years, we have visited Peoria during the spring, summer, fall and winter, and each visit revealed enjoyable shops, attractions, restaurants and a great hotel (the renovated boutique Mark Twain Hotel). Restaurants and a handful of galleries and shops flourish beside pretty parks and trails. The area teems with farm stands and crafters' booths during the Riverfront Market on Saturday mornings, spring through fall. The Spirit of Peoria, an authentic turn-of-the 20th-century stern-wheeler cruises from the riverfront. New restaurants seem to always pop up on Prospect Road in Peoria Heights, and during Christmastime, the fabulous Festival of Lights in East Peoria is among the most remarkable displays we've ever seen.