Midwest Living Review
Located along a broad bend of the Mississippi River near its confluence with the Missouri River, Alton's identity is largely tied to the meeting of these two waterways. Tourism is centered largely on the riverfront casino and the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. Along with the neighboring river towns of Elsah and Grafton (10 and 15 miles upriver, respectively), the River Bend region can make for a lovely weekend trip. Alton (population 31,000) is not so much a destination on its own, though it likely has something of interest to most folks passing through on the byway. The riverfront Argosy casino is a big draw. A new outdoor amphitheater and pedestrian bridge provide another gathering spot along the riverfront, hosting concerts and the annual Miles Davis jazz festival in May. (The late trumpeter was born in Alton and raised in nearby East St. Louis.) A free river museum explains the ecology of the river and gives an up-close look at a working lock and dam. You'll find good antiques shopping along the main street and several well-tended B&Bs around town to host overnight guests. Come in winter and you'll be treated to one of the largest concentrations of bald eagles in the nation. An estimated 1,000 gather here to fish in the open waters before returning north in spring.