Since the 1930s, the 50-foot limestone fireplace at Pere Marquette State Park’s lodge has stood as a source of warmth. A young couple calls on that strength and longevity as they exchange vows in this haven known for its classy architecture and rustic setting.
Set amid 8,000 hilly, tree-dappled acres, the renovated Civilian Conservation Corps-built lodge provides thoughtful hospitality in Grafton, an hour north of St. Louis. (The 33-mile Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway makes the drive fly.) The 72 guest rooms have cozy beds, soft towels and squeaky-clean bathrooms.
Stone and timber maintain the 1930s cabinlike feel; inside, modern comforts await.
Generations battle using knights and queens half their height on a massive chessboard. Families with young kids unwind at the pool overlooking the river valley. Creaky wooden floors lead to the dining room, where patrons settle into high-backed chairs under lantern chandeliers for hearty meals of chops, steaks and amaretto cheesecake.
A chess game here takes more effort
Outside, the clip-clop of hooves from the riding stables floats up from the foothills. A cruise along Scenic Drive leads to incredible Illinois River views. A visit to Pere Marquette doesn’t have to be about getting a workout on trails; sometimes, it’s just good to find serenity in the scene.
While you’re there ...
1 The park is popular during winter, when hundreds of bald eagles dot the Mississippi (it doesn’t freeze, making it easy for the migrating raptors to fish).
2 Locally crafted wine and beer draw crowds to Grafton Winery and Brewhaus. (618) 786-3001; thegraftonwinery.com On warm summer days, kick back at The Loading Dock, a riverside bar. (618) 786-3494; graftonloadingdock.com
3 Admiring Pere Marquette’s forest canopy takes on an adrenaline rush during Grafton Zipline at Aerie's Resort. Even beginners can zoom among the trees. aeriesview.com/zipline
To plan your trip: (618) 786-2331; pmlodge.net
The Illinois River sparkles below Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois.
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