Top Things to Do in Alton and Grafton, Illinois | Midwest Living

Top Things to Do in Alton and Grafton, Illinois

The 33-mile Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway takes travelers to riverboat ports like Grafton and Alton as well as to Pere Marquette State Park and other destinations that fill a weekend getaway.


Alton Stained Glass Works Colorful art glass includes windows and wall hangings, beads, and jewelry. Relax in the Artisans’ Lounge with a cup of tea or glass of wine; fuel your creative side with classes teaching stained-glass techniques or glass-bead creation.

Audubon Center at Riverlands Scope out some of the nearly 300 bird species that have been spotted at this center near the confluence of the Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri rivers in West Alton, Missouri (just across the border from Alton, Illinois).

Grafton Winery and Brewhaus Try samples from a family- owned winery that produces 20 wines (and six beers). The patio provides river views.

Grafton Zipline and Sky Tour at Aerie’s Resort Admire the forest canopy from above when you’re on the nine-line, two-hour tour. Opening in 2019: the Grafton Sky Tour via “chondola,” an open-air chairlift and enclosed gondola on the same lift linking Main Street with Aerie’s Resort and Winery.

Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail Take a self-guided tour to statues, cemeteries and other sites that reflect life here in the mid-1800s. Pick up a brochure at the Alton Visitor Center or download a free trail app.

Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail

Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail

Mississippi Mud Pottery We love the locally made stoneware—and the affordable prices— at this Alton shop.

Handmade pieces tempt at Mississippi Mud Pottery.

Mississippi Mud Pottery

National Great Rivers Museum Try to steer a barge down the Mississippi or control the flow of water in a lock at the museum’s interactive exhibits, then take a guided tour of the lock and dam.

Pere Marquette State Park Twelve miles of easy trails lead to Illinois River views in the 8,000-acre park, 6 miles west of Grafton. The park’s 1930s wood-and-stone lodge serves specialties like fried chicken and catfish; stay in a remodeled room.

Pere Marquette State Park

Prairie Peddler Antiques Browse 18th- and 19th- century antiques both large (case clocks) and small (spatterware cups) in Alton.

World's Tallest Man Statue See how you measure up to the life-size statue of Alton native Robert Pershing Wadlow, who was 8 feet 11.1 inches tall. 


Gentelin’s on Broadway Visit Alton’s fine-dining restaurant for dinners like black-bean cakes and tempura lobster.

The Loading Dock Grafton’s open-air bar along the Mississippi offers a place to unwind and enjoy catfish fritters along with live music.

My Just Desserts Keep an eye on the chalkboard at this Alton gem, where servers erase each sweet as it runs out. Mrs. Ledbetter’s German Chocolate Pie goes fast. ​

State Street Market Try European-influenced salads, soups and sandwiches in a brick Alton building.

State Street Market.

State Street Market


Beall Mansion A 24-hour chocolate buffet and optional in-room spa services are part of the pampering experience at this turn-of-the-19th-century mansion in Alton.

Beall Mansion

Beall Mansion

Ruebel Hotel The Grafton building dates to 1879, but rooms and suites offer modern comforts.

Tara Point Inn and Cottages The views alone are worth a stay at this property on a high bluff in Grafton. Choose main-house rooms or a cottage suite.

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Day trip 

Quincy Architecture and history lure visitors here (115 miles north of Alton). Tour Gov. John Wood’s Mansion, a Greek Revival home with period furniture and art. Find contemporary fine art at Gallery Solaro in a renovated 1857 brewery. A self-guided driving tour shows off buildings of different eras.  

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