Trip Guide to Alton, Elsah and Grafton, Illinois | Midwest Living
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Trip Guide to Alton, Elsah and Grafton, Illinois

The 33-mile Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway along connects Pere Marquette State Park in the north to Grafton and Alton. Riverboat ports, museums and antiquing fill a weekend getaway.
Beall Mansion’s inviting front porch in Alton.
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Do

Alton Antique Center It’s easy to spend hours browsing the treasures artfully arranged around themes (country decor, Asian-inspired items, Parisian porcelain) in this 10,000-square-foot store. (618) 463-0888

Alton Stained Glass Works Colorful art glass includes windows and wall hangings, beads and jewelry. (618) 462-4145; altonartglass.com

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). http://riverlands.audubon.org

Grafton Winery and Brewhaus A family-owned winery pours samples of 20 wines (and five or six beers). The patio provides river views. (618) 786-3001; thegraftonwinery.com

Grafton Zipline Adventures Admire the forest canopy from above when you’re on the 2,000-foot-long Soaring Eagle line or one of eight other thrilling zips. graftonzipline.com

Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail Bronze sculptures depict Lincoln and Douglas at the site of their final debate. It’s one of 10 sites on a self-guided history trail; pick up a brochure at the Alton visitors center or download a free trail app for your smartphone. (618) 465-6676; visitalton.com/lincoln

Mississippi Mud Pottery We love the locally made stoneware—and the affordable prices—at this Alton shop. (618) 462-7573; mississippimudpottery.com

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. (877) 462-6979; mtrf.org

Pere Marquette State Park Twelve miles of easy trails lead to Illinois River views in the 8,000-acre park, 5 miles north of Grafton. The park’s 1930s wood-and-stone lodge serves specialties like fried chicken and catfish; stay in one of the remodeled rooms. (618) 786-3323; dnr.illinois.gov

Prairie Peddler Antiques Browse 18th- and 19th-century antiques both large (case clocks, Windsor chairs) and small (cookie molds) in Alton. theprairiepeddlerantiques.com

Eat

Gentelin’s on Broadway Visit Alton’s fine-dining restaurant for dinners like black-bean cakes and wild mushroom ravioli.  (618) 465-6080; gentelinsonbroadway.com

The Loading Dock The open-air bar along the Mississippi offers a place to unwind and enjoy catfish fritters or burgers. In Grafton. (618) 786-3494; graftonloadingdock.com

State Street Market New owners serve European-influenced salads, soups and sandwiches in a brick Alton building. (618) 462-8800

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 Chocolate Pie goes especially fast. (618) 462-5881; myjustdesserts.org

Stay

Beall Mansion A 24-hour chocolate buffet and optional in-room spa services are part of the experience at this turn-of-the-19th-century mansion in Alton.  (618) 474-9100; beallmansion.com

Ruebel Hotel Though the Grafton building traces its history to 1879, rooms offer modern comforts. Relax at the restored oak bar from the St. Louis World’s Fair. (618) 786-2315; ruebelhotel.com

Tara Point Inn and Cottages The views alone are worth a stay at this property on a high bluff in Grafton. Choose between main-house rooms or a cottage suite  (618) 786-3555; tarapoint.com

For information:  visitalton.com, enjoygrafton.com

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. seequincy.com  

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