Quaint shops hold treasures waiting to be discovered in Illinois' historic river town of Alton. Pair the trip with neighboring Grafton for a weekend of shopping and sipping.

By By Margaret Doyle
Tara Point Inn and Cottages. Photo: Jay Wilde

Alton's Antique District includes working studios such as Alton Stained Glass Works and Mississippi Mud Pottery, where visitors watch artisans create one-of-a-kind pieces.

Mississippi Mud Pottery, Alton. Photo: Jay Wilde

The relatively new (open in 2015) Old Bakery Beer Company occupies a downtown 1800s building. The seasonal menu complements the organic beers, such as The Observer, which is also brewed for nearby Elijah P's. Named for local abolitionist Elijah P. Lovejoy, the brewpub serves burgers on house-made sesame buns.

Old Bakery Beer Company. Photo: Adam Alexander/Courtesy of IOT

Get ready for a ride to Grafton via the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, sandwiched between towering limestone cliffs and the meandering Mississippi River. Shopping treasures in Grafton's Main Street stores include authentic Native American crafts at Pajarito and works by area artists at The White Pelican Art Gallery. The decks of Grafton Winery and Brewhaus and Tara Point Inn and Cottages boast river views that are especially spectacular at sunset.

Tara Point Inn and Cottages. Photo: Jay Wilde


Lewis and Clark history fills the Alton/Grafton area. The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site tells the explorers' story and features their life-size keelboat and soldier stories shared by interpreters at Camp River Dubois.

The nearby 180-foot-tall Confluence Tower affords amazing views of the swirling Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

For a birds-eye view of 200-foot barges navigating the lock-and-dam system, head to the top of the National Great Rivers Museum.

Cyclists pedal the 20-plus-mile Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail, which begins in Alton's Piasa Park (near the cliffside Piasa Bird mural) and skirts the Mississippi River before ending in scenic Pere Marquette State Park.

Thrill-seekers whiz through the woods on the Grafton Zipline, while bird watchers spy more than 300 species at the Audubon Center at Riverlands.


Gentelin's on Broadway serves creative meals in a contemporary setting with incredible views of Alton's Clark Bridge.

Clark Bridge, Alton. Photo: Jay Wilde

Lentil tacos top the list of likes in the sunny courtyard at Alton's State Street Market.

Close by, Fast Eddie's Bon Air is a legendary roadhouse with bands, beer and cheap eats.

Fast Eddie's Bon Air, Alton. Photo: Courtesy of IOT

In Grafton, it's all about views of the river during dinner. Share catfish fritters on the deck of The Loading Dock overlooking the Mississippi. An array of oysters (such as gulf and bluepoint) is expected at Grafton Oyster Bar, but don't overlook the Cajun and Creole dishes.


Overlooking the panoramic confluence of the rivers sits Grafton's scenic Aerie's Resort, which offers cozy lodging as well as award-winning sips at on-site Aerie's winery.

Alton's Beall Mansion is an opulent bed-and-breakfast offering in-room massages and a 24-hour chocolate buffet to spoil guests.

Beall Mansion, Alton. Photo: Jay Wilde

For more information on this getaway or other Illinois adventures, visit enjoyillinois.com.