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16 epic things to do in Grafton, Illinois

If you’re looking for an exciting list of things to do in Southern Illinois, look no further than the small town of Grafton.

Although you may not think of it as the obvious choice, this beautiful town is an ideal spot to explore the outdoors, sample delicious wine, and have an amazing vacation.

Here we share a list of the best things to do in Grafton, Illinois.

If you plan on spending a weekend in Grafton, click here to find out the best places to stay.

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Grafton tourist attractions

Highlights
Beautiful fall colors and the Original Office building in the Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois Explore Pere Marquette State Park

Pere Marquette State Park features beautiful natural formations that date back millions of years. It’s also free to visit!

The Grafton zipline Zip at the Grafton zipline

Enjoy the views of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and the surrounding area as you zip through the trees.

The vineyards of the Grafton Winery Visit a winery

Enjoy locally made wine while enjoying views of the rivers and impressive bluffs.

The Grafton Loading Dock Have fun at the Grafton Loading Dock

You can experience live music when you visit the Grafton Loading Dock.

The Grafton Skytour Ride the scenic aerial-lift

Get a unique view of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and the beautiful Southern Illinois landscape from a unique perspective.

Take a river cruise

In this one-of-a-kind tasting room, sail across the waters of Grafton Harbor while sampling an assortment of sweet and dry wines.

Bald Eagle Spot bald eagles

The majestic American Bald Eagles are often spotted soaring over the Grafton, Illinois area during their journey south for the winter. You can often spot them as they fly above or drop down to hunt for fish or small rodents.

Go biking

The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail allows you to travel easily between the Pere Marquette State Park and the nearby town of Alton.

Old picture of Raging Rivers waterpark Visit a water park

The Raging Rivers Water Park offers some fun relief from the heat, whether you are seeking thrills or relaxation!

The Ruebel Hotel in Main Street Grafton Go shopping

Grafton is an ideal place to shop for antiques and locally made goods. You can browse antique shops and vendor booths at flea markets for a unique selection of gifts and souvenirs.

An Owl being cared for in the Treehouse Wildlife Center Visit the Treehouse Wildlife Sanctuary

TreeHouse Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit facility dedicated to helping sick, injured, or orphaned animals and rehabilitating them.

Go horse riding

Explore the gorgeous Pere Marquette State Park on horseback under the supervision of an experienced and knowledgeable guide.

Apple Picking at the Eckert's Farm Visit a farm

You can pick your own fruits when you visit Eckert’s Grafton Farm!

The Great River road near Grafton Drive the Great River Road

Driving along the Great River Road will allow you to explore the area by using the scenic route. Visit during the fall for an abundance of fall colors and falling leaves, although the route is truly beautiful throughout the year.

Anderson Hall Elsah Illinois Explore nearby Elsah

The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and if you’re a fan of history, this is a must-see spot on your Southern Illinois adventure.

Statues where the Lincoln - Douglas debate was held in Alton Discover nearby Alton

The town of Alton dates back to 1818 and has had a long and rich history. It’s a great place to visit for historic sites, quaint shops, and unique landmarks such as the statue of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man. Wadlow grew to be 8 feet and 11 inches tall!

Grafton, Illinois Attractions

Here we share a list of the most fun things to do in Grafton Il.

Beautiful fall colors and the Original Office building in the Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois
Original Office Building in Pere Marquette State Park in the Fall Illinois

Explore Pere Marquette State Park

  • Address: 13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, Illinois 62037
  • Highlights: Pere Marquette State Park features beautiful natural formations that date back millions of years. It’s also free to visit!

Pere Marquette State Park is named after a French missionary who explored the park in the 1600s.

It was first established as an official state park in 1931 but has long been an ideal retreat for those wishing to explore the outdoors.

If you love hiking you’ll find many routes here to explore and you can also enjoy other outdoor activities such as rock climbing and fishing.

Bird watching is another popular activity here as nearly 230 species of birds have been spotted within the limits of the park including bald eagles.

Read more about Pere Marquette State Park here.

Pere Marquette State Parks is also the end point of the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Route. This is a scenic route is also calles the “Seven wonders of Illinois”. You can find more info about this byway here. 

The Grafton zipline
Zip through the trees at Aerie’s Resort (photo credits: Aerie’s Resort)

Zip at the Grafton zipline

  • Address: 14 W Main St, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights: Enjoy the views of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and the surrounding area as you zip through the trees.

For an exciting way to explore Grafton from above the ground, try the zipline at Aerie’s Resort.

Fly through the trees and reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour!

This activity is family-friendly and suitable for most ages, however, those under 18 years old will need to provide a signature from a parent or guardian.

Prices start at $79 and it is highly recommended that you call ahead to make a reservation.

If you’re visiting with a group of eight or more on Monday through Thursday, you’ll have the opportunity to book with a small discount.

The Grafton Zip Lines take roughly two and a half hours to complete so plan accordingly!

Once you finish the course, you can stop by the Aerie’s Resort Winery to sample some locally made wine and food.

The vineyards of the Grafton Winery
The vineyards of the Grafton Winery (photo credits: Grafton Winery)

Visit a winery

  • Address: Multiple
  • Highlights: Enjoy locally made wine while enjoying views of the rivers and impressive bluffs.

Grafton, Illinois is home to several wineries, each with a unique story and selection of blends.

The beautiful landscape in this Southern Illinois region is surprisingly ideal for growing wine grapes and you’ll be able to taste the wine they produce when you visit.

Grafton Winery & Brewhaus is one of the many options and is a great place for those who love beer and wine, especially fruit wines!

Aerie’s Resort offers accommodations and activities in addition to the wine, and Mary Michelle Winery is located within Pere Marquette State Park.

The Grafton Harbor Floating Winery is a truly unique option for those who might be interested in a boat tour.

For specifics about four of the best Grafton wineries and information about how to visit, click here. If you are looking for more wineries in southern Illinois, click here. If you are more into beer, check out this post in which we share the best southern Illinois breweries.

The Grafton Loading Dock
The Grafton Loading dock (photo credits: bk1bennett)

Have fun at the Grafton Loading Dock

  • Address: 401 Front St, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights: You can experience live music when you visit the Grafton Loading Dock.

The Loading Dock is a unique and fun-filled spot where you can relax, eat, and drink the night away.

Indulge in nachos, cheeseburgers, and more at the outdoor dining establishments, and cool off with frozen vodka lemonade or pina coladas from the drink menu.

The Loading Dock is also home to the largest flea market in the area so you can shop for unique items before or after your meal.

In the evenings you can glide on the dock’s own ice rink!

The Grafton Skytour
The Grafton Skytour offers views on the Mississippi (photo credits: Aerie’s Resort)

Ride the scenic aerial-lift

  • Address: 14 W Main St, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights: Get a unique view of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and the beautiful Southern Illinois landscape from a unique perspective.

The Skytour is a system of chairlifts and gondolas that allow you to experience a unique view of the bluffs and surrounding rivers.

You can park in any of the open spaces for free located at their SkyTour gravel lot at 3 W. Clinton St, Grafton, IL 62037 before heading to the ticket office to purchase your lift ticket.

You can book a single ride or you can treat yourself to a SkyTour passport which enables you to take unlimited rides for 35 days after your purchase date.

No matter which option you choose, you’ll be able to use the aerial lift for an unforgettable perspective of the Southern Illinois landscape.

Take a river cruise

  • Address: 215 West Water St, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights:  In this one-of-a-kind tasting room, sail across the waters of Grafton Harbor while sampling an assortment of sweet and dry wines.

The Grafton Harbor Floating Winery tasting room is located on a boat that floats on the waters of Grafton Harbor.

Enjoy the spectacular vistas and relaxing environment while sampling a variety of wines, some of which are on the sweeter side.

If chocolate wines and wine slushies sound appealing to you, you’re in luck as this winery offers both.

There are also several themed cruises such as a Sunday Brunch Cruise or a Chocolate Lovers Cruise where you can sample some of the previously mentioned chocolate wines while exploring the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagles come to winter in Grafton from December to March

Spot bald eagles

  • Address: 13112 Visitor Center Lane Grafton IL 62037
  • Highlights: The majestic American Bald Eagles are often spotted soaring over the Grafton, Illinois area during their journey south for the winter. You can often spot them as they fly above or drop down to hunt for fish or small rodents.

During the winter months, there are many American Bald Eagles spotted in the area.

You may see them fishing in the crisp waters of the Illinois or Mississippi Rivers from early January to late February.

Although there are specific events and locations where you can spot bald eagles in Grafton, you may actually be able to spot them while simply exploring the local parks or other spaces in the region.

You can also take a self-guided tour if you’re interested in seeing them for yourself.

Make sure to stop by the Alton Visitor Center to pick up a copy of the Eagle Watchers Guide which lists all the watching hotspots.

Read Also:

Another place were you might spot bald eagles during winter is in Starved Rock, or Matthiessen Park, or Rock island. Here you can find more info. 

The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail near Pere Marquette State Park

Go biking

  • Address: IL Route 100 Alton IL 62002 (Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail)
  • Highlights: The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail allows you to travel easily between the Pere Marquette State Park and the nearby town of Alton.

Although the address above leads you to a specific trailhead, there are actually several other options for bike trails in the Grafton Illinois area so you can explore the area via bicycle in a variety of directions.

The Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail is highly recommended and very popular with cyclists as it’s paved and well maintained.

Take the 20-mile route from the beautiful Pere Marquette State Park all the way to Alton while enjoying a serene environment and stunning views of the region.

You also have the added benefit of comfort stations including bathrooms located along the route so all you have to do is pack some snacks, water, and cycle to your heart’s content.

Old picture of Raging Rivers waterpark
The raging rivers waterpark in Grafton back in 1980 (photo credits: kdwoutdoors)

Visit a water park

  • Address: 100 Palisades Pkwy, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights: The Raging Rivers Water Park offers some fun relief from the heat, whether you are seeking thrills or relaxation!

Grafton, Illinois can get quite hot during the summer, and if you’re looking for a place to cool off, visit the exciting Raging Rivers Water Park which features slides and spaces for children and adults of all ages.

Float along the 700-foot long Endless River at a slow and relaxing place or plunge down the 500-foot dual Cascade Body Flumes if you’re looking for a thrill.

When you’re ready for a break from the waters you can rent a cabana and grab a bite to eat at the Raging Rivers Sandbar Concessions.

Here you can order a classic hamburger, hotdog, or chicken strips combo along with snacks such as nachos, hot pretzels, or mozzarella sticks.

Don’t forget to cool off with some ice cream!

The Ruebel Hotel in Main Street Grafton
The Ruebel Hotel in Main Street Grafton

Go shopping

  • Address: 118 E Main St.,Grafton, IL 62037
  • Highlights: Grafton is an ideal place to shop for antiques and locally made goods. You can browse antique shops and vendor booths at flea markets for a unique selection of gifts and souvenirs.

Grafton was founded in the 1830s as a port town and has remained a fixture when it comes to quaint shops where you can purchase food and other standard goods as well as antiques and other oddities.

Harrison’s Antiques is one of your options and is found in an 1876 Victorian historic home that offers a wide array of antiques and collectibles as well as holiday decorations which the store sells year-round.

The Riverside Flea Market is another fantastic option – it features over 50 vendors in a scenic spot located along the Landing Dock.

Things to do around Grafton, Illinois

Here we share a list to do near Grafton.

An Owl being cared for in the Treehouse Wildlife Center
An Owl being cared for in the Treehouse Wildlife Center (photo credits: Sherri Easley – Treehouse Wildlife Center)

Visit the Treehouse Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Address: 23956 Green Acres Rd, Dow, IL 62022
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 12 minutes (7.4 miles)
  • Highlights: TreeHouse Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit facility dedicated to helping sick, injured, or orphaned animals and rehabilitating them.

Located between Grafton and the nearby town of Alton, the TreeHouse Wildlife Center is a non-profit organization that was first established in 1979. It is dedicated to preserving native wildlife and increasing environmental awareness while educating the public.

It’s completely free to visit but you have plenty of opportunities to support the sanctuary by donating cash or purchasing items from the various registries listed on the sanctuary website.

When you visit you can tour the facilities and learn more about the animals that currently call the sanctuary home.

Two women riding horses
Pere Marquette offers around 20 miles of equestrian trails

Go horse riding

  • Address: 15780 State Highway 100, West Grafton, IL 62037
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 8 minutes (4.1 miles)
  • Highlights: Explore the gorgeous Pere Marquette State Park on horseback under the supervision of an experienced and knowledgeable guide.

Located within the Pere Marquette State Park, the Pere Marquette Stables are open to the public Wednesday through Monday between May and October.

It’s highly recommended that you make a reservation for your visit although it is not required.

You can experience a guided tour when you visit which takes you through two and a half miles of trails in the state park.

Your guide will be able to teach you about the wildlife of the area and can help you identify the animals and birds that you may see.

If you visit during the fall, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a horse-drawn carriage ride that culminates in a bonfire complete with hot dogs, hot chocolate, and s’mores.

Apple Picking at the Eckert's Farm
Apple Picking at the Eckert’s Farm (photo credit: Teresa Hsu)

Visit a farm

  • Address: 20995 Eckert Orchard Rd, Grafton, IL 62037
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 8 minutes (4.2 miles)
  • Highlights: You can pick your own fruits when you visit Eckert’s Grafton Farm! Peaches, blackberries, and apples are amongst the many crops grown at this beautiful farm. If you visit during the fall, you may even have a chance to pick pumpkins straight from the vine!

For an immersive farm experience head to Eckert’s Grafton Farm.

You can enjoy the environment while participating in activities like apple picking, miniature golf, purchasing goods made on the farm, and eating some delicious treats such as funnel cakes and kettle corn.

It’s a great place to breathe in fresh air and get a break from technology and other stressors of the modern world!

Note that Eckert’s Grafton Farm is open seasonally so be sure to check their website before you visit.

The Great River road near Grafton
The Great River Road near Grafton (photo credits: Kbh3rd)

Drive the Great River Road

  • Address: 581 South Deere Road, Macomb, Illinois 61455
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 2.5 hours (124 miles)
  • Highlights: Driving along the Great River Road will allow you to explore the area by using the scenic route. Visit during the fall for an abundance of fall colors and falling leaves, although the route is truly beautiful throughout the year.

The Great River Road is a 2,340-mile-long route that winds through ten different states including Illinois.

There are certain stretches of the road that are particularly beautiful, such as the 33-mile stretch between Grafton and Hartford.

You can simply make the drive in one go, but if you’re interested in a complete experience consider stopping at scenic viewpoints and exploring any of the towns along the way.

Anderson Hall Elsah Illinois
The Anderson Hall, one of many well-preserved buildings in Elsah (Photo credits: Loving Heart2009)

Explore nearby Elsah

  • Address: Illinois Route. 100, Elsah Illinois 62028
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 6 minutes (4.3 miles)
  • Highlights: The entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and if you’re a fan of history, this is a must-see spot on your Southern Illinois adventure.

Known as the “village where time stood still,” the quaint and historic town of Elsah is home to just over 600 people. Explore 19th century stone houses and quiet cobblestone streets – you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped back in time!

Visit the Village of Elsah Museum to learn about former residents and how they lived, and stop by the Elsah General store to purchase jams, ice cream, gifts, books, and old-fashioned soda.

Visiting Elsah is a truly unique experience when you’re visiting Southern Illinois.

Read more about the historic town of Elsah here.

Statues where the Lincoln - Douglas debate was held in Alton
The place where the Lincoln – Douglas debate was held in Alton (photo credits: ksablan)

Discover nearby Alton

  • Address: 101 E. Third St, Alton, IL 62002
  • Driving time from Grafton, Illinois: 17 minutes (15 miles)
  • Highlights: The town of Alton dates back to 1818 and has had a long and rich history. It’s a great place to visit for historic sites, quaint shops, and unique landmarks such as the statue of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man. Wadlow grew to be 8 feet and 11 inches tall!

The town of Alton has a prominent place in Civil War history and you can walk in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln.

You can see the place where the Lincoln-Douglas debate was held and visit the location where US. Senator and Alton resident Lyman Trumbull authored the pivotal 13th amendment, which is the amendment that stated that slavery may no longer exist in the United States.

You can also visit the place where Lewis and Clark set up a camp during the winter of 1804 in the midst of their westward exploration.

You can visit the fortified encampment and browse the collection of artifacts and information at the site’s museum and interpretive center.

In addition to learning about the history of the area, Alton is a beautiful town with small businesses, cafes, and restaurants to support.

Lodging in Grafton, Illinois

In some of the above-mentioned wineries, you could also stay overnight.

If you are looking for other places to stay, have a look at the below-mentioned properties.

Perfect weekend Getaway. Condo with great River views and pool!

  • Condo hosted by Jeff Marcum- Premier Host
  • 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, balcony
Great vacation home in Grafton
Photo credits VRBO

This beautiful condo offers guests a peaceful retreat in the heart of Grafton, Illinois.

It’s located near Aerie’s Winery and includes a large balcony that overlooks the stunning landscape.

There is also a large pool that visitors who come during the summer can enjoy which also boasts similarly beautiful views.

During the fall you can sip a glass of wine on the porch while admiring the autumn leaves.

Vrbo rating: 4.9/5

Extra amenities:

  • Linens Provided
  • Towels Provided
  • Heating
  • Basic Soaps
  • Shampoo
  • Coffee Maker
  • Pool
  • Parking

Check prices and availability:
VRBO

Grafton Escape – River views! Pool! Walking distance to bars/restaurants

  • Condo hosted by Michelle Leonard-Premier host
  • 1 or 2 bedrooms, 1 or 2 bathrooms, kitchenette, lawn/garden, porch
wine lodging in Grafton
Photo credits VRBO

For a small and beautiful retreat in Grafton, consider this condo with one bedroom and one bathroom, as well as a living room and kitchenette complete with a coffee maker to give you that boost in the morning.

You can relax on the patio or step in the communal rec room which is home to a pool table and lounge area.

If you’re visiting with more people and need more space you can look up the adjacent listing that is rented by the same host. That property has two bedrooms and two and a half baths!

Vrbo rating: 4.8/5

Extra amenities:

  • Linens Provided
  • Towels Provided
  • Basic Soaps
  • Wi-Fi
  • Swimming pool
  • Coffee Maker

Check prices and availability:

Grafton escape 1

Grafton escape 2

Andora country guest house

  • Entire house hosted by House Grafton – Premier Host
  • 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and porch
lodging in Grafton
Photo credits VRBO

This beautiful guest house is perfect for a family getaway or simply for anyone who wants more space.

You’ll be ideally situated to explore state parks and the surrounding area as well as the wonderful wineries Grafton has to offer.

Explore the area during the day and retreat to this property to rest in the evening.

The house also features a beautiful veranda where you can sip on wine that you purchased during the day while enjoying the peaceful ambiance.

Vrbo rating: 5/5

Extra amenities:

  • Linens Provided
  • Towels Provided
  • Basic Soaps
  • Internet
  • Blender
  • Coffee Maker
  • Washing Machine and Clothes Dryer
  • Parking

Check prices and availability:
VRBO

Conclusion

No matter which of these activities you choose, you’ll be sure to have an exciting and memorable vacation when you visit Grafton, Illinois.

There are activities that suit a variety of travelers and you are guaranteed to find something for you in this lovely Southern Illinois town.

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