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11 epic weekend getaways in southern Illinois

Thinking about taking a weekend getaway in southern Illinois? Now is the time to get planning and find the perfect southern Illinois weekend getaway for you.


Southern Illinois is a great region with a huge range of things to do and explore.

With amazing nature, charming small towns, artisan wineries, and more, southern Illinois is ideal for all traveler types. Whether it be with a family, as a couple, or even on a solo trip, southern Illinois has a perfect weekend getaway to offer you.

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cropped-StarView-winery-Illinois-2.jpg
Welcome to StarView winery (photo credits: StarView winery)

Weekend getaways in Southern Illinois for couples

Drive the Shawnee hills wine trail

Highlights: Highlights of the Shawnee Hills Wine Tour include sampling unique wines, enjoying the natural surroundings, and supporting local business

Among the beautiful nature of Shawnee National Forest is the well-acclaimed Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, a 40-mile trail of 11 wineries each with their own unique style.

Many of the wineries along the trail are nationally and internationally awarded and many have carved a niche by specializing in a specific type of wine.

Several of the wineries offer unique experiences when visiting and so following the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is a great way to try a little bit of everything.

Some of the experiences available include the wildlife room of Honker Hill Winery, the vineyard picnics of Hickory Ridge Vineyard and Winery, and the unique boutique wines of StarView Vineyards.

A number of the wineries also offer lodging for overnight trips. If you prefer staying in a cute cabin on the southern Illinois wine trail, click here.

Along the trail, there are also many local businesses, restaurants, and cafes which make great extra stopping points.

This is a great way to support local businesses while enjoying the best the area has to offer.

Read Also:

To see more about wineries in southern Illinois, check our previous post here.

Address: 2865 Hickory Ridge Road, Pomona, IL, 62975

Rent a romantic cabin with a hot tub

A great way to relax and unwind with your loved one is to rent a cabin with a hot tub.

This allows you to enjoy the beautiful forested surroundings, relax in tranquility and seclusion, and truly connect with your partner.

A cabin with a hot tub offers more range of things to do and a way of relaxing without just sitting around. A hot tub can be a fun activity anywhere, but surrounded by beautiful woods, in a lovely cabin with your partner is one of the best ways to enjoy it.

Here is an overview of romantic cabins in southern Illinois. If you are traveling with your loved one and looking for ideas for a romantic weekend in southern Illinois, click here. If you prefer staying in a hotel, check out this list of boutique hotels in Illinois.

Pere Marquette is a great weekend getaway.
Pere Marquette State Park

Explore Grafton

Highlights: Visiting Grafton can be great for exploring state parks, observing beautiful scenery, and absorbing the local culture.

Grafton is a lovely unassuming small town in southern Illinois.

While it might not immediately seem like an exciting place to be, Grafton is actually full of interesting and fun activities and things to see.

For example, Grafton is home to the Pere Marquette State Park, a beautiful state park with unique natural stone formations.

There are many hiking trails as well as an active bird-watching community. If you are looking for a great trail for wildlife spotting, you should hike the 5,9 miles Pere Marquette Outer Loop.

However, if you’re tired of hiking, you could try the SkyTour, an aerial skylift providing amazing views over the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers from great heights.

For something more casual you might want to explore the local shops. Grafton is a great place for shopping for antiques and unique local goods. it’s also home to some amazing wineries.

It is also the endpoint of the Meeting of the Great Rivers scenic route.

For more ideas of things to do in Grafton, check out our previous post here.

Address: Pere Marquette State Park, 13112 Visitor Center Lane, Grafton, Illinois 62037
Skytour, 14 W Main St, Grafton, IL 62037

Kid-friendly weekend getaways in southern Illinois

Here we share some ideas for a wonderful family getaway in southern Illinois.

Visit Boo castle park

Highlights: Some highlights include wizard statues based on actual wizard figures painted by Jeremy “Boo” Rochman and climbable sleeping dragons.

Jeremy Rochman Memorial Park, more commonly known as Boo Castle Park, is an exciting theme park with a touching back story.

As the name would suggest, the park was created in memorial of Jeremy “Boo” Rochman, a 19-year-old teenager who died in a car accident in the area. The park is designed as an ode to his childhood love of toy figures and painting wizard figures and his teenage interest in Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game.

The park has climbable sleeping dragon sculptures, castles, mazes, and more fantasy elements that are perfect for sparking the imagination in children.

The park is currently still less known, meaning it isn’t as busy as some of the more famous parks and the unique theme makes it fun for children and an interesting experience for adults.

Boo Castle Park is a great way to spend an afternoon or a few hours between other activities.

Address: 31 Homewood Dr, Carbondale, IL 62902-6151

The Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour
Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour (photo credits: The Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour)

Shawnee bluffs canopy tour

Highlights: A canopy tour is a great way to experience the natural surroundings in an exciting and fast-paced way.

A canopy tour is a great way to experience the forest in a completely different and exciting way.

Using zip-lines, aerial bridges, and short hikes, a canopy tour will take you through the heights of the trees and the ground-level scenery. Alternating between fast-paced zip-lines and slower bridges is a great way to get the adrenaline going while still enjoying the nature around you.

Read Also:

Here is a list of more southern Illinois attractions. 

Shawnee Bluffs offers a 3-hour canopy tour including 8 zip lines and 3 aerial bridges. The longest zip line is 1100 feet and you can potentially reach a speed of 40 miles per hour.

This is a great activity for kids as hiking and other similar activities can get a little monotonous for a younger attention span.

There is a minimum age of 8 years old for the Shawnee Bluffs canopy tours.

Address: 635 Robinson Hill Road, Makanda, IL, 62958

Old picture of Raging Rivers waterpark. This is a great place for a weekend family getaway.
The raging rivers waterpark in Grafton back in 1980 (photo credits: kdwoutdoors)

Visit a waterpark

Highlights: Water parks can be a great way to relax during the hot summer days while keeping the kids entertained.

If you’re visiting southern Illinois during the summer you may be tempted to find somewhere to cool off and relax.

One of the best places to do so, especially with kids, is a water park.

Super Splash Park is a great choice for something relaxed as they have a standard 8-lane pool along with waterslides and a lazy river.

There is also a beach-style leisure pool, making it great for lazing around in the water or playing with the kids.

There is also Raging Rivers Water Park, which has a variety of waterslides ranging from flumes through to a vortex water ride. There is also an ‘endless river’, which allows visitors to simply float along on a 700-foot long loop.

The water parks have some requirements regarding height for the rides but all visitors are welcome to enjoy the standard pools and leisure pools.  

Address:

Super Splash Park, 625 S. Lewis Lane, Carbondale, Illinois, 62901

Raging Rivers Water Park, 100 Palisades Pkwy, Grafton, IL 62037

A rockshelter at the Giant City Sate Park in Illinois
A rock shelter at the Giant City State Park in Illinois

Dog-friendly weekend getaways in southern Illinois

Visit a Southern Illinois State Park

Highlights: Exploring a state park is ideal for nature lovers and those looking to explore.

Southern Illinois is an ideal location for visiting state parks as the area is abundant in amazing nature and unique natural features.

There are many state parks in the region and visiting them is a great way to explore and really get to know the area.

State parks are also a great way to enjoy nature for both people who spend a lot of time outdoors and those who are more casual and just looking to spend a little time exploring.

Dixon Springs state park is a great option for visiting with kids as there is a swimming pool at the end of one of the trails. There are also beautiful rippling creeks and natural water features along the way. This creates a relaxing environment that is conducive to enjoying the natural surroundings.

Giant City State Park is another great option with its enormous natural sandstone formations and unique ecosystem. Wondering where to stay? Check out these amazing cabins in Giant City State Park.

Address: Dixon Springs State Park, ​982 IL. 146, Golconda IL 62938  

Giant City State Park, 235 Giant City Road, Makanda, Illinois 62958

Ferne Clyffe waterfall Illinois
The Ferne Clyffe waterfall

Go hiking

Highlights: Hiking is a great way to explore nature and with so many unique environmental features, is ideal for exploring southern Illinois.

Another great outdoor activity when visiting southern Illinois is hiking.

Many of the state parks have beautiful hiking trails and the large amount of forested land allows for a wide variety of impressive landscapes.

There are hikes ranging from beginner level through to very experienced and at various lengths.

Ferne Clyffe State Park is popular for its many hiking trails, including the Ferne Clyffe Waterfall Trail, which magnificently displays the large, impressive waterfall along with the picturesque forestry. This can connect to the Rocky Hollow Trail and become a loop trail.

Another great option is the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, an easy hike that passes through some of the amazing stone formations in the area and includes many impressive viewpoints for observing this natural wonder.

Address: Ferne Clyffe State Park, 90 Goreville Road, Goreville, Illinois 62939

Garden of the Gods, 50 Highway 145 S Shawnee National Forest, Harrisburg, IL 62946-5232

Inexpensive weekend getaways in southern Illinois

Go camping

Highlights: Camping is ideal for experiencing the local nature in a more immersive way.

Camping is an ideal way to be truly immersed in nature and is great for taking part in outdoor activities, bonding with friends or family, and relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of the cities.

Southern Illinois has many great campgrounds where you can camp inexpensively and enjoy a great range of activities and surroundings.

A great example is Camp Cedar Point, also known as Camp Manitowa. This campground was once a Girl Scout camp and is located in a National Wildlife Refuge, meaning it is great for wildlife watching and enjoying unique ecosystems.

There is also beachfront access and a swim dock to the large Little Grassy Lake.

Another example is Lake Murphysboro State Park, which surrounds the star-shaped Lake Murphysboro. This makes it ideal for water activities, such as boating and fishing along with picnicking and hiking with great views.

Many campgrounds are also pet-friendly.

Address:

Camp Cedar Point/Camp Manitowa
1327 Camp Cedar Point Ln, Makanda, IL 62958,

Lake Murphysboro State Park
52 Cinder Hill Dr, Murphysboro, IL 62966

Winter weekend getaways in southern Illinois

Go winter hiking

Highlights: Winter hiking is a perfect experience for enjoying nature without the hindrance of other people and truly taking in the tranquility of nature.

While we have already mentioned hiking, winter hiking can be a completely different experience.

Winter is generally considered the off-season, meaning the trails have a lot fewer people and there is a much greater sense of tranquility and being alone in nature.

The Garden of the Gods Observation Trail in Shawnee National Forest is a great example of this as the huge natural sandstone formations really shine during the winter months when they are fully unobstructed.

Hiking during winter can also offer an easier experience for beginner hikers as the temperature and climate are easier for the physical exertion of hiking.

While the initial Garden of the Gods Trail is a reasonably easy trail, hiking in winter may allow beginner hikers to extend their hike and explore more than they would be able to during the warmer seasons.

Looking for more fun things to do in Illinois in winter, click here.

Address: Garden of the Gods, 50 Highway 145 S Shawnee National Forest, Harrisburg, IL 62946-5232

Bald eagles can be spotted in Alton during Winter

Explore Alton

Highlights: Alton is a great location for a winter weekend getaway with a number of unique events and beautiful sights to be seen.

Alton is a small town located near Grafton in southern Illinois and is a great spot to visit during the winter months.

There are many events and activities which are best enjoyed during this time, as well as year-round activities which have a different quality during winter.

Read Also:

For more information about Alton, please see our post here.

Alton is known as a great place to see bald eagles as they migrate through the area in winter. There are many eagle-spotting events held during this time.

There is also the magnificent Winter Wonderland Christmas light display, with over 4 million lights decorating the Rocks Spring Park.

Visitors can drive through and enjoy the amazing light-up display.

You can also take part in some year-round Alton activities, such as the impressive Great Rivers Scenic Route drive, which winds along limestone bluffs and forests from the Lewis and Clark State Historic Trail through to the Pere Marquette State Park.

Alton is also home to some of the most haunted places in Illinois.

Address: Winter Wonderland Light Display, 2100 College Ave, Alton IL 62002

Read Also:

If you are looking for more winter inspiration for holidaying in Illinois, see our post about things to do in Illinois during winter here.

Conclusion

Taking a weekend getaway is a great way to escape the stresses of the everyday weekend without all the trouble of planning a big trip and southern Illinois is the perfect place to have a weekend getaway.

With beautiful forests and state parks, vibrant cities and quaint small towns, and rich history, southern Illinois is an amazing location for a range of holiday styles.

Here we have collected some of the best weekend getaways in southern Illinois and why they might be right for you.