3 Days | 30 Miles
Stranger things are afoot in Illinois’ river towns. By day they’re quaint vacation spots with majestic state parks, charming orchards, wineries, and breweries. But when the moon is right, they become home to haunted mansions, cemeteries, churches, and things that go bump in the night.
Make sure to check with attractions ahead of time for up-to-date operating hours, travel policies and health and safety information.
Kick off your southern Illinois trip with a morning zip lining excursion through Pere Marquette State Park at Grafton Zipline Adventures at Aerie’s Resort. The nine zip lines total 1.75 miles through the 8,000-acre state park. If you’re traveling with kiddos in tow, head to Eckert’s Country Store & Farm in Grafton, the largest family-owned and operated U-pick orchard in the U.S. for a fun-filled morning of apple picking. Stop for a bite at Grafton Winery & Brewhaus’ patio overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and known for their locally produced Vidal Blanc wine and comfort food.
After lunch, take a scenic bike ride along the nearby Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail that runs parallel to the meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway as well as the rivers. Make it an unforgettable evening with a sunset ride on the Grafton Sky Tour at Aerie’s Resort. The Grafton Sky Tour is an open-air aerial lift offering unmatched views over Pere Marquette State Park and the Mighty Mississippi. The lift drops off at Aerie’s Riverview Winery – the perfect spot to toast to an incredible start to the trip with a glass of locally grown vino.
Ready for some spooks? Stop for dinner at the Ruebel Hotel & Restaurant, which became the most famous haunted site in Grafton after catching fire in 1912. Stay the night at the Tara Point Inn & Cottages, known for its incredible accommodations and breathtaking views of the Mississippi River atop the bluffs of Grafton. For a rustic stay, spend the night at Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center that features a timber Great Room dating back to the 1930s with an oversized stone fireplace and life-size chess set!
Start day two off with strong coffee and even better, brunch at the spacious yet cozy Post Commons, located inside Alton’s historic U.S. Post Office building. You can support some amazing southern Illinois small businesses at nearby shops like Mississippi Mud Pottery and My Just Desserts. Mississippi Mud Pottery is known for creative, functional stoneware pottery molded and crafted by natural clay materials right before your eyes. My Just Desserts is known for, well, just some pretty incredible desserts!
The small town of Alton is known to be the most haunted in America. Across the street from Mississippi Mud Pottery, you’ll find one of Alton’s spookiest attractions, the mysterious Mineral Springs Hotel that’s rumored to have several ghostly residents in its rooms. Guided historic tours of Mineral Springs include the iconic pool, grand banquet hall, the infamous "Jasmine Lady's" staircase and also includes admission to Mineral Springs’ Torture Museum.
The scares will continue in the evening with a tour of Alton’s famous McPike Mansion – one of the most haunted places in the country! Thousands of visitors and paranormal investigators have visited its notorious grounds claiming spirits still roam this property. Next, stop for dinner and craft beer at nearby Old Bakery Beer – located in the original Colonial Bakery building in downtown Alton – and known for their one-of-a-kind brews. End the day with a luxurious stay at the Beall Mansion Bed & Breakfast in Alton. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Beall Mansion features showstopping columns, soaring ceilings, crystal chandeliers and marble statuary throughout. For a cozier overnight stay, spend the night at the Green Tree Inn Bed & Breakfast in the quaint, historic town of Elsah nestled between Alton and Grafton.
It wouldn’t be a trip to America’s most haunted small town without a fright-filled last day! Alton’s Haunted History Tours will take you through Alton’s National Cemetery, where an estimated 263 Civil War soldiers are buried. The tour will also pass Alton’s First Unitarian Church that dates back to 1836 and is built on the site of a church that had formerly burned down. Stop for a quick bite to eat at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air that features an extensive menu filled with grilled burgers and an abundance of tasty beer options.
Onwards to Edwardsville, where you can find even more haunts in the St. James Cemetery that has been said to have several ghost sightings. Top off the day with dinner at Cleveland-Heath Restaurant offering upscale comfort food and delicious handcrafted cocktails.