A picturesque small town located in a very important area where the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers all converge, Alton has a long history of attracting those who wish to explore. From Lewis and Clark’s journey through the area at the beginning of their trek in 1803, to the history that was made along these shores during the Civil War, and on to more modern times, Alton, IL. is an ideal place to take the family for summer vacation that everyone will enjoy. It was our third and final stop in Illinois during our #90DayRoadTrip, and we discovered a wide range of things to do with kids in Alton, IL.
Lewis and Clark State Historic Site
Explore Camp River Dubois, and learn how Lewis and Clark prepared for their epic journey out West. Using journal entries from Lewis, Camp Dubois has been recreated on the banks near where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers converge. It was here that Lewis and Clark as well as their party volunteers waited out the Winter before heading West.
At the Lewis and Clark State Historic Site, you can enter the 14,000 square foot facility where you’ll learn about why Lewis and Clark were headed out on their expedition to the West after the Louisiana Purchase. Walk past a full-sized keelboat to see how they traveled the rivers and waterways, and learn how they prepared for the task ahead. See examples of how they treated illnesses while weathering at Camp Dubois, the tools they used to build the camp and examples of the supply lists needed to provide enough equipment and food for their journey.
There are plenty of hands on exhibits here to keep kids entertained. There is also a 12 minute film located in the Convergence Theater. Before you leave, be sure to stop by outside and see recreation of Camp Dubois. The Lewis and Clark State Historic Site is open 9am-5pm Wednesday – Sunday and is free to the public.
Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail
Not only is the Licoln and Civil War Legacy Trail a great way to explore the history that took place throughout the city’s lifetime, but it is also a great way to see and explore the city of Alton itself. You’ll see detailed murals, striking riverfront scenes, quaint shops and delicious eats along the way.
There are 10 stops along the Lincoln and Civil War Legacy Trail. You start at the statues of Lincoln and Douglas forever posed in a heated debate. The last of the Lincon/Douglas debates took place here. Other stops along the trail include a visit to the monument dedicated to Elijah P. Lovejoy, the abolitionist newspaper publisher who died protecting his last printing press at the beginning of the Civil War. The tour is free to drive, and a map can be picked up at the Alton Visitor’s Center located at 200 Piasa Street.
The Illinois and Mississippi Rivers converge into one just North of Alton in the town of Grafton. Take advantage of this natural occurrence and learn more about the area and its history on a riverboat tour on the Hakuna Matata. Head over to Grafton Harbor where live music can be heard playing from surrounding restaurants and the atmosphere is always laid back.
Hop aboard the Hakuna Matata, this 49-passenger tour boat takes you on a journey down the Illinois River and into the Mississippi as they converge. The bottom level of the ship is completely weatherproof and temperature controlled for your comfort, while the top allows for 360 degree views of the surrounding bluffs and waterway.
Learn about local legends like that of the Piasa Bird, and hear the history of how the surrounding towns and area developed. Children will have fun watching for large Asian Carp jumping behind the boat and watching the larger freight ships pass by. Tours are held on a varying schedule, so be sure to check the site for details. Tickets for a River Rambler Cruise are $18 for adults and $9 for ages 4-17. Additional Sunset and Private Cruises are available for varying fees as well.
Grafton Zipline Adventure
If you’re looking for one of the best views in the Midwest, drive on up to Grafton Zipline Adventure’s office, and glimpse the Illinois and Mississippi River’s convergence from 250 feet above the ground. If you are really looking for a good time however, step inside, get suited up and head out for a wild good time across the establishments 9 ziplines that provide nearly 2 miles of zipping fun.
Think you’re too scared to head out on such an adventure, don’t be. The staff at Grafton Zipline will instantly put you at ease. With their expert training, they effortlessly lead you through the zips, including the 2,000 foot long Soaring Eagle zip or the speeding Barn Burner that gets adults up to a speed of 45 mph!
Grafton Zipline Adventure is a fun adventure for the whole family. You must be at least 45 pounds and under 250 pounds in order to zip. Tours depart Monday-Thursday 9am-4pm and every hour until 6pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Audubon Center at Riverlands
Looking for a nature-filled afternoon? Head to the Audubon Center at Riverlands. Stop by the visitor’s center where you will encounter a wide range of interactive activities about the area’s birds and other wildlife. Watch a short film about the birds who migrate through the Riverlands area each year, including hundreds of thousands of pelicans, eagles and trumpeter swans, and see what birds you can find through the viewers that are available in the visitor’s center.
Children can grab a journal and take it with them as they explore the Audubon Center to fill our as they learn more about the migration of the birds. Check out the board to see the current counts of birds spotted in the area, and then head out on the trails to see what birds you can find on your own.
Visit Piasa Park
Perched high up on a cliff at the edge of Alton in Piasa Park sits a depiction of the legendary Piasa bird. Children will enjoy stopping by this small park area to burn off some energy and learn the legend of this terrifying creature that was said to be so large it could carry off a full-sized deer in its talons.
Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower
Towering 150 feet above the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, is the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower. Stop by the visitor’s center to purchase tickets, and check out the few small displays on the duo’s expedition, including why the tower is located at its present position.
Ascend the tour in an elevator for your quick tour of the tower. Make stops at 50, 100 and 150 feet to check out the view, read signage and listen to your guide point out historical facts and local landmarks like the St. Louis Arch. The Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower is open 9:30am-5pm Monday – Saturday and 12pm-5pm Sunday.
Where to Stay
Conveniently located near many area attractions, the Atrium Hotel and Conference Center features 135 rooms that cater to business travelers, long-term guests and liesure travelers. Enjoy an indoor pool, whirlpool and sauna, as well as free games in the lobby area, as well as a delicious breakfast buffet where children 12 and under eat free with a paying adult.
Rooms are cozy and spacious, with plenty of room for everyone to move around. They feature standard amenities including 32″ LCD TV’s, coffee makers and free WIFI. For rates and availability visit AtriumHotel.net.
Looking for more family friendly activities in the Alton area? Go to VisitAlton.com.