Nestled in the heart of Illinois, Jacksonville may not be the first city that comes to mind when planning a getaway, but this charming town has a lot to offer. From historical sites and cultural attractions to outdoor adventures, Jacksonville provides a diverse range of activities for visitors of all ages. Let’s explore the hidden gems and unique experiences that make Jacksonville, Illinois, a destination worth discovering.
- Explore the Historic Downtown: Start your journey in the heart of Jacksonville by taking a stroll through its historic downtown. Lined with beautifully preserved 19th-century architecture, the downtown area boasts boutique shops, cozy cafes, and vibrant galleries. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Governor Duncan Mansion, a stunning historic home that provides a glimpse into the city’s rich past.
- Visit the Eli Bridge Company: Jacksonville is home to the Eli Bridge Company, the oldest Ferris wheel manufacturer in the world. Take a guided tour to witness the craftsmanship behind these iconic structures. The tour not only offers a fascinating look at the Ferris wheel production process but also shares the history of this family-owned business that dates back to 1900.
- MacMurray College: Explore the picturesque campus of MacMurray College, founded in 1846. While the college itself is steeped in history, the grounds are adorned with scenic landscapes and architectural marvels. Take a leisurely walk and enjoy the serene atmosphere, making sure to capture the beauty of the Annie Merner Chapel, a striking Gothic-style building.
- Nichols Park: For a relaxing outdoor experience, head to Nichols Park. This expansive green space offers walking trails, picnic areas, and recreational facilities. It’s a perfect spot for a family day out, and during the summer, you can catch live music performances or community events hosted in the park.
- Mauvaisterre Lake: Nature enthusiasts will appreciate Mauvaisterre Lake, a tranquil reservoir located just outside Jacksonville. Enjoy a day of fishing, birdwatching, or simply soaking in the natural beauty. The lake’s serene ambiance provides a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
- Art and Culture at the David Strawn Art Gallery: Immerse yourself in the local arts scene by visiting the David Strawn Art Gallery. Housed in a historic mansion, the gallery showcases a diverse collection of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and multimedia installations. Keep an eye on their event calendar for exhibitions and cultural events.
- Annual Events and Festivals: Plan your visit around one of Jacksonville’s lively festivals or events. From the Morgan County Fair to the StrEAT Food Festival, the city hosts a variety of celebrations that bring the community together. These events provide a great opportunity to experience the local culture and hospitality.
- Celebrate Lincoln’s Legacy: Jacksonville has strong connections to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States. Explore the Lincoln Square, where you can find the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, which served as the state capitol from 1839 to 1876. Learn about Lincoln’s early political career and his time in Jacksonville.
- Take a Scenic Drive along the Illinois River Road: Embark on a scenic drive along the Illinois River Road, which runs through picturesque landscapes and charming river towns. Enjoy the beautiful views of the Illinois River and stop at various points of interest along the way, such as parks, wildlife areas, and historic sites.
- Attend a Theatrical Performance at the Jacksonville Theatre Guild: If you’re a fan of the arts, catch a live performance at the Jacksonville Theatre Guild. This local theater group regularly stages productions ranging from classic plays to contemporary dramas, providing a delightful cultural experience for residents and visitors alike.
- Sample Local Flavors at Farmer’s Markets: Immerse yourself in the local culinary scene by visiting one of Jacksonville’s farmer’s markets. The markets offer fresh produce, handmade crafts, and local delicacies. Engage with local farmers and artisans, and don’t forget to taste some of the region’s specialties.
- Experience the Morgan County Historical Society Museum: Dive deeper into Jacksonville’s history at the Morgan County Historical Society Museum. The museum houses a vast collection of artifacts, documents, and exhibits that tell the story of the region’s development. Gain insights into the lives of early settlers and the evolution of Jacksonville over the years.
- Golf at The Links Golf Course: Golf enthusiasts can tee off at The Links Golf Course, a well-maintained 18-hole course surrounded by scenic landscapes. Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a novice looking for a leisurely round, the course provides a challenging and enjoyable experience for players of all skill levels.
- Enjoy Water Activities at Lake Jacksonville: Head to Lake Jacksonville for a day of water activities. The lake offers opportunities for boating, kayaking, and fishing. Bring a picnic and spend a relaxing day by the water, taking in the serene surroundings and enjoying the various recreational facilities available.
- Participate in Community Events: Check out the local community calendar for ongoing events and activities. From art workshops to cultural festivals, Jacksonville’s vibrant community often hosts engaging events that allow you to connect with residents and experience the city’s dynamic atmosphere.
Conclusion: Jacksonville, Illinois, may be a hidden gem in the Midwest, but its rich history, cultural offerings, and outdoor attractions make it a destination worth exploring. Whether you’re interested in delving into the past, enjoying the outdoors, or immersing yourself in the local arts scene, Jacksonville has something for everyone. So, pack your bags and embark on a journey to uncover the charm and beauty of this often-overlooked Illinois gem.