Nestled in the heart of the Prairie State, Mattoon, Illinois, is a charming town that boasts a rich history, friendly locals, and a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a relaxing getaway, Mattoon has something to offer for everyone. In this guide, we’ll explore the top things to do in Mattoon, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this hidden gem.
- Mattoon Bagelfest: A Unique Celebration
If you happen to visit Mattoon in mid-July, don’t miss the annual Bagelfest – a quirky and delightful celebration that has become a local tradition. The festival features a variety of events, including a bagel-themed breakfast, a carnival, live entertainment, and the famous “World’s Largest Bagel and Cream Cheese” event. It’s a fun-filled experience for the entire family and a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
- Mattoon Railroad Depot: A Glimpse into the Past
History enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Mattoon Railroad Depot. Built in 1857, this historic site played a crucial role in the development of the town. Today, the depot serves as a museum, showcasing artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that transport visitors back in time. Take a guided tour to learn about Mattoon’s railroad history and its impact on the community.
- Lake Paradise: Outdoor Recreation Haven
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Lake Paradise is a must-visit destination. This picturesque lake offers a range of recreational activities, including fishing, boating, and hiking. Pack a picnic and spend a relaxing day by the water, or explore the surrounding trails for a closer encounter with the local flora and fauna. The serene atmosphere makes Lake Paradise an ideal spot for unwinding and connecting with nature.
- Petting Zoo at Lytle Park: Family-Friendly Fun
If you’re traveling with children, a visit to the petting zoo at Lytle Park is sure to be a hit. The zoo features a variety of animals, providing a hands-on experience for kids and adults alike. From goats and sheep to rabbits and ducks, the friendly animals create a memorable and educational outing. The park also offers playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking trails for a full day of family-friendly fun.
- Explore Downtown Mattoon: Quaint Shops and Local Flavors
Take a stroll through downtown Mattoon to discover its charming shops, boutiques, and local eateries. The historic architecture adds character to the streets, creating a pleasant atmosphere for leisurely walks. Stop by the local cafes for a taste of the town’s culinary delights or browse through unique boutiques to find one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Supporting local businesses is not only rewarding but also a great way to connect with the community.
- Explore the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site:
History comes alive at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site, where you can step back in time to the 19th century. This living history farm showcases the life of Abraham Lincoln’s father and stepmother, Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln. Take a guided tour to see authentic log cabins, period furnishings, and learn about the daily life of this famous American family.
- Attend a Performance at the Mattoon Arts Council:
For those seeking a dose of culture, check out the Mattoon Arts Council’s calendar of events. From live performances and art exhibitions to workshops and community events, the arts council is dedicated to promoting and celebrating creativity in the local community. Support local artists and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene of Mattoon.
- Mattoon Murals: A Public Art Tour:
Embark on a self-guided tour of Mattoon’s murals, scattered throughout the town. These vibrant works of public art showcase the community’s history, culture, and creativity. From historical depictions to contemporary pieces, the murals add a colorful touch to the streets, making for an enjoyable and visually stimulating walking tour.
- Mattoon Golf and Country Club: Tee Off in Style:
Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round of golf at the Mattoon Golf and Country Club. This beautifully landscaped course offers a challenging yet enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels. Take in the scenic views, practice your swing, and unwind in the serene surroundings of this well-maintained golf course.
- Antique Shopping on Broadway Avenue:
Broadway Avenue is a treasure trove for antique enthusiasts. Explore the various antique shops and discover unique finds from different eras. Whether you’re on the hunt for vintage furniture, classic memorabilia, or collectibles, the antique stores in Mattoon provide a nostalgic journey through time.
- Attend Mattoon’s Fall Craft Show:
If your visit coincides with the fall season, don’t miss the Fall Craft Show, a local tradition that showcases handmade crafts, artisanal products, and delicious treats. It’s an excellent opportunity to support local craftsmen, find unique gifts, and experience the festive spirit that permeates Mattoon during this time of the year.
- Mattoon Lightworks Festival: A Holiday Spectacle:
If you’re in Mattoon during the holiday season, be sure to catch the Mattoon Lightworks Festival. The town comes alive with dazzling light displays, creating a magical atmosphere. Enjoy festive activities, visit with Santa, and marvel at the twinkling lights that transform Mattoon into a winter wonderland.
Mattoon, Illinois, may not be the most widely known destination, but its warmth, history, and unique attractions make it a worthwhile stop for travelers seeking an authentic experience. From cultural celebrations and historical sites to outdoor adventures and family-friendly activities, Mattoon has something to offer every type of visitor. So, pack your bags, embrace the small-town charm, and embark on a journey of discovery in Mattoon, Illinois.