Nestled in the heart of the Midwest, Vandalia, Illinois, is a charming town that boasts a rich history and a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. From historical sites to outdoor adventures, Vandalia has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll take you through the top things to do in Vandalia, ensuring you make the most of your visit to this hidden gem.
Visit the Old State Capitol: Start your journey through Vandalia’s history by exploring the Old State Capitol, a National Historic Landmark. This beautifully restored building served as the state capitol from 1836 to 1839 and is now a museum that offers a glimpse into Illinois’ early political history.
Tour the Vandalia State House: Another historical must-visit is the Vandalia State House, Illinois’s second state capitol. Explore the well-preserved rooms and learn about the significant events that took place within its walls. Guided tours provide a deeper understanding of the state’s political evolution.
Hike the Kaskaskia Dragon Trail: For outdoor enthusiasts, the Kaskaskia Dragon Trail is a scenic adventure. This trail winds through picturesque landscapes, offering hikers a chance to connect with nature. The highlight of the trail is the giant dragon sculpture, a unique and unexpected feature that adds a touch of whimsy to the journey.
Explore the Madonna of the Trail Statue: Pay a visit to the Madonna of the Trail statue, one of twelve monuments dedicated to pioneer women who traveled westward with their families. This poignant sculpture is a symbol of the strength and resilience of the women who played a crucial role in American history.
Discover the Fayette County Museum: Dive deeper into Vandalia’s past by exploring the Fayette County Museum. This treasure trove of artifacts showcases the region’s history, from its Native American roots to its development as a thriving community. It’s a great place to gain insight into the local culture and heritage.
Enjoy Outdoor Recreation at Vandalia Lake: Vandalia Lake provides a peaceful setting for outdoor activities. Whether you prefer fishing, boating, or simply enjoying a leisurely walk along the shoreline, the lake offers a serene escape for nature lovers.
Attend the Grande Levée: If you happen to visit in early June, don’t miss the Grande Levée, an annual event that brings history to life. This living history weekend features reenactments, period costumes, and demonstrations, providing an immersive experience of Vandalia’s past.
Dine at Local Eateries: After a day of exploration, indulge in the local culinary scene. Vandalia offers a variety of dining options, from charming cafes to family-owned restaurants. Sample regional specialties and savor the flavors of the Midwest.
Attend the Little Brick House Christmas Market: If you find yourself in Vandalia during the holiday season, don’t miss the Little Brick House Christmas Market. This festive event features local artisans and vendors, offering unique, handmade gifts, and seasonal treats. It’s a great opportunity to experience the warmth of Vandalia’s community spirit.
Golf at the Vandalia Country & Golf Club: Golf enthusiasts can tee off at the Vandalia Country & Golf Club. Enjoy a round of golf surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful landscapes. The club welcomes both seasoned golfers and those looking to try their hand at this relaxing sport.
Explore the National Road Interpretive Center: Gain insights into the history of transportation in the United States at the National Road Interpretive Center. Learn about the significance of the National Road, an early 19th-century highway that played a crucial role in the country’s westward expansion.
Shop at Downtown Vandalia: Take a leisurely stroll through downtown Vandalia and explore its unique shops and boutiques. Discover locally crafted goods, antiques, and charming souvenirs that capture the essence of the town.
Attend the Okaw Valley Fall Festival: If your visit coincides with autumn, check out the Okaw Valley Fall Festival. This annual celebration features live music, carnival rides, and a variety of food vendors. It’s a family-friendly event that showcases the vibrant community spirit of Vandalia.
Bird Watching at Vandalia Audubon Society Nature Center: Nature enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Vandalia Audubon Society Nature Center. Explore walking trails and engage in birdwatching, as the center is home to various bird species. It’s a peaceful retreat for those looking to connect with the local flora and fauna.
Participate in the Vandalia Historical Society’s Events: Keep an eye out for events organized by the Vandalia Historical Society. They often host lectures, workshops, and special exhibits that delve deeper into the town’s history and heritage.
Take a Scenic Drive on Historic Route 40: Hit the road and enjoy a scenic drive along Historic Route 40. This iconic highway, also known as the National Road, offers picturesque views and a nostalgic journey through the heart of Illinois.
Attend the Vandalia Statehouse Annual Lincoln Day: History buffs will appreciate the annual Lincoln Day event at the Vandalia Statehouse. Celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s connection to Vandalia with reenactments, period costumes, and educational activities.
Explore the Vandalia Railroad Depot: Discover the town’s connection to the railroad industry by visiting the Vandalia Railroad Depot. This well-preserved depot provides insight into the role of railroads in shaping the growth of Vandalia.
Vandalia, Illinois, may be a small town, but it packs a punch when it comes to history, outdoor activities, and local charm. Whether you’re a history buff, nature enthusiast, or simply looking for a relaxing getaway, Vandalia has something to offer. So, plan your trip, immerse yourself in the town’s rich heritage, and create lasting memories in this hidden gem of the Midwest.