11 Best Things To Do In Alton, Illinois - Updated 2021

things to do in alton illinois
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Just 15 miles (24 km) from St. Louis, Alton, Illinois is a nature lover’s haven. Lying where the three great rivers meet (Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois) Alton gives its visitors a great sense of adventure along with the convenience of crossing a magnificent bridge to enjoy St. Louis. For antiques enthusiasts, you could spend the entire day in Alton’s Antiques District. Alton also has an art scene where you can go to an exhibit at the local arts center or watch master pottery makers create beautiful pieces. There are multiple ways to enjoy the great rivers whether you want to take a river cruise or go to the museums to discover the history and significance of this region. Cross the amazing Clark Bridge over to Missouri and you can spend the day in St. Louis doing activities like a food tour, hot air balloon rides or zip lining. Don’t forget to visit the Gateway Arch while you’re there and witness the world’s largest arch and take a ride up to the observation deck. It will give you a view and is an experience you won’t forget! Alton, IL will astonish you with its geographic beauty and entertain you with its close proximity to everything St. Louis has to offer. Come check out the best things to do in Alton, Illinois for an adventure and culture-filled getaway.

1. Explore the National Great Rivers Museum

National Great Rivers Museum, Alton, IL
Source: Photo by Flickr user Matt Howry used under CC BY 2.0

You can tour the museum, take a ride on the river or learn about the engineering behind dams here at the National Great Rivers Museum. This museum has a variety of outdoor and indoor activities you can choose from to make the most of your experience.

National Great Rivers Museum

Address: 2 Lock and Dam Way Alton IL 62002

Website: National Great Rivers Museum

2. Smell the roses at the Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden

Posted by Maria Morozova on Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden has over 150 varieties of roses that you can enjoy while also catching a concert on Sunday evenings. This garden has been a featured attraction of the Alton community for generations.

Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden

Address: Route 140 Alton, IL 62002

Website: Nan Elliot Memorial Rose Garden

3. Stroll through the Oriental Garden


Walk around this 13 acre (5 hectares) lake while crossing on a bridge that overlooks the playing koi fish. There is also a pagoda to rest in while you take in the peaceful sights around you.

Oriental Garden

Address: 4550 College Ave. Alton IL 62002

Website: Oriental Garden

4. Travel to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Quentin Melson used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Travel the historic Lewis and Clark Blvd for about twenty minutes south and you’ll come to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area. This is where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers meet and this area has several hiking and biking trails to explore the natural surroundings.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

Address: 801 Strodtman Rd, St. Louis, MO 63138

Website: Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

5. Leave your worries on a Hakuna Matata River Cruise

Fishing for last minute Mother's Day plans? Hop aboard the Hakuna Matata River Rambler Cruise at the Grafton Harbor today at 2 p.m.! https://goo.gl/RCq4FM

Posted by All Around Alton, Illinois on Sunday, 14 May 2017

From nearby Grafton, Illinois you can hop onto a Hakuna Matata River Cruise that will take you down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers in style. You can choose to have some light refreshments on the main level while taking in the river basin around you or go up to the viewing deck to take in the fresh river air.

Hakuna Matata River Cruise

Address: 215 West Water Street Grafton, Illinois 62037

Website: Hakuna Matata River Cruise

6. Witness an arts revival in Alton at the Jacoby Arts Center

Musicians of bluegrass band, River Bend. Photo by Talia Long, courtesy of River Bend

Posted by Jacoby Arts Center on Saturday, 13 February 2016

Located within a historic building, come watch a show or walk through inspiring exhibits at the Jacoby Arts Center. This venue also hosts several classes that you could sign up for or simply come to support and enjoy the region’s art.

Jacoby Arts Center

Address: 627 E. Broadway, Alton, IL 62002

Website: Jacoby Arts Center

7. Watch artists at work at the Mississippi Mud Pottery


This wonderful pottery gallery invites visitors to come to witness the artistic process of their work. They not only create stoneware for everyday use but also catch fish in the local rivers, create moulds from them and then recreate ceramic fish. This art gallery is definitely not one to miss!

Mississippi Mud Pottery

Address: 310 E Broadway Alton, IL 62002

Website: Mississippi Mud Pottery

8. Sample all kinds of offerings on a food tour through the Delmar Loop (from USD 59.0)

Spend a few hours on a guided food tour through St Louis to taste some of the finest Midwestern cuisines. This tour takes you through one of St Louis’ hottest neighbourhoods to try local and international cuisine at its best. You’ll leave with a happy belly and a big smile.

St Louis Delmar Loop 3-Hour Small-Group Food Tour with Guide

Duration: 3 hours

9 reviews

9. Visit the Gateway Arch

Gateway Arch St. Louis from Illinois
Source: Photo by user Mobilus In Mobili used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This amazing architectural feat is within a short drive from Alton, Illinois and can easily be a day-long visit. Travel up the arch in a ride like no other in the world or walk around the museum to understand it’s significance and history. This is a must see on your visit!

Gateway Arch

Address: 11 North 4th Street St. Louis, MO 63102

Website: Gateway Arch

10. Zip line through the lush forests of the Midwest (from USD 76.0)

Take a zip line tour that will show you some of the natural beauty surrounding the St Louis region. This tour will take you on a course of ten zip lines that will cover forests around the St Louis area. This is one adventure you won’t regret.

Zip Line Canopy Tour in St Louis

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

2 reviews

11. Ride a hot air balloon with a St Louis Scenic Balloon Ride (from USD 209.0)

things to do in alton illinois | ride a hot air balloon with a st louis scenic balloon ride

Half an hour from Alton, Illinois will land you in the big city of St Louis. Here you can board a hot air balloon to take a tour of not only the city but the breathtaking natural landscape that surrounds it while sipping on a glass of champagne.

St Louis Scenic Balloon Ride

Adventure and culture await in Alton, IL

Visiting Alton, Illinois means taking in the local river culture but also understanding the development that created the cities out west such as St Louis. With so many historical avenues to explore and such great opportunities for adventure, this is one trip you won’t want to miss. Whether it’s the food scene you want to explore or the outdoors, Alton has something to enjoy for everyone. Plan your trip today and make sure you check out these best things to do in Alton, Illinois to make every moment spent there worthwhile!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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