Alton sites, tours, visitor center included in new to-do list book

ALTON — Longtime Illinois Melanie Holmes will be in Alton on June 7 to sign her latest guidebook, “100 Things to Do in Illinois Before You Die.”

The Holmes book includes several Alton sites on the “Must Do” list within the state. Holmes will discuss the book from 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 7 at the Hayner Genealogy and Local History Library, 401 State St., Alton.

“For its significance to Black History and the Underground Railroad, Alton is a true destination,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes identifies at least five “things to do before you die” in Alton, including Underground Railroad tours with historian J. Eric Robinson scheduled seasonally through the Alton Visitor Center. Additionally, she recommends visiting the Elijah P. Lovejoy Memorial to the abolitionist who was murdered in 1837 by a pro-slavery mob.

She also suggests driving the Great River Road and, due to Alton’s reputation, taking part in Alton Odyssey Tours and Alton Haunting Tours.

Holmes also cites several other things to do in the area, including Grafton’s Skytour and Edwardsville’s ‘Que and Brew Pro and Backyard BBQ Competition each October.

She cites upcoming special events, including a June 14 visit by riverboat Celebration Belle.

“We try to make it a special event; we don’t offer it every year,” Celebration Belle’s Susan Yarolem, director of sales and marketing, said of the Alton-St. Louis.

Holmes also touts mystery dinners, like the Murder Mystery Dinner Theater offered at Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton.

She said if people think they’ve seen all the best parts of Illinois, they should grab the book and find it. Illinois is a mix of rolling cornfields, a “drift-free” area in Galena (perfect for downhill skiing) and a national forest that stretches from river to river, she said. .

At Hayner’s, Holmes will share fun adventure stories and tips for seeing, eating and absorbing the best of what’s culturally crucial in Illinois. This includes Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, drive-in theaters in Litchfield and Belleville, the Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest, and farmers markets across the state, specifically citing Woodlawn Farm just east of Jacksonville.

“This book will take readers on a variety of journeys through the states’ rich history, showcasing places with some of the best food and entertainment Illinois has to offer,” said Marla Stoker Ballenger, the book’s publicist.

Holmes delivers locals off the beaten path when she mentions the best deep pan pizza in Illinois, which she says is a short drive to Carbondale, at Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza. People can also dine on a cruise on Lake Michigan, visit the cultures of two states at once, by booking a food cruise with Chicago’s City Experiences, or bike lakeside Chicago on Lake Michigan.


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