Your Guide to Historic Alton
Alton is one of America’s great river towns. It is filled with historic homes, great shops and diverse industry. Abundant with historical figures and local legends, many threads of our nation’s history can be discovered right here in Alton, Illinois.
In its early days, Alton was a bustling river town, much larger than Chicago. Alton was built on industry - flour mills, quarries, brick making, pottery making - and relied on the Mississippi River. The "Steamboat Era" played an important role of the growth of Alton, and riverboat traffic can still be seen from the riverfront up and down the Mighty Mississippi River.
The location dates back to 1673 when Father Jacques Marquette made his famed journey with Louis Joliet down the Mississippi River. That year, Marquette recorded in his diary his discovery of the Piasa Bird on the bluffs above his canoe. The city was founded in 1818 by Rufus Easton.
The Clark Bridge was one of the first stay-cable bridges built in the Unites States. It was featured in a PBS documentary titled Super Bridge.
WHY VISIT ALTON
You can easily spend several days in Alton taking in all of the historic sites and enjoying the endless recreational options. Alton is a timeless river city that you will be drawn to time and again for quick getaways or extended stays.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN ALTON
1) Take a selfie with Robert Wadlow
Wadlow was the tallest man to have ever lived. He was born in Alton in 1918 and at the time of his death in 1940, Wadlow measured 8-foot, 11.1 inches tall. He is named in the Guinness World Records book.
Robert Wadlow was the tallest man ever measuring at 8-foot, 11.1-inches!
2) Watch a barge lock through the largest Lock & Dam on the Mississippi River!
See the best view of Alton and the Mississippi River from eight stories in the air atop the Melvin Price Locks & Dam No. 26. This is also a great spot to bird watch during the spring and fall migration seasons and to watch for eagles and trumpeter swans during winter.
3) Haunted tour or visit to the Historic Museum of Torture Devices
Alton is known as “One of the Most Haunted Small Towns in America,” according to the Travel Channel and Fate magazine. The Historic Museum of Torture Devices features devices on display used to torture people in the Middle Ages. The museum is one of the few in the United States, located inside Mineral Springs Mall at 301 E. Broadway St. in Downtown Alton.
Whether visitors are interested in haunted history or seeing a ghost first-hand, three experienced tour companies are ready to serve as guides, just as they have for the past 20 years. Tours are offered year-round.
4) Grab a drink at legendary Fast Eddie's
Head up Broadway for the legendary Fast Eddie’s Bon Air, known for their cheap food - half-pound hamburger, along with many other favorites like the peel-n-eat shrimp, pork kabobs, hot chick-on-a-stick and the Big Elwood. The free popcorn and coldest beer around has kept people coming back for more. You haven't seen Alton unless you've made a stop at Fast Eddie's.
5) Walk with Lincoln on Civil War Legacy Trail
Walk with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and experience the lasting legacies that shaped the history of America as you visit 10 Lincoln and Civil War sites in Alton, Ill. Sites include: Confederate Cemetery where more than 1,400 Confederate soldiers are buried, Elijah Lovejoy Monument, the tallest man-mad monument in Illinois, Confederate Prison, the first state penitentiary that opened in 1833 and more.
MORE: DOWNLOAD CIVIL WAR GUIDE
TOP PLACES TO SPEND THE NIGHT IN ALTON
When you visit Alton, you have the option of staying in one of our historic B&Bs, modern riverfront lodging or even top-ranked hotels.
MORE: AMAZING DEALS FOR YOUR GETAWAY TO ALTON
1) Beall Mansion
Indulge yourself at the BEALL Mansion, a sumptuous Bed and Breakfast Inn located 12 blocks from the Mississippi River on Millionaire’s Row in historic Alton.
MORE: ADDITIONAL B&Bs
2) Alton Cracker Factory
Enjoy breathtaking views of the mighty Mississippi River, Riverfront Park and the Marina from the deck of each unit, or walk to dining, entertainment, Argosy casino, and the amphitheater.
Beautiful view of downtown Alton from Alton Cracker Factory balcony.
3) Best Western Premier - St. Louis Regional Airport Hotel
Features indoor pool, on-site restaurant and other amenities.
4) Best Western Plus
The hotel offers numerous perks including: a complimentary full breakfast, an exercise facility, laundromat and an outdoor pool.
MORE: FIND ADDITIONAL HOTELS & GUEST HOUSES
TOP 5 FESTIVALS IN ALTON
1) Eagle Watching
Alton is one of the best places to watch for American Bald Eagles between late December through early March. In addition, eagle events are plentiful including Eagle Meet & Greets, Alton Eagle Ice Festival, Masters of Sky and more!
The Alton Visitor Center hosts Eagle Meet & Greets every Saturday in January.
2) Summer Concerts at Alton Amphitheater
With the riverfront as a backdrop, the sounds of summer will be bouncing off the Mississippi River during the annual Summer Concert Series at Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater. Don't forget about the annual Food Truck Festival!
3) Vintage Voices
Actors/historians will "bring to life" some of Alton's most interesting citizens. The 3/4 mile easy walking tour (approximately one hour) will give individuals and groups a chance to learn about the women and men who shaped the city's rich history, to view some beautiful vintage costumes and to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the City and National Cemetery.
4) Farmers Market
From fresh grown local produce to hand crafted works of art and antique finds, head to the market this season with Alton's Farmers' & Artisans' Market along with a Night Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays from June through October.
5) Christmas Wonderland
Hear the sleigh bells jingle and see 3 million lights twinkle amongst a beautiful backdrop at Rock Spring Park's Christmas Wonderland.
MORE: ADDITIONAL ALTON EVENTS
The Alton Marina is a 5-Anchor marina right on the Mississippi River!
TOP PLACES TO EAT IN ALTON
1) Castelli's Restaurant at 255 (Moonlight)
One of the most popular items at this restaurant that has been in the same family for over 75 years is the fried chicken. The TALK-N-CHIC is a house secret, trademarked recipe that has been passed down through the generations.
2) My Just Desserts
This unique diner showcases sweet treats hand-crafted by owner Ann Badasch, including up to 13 flavors of homemade pie every day. The pie list consists of 150 different flavors that rotate on a monthly basis
Known as the original Pasta House in the region, Tony's has been satisfying customers in the metro area for over 60 years with their specialty pastas and famous Pepperloin Steaks.
4) Old Bakery Beer
Known for great locally brewed beer and farm-to-table entrees, Old Bakery Beer in Alton has quickly become a popular local fave since opening in January 2015. Some of its best sellers include Citrus Wheat, Mild Brown Ale and other seasonal favorites.
5) Chez Marilyn
This restaurant serves 30 signature, top-notch martinis (most are named for classic movies), paired with crostini appetizers, build-your-own burgers, blue cheese kabobs or terrific Mexican soup. In nice weather, enjoy a glass of wine or beer on the delightfully sunny Third Street patio, filled with market umbrellas.
6) Bluff City Grill
Bluff City Grill, located in Historic Downtown Alton, offers a classic dining experience and a relaxing lounge bar.
7) Great Rivers Tap & Grill
One of the newest restaurants to open in Alton, is known for its numerous drafts on tap and for its array of delicious, made from scratch specialty dishes.
8) Hops House or Journey at Argosy
Hops House has over 60 beer selections and features local labels including Old Bakery Beer, 4204 Main Street Brewery and more.
Journey offers delicious steaks, burgers and more with spectacular views of the Mississippi River.
9) State Street Market
Looking for market fresh salads, homemade soups, paninis and sandwiches? State Street Market in Alton, Illinois has all that and more.
10) Johnson's Corner
Johnson's is a family-owned restaurant that's famous for its huge pork tenderloin sandwich.
Find other favorites like Bossanova, Gentelins and more by clicking here.