An Insider’s Guide for the Perfect Picnic
Have you missed the feeling of lush, green grass on bare feet? Or the smell of fresh, summer air in the afternoon? Unpack your snacks and unwind your mind as you follow this Insider’s Guide for the Perfect Picnic in the Meeting of the Great Rivers.
Choosing a prime picnic spot is easy with our riverside, bluff-top and open-spaced options! Cool off on a hot summer day along the banks of the Mississippi River in Alton at Riverfront Park, located at Landmarks Blvd. A delicious meal from Brown Bag Bistro is only a few blocks away and accessible by the pedestrian bridge!
Or, visit one of Alton’s best-kept secrets, the Alton Marina at 1 Henry St. in Alton, which is celebrating its 22nd year in business.
Alton Marina, photo by Pete Basola
“What people don’t realize is we are open to the public and have a great deli, gift shop and outdoor pavilion,” says Karen Baker Brncic, manager of the 5 Anchor marina. “This is a great place to enjoy a picnic or simply sit and watch the river.”
Breakfast and lunch are served at the Alton Marina Deli open Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Breakfast skillets, biscuits and gravy, quiche, salads, burgers, pizza... and that's only some of it!
Order a BLT Pizza or the special Poor Boy of the week and explore the Ship Store while you wait! Find everything you might need like coolers, pool toys, summer hats, apparel, beautiful jewelry and so much more.
Don't forget to wash it all down! Grab one of Karen's "Famous Margaritas," some house wine or even a strawberry lemonade smoothie.
Find your way to the bluff tops and watch barges and boats slide along the Mississippi River while enjoying a legendary sandwich. Cathy Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Corner, 2000 State St., Alton, says, “I’d take our famous pork tenderloin sandwich, chips, some garlic cheese and crackers and head right up the road to Riverview Dr. at Bluff St. and go to Alton’s Riverview Park.”
Riverview Park, photo by John Metcalf
Take a break from biking on the 25-mile Sam Vadalabene Bike Trail and enjoy the views along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway at Clifton Terrace Park at Route 100 and Clifton Terrace Road in Godfrey. Clifton Terrace Park offers a playground, an informational kiosk and restroom facilities, making it the ultimate spot for anyone in need of the perfect rest stop or picnic hangout.
If you’ve ever picnicked with kids, you know that they need more than a great view to keep them occupied. Kick a soccer ball on the fields, walk the trails, run around large playgrounds and even cast a line in the waters of Godfrey’s Robert E. Glazebrook Community Park at 1401 Stamper Lane or Gordon F. Moore Community Park at 4550 College Avenue in Alton!
Looking for the best meat around for your picnic barbeque? Tony’s Restaurant and Third Street Café, 312 Piasa St., Alton, offers their signature pepperloins and fillets raw!
Owner Paul Ventimiglia lays out his plans for a family picnic, “I’d grab pepperloins or fillets and a pan of house or Caesar salad from Tony’s Restaurant and grill-out on the outdoor grills at Pere Marquette State Park.”
Get a six-ounce pepperloin for $13.99, eight-ounce for $15.99 or a 12 ounce for $19.99. Fillets are available in a six-ounce for $12.99 or an eight-ounce for $14.99.
Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center
With nearly 8,000 acres of scenic beauty, one is sure to find the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a picnic at Pere Marquette State Park, located at 13112 Visitor Center Lane in Grafton. Work up an appetite hiking, rock climbing or horseback riding through the trails.
Grove Memorial Park
Another Grafton favorite is Grove Memorial Park at the corner of Market and Main Streets. Catch one of the region’s most popular events: Music in the Park every Thursday between June 7 and August 9! The free concerts are the perfect opportunities for a community-wide picnic.
Being a popular river town, Grafton is known to have some great fresh fish. Pick up a hot fish sandwich with homemade baked beans and hush puppies from Beasley Fish Stand, 1512 W Main St., Grafton. Check out the fish market if you feel like doing the cooking yourself.
Another local and visitor favorite for a bite of fresh fish is O'Jan's Fish Stand, 101 W Main St. in Grafton. Here, get a taste of simplicity as you enjoy quick and delicious meals on the banks of the Illinois River.
Grafton Harbor, photo by Pete Basola
If you’re looking to think outside the box, rent a pontoon boat from Grafton Harbor at 215 W. Water St. in Grafton and picnic on the Illinois River! Snacks, Grafton Harbor Floating Winery wine and anything else you may need for your fun on the water can be found at the Marina Store.
Did someone say wine? Sit among orchards at Grafton Winery the Vineyards, 21028 Eckert Orchard Rd. in Grafton, as you sip award-winning Grafton Winery & Brewhaus wines! Owner Mike Nikonovich says that’s exactly what he does with wife and co-owner, Lori.
“Our ideal picnic is easy and we do it all the time,” says Nikonovich. “We grab a Charcuterie Platter, some wraps, chips and Grafton Winery wine and take it out to the Vineyards!”
Grafton Winery the Vineyards
Nikonovich says that Grafton Winery & Brewhaus is also in the process of putting together box lunches for picnics at the Vineyards. These would be available to pick up at Grafton Winery & Brewhaus, 300 W. Main St. in Grafton, or, if requested in advance, dropped off and ready to go at the Vineyards.
State Street Market
The wine is always flowing in the Meeting of the Great Rivers. Wine retailers such as Solera, 212 W. 3rd St., Alton, and State Street Market, 208 State St., Alton, make it easy to grab bottles to-go from local flavors worldwide wines.