MANSCORE TRIP: CARBONDALE, ILLINOIS Discover The Gem That Is Southern Illinois
Nestled on the northern edge of the Shawnee National Forest, Carbondale, Illinois is a ManScore worthy trip waiting to happen. Discover the magnificence that is southern Illinois and indulge yourself in countless breweries, distilleries, bike trails, golf courses, and everything that men love. Grab your buddies and make it a guy weekend, bring your significant other and treat them to a wine tour, or take the whole family for an unforgettable experience. Here are 8 reasons why Carbondale needs to be your next getaway destination.
The first step in planning any trip is figuring out where you are going to rest your head after a long day of awesomeness. Luckily, Carbondale offers a wide array of lodging options with cabin rentals, hotels and bed & breakfasts. For a guy’s weekend, check out Stone Creek Cabins, which is close to Keller’s Crossing golf course and located deep within the Shawnee National Forest. If you want something cozy for you and the significant other, Pine Manor is the perfect choice for a bed & breakfast type setting.
Breweries & Distilleries
A ManScore trip is not complete without a visit to some of Illinois’ finest breweries and distilleries. Stop by Big Muddy Brewing (only open on weekends) and try their family recipe Kinkaid Wheat, or check out Scratch Brewing Company, a farmhouse brewery and one of the top voted destinations for foraged beer. If you’re searching for something with a little more bite, Grand River Spirits, a locally-owned distillery that produces whiskies, bourbons and ryes made from all-local grains and fruits, is the place for you.
Carbondale sits on the northern edge of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail which features eleven wineries to add a different taste to the guy’s weekend or serve as the destination for a romantic weekend away. Alto Vineyards is worth mentioning, which sits in the heart of the Shawnee Hills, 25 minutes southwest of Carbondale. The Renzaglia Family has owned and operated the winery for three generations and is responsible for producing some of the region’s finest wine. Its wine festivals, have been known to draw crowds upwards of 1000 people since 1997 and the winery features production facilities for 25,000 gallons of Illinois wine. Come for the wine, stay for the experience.
For the outdoorsman in all of us, Carbondale boasts some of the state’s top forests, nature preserves and wildlife refuges. Take a hike on some 22 miles of trails in the Trail of Tears State Forest or go for a morning walk in one of the local nature preserves; there’s something for everyone. For the serious ones, trek out to the Shawnee National Forest and experience the Garden of the Gods, an uplifted sandstone plateau that is simply breathtaking.
Those of us who frequent the Chicago biking scene understand the misfortune of Illinois geography. It’s flat and remarkably un-technical for both Road and Mountain Biking when compared to destinations like Vail, Co or Moab, UT. Or so we thought. 5 hours from the northern plain’s featureless terrain lies an excellent biking playground ideally suited for a weekend road trip in Southern Illinois. If you’re into crushing the single track, hit up the Red Cedar Mountain Bike trail for a 13 mile loop through the hills. If Road biking is more your thing, load your carbon fiber chariot with some energy goo, stuff your jersey with water bottles, and pound the pavement along the Trans-America Bicycle Trail which enters the state to the west of Carbondale at Chester. A ride west from Carbondale to Chester, along section 9 of the trail will take you through rolling hills and more than 2000ft of elevation gain along the route. While those aren’t Vail numbers, it’s the best Illinois has to offer, and your legs will burn, I promise.
Southern Illinois is home to some of the best golf courses in the Midwest. I’ll feature two here, but you can find more ManScore worthy courses online at Carbondaletourism.org. Home to the SIU Golf Team (the Salukis), Hickory Ridge Golf Course offers a challenging championship course that won't break the bank. Long fairways and beautiful water hazards make this course a hidden gem and one that will have you coming back year after year. Keller’s Crossing at Stone Creek went through a substantial reconstruction in 2016 to restore the course to the championship level masterpiece it was in the past and is now open for business in 2017. The course features 18 holes carved out of a tree orchard in the Shawnee Hills, an excellent restaurant, and you can even rent golf boards if a standard golf cart is too boring for you.
Offering over 15 attractions for history buffs, Carbondale is sure to take you back. Check out one of the many museums, including The University Museum, which possesses over 60,000 artifacts for your viewing pleasure. Take an interpretive tour through Station Carbondale, and experience a real locomotive, caboose and train depot. Make sure to stop by the famous Lincoln/Douglas Debate-Site and Memorial, a pivotal event in American history.
You won’t find any big city traffic here. Located about 15 miles west of I-57, it couldn’t be much easier to travel to Carbondale. Take a 5 hour road trip from Chicago, or hop on an Amtrak for a no-stress experience (tickets start at $50 one way).
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