15 Best Things to Do in Arthur, IL

Arthur, IL
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Arthur is a village in the Moultrie and Douglas counties in Illinois and home to the state's oldest and largest Amish community.

In Arthur are sights you can see nowhere else in Illinois, such as horse-drawn buggies, well-kept farmyards with blue-curtained houses and gardens.

Check out roadside stands with produce and baked goods and ball diamonds full of Amish children.

There are hundreds of shops in Amish country: buggy and harness shops, furniture shops, wood shops, quilt shops, metal and machine shops, butchers, bakeries, and produce stands.

Wander downtown for unique shopping experiences as you browse quality food, custom Amish furniture, sodas, gifts, boutiques, clothing, crafts, fine arts, photographs, quilts, sewing supplies, etc.

For some entertainment, drop into the Penn Station Theatre, which plays live music, gospel, bluegrass, and other outstanding performances.

You can also visit the Professional Theatre, which has enjoyable seasonal productions.

Explore the Arthur countryside, experiencing, learning, and taking in the quintessential Amish experiences like Lincoln lore, history, theatre, horseback riding, and shopping.

Check out this list for the best things to do in Arthur, IL.

Take a Family Getaway at Lake Shelbyville

The calm waters of Lake Shelbyville
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Lake Shelbyville is a popular destination located 36 minutes from Arthur.

The public knows it for its beaches, hunting, boating, fishing, water-skiing, camping facilities, and swimming.

It features 172 miles of shoreline and 11,000 water acres, a perfect spot to explore the great outdoors.

Visitors can experience more than 50 miles of multi-purpose developed trails, such as the Great Dacey trail, an ideal place for hiking, geocaching, bird-watching, and photography.

Daytime view of Lake Shelbyville's dam
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Enjoy boating services at places like the Sullivan Marina Campground, located on a serene forested hilltop, satisfying the wants of campers, boaters, and anglers.

Lake Shelbyville is renowned for its fishing experiences and holds the Biggest Fish Record for white bass and catfish.

Tourists can fish in over 11,000 acres of clear water for largemouth bass, catfish, walleye, crappie, muskie, and bluegill.

And there are superb hiking opportunities at Lake Shelbyville, where you can see photogenic ponds; scenic trees, flowers, and ferns; prime spots for migrating waterfowl; and rolling hills and prairies.

Explore Amish Country with ACM Tours

ACM Tours is a full-service receptive tour guide company with many unique services that open the door to Illinois Amish Country.

They assist visitors with scheduling, reservation booking, itinerary planning for Amish in-home meals, step-on guides, farm and shop tours, and accommodations.

They have available trained, local, professional, and step-on guides who are knowledgeable in this region's customs, history, and folklore.

Introduce yourself to the fine quilt making in Arthur, where hundreds of handstitched, Amish, and locally-made quilts are sold and showcased at local country and in-town quilt shops.

Go on Amish buggy shop tours, see the ins and outs of creating the buggy chassis, undercarriage, and body, and watch a demonstration of steel-rimmed wheel making.

Follow the itineraries immersing your group in the Amish shopping experience and exploring Amish custom furniture, baked goods, world-class fine art, home décor, local-made crafts, and good foods.

Eat Well at Heartland Deli and Delights

Heartland Deli and Delights, formerly known as Country Cheese and More, serves terrific local foods, baked goods, and a tasty collection of meats and cheeses.

They have taken care of the Arthur community since the 1990s, and their local family-owned store is open for lunch in the village’s heart.

They can whip you up a quick hot sandwich or let you create your cold-cut combo, and they offer a variety of bread, meats, and cheeses for yummy combinations.

Explore tempting meats and sausages and over 50 varieties of cheese, including Ropp cheese and other Wisconsin cheeses.

They offer baked goods as their bread and butter and make delicious bread, donuts, rolls, cookies, and other favorites.

With everything locally sourced, you can also find jams and jellies, homemade strawberry butter, Amish peanut butter, salsas, Amish-made noodles, and candies.

Buy Quality Amish Furniture at the Woodloft

About 30 or 40 years ago, the Arthur Amish community adopted woodworking as an excellent alternative to farming that created jobs.

They used word of mouth to market their trade, and now the Arthur Amish community is the largest producer of hand-crafted oak furniture in the country.

The Woodloft features quality custom solid wood furniture, beautiful heirloom pieces, smaller functional home accents, and quality wood craftsmanship.

They work in all wood species, primarily oak, and items in hickory, walnut, cherry, and maple.

See their exemplary tables in varieties of Queen Anne, mission, round, oval, custom, and farmhouse.

View their custom-made chairs in a large-style assortment including craftsman, country, Shaker, mission, Queen Anne, and Southern, made with solid wood such as maple, hickory, cherry, and quarter sawed.

The Woodloft is also proud of its hutches and buffets, made from solid hardwoods like cherry, hickory, oak, and brown maple.

Have a Barbecue Feast at Pauly’s BBQ

Paul and Sarah Kuhns started Pauly’s BBQ back in 2010.

Today it is an Arthur mainstay featuring award-winning beef brisket, pulled pork, homemade smoked mac and cheese, and more.

Paul, an Arthur resident, was a self-employed cabinet installer who originally started smoking barbecue as a hobby.

Little did he know it would turn into a thriving business!

Sarah creates many delicious cobblers, pies, homemade soups, and delicious baked goods for the restaurant.

The food at Pauly’s is fresh, hot, and bountiful, they soak their meats to perfection, and their portions are perfectly-sized.

Try their famous meats like pulled pork, shaved tenderloin, ribs, smoked turkey, and beef brisket or their platters like grilled chicken breast, smoked pork chop, and fried walleye.

Sample their tasty sides such as baked beans, coleslaw, tater tots, cottage cheese, applesauce, mac ’n cheese, green beans, and French fries.

Have a Nice Cup of Joe at Roselen’s Coffee and Delights

Want to start your day or grab an afternoon treat with baked goods and a shot of caffeine?

Head on to Roselen’s Coffee and Delights, where you will find lattes, coffee, teas, ice cream, and fantastic homemade baked goods.

Roselen’s mission is to create an atmosphere promoting relaxation, comfort, and rejuvenation in a busy and demanding world while operating a caring business.

It began with sisters Rose and Lena, who dreamed of giving people a quiet alcove: a place where friends can meet and socialize or curl up in a corner with a book.

They devoted countless hours to learning the coffee trade, teaching themselves to find the perfect bean, and knowing the importance of brewing coffee with the right temperature and humidity.

The sisters continue to be very passionate about serving coffee and creating a top-tier experience for anyone who walks through their door.

Celebrate Sweet Treats at the Arthur Strawberry Jam Festival

Arthur Strawberry Jam Festival celebrates the late spring and early summer with one of America’s favorite fruits, the strawberry.

The festival started with merchant sidewalk sales in the 1950s, and for the past years, the Strawberry Social fundraiser has been held at Otto Center with strawberry pies and treats.

Every vendor includes a strawberry theme to displays and products, and every food stand puts strawberry items on their menu with lots of fresh bulk strawberries for the taking.

At the Strawberry Tent are all-day free strawberry giveaways, fun strawberry games for young and old, a strawberry pie-eating contest, and lots of strawberry jams and jellies.

You will see craft and food vendors, a Kids Zone for the little ones, and the traditional merchant spring sales.

The Illinois Specialty Growers Association estimates that the festival uses 54,000 strawberries for the pies alone!

There is also an all-day bake sale with freshly baked Amish goodies like bread, cinnamon rolls, and strawberry-flavored angel food cake.

Welcome Fall at the Great Pumpkin Patch

Stack of pumpkins during the Great Pumpkin Patch
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Tucked in the lush farmland of Illinois’ Amish Country is the 200 Acres, a little slice of Arthur where pumpkins grow under the sun and families celebrate every fall season.

At the Great Pumpkin Patch, guests can see 300 varieties of squash, gourds, and pumpkin from 20 countries, with over 5,000 hardy mums, many premier displays, and beautiful gardens.

They also exhibit a love for diversity through animals, featuring several chickens, goats, pigs, exotic chickens, llamas, and rabbits.

Pumpkins on a wooden wagon during the Great Pumpkin Patch
DanielTomlinsonPhoto / Shutterstock.com

They have a U-Pick Patch with hundreds of pumpkins still on the vine and a We-Pick Patch with plenty of pre-picked pumpkins, squashes, and gourds.

They offer mazes and wagon rides, with a one-acre corn maze, a smaller corn maze, a straw bale maze, a soybean maze, and even a mini-maze for toddlers.

You can take the TGPP Express Wagon Ride, which takes you on a Patch tour while learning its history and how pumpkin farming has developed over the years.

Visit their children’s garden and conifer garden; giant beautiful mum quilts; their Noah’s ark of pumpkin, squashes, and gourds; and the pumpkin tree standing proudly amidst it all.

Pumpkins on the ground during the Great Pumpkin Patch
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Try Quality Amish Food at Yoder’s Kitchen

A great way to dine like a local in Arthur is to order Amish-style favorites at Yoder’s Kitchen.

It not only has a buffet of Amish meals but a full assortment of baked goods guaranteed to satisfy you.

Owner Anna Herschberger grew up in a traditional Amish home, where her mother served homemade meals with her business, Miller’s Home Cooking.

Anna only reached an eighth-grade education due to her Amish upbringing, but she learned more than enough from her mother.

In 1994, Anna began working as a waitress in Yoder’s Kitchen and learned many things about the restaurant business.

Today, she and her husband Nelson own Yoder’s Kitchen with both of their sons, Daren and Derrick, working as restaurant managers.

Yoder’s Kitchen serves traditional Amish home-style cooking and Amish-style baked goods such as cinnamon bread, white bread, whole wheat bread, cinnamon swirl bread, cinnamon rolls, and peanut butter cookies.

Revel in Baked Goods at the Homestead Bakery

Another point of pride at The 200 Acres is The Homestead Bakery, which has stayed true to Arthur’s diverse culture since 2006.

It offers a complete line of Amish goods from scratch, including sweetbreads, honey yeast bread, caramel iced cinnamon rolls, more than 18 flavors of angel food cake, and their famous iced pumpkin cookies.

They also carry locally made jellies, jams, butter, and salsa.

The Homestead Bakery has cut-out iced cookies for each season, angel food cake for all occasions, and bread and rolls for your daily routine.

You can enjoy the festive iced cookies every holiday, cookie platters for any party, dinner rolls for your group gatherings, and yeast and sweetbreads every day.

If you need to raise a little extra money, they offer fundraising opportunities for your organizations, sports teams, churches, schools, or special events.

Enjoy Cheesy Celebrations at the Arthur Cheese Festival

Every Labor Day weekend, Arthur invites tens of thousands for a downtown celebration festival with food, games, races, entertainment, crafts, and cheese!

You can sample all the free cheese, see a tractor pull, listen to music, watch a parade, spy on an Amish farm shop, and get to know the essence of Amish country.

At the National Cheese Eating Championships, they give each contestant one block of Colby cheese and a water bottle and start the clock.

The first to eat all or most of the cheese gets the champion crown!

The International Cheese Curling Championships are one of the most family fun games based on the sport of ice curling.

Here, you will play with a team and a ‘sweeper’ who will direct a four-pound cheese ‘stone’ towards the regulation target.

Another thrilling event is the Big Cheese Callithumpian Parade, which has an exciting array of floats, clowns, antique cars, fire trucks, antique tractors, and more.

Observe Amish Tradition from Sheep to Clothing to Quilts

Sheep to Clothing to Quilts is an annual activity revolving around making quilts and clothing in the 19th century.

Although woolen mills were creating wool cloth by the 1860s, many families still spun their thread and wove their material, which they turned into quilts.

At the event, you will see early Amish clothing, coverlets, quilts, and other hand-woven fabrics on display at the Schrock House.

You can see the blue and white coverlet the Diener family wove before they arrived in America, an 1870s-style suit that Daniel Schrock wore, and an 1840s-era Campbell family quilt.

The event will demonstrate sheep shearing throughout the day, hand shearing, washing and drying of wool, and more modern technology.

You will also see the actual spinning wheel that Moses Yoder brought in 1865 and watch demonstrations of spinning on the flax or Saxony wheel and the walking wheel.

There is also a weaving demonstration with examples of hand-woven cloth and different coverlets displayed.

See the Skies Light Up at the Arthur Freedom Celebration Fireworks

One of central Illinois’ largest fireworks happens in Arthur a week before the 4th of July weekend.

Mark this event on your calendar to enjoy entertainment, food vendors, a fireworks display with World War aircraft, and a 16-inch firework shell at the exhibition.

The morning begins with a big parade downtown at about 1:00 p.m., where you will have ample time to revel in the downtown festivities.

Then head to the fairgrounds on the south edge of Arthur in the late afternoon, where you can see a baseball tournament, food stands, skydivers, and an airshow.

The airshow includes an F115 stealth fighter flyover with WWII T6 aircraft and Mid-America Sport Parachute Club skydivers.

The fireworks display is a 24-minute barrage of a thousand aerial displays and some of the biggest shells in the country.

More crowd favorites are the Wall of Fire and the Niagara Falls display, 500 feet long, and the Rural Patriot, who triumphantly rides across the hundred-foot long array.

Other Things to d=Do Nearby

Learn Amish History at the Illinois Amish Heritage Center

The Illinois Amish Heritage Center first started in 1994 as the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center, offering Amish Heritage and cultural exhibits.

The center also screened an introductory film on Amish life and Amish Country Tours of homes, farms, meals, and businesses in Amish homes.

Over the years, it upheld a mission to enhance understanding, preservation, and appreciation of every aspect of the Amish people’s culture and heritage in Illinois.

The center preserves two historic Amish homes: the 1865 Moses Yoder House, the oldest Amish home in Illinois, and the 1882 Daniel Schrock House.

The Schrock House has exhibits on Amish religion and history, Amish coverlets and quilts, Amish culture, and Amish clothing.

The Yoder House is under restoration, and you can see exhibits describing elements of the original house as Moses Yoder built it.

Attend Steam Threshing Days in August, which shows attendees how they grew and harvested crops and features oat threshing by gasoline, steam, and horsepower.

Try the Harvest to Home event in October, which features activities around the corn.

It has field demonstrations that feature corn stalk chopping and disking, preparing fields for wheat planting, and horse and tractor plowing.

Marvel at Wild Creatures in Aikman Wildlife Adventure

Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola, Illinois, ten minutes from Arthur, is a drive-through wildlife park where people can get up close and personal with wild animals.

Its mission is to provide a high quality of life to wildlife in need, sustain a family-friendly environment through education, interaction, and conservation, and create a lifetime experience.

Aikman Wildlife Adventure has over 200 animals that make up over 70 species native to different continents.

With Aikman’s Triple Crown, drive your vehicle on their mile-long path that explores the sanctuary and see over 100 exotic animals, smaller animals, avians, and predators.

With the Wagon Adventure, pet and feed camels, zebras, and emus, and with the Off-Road Adventure, check out free-roaming animals like bison, watusi, and water buffalo.

Then visit the Museum of Prehistoric Life, which has fully detailed, life-size dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

Final Thoughts

Arthur is a welcoming haven, with the motto “You’re only a stranger once,” greeting eager visitors from all across the country.

Its community is like a hand-crafted patchwork quilt weaving together time-honored tradition and rich history.

For a one-of-a-kind experience in the heart of Illinois, visit the village of Arthur today!

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