15 Best Things to Do in Carbondale, IL

Carbondale, IL
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The city of Carbondale lies in Jackson and Williamson Counties, what is known as Southern Illinois' "Little Egypt."

Daniel Harmon Brush, John Asgill Conner, and Dr. William Richart purchased a 360-acre (1.5-km2) block of land in August 1853 between two projected railroad stations (Makanda and De Soto) and two county seats (Murphysboro and Marion). In honor of the area's abundant coal resources, Brush dubbed it Carbondale.

On August 21, 2017, the area was in totality, with Giant City State Park, just south of the city, having the most extended length of total phase during the eclipse, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

Carbondale is one of the state's most popular road-trip destinations and a fantastic place to spend a few days.

Located fewer than 100 miles from St. Louis, this little city has a premier research institution, outstanding museums, cultural attractions, and many outdoor leisure options.

Its proximity to many vineyards makes this Midwestern college town a must-visit for anybody looking for a relaxing vacation.

As a tourist, there are a few things you can do to guarantee that your trip to this magnificent city is one to remember.

To help you plan your trip to Carbondale, here is a list of must-do activities.

Tour the Southern Illinois University

View of Southern Illinois University
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Southern Illinois University lies in the heart of Carbondale.

Founded in 1869 as a teachers' college, this top-ranked research school is home to more than 11,000 undergraduates and postgraduates.

There is a lot to see and do on campus, with Campus Lake at its heart and many green areas to explore.

Pulliam Hall often performs the university's most prominent structure, the clock tower, and carillon.

View of Southern Illinois University
Ken Schulze / Shutterstock.com

Make sure to swing by the university's museum while you're in town, too.

As a natural history museum, it originally opened its doors in 1874, and it now exhibits more than 70,000 objects that illustrate the narrative of southern Illinois, from its earliest inhabitants to the present day.

Consider checking out the Saluki athletics calendar to immerse yourself in the team spirit completely.

Football or basketball games, or other athletic events, may have gameday tickets available.

View of Southern Illinois University
Ken Schulze / Shutterstock.com

Explore the Fusion of Culture at African American Museum

Since its establishment in 1997, the African American Museum of Southern Illinois has included exhibitions that highlight the contributions and challenging pasts of African Americans in history.

Photos, message quilts from the Underground Railroad, and literary works are just a few of the items housed at a museum maintained entirely by volunteers.

For anyone traveling between Chicago and Chattanooga, this is a must-see museum.

Through paintings and other museum artifacts, you may learn about prominent African American individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama.

Peruse High-Quality Leather Items at Leather World

Because leather is highly durable and resistant, it is one of the most popular materials used to make handbags.

It is also eco-friendly, meaning there is no need to use as many chemicals in producing a leather bag compared to making a synthetic or fake bag.

Leather World is Carbondale's best bet for leather shopping.

Shop for leather jackets, tool bags, gloves, vests, and other accessories at this fascinating family-owned business.

There are also leather handbags and caps and repair services for purses and shoes to patch up the broken zippers and replace the worn-out straps.

Explore the Autumn Ridge Acres

Autumn Ridge Acres in Southern Illinois' Shawnee National Forest offers horse boarding, trails, lessons, and indoor and outdoor arena use.

If you're searching for a fun destination to spend the day with your family or traveling companion, this is a terrific option.

Trek along the hiking paths around the ranch.

A knowledgeable guide will assist you in navigating the paths.

Saddle up and prepare for an exhilarating and educational horse-riding experience.

Stroll the Streets of Downtown Carbondale

View of Downtown Carbondale
Paul Sableman, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Like Carbondale, a traditional town square is the epitome of quaintness in a small town.

In the 1850s, when Carbondale's founders laid out the city, they left 10 acres of land in the middle of the city.

Around this area, there are more than a dozen historic buildings, many with cute shops and boutiques in them.

To get some retail therapy while you're in town, this is the place to go.

View of Downtown Carbondale
The original uploader was Xjbri at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Take Photos With the Dragons at Jeremy "Boo" Rochman Memorial Park

Boo Rochman Memorial Park is a privately owned and operated park that is open to the public.

If you've ever visited a park before, you'll undoubtedly be surprised by this one.

Young Dungeons & Dragons fanatic Jeremy "Boo" Rochman died tragically in an automobile accident in 1994.

The park came into existence as his family's way to commemorate Boo.

They hope the joy people experience here will keep his memory alive.

For starters, there's the castle, a timber and stone structure that's more like a jungle gym than a castle at all.

The sculpture garden encircling the castle also has a unicorn.

Although the park attracts a younger demographic, it is genuinely a wonder for visitors of all ages.

To ensure that Boo's park continues to be a fun and attractive place for generations to come, you may leave a generous gift in the donation box.

Pick Some Cigars at Yesteryear Tobacconist

Carbondale's Yesteryear Tobacconists has been a long-standing local custom.

The Carbondale community has relied on our humidor and limited variety of fresh tobacco since 1991.

Smaller farmers can place special orders and have their bulk tobaccos blended in-house by the company.

With a vast selection of beautifully crafted cigars, this shop is the best place in the country to get your fix.

Tobacconists are on hand to help you select the perfect cigar for your needs, and they'll show you around the shop's extensive selection.

Stop by if you're in the market for a keepsake you can take home with you.

Grab Some Local Produce at Carbondale Community Farmers' Market

Community farmers, producers, and craftspeople in Carbondale, California, have formed a non-profit organization called the Carbondale Farmer's Market to help them sell their agricultural food.

Every Wednesday at 4th and Main Street downtown, they gather to give Western Slope produce, tasty cuisine, and locally created artisan products to the local community.

If you're visiting this city and need to stock up on food, this is the place to go.

If you're looking for the largest selection of fresh goods in town, look no farther than this neighborhood.

See Live Performances at Varsity Theater

You may see a live performance at the Varsity Theater in one of those fascinating historic theaters with outstanding decor and interiors.

The structure was once the Varsity movie theater, a landmark in the city's cinematic history.

The Balcony Stage, a small performance area with state-of-the-art light and sound and a 137-seat listening room, is currently operational, along with the other two performance spaces.

In 2017, they were able to purchase and install film screening equipment in both of our operational performance venues thanks to the assistance of the local community.

If you've ever wanted to see a show in a theater that looks like a time capsule, Varsity Theater is the place to go.

Aside from the incredible acoustics and excellent visibility, the location also boasts some of the most peculiar toilets you've ever seen.

If you're searching for a venue that can accommodate huge crowds, this is a fantastic option for a stunning wedding or other special events.

Gaze at Artspace 304's Exhibits

Since 1987, Carbondale Community Arts (CCA) has provided services to Carbondale and the surrounding areas.

A significant part of CCA's objective is to extend and establish new pathways for learning and engagement in the arts in our community, with a particular emphasis on kids, and to foster the emergence and development of cultural possibilities in Southern Illinois.

CCA offers exhibitions, programs, and special events based on the arts and humanities.

Artspace 304, CCA's gallery, is located in the heart of Carbondale's downtown district.

It caters to people of all ages and income levels with a wide range of offerings.

As the region's most significant source of fine art, CCA aims to introduce it to the public and reinvigorate community members' sense of belonging.

Check Out the R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Home

Outside View of R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Home
Communityhelper1000, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The R. Buckminster Fuller Dome Home is a must-see for architecture enthusiasts.

From 1959 to 1968, Fuller served as a professor emeritus in the School of Art at Southern Illinois University.

Fuller and his wife, Anne, lived in a private geodesic dome developed by Fuller.

Despite the home's futuristic-looking design, the dome served its purpose: Fuller regarded the building approach as a way to enhance shelter for all people, and its durability and efficiency have survived the test of time.

Fuller received a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize and appeared on the cover of Stay magazine during his time in Carbondale.

In February 2006, the dome became part of the National Register of Historic Places.

Book a visit to marvel at this architectural wonder.

Watch Classical Music Performances of Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra

In 1903, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), community residents, and local professionals came together to form the Southern Illinois Symphony Orchestra (SISO).

The orchestra, which comprises professors and students from SIU and community members, routinely performs classical compositions by composers like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn.

In addition to hosting an annual Solo competition for students, SISO presents performances by Illinois solo performers, area choruses, and opera companies each year.

SISO also provides educational concerts for children in the region several times a year.

The orchestra hires at least a dozen professional Illinois musicians for each show.

Because no other orchestra exists in this part of Illinois, it is the only one to perform in the following locales: Pulaski and Washington Counties (Illinois), Jackson County (Illinois), Williamson County, and Union County (Illinois).

Bring Your Kids to the Science Center

Since its incorporation in 1992, the Science Center has sought to foster children's innate curiosity and inquiry by providing them with hands-on activities.

If you're in Carbondale with kids, the Science Center of Southern Illinois should be on your list of things to see and do while you're there.

Hands-on activities at the museum will foster your kid's natural curiosity and discovery.

More than 70,000 people visit the museum each year to experience more than 65 exhibitions.

Recently, it has added a topographic sandbox, a 12-foot-tall kinetic chain sculpture named "Kinetic Jim," and a 130-square-foot habitat for their resident male red iguana.

Relax at Cedar Lake

If you'd rather be on the water than land, consider adding Cedar Lake to your itinerary.

It came into existence in 1974 when the Big Muddy River tributary made a dam from Cedar Creek.

You can find it in the southern part of Carbondale.

This 1,750-acre body of water is 60-feet deep with a boat motor limit of 10hp and 40 miles of coastline.

It serves as a source of drinking water for the community and offers a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking and canoeing.

Cedar Lake also has a public beach where you may have a picnic or catch some rays.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Hit the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail

While visiting Carbondale, you should allow enough time for wine tastings, samplings, and savorings of local wines.

Just south of town, the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail features over a dozen vineyards.

Located in the hills near Shawnee National Forest, these lovely, family-owned places each provide their unique mixes and varietals.

Driving the beautiful route and making pit stops along the way is a perfect way to spend a day.

Many vineyards have their in-house cafés, or you might bring your picnic items.

The wisest advice we can give you is to take your time.

Keep hydrated and eat while traveling, or consider hiring a vehicle service if you plan to taste more than just one item!

Final Thoughts

Consider checking out this list of things to see and do in Carbondale, IL, for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with your family or significant other.

This lively city offers you the perfect break from the concrete jungles of metropolitan cities.