15 Best Things to Do in Carlinville, IL

Carlinville, IL
Michelle Sawyer / shutterstock.com

Carlinville is a small city and the seat of Macoupin County, Illinois, teeming with exciting attractions.

Named after former State Governor, Thomas Carlin, this city is the only Carlinville in the entire world.

During the early 1900s, many houses from the Sears Catalog Home stood in Carlinville.

Walk around the town square and discover unique architectural elements in historic buildings.

Check out lovely restaurants and stores with individual histories.

Carlinville presents numerous unique opportunities for community involvement, including festivals and events!

Are you ready for a new adventure?

Here are the best things to do in Carlinville, Illinois:

Roam the Carlinville Historic District

Exterior of Macoupin County Jail at Carlinville Historic District
stannate, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Carlinville Historic District features the oldest parts of the city.

Since 1976, the district has belonged to Illinois’ National Register of Historic Places.

The community encompasses the majority of the western and central portions of the city.

Check out the exquisite architecture of the area’s old homes and buildings.

For example, see the 1870 Macoupin County “Million Dollar” Courthouse, one of the district’s most prominent landmarks.

Other attractions include the Loomis House (now the St. George Hotel), the Historic Macoupin County Jail, and the Federated Church.

Likewise, you might want to stop by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and the Old City Jail (also known as “The Calaboose”).

At the Historic Square, you’ll find a lovely gazebo where the locals gather for a festival, a summer concert, or any community event.

Explore the Carlinville Historic District!

Tour the Macoupin County “Million Dollar” Courthouse

A trip to Carlinville won’t be complete without touring the Macoupin County Courthouse, one of the city’s top attractions.

Believing that Carlinville had a chance of becoming the state’s capital, Carlinville’s founding fathers chose to “go large” with the courthouse.

In 1870, construction of the building cost the city $1,342,226.31, causing locals to call it the “Million Dollar Courthouse.”

This Renaissance Revival piece of architecture features a portico with 40-foot Corinthian columns and an exterior of gold-colored stone blocks.

You’ll find magnificent woodwork, intricately-carved walnut chairs, and a judge’s bench made of Italian marble.

Likewise, you’ll see rooms ornately designed with arched doorways.

Abraham Lincoln practiced law in Illinois and occasionally in Macoupin County (at the former courthouse).

Today, you can see many court documents he signed inside the courthouse.

Arrange guided tours of the Macoupin County Courthouse with the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce Tourism Committee.

Visit the Macoupin County Historical Society Museum

The Macoupin County Historical Society Museum resides in the 1883 Anderson Mansion, which displays exhibits illustrating Macoupin County's history.

Founded in 1970, the Macoupin County Historical Society manages the museum.

Likewise, the museum studies local history, collects, and preserves historical artifacts.

The Society purchased the 16.5-acre property from Mrs. Jessie Crawford, the daughter of John Anderson.

She was the original owner of the land, comprising 2 ½ stories of the Victorian mansion and farm buildings on the northwest side of Carlinville.

In 1996, the Society acquired another 11.5 acres and another four acres later.

Over the years, they have built and moved many structures to the property.

These structures include a blacksmith shop, a schoolhouse, a church, a granary, a wash house, and an herb garden.

In 1992, the National Register of Historic Places added the mansion and its grounds to the record.

Go to the Macoupin County Fair

The Macoupin County Fair is the oldest fair in Illinois.

Since 1852, the fair has created memories that bring agriculture, community, and family together.

The Fair features exhibits, auctions, livestock displays, children’s events, and entertainment.

This five-day event will have something to keep the whole family entertained.

Enjoy the bright colored lights flashing on the rides to the aroma emanating from the food stalls.

Check out the attractions that revive old memories and create new ones.

Popular events include a demolition derby, tractor pull, harness racing, karaoke competition, and a pageant for the Miss Macoupin County Fair Queen.

Visitors can get unlimited carnival rides, with parking included, for an affordable ticket price!

Pick Apples at Broom Orchard

The Broom Orchard invites you for a delightful farm experience where you may pick your fruits and shop for fresh produce and farm products!

Their Farm Market opens from July to December.

Buy freshly picked apples, peaches, nectarines, blackberries, pears, plums, and pumpkins in season.

Otherwise, grab Illinois honey, Amish-made apple butter, preserves, popcorn, butter, fruit spreads, and sweet cider.

Leonard Sooy founded the initial 123-acre orchard in 1920 until the Broom family acquired it in 1968.

In 1972, the owners expanded orchard’s size by five acres, bringing its total area to 128 acres, with about 70 acres used for fruit production.

You may pick your apples at the orchard beginning September around Labor Day.

Together, enjoy the farm’s welcoming environment and its annual orchard celebrations like the Apple Festival and the Pumpkin Festival!

Bring your family to Broom Orchard!

Book a Retreat at the Lake Williamson Christian Center

For more than 50 years, Lake Williamson Christian Center has become a reputable name in Christian Hospitality.

Lake Williamson Christian Center offers accommodations and recreation for about 1,350 overnight visitors all year round.

The retreat packages cover lodging, meals, meeting rooms, and entertainment.

It offers everything your group requires for a productive ministry event.

Lake Williamson Christian Center can keep your group occupied during the retreat with its indoor and outdoor amenities.

Their Basic Recreation package features many activities, including basketball, volleyball, billiards, and table tennis.

Besides sports, you can try board games, fitness center, soccer, archery, obstacle course, hayrides, bonfire, and so much more.

If you’re seeking extra excitement, their Premium Recreation package includes all essential activities.

Enjoy the beachfront, indoor and outdoor pool, and rock climbing.

Shop for Antique Goods at Mother Road Antique Mall

Head to Mother Road Antique Mall if you need something one-of-a-kind to add to your collection, a decorative piece for the home, or simply a keepsake from your trip.

Located on North Side Square, this antique mall is a must-visit in Carlinville.

This multi-vendor antique mall offers a lot of antique goods to suit everyone’s interests and needs!

Since opening in downtown Carlinville, Mother Road Antique Mall has become a popular store for locals and tourists.

Boasting a broad selection of exciting finds, reasonable prices, and friendly staff, Mother Road Antique Mall has everything you need.

Tour the Sears “Standard Addition” Homes

Carlinville has the country’s largest Sears Homes collection within a nine-block area known as the “Standard Addition.”

The Standard Oil Company of Indiana constructed these houses in response to a housing shortage.

In 1917, European immigrants came to Carlinville in droves, looking for work in the mines.

Standard Oil authorities found a solution to this problem through Sears, an American department store chain.

The company started as a mail-order catalog business, where people can order and acquire home kits using their catalog.

Of the original 156 houses, 152 still stand today.

They had moved four houses, three of which got damaged by fire.

Then, they moved the last house to the country.

Standard Addition has appeared in various documentaries, drawing the attention of architects and nostalgia enthusiasts worldwide.

Established in 2014, the Standard Addition Neighborhood Association (SANA) aims to restore the neighborhood and honor its historical significance as a Sears Home and a coal mining community.

You can join tours of the Sears Homes through the Carlinville Chamber of Commerce.

The Blackburn Visual Arts Center Gallery opened in 2003 inside Blackburn College.

The state-of-the-art facility has links to the Bothwell Conservatory of Music, forming a performing and visual arts hub.

The Visual Arts Center features a vast gallery near the expected entrance of the two buildings.

You can also see a design studio, a photography studio, and a dark and enlarging room.

Then, you can visit a graphic arts lab, drawing studios, a lecture hall, and faculty rooms.

This spectacular art installation displays the diverse artworks of the students, giving them the ideal venue to showcase their work.

See new and local talent by visiting the Blackburn Visual Arts Center Gallery.

Buy Local Dairy at the Prairie Farms Dairy

Prairie Farms Dairy has provided high-quality, safe, fresh, and nutritious dairy products since 1938.

Prairie Farms is a dairy farm cooperative with more than 700 farm families who own and operate the farm.

The farm-to-table process starts from local farms.

The farm picks up the milk and sends it to farmer-owned processing facilities.

From there, they package the products before selling them to the surrounding communities.

Enjoy Prairie Farms’ specialties, including cream cheese, milk, and lactose-free milk.

Other dairy products include butter, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, sherbet, whipping cream, and more!

Prairie Farms is a well-loved brand that lives by the principle of “do what is right” for the farm families, customers, employees, and communities.

Watch or Play Sports at Loveless Park

Loveless Park is a multi-sports facility in the southwestern part of Carlinville.

The park has six soccer fields, four baseball and softball fields, four full basketball courts, two sand volleyball courts, and batting cages.

The park has lights for nighttime competitions and hosts numerous regional and national events!

Additional park highlights include the two pavilions and picnic areas, playground equipment, fitness and walking trails, and a concession stand.

Loveless Park is a great weekend hangout for families or friends who enjoy watching or playing sports and having picnics together.

Go Fishing at Carlinville Lake

Carlinville Lake is on Carlinville Lake Road, about four miles southeast of the city center.

Built in 1939, this 155-acre lake had a cooperative management agreement in 1995 with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The agreement increased the public’s access to fishing, although it only allows bank fishing.

Some species living at the lake are common carp, redear sunfish, green sunfish, yellow bass, yellow bullhead, and channel catfish.

You can only catch six fish daily.

The lake also offers swimming.

However, no lifeguards are on duty, so swim at your own risk.

Carlinville Lake opens from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

You can also try camping and visit seasonal locations at Carlinville Lake!

Enjoy the Carlinville Christmas Market

One significant event in the city is the annual Carlinville Christmas Market.

This one-of-a-kind celebration takes place on the first weekend of December.

You can visit the market around the Macoupin County Courthouse and the Historic Square.

The event has grown since its first iteration in 1990.

It grew from setting up tents at the square to moving inside a vast indoor building.

The building accommodates many food vendors, artisans, carolers, activities, and other Christmas attractions.

Enjoy the cheerful ambiance as you stroll around the area and neighboring buildings.

Buy handcrafted arts and craft goods amid the melody of holiday carolers.

While the adults shop and enjoy entertainment, children can join many activities, such visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Over 10,000 people visit the Carlinville Christmas Market each year.

Retrace Route 66

Popularly known as “The Mother Road,” Route 66 has helped define a significant period in American history.

The most well-known road in the country starts in Chicago, first created in 1926 as a part of the numbered highway system.

Over the years, travelers have romanticized the highway as a representation of unlimited freedom and mobility.

This historic route is also the state’s first fully paved highway.

It stretches from Chicago to East St. Louis, passing through Carlinville.

Retracing the original Route 66 route through Carlinville is simple.

You can see it passing many famous city landmarks such as the Carlinville Town Square, the Loomis House, the Million Dollar Courthouse, and the Carlin-Villa Motel.

Dine at Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor

Visit Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor if you want to experience the delectable flavor of the famous Taylor’s Mexican Chili!

Using only the best ingredients, the restaurant serves the only fine gourmet chili in the state.

Likewise, it has served Carlinville and nearby places since 1904.

Taylor’s Mexican Chili Company has a fascinating history dating back over a century.

Its founder, Charles Taylor, learned traditional Mexican meals while working at the Mexican National Exposition at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

After he returned to Carlinville, Taylor helped a Mexican visitor, who showed him how to cook carne y frijoles as a way of gratitude.

Pleased with the new recipe, he opened Taylor’s Mexican Chili Parlor in the fall of 1904.

Then, he made a few expansions and opened a canning operation in the 1930s.

As they say, the rest is history.

Dine at the parlor or grab a can of Taylor’s Mexican Chili.

Create a delicious feast by trying out their favorite recipes!

Final Thoughts

The citizens’ dedication to preserving Carlinville’s rich history makes the city one of America’s best small communities.

Carlinville is the epitome of small-town Americana, where locals flock for summer concerts, support athletes, and celebrate significant events.

Plan your trip today and discover the best things to do in Carlinville, Illinois!‌‌

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