15 Best Things to Do in Edwardsville, IL

Edwardsville, IL
RozenskiP / Shutterstock.com

The city of Edwardsville is the seat of Madison County in Illinois.

It’s a relatively large city with a population of 26,808, according to the 2020 census.

Likewise, the city received its name from one of the state’s founding figures, Ninian Edwards.

The first European settler, Thomas Kirkpatrick, arrived in the area in 1805, and he named the settlement after his friend.

Edwardsville is a major part of Illinois’ political history.

Five state governors came out of the city, which is also the third oldest in the state.

While the city looks back fondly on its rich history, it also builds a lush modern vibe.

The city’s energy arises out of its thriving culinary scene, its beautiful downtown streets, to its parks and local events.

Just because it’s the third oldest city in Illinois doesn’t mean it can’t offer excitement and adventure.

Do you want to know more about Edwardsville, IL?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Enjoy the Outdoors at the Watershed Nature Center

Sunset at Watershed Nature Center
Roberto Valz / Shutterstock.com

The city of Edwardsville owns the Watershed Nature Center, a 40-acre property comprising diverse habitats.

You’ll find swathes of grassland, wetlands, and woodlands in a single area.

Likewise, the center has paved hiking trails if you want to immerse yourself in all of nature’s splendor.

Then, you can hop on the raised marsh walk and observe the animals in the marshland.

Marsh at Watershed Nature Center
Roberto Valz / Shutterstock.com

Besides animals, the nature center features a diverse variety of plant life.

You can also check out the 20 oak species native to Illinois at the center.

The prairie section features wildlife adapted to survive there, which is a key habitat in the state.

Moreover, a substantial section of the center comprises wetlands containing a wide variety of plants and wildlife.

Scenic view at Watershed Nature Center
Michael12345 / Shutterstock.com

Bring Your Kids to the Edwardsville Children’s Museum

This family-friendly museum opened in 2003 after Carla Johnson’s efforts to build a children’s museum in Edwardsville.

She had gone to Gulfport, Mississippi, in 1997 to visit a newly opened children’s museum, and she got inspired to build one in Illinois.

Your kids will surely enjoy the child-sized exhibits designed to provoke learning and imagination.

Some of these exhibits also teach kids important life experiences.

For example, the Hawthorne Animal Hospital will show your kids what it’s like to take care of animals.

Prepare them for major responsibilities through interactive exhibits.

Other displays include The Discovery Garden, The Secret Gardeners Flower Shop, and the Anderson Hospital Nursery.

Catch a Show at the Historic Wildey Theatre

Front exterior of Wildey Theatre
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1909, the Wildey Theatre opened in downtown Edwardsville as an opera house.

The Independent Order of Oddfellows used the theatre’s second floor as a meeting hall.

Over the years, the theatre has undergone several renovations and restorations.

It also shut down as a full-time movie house in 1984 after a well-attended screening of The Big Chill.

Then, in 1986, the theatre began its second life as a local landmark.

After renovations in 1999, the theatre has reopened to the public.

The theatre now stages live productions and performances.

Likewise, you can see classic films at the Wildey.

Enjoy a night at the movies by visiting the historic Wildey.

Wander around The Gardens at SIUE

Paved pathway lined with trees at The Gardens
Roberto Valz / Shutterstock.com

You’ll need to enter the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus to reach The Gardens.

However, the beauty of the gardens will make the trip worth it.

After all, the Best College Reviews have named this place one of the Most Beautiful College Arboretums in the country.

Don’t forget your camera!

The Gardens spans 36 acres, and it features bridges, natural wooded areas, gardens, as well as student-made sculptures.

Tower lake at The Gardens
Roberto Valz / Shutterstock.com

Likewise, the sculptures stand in a gorgeously landscaped environment.

You can explore the area through a network of paved walking paths.

Then, take a break on the several benches scattered around the area.

Likewise, the Gardens undergo regular transformations, so you won’t see the same place twice.

You can check out art installations or student-made art, join classes, or attend special events.

Support Local Art at the Edwardsville Arts Center

Besides hosting art exhibits, the Edwardsville Arts Center also offers art classes and workshops for the whole family.

Likewise, the center features a gallery shop that sells crafts like scarves, jewelry, and pottery.

Let your kids and loved ones try to create art using any medium.

From time to time, the Edwardsville Arts Center hosts special events and fundraisers for the community.

Do your part and support local artists with the arts center!

Drop by the gallery shop to grab unique crafts from local artists and craftsmen.

These items make for excellent gifts for weddings, birthdays, and special occasions.

Liven up your house with new tasteful décor.

Learn Local History at the 1820 Col. Benjamin Stephenson House

Exterior of Benjamin Stephenson House
Rklawton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1820, a team of veteran craftsmen and indentured servants of the Stephenson family built this historic house in Edwardsville.

The workers used materials native to the region; eventually, they finished the two-story house along the Federal Style.

Visit the house if you want to satisfy your architectural curiosity.

The building reminds you of the design trends popular in the 19thcentury.

According to the Illinois State Historic Preservation Agency, the Stephenson House is one of Illinois’ few early 19th-century buildings that are still standing.

Moreover, the house is also the oldest brick residence in Madison County.

Kitchen inside the Benjamin Stephenson House
Rklawton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the Stephenson House has become a learning center and museum.

Docents in period attire will give tours of the house and gardens.

You might even see people baking bread using the beehive oven in the kitchen.

Likewise, you could watch a craftsman making a shooting bag or a group of children playing period games.

The kitchen also prepares meals using period-accurate techniques and recipes.

Learn more about Illinois history at this impressive building.

Doors and windows of Benjamin Stephenson House
Rklawton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sample Craft Beer at Recess Brewing

Go to Edwardsville’s Main Street for a good time and interesting craft beers at Recess Brewing.

The brewery crafts its own beer inside its own 1,100-square-foot taproom, so you can rest assured of the drinks’ freshness and quality.

Likewise, Recess helps you enjoy your beer a little bit more by setting up a comfortable setting where you can play board games while hanging out.

Besides beer, Recess Brewing also offers signature cocktails, wine, coffee, free soda, and popcorn from the Wildey Theatre.

If you want snacks, you can also try the brewery’s Billy Goat Chips. You can also order outside food to enjoy in the taproom.

During the weekends, the brewery hosts live music shows; they also host a Beer School for guests who want to try brewing.

Celebrate a major milestone by renting out the taproom for parties.

The room can accommodate 100 people on a full rental.

Spend the Day at Leclaire Lake Park

You’ll need to visit the historic Leclaire neighborhood to access Leclair Lake Park.

The five-acre park might be relatively small, but its historical value and beauty make it a major Edwardsville attraction.

Newspaper accounts show that the lake and park began development in 1906.

Over the years, the park has become a popular destination for guests who want to spend a quiet afternoon.

You can explore the park’s gazebos, have a nice lunch at the picnic shelters, or bring your kids to the playground or flower gardens.

Otherwise, you can join the yoga classes and fishing derbies or attend concerts or festivals held there.

The Leclaire Parkfest is a festival also held annually at the park.

Have a Few Drinks at Stagger Inn Again

Name sign of Stagger Inn Again and its show schedules
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stagger Inn Again has become an Edwardsville institution since its establishment in 1974.

After 11 years, the bar underwent a rebirth in 1985, morphing into the bar people know and love today.

It’s also become Edwardsville’s oldest drinking establishment that has operated non-stop.

During the day, the place is a restaurant offering a variety of salads, soups, and other American delights.

At night, it transforms into a bar serving beer, spirits, and music.

Make happy hour even happier by attending the bar’s open mic nights.

You may even want to join if the spirit strikes you.

Spend the Day at the Edwardsville Township Community Park

This park also goes by the name Supervisor Robert C. Stille Edwardsville Township Airplane Community Park.

For over 30 years, the park has become a favorite destination for Edwardsville locals and visitors.

Supervisor Robert Stille took on the leadership role in the community efforts to establish the township park.

Today, the park offers a strong variety of activities and amenities for guests.

You can easily spend an entire afternoon here with family.

Play tennis or soccer, then go skating or grill barbecues or burgers at the picnic shelters and grills.

You can also try playing horseshoe at the pits.

Grab Fresh Produce at the Land of Goshen Community Market

In 1997, several farmers and artisans in the Edwardsville area came together to establish the Land of Goshen Community Market.

Today, this market has become a major farmers’ market in the region.

You can buy fresh fruits and vegetables, hydroponic produce, microgreens, and potted plants.

Likewise, you can go to the meat vendors to buy local farm-raised beef, pork, lamb, and longhorn beef.

If you want other products, you can buy chicken, eggs, cheese, and honey.

Many vendors also sell non-food items like leather goods, skincare and haircare products, handmade baskets, dishware, soaps, furniture, and even children’s toys.

The market also hosts live music every day, as well as arts and gardening demonstrations.

Get Everything the City Has to Offer in Downtown Edwardsville

Buildings along Downtown Edwardsville
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you don’t want to stray too far from the city, why not stick around and explore downtown Edwardsville?

The city’s main street offers treats and activity options from small businesses and local shops.

You can also rent a bike here and ride it around downtown to see another side of the city.

Then, drop by the local yarn shop and learn a new craft by signing up or a knitting class.

People walking along Downtown Edwardsville
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Make new friends by joining an active hobbyist community.

Practice your musical chops by checking out the local musical instrument stores.

Grab a new or used guitar and start plucking at your favorite song.

If you’ve got an old guitar, you can also trade it in for a newer model you like.

The road of Downtown Edwardsville
pasa47, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Enter a World of Fun at Edison’s Entertainment Complex

Edwardsville’s house of fun is Edison’s Entertainment Complex, a fully equipped center that promises “Genius Level Fun.”

You can do several activities there.

For example, you can play at the 12 bowling lanes or play laser tag with friends at the 4,000-square-foot arena.

If that’s not enough, you can also play over 65 arcade games on the center’s second level.

Celebrate major occasions by renting out the entertainment complex for a party.

You can pick from 10 party and event spaces, complete with a fully equipped bar and restaurant.

Munch on gourmet burgers, innovative pizzas, tacos, bone-in and boneless wings, plus savory salads.

Ride Your Bike along the Madison County Transit Biking Trails

The 130-mile Madison County Transit Biking Trail finished after 20 years of construction work.

Why is this trail system unique?

This biking trail follows disused rail lines to create beautiful cycling trains that guests and residents alike can enjoy.

Likewise, using old rail lines also preserves the rich rail corridors that are still important to the county.

You can spend the entire day riding around the trail because it’s open from dawn to dusk.

If you don’t have a bike, you can simply walk or jog.

You can even skate or ride your skateboard.

The trail allows dogs, but you must leash them and clean up after them, too.

Practice Your Swing at the Fox Creek Golf Course

This semi-private 18-hole golf course provides a reasonable challenge to golfers of all skill and experience levels.

Besides challenges, the course also gives players enchanting views of the surrounding countryside, with winding creeks and wooded bluffs.

If you’re a beginner, you can also get golf instructions.

After your game, you can grab a bite or a drink at the course’s bar and grill.

You can also rent gear or buy stuff at the pro shop.

Final Thoughts

Edwardsville offers plenty of activities and recreation options for residents and guests alike.

Set aside a weekend or a holiday and visit the historic city of Edwardsville as soon as you can.