15 Best Things to Do in Effingham, IL

Effingham, IL
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Effingham, Illinois, calls itself the 'Crossroads of Opportunity' due to its location at the intersection of two major highways.

It is the largest city in Effingham County and serves as its county seat, and as of the 2015 census, the city's population stands at 12,604.

For its compact size, there's a lot of good things to be discovered in Effingham, from its varied restaurants, attractive recreation areas, fascinating art installations, exciting museums, engaging outdoor activities, and charming architecture.

The citizens of Effingham deeply care about their downtown destinations, businesses, lands, and enterprises and have a deep-seated pride in their city.

It's a small yet vibrant and bustling city that's also big enough to be brimming with opportunities if you know where to look.

Effingham makes for a handy weekend destination, so if you're planning on adding it to your vacation spots, here is a list of the best things to do in the city:

Admire the Cross at the Crossroads

View of Cross at the Crossroads
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It's difficult to miss this massive and iconic metal cross looming on the horizon along interstate highways 57 and 70.

Every day it greets almost 19 million travelers passing through Effingham.

It is a significant symbol not only in the state but in the entire nation: you know you're in Illinois when you see this gigantic cross by the roadside.

It is 198 feet tall and 113 feet wide, forged from tons of steel anchored in cement, and can withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour.

View of Cross at the Crossroads
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It is anchored on a slab and surrounded by monuments to the Ten Commandments, which deliver quotes and thoughts when you press a button and granite blocks that hold inspirational messages.

Surrounding the cross are a media room, a welcome center, a refreshment area, a cozy chapel, and the visitor's center where they sell trinkets.

Many automotive events are also held at this site to bless vehicles for the road under God's protection.

Sit and reflect at the foot of this awe-inspiring structure, and don't forget to give donations for its upkeep.

Have Fun at Effingham Axe Throwing

Get ready for good times of fun and laughter at this axe-throwing facility in downtown Effingham.

It is open every Friday and Saturday, for some weekend relaxation and unwinding.

Axe-throwing is a tricky sport: it involves the competitor throwing an axe at the target in an attempt to hit the bull's eye, a bit like dartboard throwing involving even sharper and larger objects.

Take your friends of all ages, challenge everyone to hit the targets, outscore each other, and relieve some stress as you unwind your axe-throwing energy!

It is the perfect spot for couples on a date, fun family get-togethers, birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, corporate team building, and any weekend bonding exercise imaginable.

You can even buy their axe-themed t-shirt merchandise or avail of a gift card for a friend.

Just book yourself and schedule a party, sign the waivers, and take how-to and safety lessons from the staff, and you're ready for a grand time letting axes fly.

Sip Wine at Tuscan Hills Winery

Tuscan Hills Winery is a family-owned business focused on giving everyone the old-fashioned Tuscany feeling, creating a wine with grapes sourced from states in the Midwest.

They concoct their exceptional wines with lots of sensitivity to taste and smell, and they are intent on helping their guests point out what is most desirable to the palate.

Aside from their wine selection, they also serve up sangrias, specialty craft beers, and liquor products, and from their kitchen comes a selection of baguettes, pizzas, flatbreads, and gluten-free options.

The winery is a family and pet-friendly place that gives a comfortable, homey atmosphere for those who need it, with a covered heated patio in which crowds can gather and admire the scenic views.

Spend an afternoon tasting delectable wines and food and indulge in live music and merriment at their parties and community gatherings.

Tuscan Hills Winery is a destination that always invites you to come as their guest and leave as their friend.

See Old Cars at Mid America Motorworks: My Garage Museum

If you're an enthusiast of antiquated vehicles, don't miss out on this remarkable display at Mid America Motorworks.

Mid America Motorworks is an auto parts company specializing in parts and accessories for Corvettes and Air-cooled Volkswagens.

Their museum, My Garage Museum, is a veritable feast for car lovers, housing thousands of pieces of memorabilia and automotive collectibles from the collection of owner Mike Yager.

In the collection is a generous and unique array of prototypes, concept vehicles, and racing vehicles.

These are lovely pieces, automobiles that you will not be able to view anywhere else.

These include a 3000-mile original 1954 model; the Last C4 Corvette with the last small block engine created in Flint, Michigan; and the CERV 1, an open-wheel prototype restored to original condition and designed by famous Corvette engineer Zora Arkus Duntov.

Also, find many artifacts, memorabilia, and relics on site, like a 1910 gas station that was moved and restored on the museum's grounds.

Whether you're passionate about cars or not, you will enjoy this excellent collection brimming with history.

Shop at Country Peddlers

Country Peddlers is a store for your antique and crafts needs and will give you a great time browsing and looking over their many wares.

It looks small from the outside, but the inside is a different story.

The store is spacious, bright, and well-organized and contains an excellently selected stock that you will love perusing.

Here you will spot comfy items like cookie jars, teapots, clocks, lamps, figurines, children's toys, books, candles, rugs, tools, home fixtures, and so much more.

You will discover a mix of old-fashioned objects and modern décor and will indeed feel the need for a handful of treasures to decorate your home.

The store will remind you of stepping into a cozy cottage, and you will want to take a little bit of that homey feeling with you when you leave.

Watch a Show at Effingham Performance Center

How about dropping by for a bit of entertainment at Effingham Performance Center?

This little venue is a clean, functional, and excellent facility with fantastic acoustics and outstanding seats, guaranteeing a quality show.

There's always something entertaining brewing here, so just check their varied and packed schedule, and there's sure to be something to suit your tastes.

Every season, the venue cooks up more than 30 performances of varying genres, including comedy, dance, contemporary, rock, country, bluegrass, Christian, and others.

Watch some family shows, classic plays, orchestras, famous musicians, rock concerts, puppetry, science presentations, church groups, country artists, dance tributes, comedy sketches, barbershop quartets, and a lot more.

Have a family night or an evening date at this great art and entertainment showcase.

Check Out Local History at Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum

If you want a history lesson on the area, stop by this courthouse museum that promotes the preservation of local history at Effingham.

The museum values telling all sorts of stories: those of veterans and remnants of the war years, of life in the railroad days, of photographs from people's youths, of the days of pioneering.

It preserves images of the country from the settler days, of the 'good old days' of Effingham, of people gone before their time, of landmark events that rocked the nation, of citizens far from their country but still with it at heart.

The museum's mission is to preserve the Historic Register structure, collect artifacts from the county's history, and use them in educating local and external communities while immersed in the sweeping context of American history.

Aside from its displays, it also holds an educative lecture series and puts out a quarterly newsletter called History Matters!

This courthouse museum remains a treasure to the community with a strong sense of pride in educating and showcasing the history and art of Effingham County.

Hang Out at Effing Brew Company

For an evening of unwinding with adult friends, one can do no better than the small but intimate Effing Brew Company, a veteran-owned brewery and one of the popular Effingham hangout spots.

This place offers delicious craft beers: old-world and handcrafted brews made out of the freshest ingredients.

In addition to their beers, they also serve characteristic Illinoisian brews and brews renowned around the nation.

The brewery is on display at the premises using a Brite tank made of stainless steel, several barrel fermenters, and a high-end stainless steel brewhouse.

It also serves bar mainstays such as craft burgers, cocktails, sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, and other yummy food to wash down with craft beers.

There are karaoke nights, slot machines, darts, arcade games, and live music on the patio for your entertainment.

Visit this place for tasty and flavorful beers, delicious food, top-notch catering, entertaining events, and all-in-all good vibes.

Appreciate the Sculptures on the Avenues

The avenues of Effingham turn into a walkable outdoor art gallery with the presence of these many sculptures.

Guide yourself on this walking tour starting at Effingham City Hall and winding through downtown Effingham to look at these pieces of art all around the city.

Admire over 30 sculptures of characteristic art that you can't find anywhere else brought to life by up-and-coming and well-known artists of the Midwest as part of their annual exhibition.

View abstract shapes, human figures, transformed objects, surreal installations, prettily-rendered colors, gleaming outlines, whimsical lines, and other art portrayals on the streets.

Every year these exhibits change and are meant to enthrall individuals with different tastes in art.

Accessibility is very much encouraged, for one is welcome to touch the sculptures, feel out their shapes and textures, and look at them from each angle.

Embrace this unique exhibition along with other Effingham residents and visitors who come along to admire it.

Get Active at the Effingham Park District

The Effingham Park District includes Hendelmeyer Park, a 20-acre park with numerous sports amenities: several ball fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a skate park.

Another spot in the district is Evergreen Hollow Park, a 42-acre park with ball fields, a playground, and a vast pool.

The people behind the park programs believe in encouraging recreational programs, facilities, and activities to strengthen individuals and bring families together, greatly benefitting the community.

Participate in their adult activities such as arts and crafts, bridge, and gentle yoga, or get even more active with their basketball, softball, and volleyball programs.

Sign your kids up for their baseball, softball, flag football, basketball, and soccer programs, or let them participate in special activities and camps.

And you can even enroll your special needs loved ones at sports leagues designed for children with disabilities.

These expansive green parks and these programs are ideal for bonding with your family or companions while getting those athletic juices flowing.

Relax by Lake Sara

Scenic View of Lake Sara
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Have a relaxing weekend by the side of this famous 800-acre recreational lake on a forested shoreline.

At Lake Sara, have a fun picnic out on the waterfront; camp on the miles of shoreline; go slalom skiing as you trail a powerboat; and go paddleboarding, tubing, kayaking, and boating on the water.

Go for a fishing trip with your friends, and you may just catch channel catfish, bluegill, crappies, and bass, which teem in the lake.

Look for great swim spots at the beach area and let your kids climb around the pirate-themed playground, then sit on the picnic tables by evening to watch the moon on the water.

Admire the lake's beauty and boat in the inlets to look at the lovely homes that line it, or eat at one of the restaurants by the shore and enjoy the waterside view.

Camping and supply stores are also available around the area for your lakeside recreation and relaxation needs.

Walk on the TREC Calico Trail

The TREC or Trail Recreation Effingham County system is a network intended to be 30 miles of county-wide biking and walking trails.

The TREC mission is to develop a county-wide multiuse trail system, educate the county on the benefits of trails, and promote an active lifestyle via recreational activities.

TREC Calico Trail is the densely wooded northern branch of the trail, a hidden path to the outdoors in Effingham.

It is a short but well-maintained trail where you can take a walk in the woods and along rivers, admiring the beautiful scenery and the peaceful feeling of being out in nature.

On this trail, spend your energy on a vigorous walk, a rollerblading session, a jogging exercise, or a bicycle outing with friends.

Walk through farms, prairies, pastures, and fields along the river, where you might glimpse deer, squirrels, rabbits, and all kinds of birds.

This nature trail is an ideal place to go if you want to stretch your legs and duck away from the city buzz for a while.

Celebrate the Moccasin Creek Festival

The Moccasin Creek Festival is an annual four-day celebration of music, arts, and other crafts.

The festival's founder is Effingham native Bill Passalacqua whose life centers around writing, promoting, and performing music.

The festival celebrates Americana music, a multi-day extravaganza of folk, roots rock, blues,  and alternative country.

It celebrates them in the sprawling outdoor setting of Lake Sara, at a venue with excellent acoustics during a lovely time of the year.

There are campgrounds offered next door to the festival venue; cabins available to rent; boat, kayaks, and canoes for rent; food and beverages sold on-site; and a beach and golf course within walking distance.

There are also artists and artisans displaying and selling their wares on the grounds.

Enjoy the pure and simple music and calming atmosphere at this laidback festival by the lake.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Tour the Dr. Charles M. Wright House

About 20 minutes from Effingham is the Dr. Charles M. Wright House, a historic house built in 1889.

It belonged to Charles M. Wright, one of the only doctors in western Effingham County, who also ran the only bank in the city of Altamont.

The National Register of Historic Places listed the house in 1986, one of two sites in Effingham County to be on the register.

It is a lovely old historic mansion decorated in Second Empire (Mansard) style with beautiful influences from Italianate style.

The house has been open for tours since 2003, and inside, you can view the structural advancements of its time, furnishings and innovations, classic 1800s stylings, and articles that Wright and his family owned.

The mansion also holds events such as an annual wine, beer, and music fundraising festival and wine tastings on the lawn.

If you want to tour the mansion, it is open from 2 to 4 pm every Sunday or by appointment.

View Nature at Ballard Nature Center

Head over to Ballard Nature Center, located 15 minutes from Effingham, for a day in the heart of the outdoors.

Ballard Nature Center makes it a mission for visitors to enjoy nature's beauty and educate themselves on the natural world.

Here, you will find walking trails crossing the characteristic Illinois ecosystems through savannas, prairies, woodlands, and wetlands.

See wild creatures in the wetlands, walk into an aged hickory woodland, trek prairie grass, spot different prairie species, and read about the flora and fauna you encounter on the interpretive wooded trails.

You even can take your kids fishing on the specially designated pond and have a relaxing picnic at the pavilions.

Explore the nature center with the help of their naturalists and learn more about what you see in their interactive exhibition room.

Receive some quality environmental education and learn about the importance of natural communities as you explore the natural world of southeastern Illinois.

Final Thoughts

This fun and friendly city embodies the heart of small-town America.

If you're planning on visiting Effingham soon, take this list to check the things you might want to do there.

Have significant experiences in this compact yet busy city that nonetheless inspires self-expression in everyone.