15 Best Things to Do in Pittsfield, IL

Pittsfield, IL
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The city of Pittsfield is full of rich history, pristine nature locations, and local recreation spots.

This city in Illinois is the county seat of Pike County.

During the 1820s, settlers descended from the Puritans of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, moved to the area and named it Pittsfield.

The city also has ties to many historical figures, notably Abraham Lincoln, who stayed in Pittsfield during the 1830s.

He returned several times while practicing law and building his political career.

Another fact about this city is its self-proclamation as the "Pork Capital" of the Midwest, thanks to its thriving pork supply and production in the earlier days, with the annual Pig Days celebration.

Other celebrations, museums, natural sites, and local restaurants and shops showcase the city's uniqueness.

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

Visit the Historic Pike County Courthouse

Exterior of the Historic Pike County Courthouse
Jon Kraft / Shutterstock.com

The Pike County Courthouse is one of the city's famous historic landmarks on Washington Street.

In 1894, master mason Robert Franklin oversaw the courthouse's architecture and construction.

You'll see the distinct Cleveland sandstone design of this octagon-shaped building with a central dome reaching more than a hundred feet.

Facade of the Pike County Courthouse
Kbh3rd, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take snapshots of this well-preserved structure and walk the courtyards where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debated during the 1858 senatorial campaign.

Take a historical tour of the Pike County Courthouse.

Take a Talking House Tour at Washington Street

One unique activity you can do in the city is take Abe Lincoln's Talking Houses Tour.

You can start the driving tour at the Pike County Visitor's Center on Washington Street.

Stop first at the Milton Hay House, where Secretary John Hay once lived, and view the Wayside Exhibit.

The next house is the Scanland House, resident of attorney, judge, and mayor Reuben Scanland, Lincoln's close friend.

You'll pass by the Grimshaw House, where Lincoln stayed in 1856 while campaigning for Lyman Trumbull.

The Gilmer House is on the corner of Monroe and Washington; then drop by the Lame House on East Fayette Street.

You'll find the old Noyes House also on Washington Street, where the founder and editor of Pike County's first newspaper, Micheal Noyes, and his family resided.

Lincoln also stayed in the Ross House in east Pittsfield and the Garbutt House, where he garnered support for his presidency.

Tour around to see the Shastid House, the Star Hotel, Heck's Bakery, and the William Watson Hotel, where Abe frequently stayed and visited.

You can end your Talking House Tour at the former Free Press newspaper office, which is now the Pikeland Motors dealership.

Have Loads of Fun at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park

Head out to Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Lakeview Heights to enjoy leisure activities with the family.

The 45-acre recreational park offers enjoyable attractions and camping areas for tents and RVs, along with cabins, cottages, and bungalows for rent.

Little ones can jump around and expend all their energy at the inflatable Wibit Obstacle Course on the Lake and the Jumping Pillow.

Swim on the beach area or take a plunge in the oversized splash pool.

Water activities you can also try here include paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing.

Grab snacks at the bar and check out some Yogi Bear souvenir items at the gift shop.

Other fun things you can do with the family include gem mining, hiking, and biking, or you can goof around at the GAGA Ball Pit and playgrounds.

Treat your family to Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park.

Tour the Old East School

The East School was built during the Civil War between 1863 to 1866.

Its architect John Mills Van Osdel also designed Springfield's Executive Mansion and planned the structure.

You'll see this historic building on East Jefferson Street, which formerly housed both grade and high schools until its closure in 1955.

Since 1978, it has become the Pike County Historical Society Museum site.

Get a glimpse of the fascinating artifacts displayed at the exhibits.

In 1971, the National Register of Historic Places added the school building to its record, with hardly any change since its construction.

Discover the history of the old institution and Pike County at the East School.

Enjoy Leisure Activities at King Park

Whether you want to play sports or unwind, you can drop by King Park.

It's at the corner of Mill Street and Benson Street, spanning over seven acres.

Go for a relaxing swim at Pittsfield's city pool, with amenities that include restrooms and shower areas.

You can have a day for a picnic at the shelters or stroll and see the lighted fountain and lagoon.

The park offers sports facilities like basketball and tennis courts, a soccer field, a baseball field, and a skateboard court.

King Park also features an area for tent camping and a ranger station to assist visitors.

Check Out the Artifacts at All Wars Museum

The All Wars Museum is located at North Illinois Street near Old East School.

The museum honors and presents the many stories of US military heroism through various photographs, artifacts, and items on display.

It started in 2014 until the collections grew through items loaned and donated by veterans and families of veterans.

You'll view the collections according to different war periods.

Learn about the Revolutionary War, which started in 1775, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848.

See the exhibits that feature the American Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

Hear about the contributions of military men and women in the Korean War, Vietnam War, and the Gulf War.

You'll catch a glimpse of these displays at the All Wars Museum.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Pittsfield City Lake

Located two miles east of the city, Pittsfield City Lake includes about 200 acres of lake area surrounded by a 480-acre recreational space.

Take advantage of lake activities like boating and fishing.

Go on a nature hike and observe the rich woodlands for plant varieties and animal species.

Enjoy the natural surroundings while having a picnic and letting your little ones enjoy the playground area.

Try primitive camping with the family or stay in an RV.

Enjoy amenities like electrical and water hookups, lighted areas, public phone, and a dumping station.

The park also offers sports areas like tennis courts, a soccer field, a softball field, and a playground area for little ones.

Spend the day outdoors at Pittsfield City Lake.

Catch the Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment

Catch the Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment in Pittsfield every first weekend of June at Lake Pittsfield.

Go back in time and watch the Confederate and Union armies mock battle on an open field.

Drop by the encampments around the battlefield and imagine how soldiers and service members contributed to the front lines.

See how Army divisions like artillery, cavalry, infantry, and the navy followed orders, conveyed information, and performed firing techniques during the war.

You'll also speak with General Grant, General Lee, and President Abraham Lincoln.

Catch the ladies' fashion show and get your little ones to join the different games and craft activities for kids.

The Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment also includes other entertaining attractions like live music, demonstrations, and activities that capture the spirit of the era.

See the Old-Fashioned Shastid House

Exterrior of the Shastid House
HotWheels53, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You'll find the historic Shastid House on East Jefferson Street just across the street west of the old East School.

John Greene Shastid built the house in 1838, after arriving with his wife Elizabeth from New Salem in 1836.

The couple was Abraham Lincoln's neighbor's in New Salem, and he constantly visited them when he was in Pittsfield.

Look at this antique structure with its unique timber frame design assembly.

It was built with such detail and skill, with no sawn lumber used to make the house's frame, connected with handsewn joists, rafters, studs, flooring, and laths.

As you step inside, you'll see the fully furnished home with all kinds of antique items reflecting that era.

The Historical Society owns the Shastid House.

Hang Out at Bowler's Universe

Bowler's Universe is your stop for a weekend night out with friends.

This bowling alley and pub venue are where you can meet and enjoy the company of Pittsfield locals.

Grab some beer on draft or drinks from their menu selection.

Do you want to create your ponyshoe?

You can choose from hamburgers or chicken patties, chicken strips, chicken breasts, crinkle or curly fries topped with oozing cheese, queso cheese, or both.

If you're dropping by on Wednesdays, you can enjoy a buy one, take one promo on Bogo Wings.

Thursdays are Taco Days, and you'll get reasonable discounts and a discount on totchos.

You might even catch local events or bowling games during the week.

Bowler's Universe is at Williams Industrial Drive.

Enjoy Appetizing Meals at Nucci's Bar and Restaurant

Nuccis Bar and Restaurant is a family-owned and operated restaurant on Pittsfield's Madison Street.

The restaurant offers tasty Italian fare brought down from family recipes and served in its welcoming casual setting.

Start with a plate of sizzling chicken and cheese, your choice of asiago or mozzarella, on top of mashed potatoes and roasted red peppers.

Try their chicken marsala over fettucini and pair it with barbecue chicken flatbread.

They also have half-pound gourmet burgers and filling sandwiches for big appetites.

You'll also enjoy every bite of their pizza specials, sumptuous entrées, and delectable steaks and salads.

For tasty meals, dine with the family at Nucci's Bar and Restaurant.

Catch the Festivities at Pig Days

Join the annual Pig Days every July at the Pike County Courthouse lawn area.

It started as a local event when the county became famous many years ago as the Hog Capital of the World.

The Pittsfield Lion's Club also sponsors the yearly event.

Catch some attractions like the Little Miss Pigtail contest and pig skin throw, or watch a pork cook-off in the courtyard.

Drop by the fair and market with lines of vendors offering various food items and goods.

Little ones will also have things to do with kids' activities and games at the Pig Days event.

Find Unique Local Items at Pike County Mercantile

If you're looking for unique locally made items, head to Pike County Mercantile.

The shop is at Madison Street, featuring quality products made by local artisans in and around the county.

Shop owners Rodney and Jessica Guthrie offer a variety of art, woodwork, photography, crafts, textiles, metal works, animal products, and other distinct and unique products.

Every product presents local pride and creativity of their craftsmen and artists.

Check out these items, which you won't find anywhere else.

Visit Pike County Mercantile to purchase specially made items.

Other Things To Do Nearby

Savor Wines and Meals at Hopewell Winery

Located in Rockport, Illinois, Hopewell Winery offers you a selection of dry and sweet wines to savor and enjoy.

This winery is 13 minutes from Pittsfield.

Choose from bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir.

You can also try their pear and blue Wines, spiced apple, and raspberry wine flavors, to name a few.

They also serve wine slushies and beer if you prefer something different.

Treat yourself to a seafood boil starting with delicious hors d'oeuvres like southwest eggroll, peel and eat shrimp, lobster tail, and fried shrimp.

Have some hearty soup servings like chicken and sausage gumbo or seafood bisque and delicious sides like red and beans, rice, salads, and jambalaya.

Of course, you'll enjoy a variety of mouth-watering seafood from shrimp, crab legs, crawfish, and lobster tails with their Seafood Pots.

They also have packages with a bottle of wine to go with your meals.

Enjoy superb meals and wines at Hopewell Winery.

Discover History at the New Philadelphia Town Site

Located in Barry, Illinois, New Philadelphia Town Site is an area where a town once stood.

It was the first town in the country founded by an African American.

The founder was Free Frank McWorter, a slave born in South Carolina.

In 1836, he petitioned the Illinois General Assembly to take McWorter as his legal surname and strengthen his claims for the land he purchased and platted in Pike County.

The town had a growing population and started to build its local industries.

However, in 1869, the Hannibal and Naples Railroad bypassed the town area and shifted commerce to the town of Barry, which led to a rapid decrease in New Philadelphia's population.

While the town was legally dissolved in 1885, it likely became a stop of the Underground Railroad, where the slaves escaped oppression in the plantations.

The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and listed as a National Historic Landmark in 2008.

You can visit and tour the New Philadelphia Town Site anytime for free.

Final Thoughts

Pittsfield hosts plenty of historic sites that would spur your interest in learning.

It also has beautiful natural attractions that offer outdoor activities for the whole family.

The local celebrations, shops, and restaurants also let you discover more of the city's unique personality.

Enjoy the best things to do in Pittsfield, Illinois!

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