If you're planning a visit, strap in and get ready for a whirlwind tour of some incredible Belleville sights and experiences.
Trust me, this little city has a lot to offer!
Take in the Fountain Views at Belleville Square
I often find myself drawn to the heart of our city, Belleville Square.
A delightfully misnomer, given its circular shape, the Square is home to our beloved Belleville Fountain, a spectacle that never fails to mesmerize.
Its water jets soar high into the air, and the gradual transition of lights from dusk to dawn casts a beautiful luminescent glow that's hard to ignore.
The reflective glass on some of the surrounding buildings only adds to the whole spectacle, making the whole Square dance with colors.
This year, they replaced the grass around the fountain with turf- a welcome change, and the water pipes are due for a replacement later this summer.
The entire area is impeccably maintained, giving a sense of pride in our community.
The Square isn't just about the fountain, though.
The St. Clair County Courthouse, another emblem of our city, proudly stands near the Square.
Sure, the big bank opposite the court has been closed for years, but it springs to life whenever there's an event like Art On the Square.
Ah, Art on the Square! It's always a feast for the eyes, with art pieces so diverse and beautiful you'd want to take them all home.
And, let's not forget the kid's corner- a place filled with so much activity and fun my grandkids never want to leave.
Across the square, on the southeast corner, is the Veterans Memorial.
It's a silent tribute to the brave Belleville locals who've served our country.
Curt's Clock, an individual memorial, always reminds me of the time, and the sculptures on the northwest and southwest corners add an artistic touch to the Square.
When darkness falls, the mini fountains in front of the courthouse come to life, their lights adding to the Square's enchantment.
Belleville Square is also the stage for the city's most popular events- parades, Oktoberfest, the Chili Cook-off, and concerts.
The Square, in every sense, is the heartbeat of our city, a place that brings us all together in celebration and community spirit.
It's part of what makes Belleville, Belleville.
Solve Mysteries at Escape 618
If you're after a thrilling experience and a brain workout, then look no further.
There's this place that's been the talk of the town called Escape 618, and believe me when I say that it's one of the hidden treasures of our city.
I celebrated my last birthday there, and let me tell you, it was an experience like none other.
The owners of the place treated my friends and I like kin, accommodating all our needs right from the get-go.
The escape room itself? Nothing short of phenomenal.
It was an intricate blend of fun and challenging puzzles that got all of us working together, a perfect team-building exercise if I do say so myself.
Everything was incredibly organized, from the puzzles to the contraptions used in the room.
Escape 618's attention to detail and the thought put into their creations was simply astounding.
But it wasn't just the escape room that had me hooked.
The ambiance of the place was captivating, too.
Picture this: a steampunk-themed lobby sprinkled with elements of horror and nostalgia.
Now, that's something you don't see every day.
The staff, just like the owners, were commendable, always ready to assist.
Later, I learned that everything in the establishment, right down to the smallest trinket, is handmade.
If that's not dedication, I don't know what is.
I just had to go back for more.
The next time around, I tried the Haunted House room - and let's just say it lived up to its name.
A spine-chilling, immersive experience that I won't forget any time soon.
For those with kids, don't fret!
My children, aged 10 and 12, were able to participate and enjoy themselves immensely in the 'Detention' themed room.
The game master was quite attentive and ensured they had a great time.
Journey through Industry at the Labor & Industrial Museum
What a privilege it is to have the Labor & Industrial Museum tucked away right here in Belleville.
It's a little oasis of history that I could spend hours in, nodding knowingly at the echoes of our regional manufacturing past.
It’s located in a beautifully restored 19th-century building, which in itself is a testament to our city's history.
Inside, you'll find an impressive collection of over 1,000 artifacts, each telling a unique story of the city's past.
Now, you can visit their website to get a glimpse, but the real magic happens when you cross the threshold.
That's when the displays and exhibits come alive, recounting 200 years of our industrious history.
From ironing to the introduction of electricity, each artifact is a puzzle piece fitting into a broader picture of how we've grown.
I fondly remember touring the museum one summer afternoon, back in 2014 when they announced their expansion to an adjacent building.
The anticipation was palpable.
More room meant more stories, more exhibits, and more learning.
The museum has always done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of employment in the Midwest, and the expansion was a promise of more.
The volunteers are another highlight.
Their passion is infectious, and their knowledge is expansive.
They make every visit unique, spinning tales that bring the exhibits to life.
Labor & Industrial Museum may be small, but don't be fooled.
You could easily spend a few hours there, lost in the labyrinth of Belleville's industrial past.
Go Fruit Picking at Braeutigam Orchards
I can't help but marvel at the beauty of Braeutigam Orchards every time I visit.
The charm of this little farm tucked away in our city is simply irresistible.
The neatly arranged rows of fruit trees and berry bushes beckon me to partake in their season's bounty.
The last time I was there, the orchard was laden with juicy peaches and plump blackberries, just waiting to be picked.
Braeutigam Orchards is more than just a place for fruit picking.
It's a local hub that offers a delightful array of other goodies for sale.
The family who run it are the friendliest folks you'd ever meet.
They take pride in their farm and it shows in how well they maintain it.
One of my favorite parts about visiting Braeutigam Orchards is the pick-your-own fruit experience.
It's a summer and fall tradition for many of us in the city.
The variety of fruits and vegetables they offer is quite impressive.
And nothing beats the taste of freshly picked produce.
It's not just the produce that I look forward to.
The delectable treats they offer are simply divine!
I was lucky to receive a free sample of their apple cider donut on one of my visits.
It was so delicious I couldn't resist buying a whole box to take home.
And let's not forget the apple cider slush, a refreshing drink that perfectly quenches thirst on a hot summer day.
Have a Moment of Reflection at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows
Rain or shine, the serenity and sheer beauty of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows never fails to uplift my spirits.
Its size is truly deceptive - you could spend hours exploring and still have something new to uncover.
I always start my visit at the visitor center, a treasure trove of information where you can catch a movie about the shrine's history and grab a map to guide you through this sprawling sanctuary.
From there, I usually drive to the Stations of the Cross.
Walking along this path, with every station narrated, is a peaceful experience that fills me with a sense of tranquility.
The main shrine is another must-see.
Nestled at the bottom of a hill and surrounded by ample seating, it's an ideal spot for reflection.
Just around its back is a well-maintained chapel that exudes an air of reverence.
Directly facing the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is the Millennium Spire, an 85-foot stainless steel structure erected to usher in the third millennium.
Adjacent to this is a charming area with a pond, where the chiming of bells often adds an extra layer of calm to the atmosphere.
To wrap up my visit, I usually drive to the Lourdes Grotto, situated near the entrance but saved for last to leave a lasting impression.
Peruse the Offerings of Belleville’s Farmers Market
I still remember when I first started visiting the Belleville’s Farmers Market as a small child - and now, it’s become a part of my weekly routine.
The lively buzz of the market, the fragrance of fresh produce, and the friendly faces of the vendors are what truly make this place special.
Belleville’s Farmers Market has always been about more than just shopping for groceries.
It’s where I find the freshest and most delicious produce, the most mouth-watering pastries, and the most interesting pantry items.
But the real charm of the market lies in its people.
Here, every vendor is friendly and remembers you from your last visit.
They take the time to help you find the best items in season and the service is so good that you won’t even have to carry your groceries to your car.
The cantaloupes are particularly memorable for their sweet and juicy flavor, same goes for the peaches.
I recently bought a squash that cooked up into a delicious meal.
I always write my grocery list with the intention of buying from here first, not just for the quality, but also to support this small business.
Glimpse into the Past at The St. Clair County Historical Society
Visiting the St. Clair County Historical Society has always been one of my favorite ways to spend a quiet afternoon.
Housed in a beautiful Victorian-era home, it's like stepping back in time and witnessing the rich history of Belleville unfold before your eyes.
Even the fragrance of the old wooden floors seems to tell a story.
And the best part, the museum is open to everyone, free of charge, although donations are appreciated.
The museum houses an extensive collection of items, each more intriguing than the next.
From antique furniture and clothing to old photographs and documents, there's always something new to discover.
I've lost count of the number of times I've visited, and each time I come away having learned something new and fascinating about our city's past.
One of the most memorable things I've done at the museum was picking up a book.
It was a richly detailed chronicle of our city's history and the perfect way to contribute to the museum.
I still enjoy leafing through its pages at home, discovering new nuggets of information about Belleville.
The Haunted Tour of Belleville is another experience that stands out.
There was something strangely exhilarating about walking around the city as the sun set, listening to creepy tales about the buildings we passed.
Although some of the stories seemed a bit random and I struggled to see how they connected to Belleville, it was an enjoyable way to learn about the city's more supernatural side.
What also makes St. Clair County Historical Society stand out is the presence of the knowledgeable volunteers and the curator.
They're always around to answer any questions and their passion for the city's history is evident in the way they talk about the exhibits.
Stroll around Bicentennial Park
How I love spending my weekends at the Bicentennial Park!
Nestled in the heart of West Belleville, this park is more than just an outdoor space, it's an experience.
Whether you're a fan of disc golf or just like exploring the outdoors, this place has got you covered.
The park features a disc golf course that doubles as a walking trail, complete with steep inclines and heavily wooded areas - no two rounds are ever the same.
But don't worry, the distances are pretty short, so it's not too strenuous.
What I appreciate most about the Bicentennial Park is its commitment to improving the facilities.
Recently, they've added more playground equipment - perfect for those days when I take my nieces and nephews out for a day of fun.
And if you're like me and prefer a quieter outing, there are plenty of little ponds scattered around the park that offer the perfect backdrop for a tranquil afternoon.
The park even caters to the Pokemon Go crowd!
Yes, you heard that right.
Some may call it nerdy, but I call it a perfect blend of gaming and exercise.
You can find a variety of Pokemon here, but be prepared for a horde of Nidorans.
The park isn't without its quirks though.
If you take your dog for a walk, be prepared for some muddy paw prints, especially along the unpaved trails - my dog, Buddy, loves it, but cleaning up afterwards can be a chore.
There's also a fishing dock at one of the ponds, but it does tend to wobble a bit when you're walking on it.
But these little idiosyncrasies just add to the park's charm.
Catch a Movie at Skyview Drive-in
Picture this: A balmy Friday night under the twinkling stars, parked in your car munching on popcorn, and watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Sounds dreamy, doesn't it?
That's exactly what you get at Skyview Drive-in.
One of the last remaining outdoor cinemas, it's our little slice of nostalgia wrapped in modern day entertainment.
You can find more about it here.
My friends and I have made it a tradition to visit Skyview Drive-in at least once a year.
It's not just the novelty of an open-air cinema, but the whole experience that draws us in.
The parking is easy, and the spaces are well organized.
We've never had a problem finding a spot, even on popular movie nights.
Plus, the ticket prices are a bargain!
For less than 30 bucks, we get to watch first-run Hollywood films and have a picnic in our car.
You heard it right, they allow you to bring your own food and snacks!
We've seen a couple of movies there, and while the screen quality was slightly better with the action-packed blockbusters than the animated ones, it was still pretty good for a drive-in.
We once caught a glimpse of a Mission Impossible movie from our side view and the black levels were amazing, almost TV quality.
One other thing that really stands out at Skyview Drive-in is their staff.
They're always friendly and helpful.
Whether it's directing us to a parking spot or helping us with our speaker issues, they've always gone above and beyond.
And, if you forget your snacks or just want to try something different, they have a food stall selling some delicious goodies.
Unveil Creativity at the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center
Just be ready to be swept off your feet when you visit the William and Florence Schmidt Art Center.
It's truly a haven for art enthusiasts like me.
Every time I step into this fantastic facility, it feels like a refreshing dip in the ocean of creativity.
The art center has done a commendable job at nurturing the arts, and it reflects in the quality of the exhibits.
The exhibition space is spacious and the exhibits are nothing short of marvelous.
Not just the artwork, the entire aura of William and Florence Schmidt Art Center is brimming with creativity.
The staff are splendid and very helpful.
They are always ready to guide you through the exhibitions and the history of the artworks.
If you're aspiring to be an artist or already one, the programs and workshops are a great resource.
I've seen students of all ages proudly displaying their work here, and it's heartwarming to see such promotion of budding talent.
The acoustic setup of the center is something that often goes unnoticed but deserves a special mention.
It has a fantastic resonance that compliments instrumental and vocal performances.
So, it's not just the eyes that get a feast here, but the ears too.
Hit a Strike at Bel-Air Bowl
I still remember the day I celebrated my son's birthday at Bel-Air Bow.
The staff were incredibly friendly, each and every one of them seemed genuinely happy to be there.
I've been to many bowling alleys, but this was different.
Their enthusiasm was infectious, and their welcoming attitude warmed our hearts right away.
Not only is Bel-Air Bowl a great place to enjoy some bowling, it's also surprisingly affordable.
In a world where everything seems to be overpriced, this place is a breath of fresh air.
And I must mention the food, it was simply stellar.
Good, wholesome food that won't burn a hole in your pocket.
I also had the opportunity to host my wife's 55th birthday party here.
The setup was beyond amazing.
I can still recall how the host went above and beyond to make sure everything was perfect.
The service was impeccable, making the special day even more memorable.
Bel-Air Bowl, with its inviting atmosphere and top-notch service, has become our go-to place for family celebrations.
Whether it's a birthday bash or just a casual day out, it never disappoints.
Bond with Your Friends at The Edge
Ever since I was a kid, The Edge has been my go-to spot for fun and entertainment.
This place has always been the heart of Belleville for me - no other location offers such a variety of entertainment options.
From laser tag to go-carts and bumper cars, and even a full arcade, they have it all.
The first time I walked into their movie theater, I was in awe.
The Edge has five theaters, one of which includes bistro dining and recliners.
It offers a unique experience – imagine watching your favorite movie while getting served delicious food in the comfort of a recliner.
You have to see it to believe it.
That's not something you come across every day, and it's right here in our city!
The laser tag arena is massive, said to be the largest in the country.
I remember gathering my friends and spending hours in there, strategizing, hiding, and tagging – the thrill and excitement was always off the charts.
And recently, they've revamped the arena, adding more excitement to the game.
One of my favorite things about The Edge is the game card system – it's like having a digital wallet for fun.
Every game you play, every point you earn, it all goes onto this card.
It's a great way to keep track of your winnings and add an extra element of fun to the games.
After a day of play, it's always a joy to head over to the rewards counter and get something nice with the points you've earned.
But the fun doesn't stop there.
On the opposite side of the arcade is a sports bar and grill.
It's the perfect place to unwind after a day of games, or to catch up on the latest sports action.
You can grab a bite, enjoy a drink, and watch your favorite team play on the big screens.
Catch a Movie at the Lincoln Theatre
Every city has its own beating heart, its own character that sets it apart from everywhere else.
In Belleville, it's the Lincoln Theater.
Opening its doors in 1921, this grand dame is the oldest operating movie theater in the Midwest.
Apart from screening films, the theater has begun hosting concerts, becoming a vibrant part of the Belleville community.
Strolling up to the Lincoln Theater, you can't help but be drawn in by its historic charm.
Yet, it manages to deftly meld the old with the new.
The image and audio quality inside is top-notch, providing a modern viewing experience within a vintage setting.
And let's not forget the popcorn!
It's simply delicious, a must-have during any screening.
However, it's not all just about films and popcorn.
The theater has started hosting concerts, which, in my opinion, is a fantastic addition to the local cultural scene.
The auditorium, it seems, was made for this.
The acoustics are great, and there's a certain magic in seeing live performances in such a storied venue.
The ticket prices are so affordable, especially on Tuesday nights, that a bit of discomfort can easily be overlooked.
Years ago, I attended a birthday party in the theater's basement after watching a movie.
I'm not sure if they still offer this service, but it was a memorable experience.
On another note, the theater is very clean, and while not all areas are handicap accessible, they have made a few recent updates to improve this.
Feel the Thrill at Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center
When I was a kid, my dad would take me to the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center.
You can find out more about it here.
It was the highlight of my summer, watching the dirt fly as the cars spun out on the 1/5-mi. banked oval track.
The smell of engine oil, the roar of the engines - it was intoxicating.
Now, as an adult, I get to relive those days with my kids.
The raceway is still as thrilling as ever with the seasonal wheel-to-wheel races.
Our city has grown up around the fairgrounds, but the place itself hasn't changed much.
We still have the antique shows that my mom loves.
She says the building they use for it is nice and the bar makes great Bloody Marys.
Though she does think the antique items are a bit too pricey, she doesn't mind paying the $12 admission ticket for the atmosphere.
Recently, the fairgrounds have also turned into our county's covid-19 vaccination center.
I was so impressed with how efficiently everything was run.
The Army Guard manages the whole process, guiding you where to go and making it as easy as possible.
Even though they didn’t provide paper copies of the vaccine side effects, the process was generally quick, painless, and well-orchestrated.
What I love most about the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds is how it's not just a place, but a part of our lives.
It's where we go to watch races, shop for antiques, and even get our vaccines.
It's more than just a fairgrounds, it's a staple in our community.
And the best part?
The spacious lunch area where we unwind and catch up with our neighbors.
Go Fishing at Frank Holten Park
Have you ever needed a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life?
Well, I found my treasure trove in Frank Holten Park.
Nestled in the heart of St. Louis, this park has become my haven of serenity.
Its beauty is like a jewel, shining brightly amidst the urban setting.
I can't help but feel a stroke of awe every time I catch a glimpse of the magnificent St. Louis skyline from the park.
It's quite a sight!
The park has this beautiful lake where I often find myself fishing.
Not to mention, it's also a great spot for bicycle rides or just lounging around and soaking in the tranquility.
One of my favorite features of the park is the walking trail, which is perfect for a light jog or a leisurely stroll.
The park is always kept clean and tidy, which makes it an even more pleasant place to visit.
The bathrooms are located at the far east side of the park, a bit of a hike, but always well maintained.
While Frank Holten Park doesn't have a designated dog area, it's pretty pet-friendly.
My golden retriever, Bailey, loves it here as much as I do!
And for those who enjoy a bit of barbecue, there are several areas around the park dedicated for that very purpose.
And oh, there's a secluded spot at the front far west side of the park that I often claim as my own little sanctuary.
Of course, like any public space, the park has had its share of issues in the past.
But I've noticed a marked improvement recently.
It appears that the park staff has been making regular rounds and doing a top-notch job maintaining the park's cleanliness, making it a much more enjoyable place for us locals.
Have a Tee Time at Orchards Golf Course & Restaurant
I must admit, my experience at the Orchards Golf Course & Restaurant was not quite the hole-in-one I had hoped for.
I remember swinging into their website orchardsgolfclub.com a few days ago, fascinated by their promise of a unique golfing experience.
I stepped onto the greens, eager to get a swing in, only to find the course overgrown and packed with sand.
The golf pro, who I had hoped would provide some insight or maybe a tip or two, was anything but hospitable.
This was not the golfing haven I'd envisioned.
I decided to give it another try, hoping maybe it was just an off day.
I made my way through the back 9, which I must say, were quite fun.
However, the fairways on holes 7 and 18 were a letdown.
It seemed as if the upkeep had been abandoned, a stark contrast to the rest of the course.
As an avid golfer, it was disheartening to see the condition of the tee boxes and greens.
Weeds cropping up everywhere, bare spots dotting the landscape.
It felt more like an untamed wilderness than a golf course.
The cart path, too, was far from ideal.
It was in a terrible state, with multiple areas needing immediate attention.
I was expecting a smooth ride, what I got was a jarring one.
And while the restaurant offered a decent menu, it was hard to overlook the poor shape of the course.
With a $42 price tag, it felt like a hard sell for what was on offer.
This course was a far cry from the countless well-maintained courses I've had the pleasure of playing on.
It’s a shame, really.
With the right care and attention, the Orchards Golf Course & Restaurant could truly be a golfer's paradise.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Rediscover History at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
For an early riser like me, there's no better way to start the day than a hike up to Monk's Mound at the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
Even before sunrise, the site is a bustling place, with fellow residents and out-of-towners alike making their way up the stairs to catch the first light.
Atop the mound, the sense of serenity is unparalleled.
Although shrouded in the veil of the past, it's no less a present experience.
You can actually feel the echoes of the 13th-century Native American urban center that once flourished here.
Each mound, an artifact, a ruined home, a monument, each one radiates its own story, waiting to be heard.
The signage on the mounds is well done, providing insightful snippets of information about this pre-Columbian establishment.
It's the largest of its kind in North America, and the information boards are a valuable resource if you're not already familiar with the site.
The walking paths wind around a beautiful field, and the tallest mound provides not just great views but a decent workout too.
Although my adult children don't share my enthusiasm for these Native American mounds, I find them intriguing.
Not just because they are irregularly shaped hills on a grassy field, but because they are evidence of human intent, purpose, and mystery.
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site is a place that fills my soul with wonder.
Just off the interstate, and so easily accessible, the site holds its majestic allure.
See Fighter Aircraft at Scott Field Heritage Air Park
Every year, my family and I make it a point to attend the Annual Flag Day Car Cruise at Scott Field Heritage Air Park.
It's not just an event, it's an experience, a celebration of patriotism and love for the military.
We look forward to this grand spectacle, carried out in the most organized manner, thanks to the dedicated volunteers.
A heartfelt salute to the ones in uniform and their families, for their bravery and sacrifice is what makes such gatherings possible.
The Scott Field Heritage Air Park is not just about the car cruise.
It houses a collection of aircraft that have braved the skies and the weather, standing tall and proud all year round.
Each one is a chapter from history, narrating tales of valor and service.
A walk around these magnificent machines is an education in itself.
And what better way to absorb the stories than with the stunning landscape as the backdrop?
It’s a delightful blend of knowledge and beauty, all under the open sky.
Scott Field Heritage Air Park is thoughtfully designed, with comfortable benches scattered around.
It’s a moderate length walk, but on a level terrain, making it an easy stroll.
And if you miss the turn for the parking, just keep an eye out for the security gate.
A cozy strip mall across the street is the perfect spot for a quick bite, making your visit to the park a fulfilling day out.
Have a Family Day at Schranz Memorial Park
It's always a joy to spend a day at the Schranz Memorial Park in Swansea.
A massive jungle gym, cleverly designed to resemble wood but actually made of some plastic-like material, is the star attraction, and it's practically a labyrinth of fun.
With two distinct sections, one for toddlers and another for older children, it has something for everyone.
What I love about this enormous playground are the various play areas.
The monkey bars are a challenge my children eagerly take up.
The bridge, climbing wall, and pull-up bar offer more fun and games, making it more than just a playground.
It's a little adventure park right in the middle of Swansea village.
The park also offers some great amenities for families and groups.
Shaded areas provide relief from the sun on hot summer days.
Barbecue pits are ready for those who want to grill, and there's plenty of space for everyone to enjoy.
It always impresses me how clean and well-maintained the park is; the equipment looks almost brand new.
Hosting events here is a breeze, too.
We once organized an event for my work, and the park was a hit.
Cleanliness is something the park does not compromise on, and it is always a pleasure to spend time there.
The park features a fantastic playground, a water pad, clean restrooms, and more.
One of my favorite memories of the park was a family picnic we had recently.
Schranz Memorial Park provided us with electric and large grills, and there were plenty of trash cans around to keep the place clean.
It was indeed a lovely time for all of us.
Belleville, Illinois, indeed encompasses a cornucopia of delights.
So whether you're a fellow resident or a visitor passing through, Belleville is sure to keep you coming back for more.
The city is a tapestry of rich history, vibrant culture, and a loving community – a place I'm proud to call home.