Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Tue September 20 2016

Opinion Home | The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

  • Worldwide Scott | September 20, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    As American as Alton, Illinois

    As American as Alton, Illinois

    All photos by Scott Hartbeck

    It’s definitely true that living abroad makes you appreciate home more, so when I recently returned to the U.S. for the first time in nearly two years, I was desperate to sink my teeth into the biggest slice of Americana I could.

    And there was just one place I wanted to go: Alton, Illinois.

    Located around a half-hour north of downtown St. Louis, Alton makes a magnificent day trip from STL, or better yet, a great weekend away for anyone in the Midwest (or the entire country for that matter).

    Alton’s Allure

    Located on the banks of the Mississippi near its confluence with the Illinois and Missouri rivers, Alton exemplifies an American river town. It is home to sloping streets, brick buildings & boulevards, and a majestic bridge, in addition to tons of history.

    What To Do

    Whether you take a tour that details the town’s vital role on the Underground Railroad, see the remnants of a Confederate prison, or visit the site of a famous debate between Abraham Lincoln & Stephen Douglas (which is immortalized with a set of statues), you’ll feel American history in the air everywhere. And if ‘Honest Abe’ isn’t tall enough for you, since Alton was the home of the tallest man in the history of the world - Robert Wadlow, 8 feet 11 inches tall, thank you very much - you can even visit a statue of him and see how your stature stacks up.

    On the outskirts of Alton, you will find Camp Dubois, where Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition; the Piasa Bird (a mythical Native American mural); and the National Meeting of the Great Rivers Museum, which educates and entertains visitors about the great rivers of this region.

    My favorite thing to do in Alton though is to take a scenic drive along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway to Grafton. It’s about a 20 minute drive, and the entire time you are surrounded by beautiful bluffs on one side and the Mississippi River on the other. In Grafton, stop for a peek around the charming town and a libation at The Loading Dock, which overlooks the river, but feels like a beach bar. 

    And to complete the ‘Merica-ness, in winter, you can even spot Bald Eagles soaring over the river around Alton. No word if they drink Budweiser, though. 

    Where To Eat & Drink

    Alton is home to scores of good restaurants and bars, but there is only one that is world famous: Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. A roadhouse bar-slash-restaurant on the river famous for cold beer and dirt cheap food, this watering hole is a place of pilgrimage for locals, riders, and nearby St. Louisans.

    Soon to be famous is the Old Bakery Beer Company, whose organic beers are making waves in the region’s craft beer scene. Set in a drop-dead gorgeous refurbished bakery, their Citrus Wheat is to die for, and the seasonal food menu (I had some pretzels with wholegrain mustard and beer cheese) are the perfect accompaniment.

    Where To Stay

    Alton is definitely a ‘B&B’ sort of town, with two of the best bets being the grand Beall Mansion on ‘Millionaire's Row’ and the Jackson House with its romantic wraparound porch.

    The Alton Cracker Factory would also be a great place to base yourself, as this set of luxury apartments with river views are located literally on Broadway. 

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Worldwide Scott The Adventures of Worldwide Scott

Worldwide Scott Born in the U.S.A like Springsteen but trying to see the world like Pitbull, Worldwide Scott is the voice behind the hard-hitting travel site of the same name. Employing a groundbreaking strategy of visiting destinations, coming home, and then writing things about them on the internet, Worldwide Scott only tackles the tough questions that other writers wouldn't dare touch: Is travelling fun? Are there pretty places in the world? Do people in other countries wear clothes? Does Europe really exist? And if so, what's the beer like there? Stick around, he's going places.
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