Exploring Southern Illinois: Top 10 Things to do in Saline County

Looking for a unique way to explore Southern Illinois? Curious to visit a place where you can take a rodeo lesson, catch a drag race, and wander through twelve acres of peonies all in one day? You might be surprised to learn that nestled in Southern Illinois along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a little area called Saline County. With six towns and a population of around 23,000, this midwestern county has a little something for everyone. Exploring Southern Illinois has never been easier! 

Maybe you’re more into sports. Stop by the Shawnee Hills Country Club and play a round of golf. Are you a history buff? Check out the O’Gara Mine Tipple to marvel at this abandoned structure. Get hangry (hungry and angry) when there’s no good food around? Grab a warm homemade bread pudding topped with whipped cream from The Bar-B-Q Barn. Exploring Southern Illinois is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in midwestern culture. No matter what you’re into, Southern Illinois has a bit of everything!

When writing this blog, it was all too easy to find 10 amazing ways to spend your day in Southern Illinois. Saline County is a hidden gem in the midst of this state. Here are 10 ways to spend your day while exploring Southern Illinois.

1- Darnell Performance Horses

It’s time to channel your inner cowboy by visiting Darnell Performance Horses This top-of-the-line ranch boasts an impressive resume, having trained champions in numerous rodeo events. Stop by to take a barrel racing or calf roping lesson. Not in the competitive mood? No problem! This ranch also provides western pleasure riding lessons for beginners. 

Experience midwestern culture and treat yourself to a rodeo.

2- Shawnee Hills Antique Mall

In search of hidden treasures? Look no further than the Shawnee Hills Antique Mall Uncover vintage dolls, tea sets, or unique sculptures. Want even more options? This small business hosts flea markets throughout the year! Vendors’ items can range anywhere from baked goods to jewelry and everything in between. Not only is there a great selection of goods, but many booths offer reduced prices. The mall itself provides refreshments and gives guests the opportunity to win door prizes! 

3- Harrisburg Food Tour

Are you the ultimate foodie? Southern Illinois has you covered! Start off your day at The Bar-B-Q Barn for the ultimate mid-western experience. Located in a barn, this restaurant has a little something for everyone, from eggs with smoked sausage to a delectable platter of apple pancakes, this restaurant has it all! For all you sweets lovers, check out Angi’s Eats and Sweets Stop in for a bite of pumpkin or raspberry cheesecake. The shop even sells gluten-free no-bake cookies! After a long day of exploring Southern Illinois, unwind at Morello’s Restaurant & Catering. This restaurant boasts a variety of alcoholic drinks as well as one of the most diverse menus around! Morello’s Restaurant & Catering is perfect for picky eaters. Try lasagna or a steak. Not satisfied? How about taco salad or barbeque nachos? There is certainly food for everyone while exploring Southern Illinois.

4- Shawnee Hills Country Club

Put your golf skills to the test at the Shawnee Hills Country Club. Not much of a player? Gaze at a sprawling grass course. If you’re exploring Southern Illinois in the fall, marvel at the green, amber, orange, and red leaves. This beautiful country club is open for spring, summer, and fall.  

5- Peony Hill Farm

For nature lovers, there is no better place to visit than Peony Hill Farm. Visitors are encouraged to stroll around the twelve acres of peony-covered land. Take pictures or buy cut peonies during the blooming season. To say this experience is relaxing is an understatement. The perfect way to explore Southern Illinois, this farm is great for all ages.

Take in the beauty of twelve acres worth of peonies.

6- O’Gara Mine Tipple

History buffs will be delighted to marvel at the O’Gara Mine Tipple. Located roughly five minutes from Harrisburg, this abandoned mine tipple serves as a reminder of what once was. This building was said to have halted operation after the Ohio River flooded in 1937. An architectural wonder, visitors can gaze in awe at this impressive sight. 

7- Saline County Fair

Planning your trip to explore Southern Illinois right now? Consider stopping by during the last week oJuly and you’ll be just in time for the Saline County Fair. This event is the perfect way to get a taste of Southern Illinois culture! Guests get the chance to watch a motocross race or a tractor and pull. Maybe even stay for the demolition derby. These ticketed events are reasonably priced, with each event costing $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Not sure what either of those are? Visit now and learn for yourself!

8- Shawnee National Forest

Explore Southern Illinois by hiking through the Shawnee National Forest.

Discover the natural beauty of Illinois at the Shawnee National Forest. Between hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and fishing, there is truly something for everyone in this beautiful forest. Try a hike in the Garden of Gods area featuring unbelievably unique natural rock sculptures. Since the Shawnee National Forest is a large, sprawling piece of land, hunters from around the country flock to this hidden gem. Ditch the commercial hotels for locally owned, cozy cabin lodges, and visit now!

9- Sloan Harrisburg Raceway

Spend an exciting evening at Sloan Harrisburg Raceway Come out to watch a bracket race for only $10 for adults and free admission for kids under 12! But sometimes watching is boring. That’s why you can participate in a Test and Tune event. These events allow drivers to test their vehicle on a racetrack just for fun! What can be better than driving down a racetrack on a beautiful day?

Watch a motocross race at the Saline County Fair in Southern Illinois.

10- Saline County Area Museum 

Experience the culture of Southern Illinois even more at the Saline County Area Museum. The first building was created in 1964. This was just the beginning, and now an impressive eleven buildings tell the story of Saline County’s people. The best part? Admission is completely free. Stop by on select days from 1-4 pm to learn more about this fascinating area.

Places to Explore!

Those are just some of the amazing events and activities you can attend while exploring Southern Illinois. For more ways to enjoy Illinois, visit our website. Learn more about the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail here. Want more trip inspiration? Check out our other blogs.

BACK TO BLOG