Regional road trips are all the rage right now. Many folks feel most comfortable hopping in the car with their loved ones and exploring sights that are off the beaten path. Some of those sights may even be in your own backyard! For plenty of regional travel ideas, check-in every Wednesday for a Downstate Illinois Road Trip Roundup on themed topics showcasing several destinations across the southern portion of the state. This week we spotlight some Larger Than Life Icons that can be found scattered throughout the region!
The Cross at the Crossroads is certainly an engineering wonder, but its greatest miracle is its call to travelers from every faith, background and circumstance, reminding them of the positive values shared and cherished by all. Soaring nearly 200 feet into the Midwestern sky, the Cross at the Crossroads is a larger-than-life, instantly-recognizable landmark for the 19 million travelers who drive through Effingham’s interstate corridors- at the intersection of I-57 and I-70. It stands as a symbol of love and hope for the many people who pass it each day. In the night sky, the Cross is a true light to lead the world out of darkness – both literally and figuratively. The Cross lights up at night to welcome weary travelers with its warm, bright glow. On special occasions, including Easter weekend, the Cross is illuminated in red with a state-of-the-art LED system to reach those travelers, passing by in the late hours of the night. Not only does this infamous icon inspire those who stand in its powerful presence, but we think it makes for a pretty incredible photo op, as well! Check out the grounds, which surround the base of the Cross and stretch to meet its Welcome Center. While the Cross at the Crossroads is clearly the main attraction on this beautiful campus, there is plenty more to discover while you’re visiting! The Cross’ campus includes a Ten Commandments display, life-size statues which depict scenes from the Bible, and a Welcome Center, which features: a chapel, reception area, restrooms, refreshment center and media room where visitors can view a video of the construction and dedication of the Cross. The Cross is operated by volunteers, in collaboration with The Cross Foundation, a non-for-profit organization that strives to offer messages and programs designed to promote the values of faith and family daily living. Make plans to visit for a remarkable event, this September, as the Cross celebrates twenty years as a beacon of hope to Effingham residents and travelers near and far.
ILLINOISouth is home to several BIG adventures ready for you to experience! Casey has twelve world record holders for the World’s Largest items, from giant pitchforks and wooden shoes to wind chimes and golf tees. Seeing these everyday items blown up to larger-than-life proportions is sure to blow you away. Don’t forget to climb up the World’s Largest Mailbox to send a postcard and enjoy the view of Casey. In Vandalia, you can’t miss the 35-foot long metal monster known as the Kaskaskia Dragon. Anchored off of Interstate 70, the dragon even breathes fire! All guests have to do is insert a special dragon coin, available at the liquor store across the street or the nearby hardware store, into the coin box to watch the dragon shoot fire from its snout as its eyes glow red. Towering at 160 feet tall, the Centralia Carillon is another sight that you couldn’t miss if you tried. Currently ranking as one of the ten largest carillons in the world, the Centralia Carillon consists of 65 bells that add up to 61,312 pounds, making it one of the heaviest instruments in the world. If you’re looking for a peaceful summer night, the Centralia Carillon hosts weekly concerts where you can enjoy beautiful music from the sky. On the edge of the Mississippi River, the Gateway Geyser is a stunning fountain in East St. Louis. Located in Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, the Geyser is the tallest water fountain in America, shooting up to 630 feet tall and reaching the height of its neighbor across the river, the St. Louis Arch. The Geyser erupts every day at noon, so take a break to eat lunch by the Geyser and enjoy a beautiful view of the Mississippi River, the Arch, and the Geyser all in one. Have fun experiencing some of the larger-than-life adventures ILLINOISouth has to offer!
Who would you expect to see when you come to a town named Metropolis, IL? There is one larger than life icon that comes to mind and he stands 15 feet tall watching over the heart of the town; Superman. In 1972, the town of Metropolis, IL and National Periodicals, now DC Comics, entered into an agreement to officially bestow the title of “Home of Superman” on the town. 49 years later, you can find evidence of Superman around every corner. One of the most visited tourist attractions in Metropolis is the newly refurbished Superman Statue found at 1 Superman Square. This beautiful monument to the Man of Steel is the perfect picture stop for a #superselfie you can only get in Metropolis. Adjacent to the statue you will find one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of Superman Memorabilia at the infamous Super Museum. This museum is one of the most unique attractions related to Superman, where you are sure to find something that will pique your interest or take you back to your childhood. The owners are also Superman efficienatos that can answer any question you may have ever had about Superman. Also near the Superman Statue you can visit the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce. In the chamber of commerce you can learn the history of how Metropolis, IL became Superman’s hometown and learn about the annual Superman Celebration, hosted annually by the Chamber of Commerce. There are many other Superman related attractions around the town. At the corner of 8th & Market, just 2 blocks from the Superman Statue, you will find the statue of Noel Neill as Lois Lane and the Metropolis Planet Globe. Neill was a long time supporter of the Superman Celebration and became known as the “First Lady of Metropolis.” You can also see the giant kryptonite rock at the corner of 3rd & Ferry Streets or become the Man of Steel or Super Girl at many of the cut-outs found around town including the Super Museum, Acee’s and the I-24 Rest Area! Visit Metropolis, and our Larger than Life Icon, Superman the next time you find yourself in Southern Illinois!
Most towns that carry the name Mount Vernon have a larger-than-life Icon. Ours would for certain be our 5th District Appellate Courthouse. Constructed in 1857, as the southern division of the Illinois State Supreme Court, which was created by the 1848 Illinois constitution. In 1859, Abraham Lincoln successfully argued a famous tax case at this fine facility—it is they only court house he tried a case in that is still a working Courthouse today. Red Cross founder, Clara Barton, used the building as a hospital in 1888, after a “great cyclone” hit Mount Vernon. Take this is a great opportunity to visit this historic beauty, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is known for its Greek Revival Architecture. In 1848, the Illinois Supreme Court was relocated to Mount Vernon as the Southern District and occupied lodge halls until 1857 when both the Supreme Court and the Appellate Court shared the courtroom until 1887 when the Supreme Court was consolidated in Springfield. When the Supreme Court was in session, the important lawyers in Illinois, including Abraham Lincoln, gathered in Mount Vernon to argue their cases. Local legend has it that it took three weeks to bring the twin wrought iron stairways on the outside front of the building from St. Louis to Mount Vernon by ox cart. A nine-foot-tall Lincoln statue makes a great photo opportunity to commemorate visiting this historic landmark. The “King City”, as Mount Vernon is affectionately called, represents many things. At the crossroads of two major interstate highway I- 57 & I- 64, travelers have a resting point where they can find fine food, accommodations, visit the Appellate Courthouse, Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, as well as spend the day at Rend Lake.