Downstate Illinois has its fair share of municipalities. Urban life may be a bit calmer when compared to the hustle and bustle of northern cities like Chicago, but each city in Southern Illinois has its own personalized charm. From free concerts and annual traditions to special restaurants and featured shopping districts, each city in Southern Illinois has something to call all its own.
Self-proclaimed as the “capital of Southern Illinois,” Carbondale is the largest city in Southern Illinois. It is home to Southern Illinois University. The Carbondale Strip, which is a portion of U.S. Route 51 North that runs through the downtown area, has a number of local businesses. Some of the businesses on the Strip are bars, restaurants, shops, art galleries and a walk-up Dairy Queen, which is the last original outdoor Dairy Queen in existence. Visitors who like to boogie can find a place to get down at clubs and restaurants, such as Club Traz, PK's, Tres Hombres and Copper Dragon. A main shopping center and University Mall are located on the eastern side of the city. Carbondale events include the Sunset Concerts, which are free outdoor concerts offered every Thursday during the summer; and the Lights Fantastic Parade. This parade is a holiday-themed event in December where participants decorate floats and marching band uniforms with stringed lights and march through the city's downtown area.
Marion is a hotbed for both industry and tourism. The city, which is located at the intersection of Interstate 57 and Highway 13, is home to the minor league baseball team, Southern Illinois Miners. It also has Illinois Centre Mall for tourists who like to shop. The city offers a number of business incentives for companies to move in and expand their clientele. As the second largest city in Southern Illinois, Marion is just 15 miles east of Carbondale and is also the county seat for Williamson County.
Mt. Vernon is a small city at the junction of Interstates 57 and 64. It is home to more than 60 restaurants. Hospitality is something that the city residents pride themselves on. The city has approximately 1,200 hotel rooms available for those needing either a night stay or the chance to get away. Mt. Vernon, which is the county seat of Jefferson County, is also near Rend Lake. The lake is the second largest man-made lake in Illinois, and it is a popular destination for campers, boaters, nature-lovers and anglers alike. Other tourist attractions in and around Mt. Vernon include Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, the Jefferson County Historical Village, Genkota Winery, Mt. Vernon City Park and the Appellate Courthouse, which has a statue of former President Abraham Lincoln outside on display. Mt. Vernon also has its own airport, which hosts an annual fly-in celebration each fall.