Best & Fun Things To Do + Places To Visit In Charleston, Illinois

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Charleston, Illinois: Where Fun Meets Quirk – Best Things to Do & Places to Visit

Are you planning a trip to Charleston, Illinois and wondering what to do and where to go? Look no further! Charleston is a charming town located in the heart of Illinois, known for its rich history, beautiful parks, and vibrant cultural scene. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Charleston has something for everyone.

Artistic Hub of Charleston Charleston is a haven for artists and art lovers alike. The town boasts a thriving arts community, with several galleries and studios showcasing the works of local artists. You can spend an afternoon browsing the galleries, attending art exhibitions, or even taking a painting class. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a live performance at the Charleston Alley Theatre or the Coles County Arts Council.

Historical Charleston Charleston is steeped in history, and there are plenty of sites to explore that will take you back in time. Visit the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum to learn about the famous debates that took place in Charleston in 1858. Take a stroll through the historic downtown area, where you’ll find beautifully preserved buildings and landmarks, including the Coles County Courthouse, which dates back to 1898.

Key Takeaways

  • Charleston, Illinois is a charming town with something for everyone, from outdoor adventures to historical sites and cultural events.
  • Art lovers will appreciate the thriving arts community in Charleston, with galleries, studios, and live performances.
  • History buffs will enjoy exploring the town’s rich past, including the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum and the historic downtown area.

Artistic Hub of Charleston

Charleston, Illinois is not only known for its charming small-town vibes but also for being an artistic hub. With two fine arts centers, Tarble Arts Center and Doudna Fine Arts Center, you won’t be disappointed with the modern architecture and art scene.

Tarble Arts Center

Tarble Arts Center is a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts. The center is known for its diverse collection of contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs. You’ll be amazed at the stunning pieces on display, and the center also offers educational programs, workshops, and lectures.

One of the most exciting things about Tarble Arts Center is the unique architecture of the building. The center has a modern design with a glass facade that allows natural light to flood the gallery space. The building is a work of art in itself, and you’ll feel inspired just by being inside.

Doudna Fine Arts Center

Doudna Fine Arts Center is another gem in Charleston’s artistic scene. The center is located on the Eastern Illinois University campus and offers a wide range of performances, including theater, music, and dance. The center also hosts art exhibitions, lectures, and workshops.

The architecture of the building is a blend of modern and traditional styles, with a brick exterior and a sleek, contemporary interior. The center has multiple performance spaces, including a theater, recital hall, and art gallery.

Whether you’re a lover of art or just looking for a fun and unique experience, Tarble Arts Center and Doudna Fine Arts Center are two must-visit destinations in Charleston. You’ll be immersed in the local art and culture scene and leave feeling inspired and refreshed.

Historical Charleston

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love exploring the historical sites and museums in Charleston. Here are some of the must-visit places that are sure to transport you back in time:

Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site

Step back in time to the mid-19th century at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. This site was once the family home of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln, parents of the famous Abraham Lincoln. You’ll get to see the restored cabin, as well as the farmstead, and learn about the daily life of the Lincoln family.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum

Did you know that Charleston was the site of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates? At the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum, you can learn all about this historic event and its significance in American history. You’ll get to see artifacts and exhibits related to the debate, as well as learn about the political and social climate of the time.

Coles County Historical Society

The Coles County Historical Society is dedicated to preserving the history of the area. You can visit the museum to see exhibits related to the Native Americans who once inhabited the region, as well as the Civil War era. You can also take a tour of the historic Moore Home, which was built in 1869 and restored by the society.

Moore Home

The Moore Home is a stunning example of Victorian architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The home was built in 1869 and has been beautifully restored to its former glory. You can take a guided tour to learn about the history of the home and the family who lived there.

McFarland-Dudley House

The McFarland-Dudley House is another historic home that is worth a visit. The house was built in 1865 and has been restored to its original condition. You can take a tour to see the period furnishings and learn about the history of the home and the family who lived there.

Charleston is a city rich in history, and these are just a few of the many historical sites and museums you can visit. Whether you’re interested in Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, or just the history of the area, you’re sure to find something fascinating in downtown Charleston.

Outdoor Adventures in Charleston

Charleston, Illinois is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. With its abundance of parks, lakes, and trails, you’ll never run out of things to do. Here are a few outdoor adventures you won’t want to miss:

Fox Ridge State Park

Fox Ridge State Park is a must-visit for anyone who loves hiking, camping, and fishing. With over 2,000 acres of rolling hills, wetlands, and forests, this park is a nature lover’s paradise. There are several hiking trails to choose from, ranging from easy to difficult. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some wildlife, like deer or foxes. And if you’re looking to spend the night, there are plenty of campsites available. Just be sure to book in advance, as they fill up fast.

Lake Charleston

Lake Charleston is the perfect spot for a day of swimming, kayaking, or fishing. With crystal clear water and sandy beaches, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of Illinois. There are several picnic tables and pavilions available, so you can make a day of it. And if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak or canoe and explore the lake. Just be sure to wear sunscreen – the sun can be brutal in March and August.

Acorn Avenue Trail

If you’re looking for a leisurely stroll, the Acorn Avenue Trail is the perfect choice. This paved trail winds through the heart of Charleston, offering beautiful views of the Embarras River and the city’s historic architecture. Along the way, you’ll pass by the Eagle’s Nest, a popular spot for bird watching. And if you need a break, there are several benches and picnic tables available.

So, whether you’re into hiking, biking, fishing, or just enjoying the great outdoors, Charleston has something for everyone. Get out there and explore!

Food and Drink in Charleston

Charleston, Illinois may be a small town, but it doesn’t skimp on flavor. Whether you’re in the mood for a juicy burger or a hot chocolate, there’s something for everyone. Here are a few places you won’t want to miss:


If you’re looking for a charming place to dine, Ike’s is the spot for you. This local favorite serves up classic American fare with a smile. Be sure to try their famous fries – they’re crispy, salty, and oh-so-addictive.

Bob’s Book Store

Yes, you read that right. Bob’s Book Store isn’t just a place to pick up a new read – it’s also a great spot to grab a bite to eat. Their burgers are juicy and flavorful, and they have a great selection of craft beer to wash them down with.

Coffee Shops

If you’re in need of a caffeine fix, Charleston has plenty of great coffee shops to choose from. Whether you prefer a classic drip coffee or a fancy latte, you’ll find it here. Be sure to check out the local roasts at Common Grounds and the cozy atmosphere at Joe’s Brewing Company.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, Charleston has plenty of delicious options to choose from. So grab a bite, sip a drink, and enjoy all that this charming town has to offer.

Eastern Illinois University

You can’t talk about Charleston, IL without mentioning Eastern Illinois University (EIU). This is the place where you can get a world-class education, make lifelong friends, and also have a ton of fun.

If you’re a sports fan, you’ll love EIU. The Panthers have a strong athletic program, and you can catch a game or two at O’Brien Field. Whether you’re into football, basketball, or baseball, you’ll find something to cheer for.

But sports aren’t the only thing that EIU has to offer. The university is also known for its arts and cultural events. The Tarble Arts Center and Doudna Fine Arts Center are two places you definitely shouldn’t miss. You can see amazing art exhibits, live performances, and more.

If you’re interested in history, you’ll love the EIU campus. The university has been around since 1895, and there are plenty of historic buildings to explore. Take a stroll around the campus and soak up the history.

And if you’re thinking about attending EIU, you’ll be happy to know that the university offers self-guided campus tours. You can explore the campus at your own pace and get a feel for what it’s like to be a Panther.

Overall, EIU is a great place to visit, whether you’re a student or not. You’ll find plenty of things to do and see, and you might just fall in love with Charleston, IL while you’re at it.

Shopping and Special Events

Downtown Charleston

If you’re looking for some retail therapy, Downtown Charleston has got you covered. You can find everything from antiques to boutique clothing stores. You can even find a gift shop that sells unique items that you won’t find anywhere else. Don’t forget to check out the Charleston City Market, where you can find handmade crafts and local goods.

But shopping is not the only thing that Downtown Charleston has to offer. You can also find some great restaurants and bars. So, after a long day of shopping, you can grab a bite to eat and a drink to quench your thirst.

Music Festivals

Charleston is known for its music festivals, and for good reason. The city hosts several music festivals throughout the year, so you’re sure to find one that suits your taste. The Coles County Dragway hosts the Charleston Bluegrass Festival, where you can enjoy some great bluegrass music.

But if bluegrass is not your thing, don’t worry. You can also check out the Charleston Blues Festival, where you can enjoy some soulful blues music. And if you’re into country music, you can attend the Country Life Music Festival.

These music festivals are not just about the music, though. You can also find food vendors, craft vendors, and other activities to keep you entertained. So, grab your friends and family, and head out to one of Charleston’s music festivals for a fun-filled day.

Amish Country of Illinois

If you’re looking for a unique and charming experience, look no further than Amish Country of Illinois. Located just a short drive from Charleston, this area is home to a large community of Amish residents who maintain a traditional way of life.

One of the best ways to explore Amish Country is by taking a guided tour, where you’ll learn about the history and culture of the Amish people. You can even enjoy a meal in an actual Amish home – just be sure to save room for some of their famous homemade pies!

If you’re a foodie, you’ll love the selection of unique ingredients and mixes available at Beachy’s Bulk Foods. And don’t miss out on the Great Pumpkin Patch, a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.

For a fun family outing, head to the Illinois Amish Interpretive Center, where you can learn about Amish history and culture through interactive exhibits and displays. And if you’re feeling adventurous, take a buggy ride through the countryside for a truly authentic Amish experience.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful getaway or a fun-filled adventure, Amish Country of Illinois has something for everyone. So pack your bags and head to Charleston for a trip you won’t soon forget!

Golfing in Charleston

Charleston, Illinois is a great place to hit the links and play some golf. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice, there are plenty of courses to choose from that will challenge your skills and keep you entertained.

One of the best courses in the area is the Charleston Country Club. With its beautiful fairways and challenging greens, this course is a favorite among club members and visitors alike. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging round of golf, this is the place to be.

Another great option is the Meadowview Golf Course. This course is known for its well-manicured fairways and beautiful scenery. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon with friends or family, and the course is suitable for golfers of all skill levels.

If you’re looking for something a little different, check out the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. This site features a nine-hole golf course that is perfect for a quick round of golf. The course is set in a beautiful wooded area, and it’s a great way to spend a few hours outdoors.

No matter which course you choose, be sure to bring your A-game. Golfing in Charleston is not for the faint of heart, and you’ll need to be at your best if you want to score well. So grab your clubs, head out to the course, and have some fun!

Cinema Experience in Charleston

Looking for a fun and unique way to spend an evening in Charleston, Illinois? Look no further than the Will Rogers Theatre! This historic movie theater has been a beloved part of the community for decades, and it’s the perfect place to catch the latest blockbuster or enjoy a classic film.

Step inside and you’ll be transported back in time to the golden age of cinema. The theater’s art deco decor and vintage neon sign will have you feeling like a Hollywood starlet in no time. And with comfortable seating and state-of-the-art sound and projection systems, you’ll have the best seat in the house for every show.

But the Will Rogers Theatre isn’t just a place to catch a movie. Throughout the year, the theater hosts a variety of special events and screenings, from classic films to live theater performances. And if you’re looking for a unique venue for your next event, the theater is available for private rentals.

So whether you’re a movie buff or just looking for a fun night out, the Will Rogers Theatre is a must-visit destination in Charleston, Illinois. Grab some popcorn, settle in, and get ready for a cinematic experience you won’t soon forget!

Antiquing in Charleston

Charleston is a treasure trove for antique lovers. With a variety of antique shops and malls, you can spend hours browsing through unique and interesting items.

One of the best places to start your antiquing adventure is at the Charleston Antique Mall. This mall features over 50 dealers selling everything from vintage clothing to antique furniture. You never know what you might find here, so be sure to take your time and explore every nook and cranny.

If you’re looking for something specific, head to the Antique Emporium. This shop specializes in antique jewelry, watches, and clocks. You can find everything from Victorian-era brooches to Art Deco watches. And if you’re in the market for a vintage engagement ring, this is the place to be.

For those who love vintage clothing and accessories, head to the Vintage Villas. This shop has a fantastic selection of vintage clothing, hats, and purses. You can find everything from flapper dresses to 1950s swing skirts. And don’t forget to check out their collection of vintage costume jewelry.

If you’re looking for something a bit more unique, head to the Treasure Trove. This shop specializes in antique and vintage oddities. You can find everything from taxidermy animals to antique medical equipment. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but if you’re looking for something truly unique, this is the place to be.

No matter what you’re looking for, Charleston has something for every antique lover. So grab your wallet and get ready to hunt for some treasure!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the scoop on Charleston, IL’s shopping scene?

Charleston, IL has a great shopping scene! You can find unique gifts, trendy clothes, and everything in between. Head to the Lincoln Square Mall for a variety of shops, or check out the local boutiques downtown. You won’t be disappointed!

Any fun activities to do in Charleston, IL this weekend?

Absolutely! Charleston, IL is home to several parks and outdoor activities. Take a walk through Morton Park, or head to Lake Charleston for some fishing and boating. You can also catch a movie at the local theater or check out a live performance at the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

What are some hidden gems to visit in Charleston, IL?

Charleston, IL has a few hidden gems that are worth checking out. The Coles County Historical Society Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the area, and the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site is a must-see for history buffs. You can also visit the Fox Ridge State Park for some beautiful views and hiking trails.

What’s the best restaurant to try in Charleston, IL?

There are several great restaurants in Charleston, IL, but you can’t go wrong with the Brickhouse Grill and Pub. They have a great selection of burgers, sandwiches, and salads, and the atmosphere is cozy and welcoming. Don’t forget to try their famous Brickhouse fries!

What makes Charleston, IL unique compared to nearby cities?

Charleston, IL is a small town with a big heart. The community is tight-knit and welcoming, and there’s always something going on. You’ll find a mix of small businesses, local events, and beautiful parks that make Charleston, IL a great place to call home.

What are some quirky facts about Charleston, IL?

Did you know that Charleston, IL is home to the world’s largest square ice cream cone? It’s true! You can see it for yourself at the local Dairy Queen. Charleston, IL is also the birthplace of Burl Ives, a famous folk singer and actor. And if you’re a fan of the movie “Road House,” you’ll be interested to know that parts of the film were shot in Charleston, IL.

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