Jefferson County is home to many annual events and festivals, interactive historic landmarks, outdoor recreation adventures, and things to do for visitors and locals alike. Whether you’re enjoying street festivals in downtown Mt. Vernon, hiking, biking or horseback riding trails in Rend Lake’s Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park, or making a splash in Mt. Vernon’s Aquatic Zoo waterpark – this county is more than an interstate intersection, it’s the original heart of Southern Illinois. With rich history in the beginnings of the State of Illinois, our community has transformed over the centuries and is now a thriving hub for many facets of life from our roots in manufacturing to an ever-growing arts culture with one common thread throughout our history – creative innovation.
Mt. Vernon Visitors Center
The Mt. Vernon Convention and Visitors Bureau is located at 200 Potomac Blvd., just west of the I-57/I64 exit 95. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Located inside the Visitors Center is a unique gift shop called Made in Mt. Vernon. Made in Mt. Vernon features unique gifts made by local artists. Visit www.enjoymtvernon.com or call (800) 252-5464 for more information or to request a visitor’s guide.
Throughout Jefferson County, recreation is ample. The Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park is a mecca for outdoor recreation enthusiasts with water sports, horseback riding, picnicking, hiking, bird watching, wildlife observation and photography, fishing, boating, skiing and more. Overlooking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’s 19,000 acre Rend Lake Reservoir, Wayne Fitgerrell State Park and Rend Lake is boasted as Southern Illinois’ biggest outdoor playground.
Jaycee Lake, on the outskirts of Mt. Vernon, is a beautiful place to relax with boating, fishing and breathtaking scenery. Veteran’s Park, situated in the heart of Mt. Vernon, is more than your average park with a memorial to Veterans from all U.S. conflicts located at the park entrance. The park also offers basketball courts, six lighted tennis courts, playgrounds, horseshoe and washer pits, walking paths, picnic facilities, and a community building available to rent for events and meetings. For more information, call (618) 242-6890.
The inaugural Mt. Vernon Community Gardens will be planted in 2017 at Veterans Park and serves as a hub of activity for novice and master gardeners alike.
Bicycle trails can be found throughout Mt. Vernon. Hop on anywhere to enjoy the ride, but we suggest starting near Cedarhurst Center for the Arts or Veterans Park. If you’d like a different type of adventure, check out R & J Lazer Tag just off Illinois Highway 15 in Woodlawn. With private parties or open play, memories are sure to be made in the Southern Illinois woods playing laser tag with your friends or family. Nu Bowl Lanes in Mt. Vernon offers league play for all ages, open bowling, and numerous special events. An arcade, lounge with gaming, and restaurant round out the requirements to make this a fun outing for the whole family.
In addition to Veterans Park, the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department oversees numerous other parks, including Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park offers a four-field complex for baseball and softball events as well as a soccer field and the Aquatic Zoo Water Park.
Archway RV Park is a family-owned and operated campground.
They have full hookup pull-through sites and back-in sites for the big RVs and some tent sites for the little campers. They boast clean showers and a laundromat along with a playground, fishing pond and dump station on-site.
For the golf enthusiast, Green Hills Golf Club in Mt. Vernon is widely considered to be one of the finest golf facilities in southern Illinois. Offering a beautiful and challenging layout combined with a friendly country club atmosphere, the course has an abundance of trees, natural creeks and large lakes to create unique playing conditions. Also in Mt. Vernon, Indian Hills Golf Club offers a picturesque course for 18 holes as well. Both clubs are open to the public and have memberships available.
Broadway Market & Rec Center
Broadway Market is located at 205 S. 7th Street in downtown Mt. Vernon. Renovations to transform the market to a multi-purpose recreational facility and venue will begin in 2017, with outdoor events continuing through the 2017 season like normal. The market is home to Mt. Vernon Market Days, a free outdoor flea market and vendor fair held on the first Saturday of each month from May to October running from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and hosts vendors from across Southern Illinois to sell just about everything from locally grown produce to handmade jewelry. It’s also home to Friday’s Food & Art, a weekly buy local market that runs every Friday in the evening from June 2 to Sept. 1 and features local-only products like locally grown produce and plants and handmade jewelry, as well as events including live entertainment, local beer and wine, great food and activities. By 2018 the venue will host indoor markets, tradeshows, recreation tournaments and more. For more information, call (618) 242-3151.
Aquatic Zoo Water Park
The Aquatic Zoo is an outdoor water park located on South 24th Street in Lincoln Park. It includes two slides with a monkey themed water dumping bucket, zebra, giraffe and animal sound and light themes geysers, a lazy river, zero-depth entry leisure pool, an enclosed body flume slide, and an enclosed tube slide. The park also includes a 25 meter, six-lane lap pool with two diving boards that is in a separate section from the slides and lazy river and splash pad. For pricing, season passes or more information, call (618) 242-6890 or visit www.aquaticzoo.org.
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums, the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public. The United States has an estimated 35,000 museums, and only a little over 1,000 are currently accredited.
Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, an activity of the John R. and Eleanor R. Mitchell Foundation, is a private, nonprofit arts organization established in 1973. The museum is best known for its significant collection of late 19th and early 20th century American paintings, exhibitions featuring regional and international artists, a 90-acre sculpture park featuring over 60 works of art, extensive art education opportunities both on campus and in regional schools, and an annual Art & Craft Fair held each September since 1977. They also host art classes and programs, live performances and Thursday Night Live! a summer program with great food, entertainment and activities. The Cedarhurst campus is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it is open until 8 pm. Find more information about art exhibits and programs at Cedarhurst at www.cedarhurst.org or call (618) 212-1236.
Jefferson County Historical Village
Located on North 27th Street, the Jefferson County Historical Village is picturesque with two log cabins, the first log jail in the county, a one-room school, medical building, newspaper and print shop, blacksmith shop, log church, general store, gift shop, a nature trail, history museum and Interpretive Center. For more information, contact (618) 246-0033.
Jefferson County Hall of Honor & Col. R. D. White Veterans Museum
The Jefferson County Hall of Honor, Col. R.D. White Veterans Museum and Jefferson County Heroes Memorial are permanent memorials dedicated to area veterans on display inside the Koziara Terminal and outside at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport. The Hall of Honor is an ongoing, collaborative effort that complements the other area veteran’s memorials in that each veteran’s service history is preserved for future generations to see. “Just like the service of each veteran, no two tributes are identical. Each one has a different story to tell,” said Chris Collins, airport director. The Veterans Museum features authentic vintage uniforms, weapons, munitions, K-rations, era newspapers, magazines and letters from home from the Civil War to current conflicts. The Jefferson County Heroes Memorial honors the local family members, friend and neighbors who sacrificed their tomorrows for our todays.
Hall hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and the museum is open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment. Call (618) 242-7016 for more information.