The brisk fall air not only brings a change of season but also the vibrant color change to the Illinois River Valley. Take a journey through portions of central Illinois and follow along the Illinois River as its waterways blossom into lakes and backwaters lined with hundreds of native Illinois trees.
The largest town along the Illinois River, Peoria draws crowds to its downtown riverfront with the scenic views of the river and the trees that line it. The Spirit of Peoria riverboat delivers fall foliage cruises that will take your breath away. A little chilly out? Head inside to explore the arts and science exhibits at Peoria Riverfront Museum or enjoy a self-guided tour at Caterpillar Visitors Center, where you can experience what it’s like to operate actual equipment. Grab a bite at The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern or nearby Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery and Eatery, housed in a stone Presbyterian church built-in 1889.
In 1910, President Teddy Roosevelt visited Grandview Drive where he described it as “the world’s most beautiful drive”. The almost 3-mile drive winds through one of the areas most historic neighborhoods while on top of a bluff that overlooks the Illinois River. There are plenty of places to pull-off that allows for a great place to have a fall picnic or take a few panoramic snaps of the hillside’s fall foliage and the river below. At the north end, hikers looking for a moderate trek can follow the 1.25-mile Pimiteoui Trail out to Forest Park Nature Center.
Mossville and Chillicothe
On your way to Chillicothe, you will find route 29 lined with beautiful color-changing trees the line the Illinois River. Right before you hit the Chillicothe town line you will pass through the tiny community of Mossville. Nestled in between Peoria and Chillicothe, you can not only view stunning Fall colors in the native Illinois trees but you can also find gifts, antiques and clothing in The Hayloft Shops, housed in a barn on the main street along with other family-owned businesses.
Out in Chillicothe, numerous downtown stores, like The Little Shop of Hoarders and Altered Relics, sell antiques and repurposed goods. Happy Thought Coffee and The Vault gift shop sit on the corner in a former bank building. Besides caffeinated beverages, find soups and salads, wraps, sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas. Or, go for the nontraditional coffeehouse daily specials, like a loaded baked potato or stuffed green pepper.
Spoon River Drive
Through Fulton County, lies the Spoon River Valley which starts at Medina has carved a wide scenic valley through Fulton County as it flows from London Mills to the south and east where it joins the Illinois River near the southeastern corner of the county. The winding roads through the unique views of Fulton County make the perfect backdrop for the Spoon River Drive Annual Fall Festival the first two full weekends in October. This festival has been happening every year since 1968. The entire Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive covers 140 driven miles which opens up so many opportunities to view the beautiful scenery and discover the surrounding communities.