December 6, 2022

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Unforgettable trip

Day trip destinations within hours drive of Belleville, IL

As schools let out for the summer and the travel bug starts to hit, you may be looking for day trips or weekend getaways within driving distance from Belleville.

With gas prices high, we’ve rounded up six destinations all within 3 hours of the city (according to Google Maps). Local attractions include historic sites, nature preserves, museums, monuments and restaurants.

Here’s some day-trip locations to check out.

Hannibal, Missouri

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Among the signatures on the walls of the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal is one from Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. The signature has been authenticated by experts and was not found until 2019. TODD FEEBACK [email protected]

The hometown of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by pen name Mark Twain, is located about 2 hours from Belleville.

The Mark Twain Cave is the famous setting of scenes from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the author’s signature can even be found on the walls. The tour of the cave lasts 1 hour and is a relatively easy walk for many people, but there are some tight spaces you’ll have to squeeze through.

After enjoying the tour, you can peruse the historic downtown area and catch a dinner cruise on the Mississippi River.

Springfield, Illinois

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Springfield, Illinois is located about 1 hour and 35 minutes from Belleville by car. Capitol News Illinois file photo

The capital of Illinois is located about 1 hour and 35 minutes north of Belleville, and you can visit historic Abraham Lincoln sites and a downtown area full of bookstores, coffee shops and murals.

The city’s signature dish is the horseshoe, a loaded, open-faced sandwich. It starts with two pieces of Texas toast, topped with your choice of meat or vegetarian alternative, and ends with a topping of french fries and cheese sauce.

For those looking for a more active adventure, check out the expansive parks and wooded areas prime for hiking.

Carbondale, Illinois

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Check out Carbondale, about 1 hour and 40 minutes from Belleville by drive. Provided

This college town is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from Belleville, and it has attractions for Southern Illinois University students and visitors alike. Explore options for those who love nature, the arts and everything eclectic.

Check out the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, the Old Illinois Passenger Depot Railroad Museum and the nearby Shawnee National Forest.

If you’ve a hankering for free-spirited activities, you might stop by nonconformist Makanda, which is known for its events such as Vulture Fest and solar eclipse viewings.

St. Charles, Missouri

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The third annual St. Charles Paw Parade is planned for Oct. 8, 2022. St. Charles City Government website

Only 47 minutes from Belleville lies this historic destination, known for its architecture and brick-paved Main Street.

There are plenty of local restaurants, along with an independent bookstore, and if you’re hoping to catch some tunes, you can get concert tickets for events at Family Arena.

One of St. Charles’ most-loved traditions is the Main Street festival celebrated during Christmas, with a parade, caroling, roasted chestnuts and much more. Another is the annual Paw Parade, which is planned for Oct. 8, 2022.

For those willing to make a bit of an extra drive, Historic Missouri Wine Country isn’t far off.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

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Cape Girardeau is just under 2 hours by car from Belleville, Illinois. City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Just under 2 hours from Belleville, this destination offers history, children’s activities and nature.

The Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center features 2 miles of trails, freshwater aquariums and information about Indigenous history. The locale is a significant landmark in the Trail of Tears, and there is a visitors center where you can learn more about the thousands of individuals uprooted and forced to migrate westward under federal policy.

Another local landmark is the Missouri Hall of Fame, which features history about literary legends, Indigenous people, sports icons and more.

For those traveling with children, visit the Discovery Playhouse children’s museum.

Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

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Ste. Genevieve, Missouri was named in The 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2022 in Smithsonian Magazine June 3, 2022. City of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

Fossil buffs will particularly enjoy this destination, which was recently named in The 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2022 by Smithsonian Magazine.

The area has been a prime fossil-finding site for almost 80 years, and paleontologists made an especially exciting find in late 2021 when they discovered a new genus and species of duck-billed dinosaur. You can check out the Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center to unearth more info about the fossil finds, and hit up the art museum afterward.

For $20, you can get an all-day wristband for the city’s trolley, which will take you from downtown stops to local wineries.

Ste. Genevieve is about 1 hour plus from Belleville.

This story was originally published June 9, 2022 12:00 PM.

Profile Image of Meredith Howard

Meredith Howard is a service journalist with the Belleville News-Democrat. She is a Baylor University graduate and has previously freelanced with the Illinois Times and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.