Following the Great River Road, we made our only stop in Illinois at Quincy. This town is located alongside the Mississippi River and sits on the bluffs above it. According to one of the plaques we read, Quincy owes its existence to the river. It had ideal docking conditions for steamboats, and it became a “doorway to the West” in the late 1800’s. It remains a prominent and historic river town today. Being our only stop in Illinois, we scoured brochures and the visitor center for things to do during our 5-day stay.
The visitor center offered a self-guided Architecture Driving Tour, but not much else that interested us. Remembering that small towns can sometimes reveal hidden gems, we decided to do the driving tour and stay on the lookout for other possibilities. The brochure indicated that Quincy is famous for its tree-lined streets, beautiful parks and attractive historic neighborhoods. It touts 3,664 buildings on the National Register, and is home to four National Register of Historic Places districts. All of this covers about 250 blocks and a dozen individually listed National Register properties. It was voted one of the top ten historic towns in America. So off we went to find out for ourselves!
We cruised along the East End Historic District, where Quincy’s rich architectural history is on display. Check out these unusual roofs, and the gorgeous mansions under them:
Most of these mansions are privately-owned and occupied (some even allow tours), while a few had been converted into museums. The district contains scores of meticulously maintained mansions in a setting of very mature trees. The intersection of 16th & Maine streets was designated one of the most architecturally significant corners in the U.S. by National Geographic.
If you’ve been following us, you have seen pictures of homes in other historic towns that we’ve visited. I won’t compare them to the ones in Quincy, but this river town certainly has a history and appeal of its own. As common tourists, we admired the diversity and vibrancy of the design elements we observed. And it wasn’t just the mansions – there were also several gorgeous churches, and some interesting homes for more common folks – like these:
Green Parks of Quincy
We quickly noticed that the town has many green parks – 26 to be exact. We get excited when we see markers at parks, because they usually indicate we can count on enjoying one of our favorite pastimes – biking or walking. So we were gung-ho for a good bike ride, but we soon realized these interconnected parks are interconnected by some very steep hills! Our hearts were pumping fast and our legs screaming in pain as we finally reached the top of the bluff. Steve and I were literally conked out and had to take a break before pedaling back down to the riverfront. Although we’ve been doing a lot of hiking and walking lately, our biking legs were out of shape!
On another day we decided to walk some of the same trails, as it was a little less strenuous and we wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery a bit more. But then Steve decided to take a different route along the railroad tracks. Mind you, it wasn’t for a lack of good trails – he just wanted to explore off the beaten path.
As you might imagine, we were crunching our way along on the rocks as we enjoyed the sights. Crunch-crunch, and fortunately no Choo-choo! We finally got to a bridge that we were obviously not supposed to cross. Not wanting you all to read about the bloggers who got flattened by a train, we decided to exit the tracks at that point and head toward home.
On our way home, we came across some nuts laying along the trail. Steve immediately recognized them as black walnuts, and he told me the story about how he and his sister lived amongst hundreds of black walnut trees and how his father made Steve and his sister pick up a box of them every day after school. This was when Steve was only about 9-10 years old, so these days it would be a clear violation of child labor laws 😉
Anyway, Steve’s dad would take the walnuts to a buyer after they had accumulated several bags of them, and the kids would get to split the money. A good lesson learned at a young age, and Steve was off to a roaring early career! These are his favorite nuts, and even though they were a bit early and needed more time to dry out, he was happy to pick some up for later consumption. I had no idea I was married to a black walnut expert!
If you are a Mark Twain fan, then Hannibal, Missouri could be your town to visit. Too bad we learned that only when we drove there to catch a riverboat dinner cruise. It was near our anniversary date, and Steve thought a cruise on the “Mighty Mississippi” would be a special way to remember our special day. The Mark Twain River Cruise was not narrated, but just a leisurely trip along the river at sunset. The food was surprisingly good, and we had a nice relaxing evening contemplating how great our life together has been, and how we’re looking forward to more of the same.
We continued our celebration the following day by attending the Great River Grape Escape, which was held at Clat Adams Bicentennial Park on the scenic Quincy riverfront. The event was a 2-day gathering of 12 Illinois wineries with live music, and we bought tickets for several tastings. For each $1.00 ticket we got a one-ounce sample of wine, and we thought several of the dry wines were very good. Who knew there are wine trails in Illinois? Of course, we did not leave empty-handed!
We enjoyed five beautiful sunny days while staying at Driftwood Campground just up the road from the riverfront (Steve’s review here). But unless you’re into design elements or architecture, it may be more of a good couple-day stop rather than for a prolonged stay.
Next up: St Louis, Missouri