4 Reasons to Visit Mount Vernon This Fall
Proof of the power of location sits at the intersection of Interstates 57 and 64, where a small industrial town masquerades as a city: Mount Vernon.
“We’re a small town, but we don’t quite look like a small town,” says Angela Schrum, director of the Mount Vernon Convention & Visitors Bureau, noting the town’s more than 1,000 hotel rooms and 50-plus eateries. “There is so much to see and do here. People are surprised that our population is just 15,000.”
From agritourism to the arts – and more than a hint of history – Mount Vernon masters the art of attraction.
1. Mount Vernon Celebrates Creativity
“Our town’s slogan is ‘Creativity Redefined,’ ” Schrum says. “Our focus goes beyond traditional art. It’s about finding art in the things you do every day. Art doesn’t have to be painting on a canvas.”
But there’s plenty of that, too, at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts.
“Cedarhurst is one of only 3 percent of accredited museums in the U.S.,” Schrum says. “It has many components, including the Mitchell Museum, an interactive children’s gallery – and classes in everything from basket weaving to glassblowing.”
The 90-acre Cedarhurst estate also features a sprawling outdoor sculpture park. In fact, works of art accent the entire city’s landscape, from the bronze statue of Honest Abe that graces the courthouse grounds to the Brehm Library’s statue commemorating women veterans.
“There are nine different sculptures and murals downtown, and every school in Mount Vernon has a sculpture piece,” Schrum says.
2. Mount Vernon Honors History
Just around the corner from Cedarhurst, the Jefferson County Historical Village and Museum offers a peek into the past.
Located in an idyllic country setting, “It’s an actual historic village with a school, jail, church, general store, and working print and blacksmith shops,” Schrum says. “The village also hosts educational programs like A Day in the Life of a Prairie Child.”
At the airport, the Colonel R.D. White Veterans Museum showcases military memorabilia dating back to the Civil War. Nearby, the Hall of Honors salutes local veterans.
Legal history continues to unfold at the pristinely preserved Mount Vernon Appellate Courthouse, built in 1857. Clara Barton once used the building as a hospital, and Abraham Lincoln successfully represented the Illinois Central Railroad here.
More than a monument to history, Schrum says, “This is the last courthouse still in operation where Abe Lincoln tried a case.”
3. Mount Vernon Has Bushels of Fall Fun
Just east of Mount Vernon, Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch draws thousands of visitors in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Now in its 20th year, the Marlow family grew its business into one of the state’s top-rated pumpkin patches.
[infobox alignment=”right” title=”10 Places to Visit in Mount Vernon”]
1. Appellate Courthouse
2. Aquatic Zoo
3. Cedarhurst Center for the Arts
4. Hall of Honor & Military Museum
5. Jefferson County Historical Village
6. R&J Tactical Lazer Tag
7. Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch
8. Rend Lake Recreation Area
9. Veterans Memorial Park
10. Wayne Fitzgerrell State Recreation Area [/infobox]
“We put out about 70 different varieties of pumpkins, gourds and squash, as well as different types and colors of mums,” says Timothy Marlow, who runs the business with wife, Tracy, and their five daughters: Emily, Erica, Ellie, Elicia and Emerie. “Our goal is to provide affordable family fun. We try to improve each year and keep it fresh.”
Case in point: the 30-foot-tall Silo Slide they added in 2017.
“We took an old-time silo from my grandmother’s farm and rebuilt it here,” Marlow says. “It’s popular with the young and the young at heart.”
Another favorite is the plush Pirate Ship hayride. You’ll also find corn mazes, a haunted barn, miniature golf – and memories to last through a long winter.
4. Mount Vernon’s Shopping & Dining Scene
While Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch focuses on fall, you can browse for bargains and savor the tastes of Mount Vernon year-round.
“We have a lot of unique stores, from upscale vintage to specialty shops and boutiques,” Schrum says. “And we are fortunate to have a lot of great restaurants.”
“There’s always something to do in Mount Vernon – and sometimes a lot of somethings to do,” Schrum says.
Pumpkin kingpin Timothy Marlow agrees: “Mount Vernon is a hidden gem.”
To plan your trip, visit enjoymtvernon.com.