Get out of town with these 5 day trips from Marion, Illinois

December 6th, 2021 by

Need some ideas for your next day trip? Marion’s location in Southern Illinois makes it the perfect starting point for all sorts of short getaways. Whether you want to spend an afternoon on a hiking trail or an entire day enjoying big-city amenities, you can find it nearby.

Ferne Clyffe State Park

The leaves changing colors at Ferne Clyffe State Park during a day trip from Marion, Illinois

“Mellow Yellow” licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr by michaelhunter5

Located about 20 minutes south of Marion, Ferne Clyffe State Park encompasses almost 2,500 acres and is home to a 16-acre lake as well as an abundance of ferns, unique rock formations, and wooded areas. The closest town is Goreville, which is about 2 miles away. You’ll find a variety of restaurants in this town if you want to grab a bite to eat during your trip. Though if you prefer to bring your lunch, the state park has plenty of picnic spots complete with tables and grills. Restrooms and playgrounds are located close to the picnic areas.

There are several opportunities for hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and more on-site. Also, Ferne Clyffe Lake, open to bank fishing, houses large populations of bass, catfish, and bluegill. Note that a fishing license is required for those over the age of 15. What’s more, 18 hiking trails stretch through the state park, giving visitors a chance to explore the park’s rock formations and enjoy lake views.

Like all Illinois state parks, Ferne Clyffe is free to enter.

Alto Vineyards

Marion is less than an hour’s drive from the oldest and most award-winning winery in Southern Illinois. Alto Vineyards, which opened in 1988, sits in the foothills of the Shawnee National Forest in Alto Pass and offers different wines and beers to its visitors. If you’d like to have lunch, a limited food menu is available. Choose from items such as a sausage and cheese tray, pretzels with cheese sauce, and barbecue pulled pork sliders. A variety of pizzas is also on the menu. That said, you’re welcome to bring your own food and enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds, though no outside alcohol is allowed.

During your visit, feel free to tour the vineyard’s 9 acres of grapevines and spend some time in the tasting room. The wine menu features over 20 types, ranging from $5 to $8 a glass. You can opt for bottles of wine as well. To complete their drink ensemble, Alto Vineyards offers slushy, beer, and non-alcoholic drink menus. The Alto Pass location is open Sunday-Thursday from noon to 6 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday from noon to 7 p.m. Live music is available most weekends.

Natural Bridge in Pomona

The Pomona Natural Bridge in Pomona, about 45 minutes from Marion by car, is a good hiking spot for all ages and skill levels. You’ll find plenty of parking at the trailhead, the trail’s starting point. The trailhead is easily identifiable by a gravel lot and blue sign, and the natural bridge is located less than half a mile from the trailhead. It’s about 90 feet long and 8 feet wide and extends about 30 feet in the air over a ravine. The bridge is a unique sandstone geologic formation resulting from millions of years of erosion.

Picnic tables are located along the trail, so feel free to bring lunch. If you’d rather eat out, the town of Pomona is less than a 10-minute drive from the trail and has several fine restaurants.


Our next trip-worthy spot is located roughly 30 minutes from Marion. Makanda, known as the gateway to the Shawnee National Forest, is nestled between Cedar Lake and Devils Kitchen Lake. This small town offers a few attractions, starting with the boardwalk, which features unique shops and restaurants. You’ll find an art gallery, where local artisans showcase their creations, as well as a country store selling sandwiches, gourmet coffee, and hand-dipped ice cream cones.

After you’ve explored the boardwalk, go horseback riding at one of the nearby farms or tour Feather Hills Winery, located minutes from the downtown area. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider zip-lining through the Shawnee National Forest with Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tours. Also, there are several cabins and a bed and breakfast in the area if you’d like to turn your day trip into a short getaway.

St. Louis

While St. Louis, MIssouri, is farther away from Marion than the other destinations mentioned here, you might find it worthwhile to get up early and make the trip over. The second-largest city in Missouri, St. Louis is about two hours from Marion and boasts a variety of activities to keep you busy all day long. The City Museum features an eclectic mix of exhibits, including 30 slides, a children’s playground, a cave system, an architectural museum, and more. But if you’d rather spend the day outside, visit the St. Louis Zoo, one of the few free zoos in the United States. It’s accredited by the National Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is a leading zoo in the areas of research, conservation, and education.

Sports fans will find a series of matches to keep them entertained. If you visit during baseball season, you can watch the Cardinals play at Busch Stadium. During the fall and winter, catch a St. Louis Blues hockey match at the Enterprise Center. In the fall, see how the NFL’s St. Louis Rams will fare against the opposition at the Edward Jones Dome.

During your trip, you’ll find plenty of restaurants serving all sorts of fare, from barbecue to pizza. Check out The Hill, a St. Louis neighborhood known for its Italian cuisine. Or stop by Westport Plaza’s 42-acre entertainment district, where you’ll find an assortment of upscale dining establishments.

We here at Ike Honda hope you enjoyed our list of fun day-trip ideas in Marion and the surrounding areas. If you know of a nearby place we missed, please let us know so we can add it. Just give us a call or send us an email. We would love to hear from you!

Posted in Exploring Marion