25 Iconic Places to Visit in Winter in Missouri and Illinois

Big Cedar Lodge in winter

One thing that many people like about this part of the Midwest is the change of seasons. But those moving from warmer climates might wonder what there is to do all winter besides hibernate and wait for spring. Even those who have lived in Missouri or Illinois for a long time might be looking for something new to do in the cold, dreary months following the holidays. 

Luckily, there are a lot of great places to visit in winter that are within easy reach of St. Louis and the Metro East. Whether you’re wanting to stay in by the fire, go out and be active, or just find a tasty bite to eat, we’ve found some perfect places to visit in Missouri and Illinois this winter.

Watch for Eagles

Eagle watching throughout Missouri and Illinois is hard to beat. December through February when the rivers are frozen is the best time to spot them.

1. In Missouri, Eagle Days offers numerous events and locations to watch for eagles perched in large trees at the water’s edge. 

2. Pere Marquette State Park in Illinois hosts Bald Eagle Days with informative programs about bald eagles and chances to see them in the wild each winter.

3. Audubon Center at Riverlands is another great option for eagle watching in West Alton, Missouri. Explore the trails at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary or take a tour with a group this winter.

Sledding, Skating, and More

Whether you’re partial to sledding or skating, there are plenty of options around Illinois and Missouri that offer your activity of choice.

4. When it comes to sledding, what better place to enjoy good snow than surrounded by the beauty at Art Hill, Forest Park? Located right in the middle of St. Louis, Art Hill provides the perfect sledding hills with plenty of places to go for a bite to eat afterward. Build a snowman or sled the hill. Either way, you’ll have a winter moment to remember.

5. If sledding isn’t enough, lace up your skates at Steinberg Ice Skating Rink and skate the night away. Located in Forest Park, you can hit the rink after some sledding at Art Hill if you’re feeling particularly active.

6. If you’re wanting to accommodate a lot of people, throw a holiday party at The Loading Dock’s indoor skating rink in Grafton, Il. Or just head over for a night of skating and a bite to eat at the riverfront location.

7. Skating and sledding are not your thing? Take the Carlyle Plunge to support the athletes of Special Olympics Illinois. Join in on Polar Plunge at Carlyle Lake by braving the ice-cold waters. Have a story to tell for the rest of the year, all while supporting a good cause.

Icy Fun

From observing ice sculptures to participating in the ice carving or even fishing on the ice, there are plenty of icy events that could be the perfect way to spend a winter day.

8. If you want some fun for the whole family, The Loop Ice Carnival in St. Louis offers live ice carving demonstrations, ice slides and ice games for kids. Keep an eye out for winter-themed characters, fire performers, stilt walkers, photo opportunities, and frozen turkey bowling.

9. If you’re looking for something more artistic, and are willing to travel a bit, take a trip to the Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition in Rockford, Illinois to admire all the unique winter sculptures.

10. Although fishing might seem like a summertime activity, Trout Fishing at Illinois State Parks opens in October and can be enjoyed across 59 ponds, lakes, and streams throughout the state. If you want a custom trip, you can go ice fishing with the Herman Brothers in Central Illinois.

Winter Lights

Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zo

When it comes to the wintertime, we can’t get enough lights. If you love plants and the zoo in the summer, wait until you see them beautifully lit up in the winter.

11. The Garden Glow at Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis surrounds visitors with breathtaking installations throughout the entire garden. 

12. Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo is a fun way to enjoy holiday lights and observe the animals. Purchase tickets online for a way to experience holiday fun for all.

13. The Way of Lights at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is a huge tradition in Illinois that offers magnificent light shows. Enjoy discounted rates and smaller crowds when you go on a Tuesday.

Other Winter Traditions

Whether you’re looking for a good winter IPA or fun for all ages, these winter traditions have been around for years and offer up some solid winter fun.

14. The best winter traditions can be found at An Old Time Christmas at Silver Dollar City. Enjoy unique shops, restaurants, more than 6.5 million twinkling lights, around 40 Christmas productions, and even a Christmas light parade led by none other than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his North Pole friends.

15. Explore unique holiday customs from around the world at St. Charles Christmas Traditions. With hot-roasted chestnuts, the timeless Christmas melodies sung by Victorian carolers, shops to look for gifts, and holiday cocktails, you’ll be feeling the holiday spirit in no time.

16. The Belleville Christkindlmarkt offers a unique shopping experience with a European feel. Shop for handcrafted gifts, and enjoy festive music, German dancing, holiday treats among the glimmer of Christmas decorations. 

17. If you’re a fan of IPAs and looking for some tasty beers and winter comfort food, head to Schlafly Cabin Fever Beer Festival in St. Louis, MO. You’ll enjoy an evening of music, beers, and bonfires while celebrating some good cheer.

18. All aboard The Polar Express this winter! Trains at Union Station in both St. Louis and Chicago offer a memorable winter experience recreating a classic winter story. Take the family and make a day of it as both stations are located downtown.

Hit the Slopes

Hidden Valley Ski Resort in winter

When people think about skiing, they often think they have to spend a pretty penny traveling up north or out west. But, in reality, there are plenty of places here in the midwest, specifically in Missouri and Illinois, that offer some great skiing.

19. Hidden Valley Ski Resort, located in Wildwood, Missouri, is around 40 minutes from St. Louis which means you can get there for a day on the slopes in no time.

20. If you have more time, you can drive up to Algonquin, Illinois, for the weekend. Grab a snowboard or some skis and head to Raging Buffalo Snowboard & Ski Park for some winter adventure.

21. Near Collinsville, Illinois, Cahokia Mounds is a great place to cross country ski or snowshoe if there's snow. If you aren’t a skier, or there’s no snow, you can hike the trails, and check out the museum to learn all about the ancient history of the area.

Enjoy a Weekend Getaway

If you’re looking for resort vibes that aren’t too far away, there are plenty of options across Missouri and Illinois to please anyone. 

22. Big Cedar Lodge is a wilderness resort located in southwest Missouri and is a great getaway for the whole family. Enjoy great service, views, and food to really enjoy some natural beauty in the winter.

23. If you want to cozy up in a cabin in southeast Missouri, Bushy Creek Lodge offers some great outdoor activities and beautiful views, even during the winter. 

24. Head east in Illinois for a weekend at Giant City Lodge in Giant City State Park. It’s a great option that offers historic lodging, hiking, and their famous fried chicken dinners. It’s also right along the popular Shawnee Hills Wine Trail.

25. If an urban getaway is more your thing, one of the biggest winter activities in Kansas City is Worlds of Fun WinterFest. With over 5 million lights and a 70 ft. Christmas tree, WinterFest is a great way to experience winter with the whole family. Enjoy live shows and special food and drinks to really get into the holiday spirit.

So Many Places to Visit in Winter

As our list proves, there are plenty of places to visit in winter that will get you outside and get the whole family excited. Whether new to the region or a lifelong resident of the St. Louis area, you should have no trouble finding something new in Missouri or Illinois to do to beat the winter boredom. 

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