Fifteen miles north of St. Louis is the historic river town of Alton. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi River, Alton is part of the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway, a 33-mile stretch that includes the confluence of three major rivers: the Illinois, the Mississippi and the Missouri. Alton is famous for its limestone bluffs, brick-paved streets and Civil War-era history (the area was a major stop on the Underground Railroad and had many ties to Abraham Lincoln).
Today, the greater Alton area is a year-round tourist and meeting destination. From the holiday season through the end of February, it’s home to the largest gathering of bald eagles outside of Alaska.
Alton is part of a greater regional story that includes Route 66 and the Great River Road,” says Katie Bennett, tourism sales manager for the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. “Alton offers a feeling of escape while maintaining easy access to historic sites, locally owned shops and restaurants, and more.”
Opened in the former Alton Atrium Hotel and Conference Center in June 2017, Best Western Premier Alton-St. Louis Area Hotel received $4.2 million in improvements, including a complete renovation of the 4,5000-square-foot ballroom. Now divisible into four sections, the ballroom has new flooring, lighting and wall coverings, an upgraded sound system and high-speed internet.
The hotel lobby also was transformed and includes a waterfall element. “Now it provides an open canvas for our breakfast seating, community tables (with charger outlets), and several seating areas that provide a very welcome and relaxing space for all of our guests,” says Jacinda Dunlap, director of sales and marketing. The lobby can also be used for trade shows and vendor exhibits.
Troy Taylor, owner of American Hauntings INK., says the Jacksonville-based group has been hosting its Haunted America Conference at the hotel for four years. “The facilities are top-notch and the team we work with at the hotel take care of every possible need. We couldn’t ask for a better venue for our event.”
Alton’s downtown WOW Furnishings and Event Center has 6,500 square feet across several buildings dating back to the 1880s. “The open layout with soft industrial lighting, gold Chiavari chairs, custom-built farm tables and uniquely repurposed furnishings give the event center an intimate feel” says co-owner Bryan Brynildsen. “This rare combination can be utilized to accommodate vintage, traditional or contemporary events.”
The Vogue Room at Tony’s Restaurant is one of Alton’s newest dining venues, located in downtown Alton in what was once the Vogue Department Store building. The Vogue Room can accommodate 250 seated guests and features hardwood floors, elegant chandelier lighting and exposed brick.
Old Bakery Beer Co. began as a bakery in the late 1800s and continued operations as such until the early ’80s. Reopened in 2015 as a certified organic craft brewery, this vibrant downtown venue offers private event space for up to 100 seated guests and 130 for a reception event.
History is a key theme in Alton. National Great Rivers Museum, located at the Melvin Price Locks and Dam No. 26, offers visitors a unique look into the history of the Mississippi River. Lewis & Clark State Historic Site marks the beginning of the famous duo’s exploration in Illinois. The popular Millionaire’s Row, located in Alton’s historic Middletown District, features the Beall Mansion, which now operates as a bed and breakfast. The mansion has 845 square feet of adjoining meeting space in three rooms, including a formal dining room.