23 Best & Fun Things to Do in Carbondale (IL)

In search of the best and fun things to do in Carbondale, IL.

Nicknamed “Little Egypt”, Carbondale is a busy tourist city in Jackson County of Illinois. This gorgeous city saw development following the railroad construction in 1853.

Carbondale turned out to be one of the best cities to visit, featuring parks, museums, scenic landscapes, and a great array of restaurants, fun attractions and exciting activities. 

If you are a tourist visiting this beautiful city, there are vacation rentals to make sure you have a comfortable holiday trip.

Planning an exploration of Carbondale? Here are the top things to do in Carbondale, Illinois.

Things to Do in Carbondale, IL

1. Engage in culture at the African American Museum

African American Museum
Credits: Macfawlty [CC BY-SA 4.0], Wikimedia Commons
African American Museum
One of the best attractions in Carbondale is the African American Museum of Southern Illinois. It is also one of the best things to do in the city.

This museum was founded in 1997 to preserve and demonstrate the achievements of African Americans in southern Illinois.

 It features diverse exhibits that display the contributions and tough pasts of African Americans in history since after its establishment.

While you are here, do well to learn about relevant African American figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama through the art showcased and the many other museum objects.

African American Museum is open for visitation every day of the week.

Address: 1237 E Main St, Carbondale, IL 62902, USA

2. Entertain yourself with a live show at the Varsity Theater

Varsity Theater
Credits: Pitchayaarch Photography / Shutterstock

One of the best ways to enjoy the city of Carbondale is by going to the Varsity Theatre. It is one of those beautiful old theatres where you can enjoy a live show, wrapped in a very entertaining and spectacular indoor decor.

This theatre is gorgeous, and there are not too many like it. It could not be more perfect as it is well preserved with a fine vintage appearance.

The venue is quite spectacular with great sight, really good sound, and some of the coolest, most unique restrooms you’ll ever come across!

In case you are looking for a place where you can hold large gatherings, the theater is also an awesome space for events like weddings or other occasions.

Opening hours for Varsity Theater are Monday, Wednesday & Friday: 12 pm – 5 pm. It is, however closed on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday.

Address: 1308 SE 4th St, Minneapolis, MN 55414, USA

3. Go leather shopping at Leather World

Leather World
Credits: M-Production / Shutterstock

While in the city, you can go on a shopping spree with your family and loved ones.

Leather World is a fantastic family-owned business with a specialization in leather jackets, gloves, vests, tool bags, and other accessories.

To make it even more exciting, they offer leather purses, wallets, and hats and also do repairs where they fix stitch the broken strap on your purse or shoes and fix that broken zipper.

Leather World is open for business from Mondays through Wednesdays between 11 am and 5:30 pm, on Fridays (11 am – 5:30 pm), and on Saturdays (10 am – 3 pm).

Address: 100 W Walnut St, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

4. Sample artwork at Artspace 304

Artspace 304
Credits: Artspace 304 / Facebook
Artspace 304

Established and opened to the public for over 25 years, Artspace 304 has been encouraging the creative culture of the people of Carbondale.

This gallery is home to some of the lively multi-arts festivals in the city. It has also grown to become a full-service local art space where people with the best art activities can get involved.

So, you can pop in while visiting this exciting city.

Ensure you stop by and have a peek into the amazing art treats that this place has in store. Do well to pick out the fine memories.

Artspace 304 is open from Wednesday through Friday, time is 12 pm – 5 pm (closed on Saturday – Tuesday)

Address: 304 W Walnut St., Carbondale, Illinois

5. Have a full-filling workout experience at Warehouse the Ultimate Gym

Warehouse the Ultimate Gym
Credits: Kostenko Maxim / Shutterstock

Next on our list of things to do in Carbondale, IL, is checking Warehouse the Ultimate Gym. If you are looking for a place to exercise while coming into Carbondale, this is a place that assures you of a fulfilling exercising session.

They’ve got awesome facilities from the world-class exercising equipment to the properly-groomed attendants from who you’ll certainly learn something new from them.

You can also sign up for private classes if you desire some extra fitness.

Opening hours for this gym center are Monday – Thursday (9 am – 7 pm) and Friday (9 am – 6 pm), and Saturday (9 am – 1 pm).

Address: 220 W Chestnut St, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA.

6. Unwind in a great ambiance at Tres Hombres

Tres Hombres
Credits: Tres Hombres Mexican Restaurant & Bar / Facebook
Tres Hombres

One of the best restaurants you’ll find in Carbondale is Tres Hombres. Located in Old Town Square, Tres Hombres makes our list of top things to do in Carbondale, IL,.

This restaurant offers the best Mexican food you can imagine as it features a full lunch and dinner menu with daily specials. There are both indoor and outdoor seating spaces for patrons and visitors to stay.

There is live music, and they offer twelve beers on tap. Don’t forget to try the house famous Margaritas, and also you can embrace the full bar for all your cocktail needs.

Tres Hombres is open 11 am – 2 am (daily)

Address: 119 N Washington St, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

7. Revel in the amazing world of ferns at Fernlands Nature Preserve

Fernlands Nature Preserve
Credits: JGA / Shutterstock

If you are a hiker looking for a place to trail and have a good outdoor experience, there is a perfect spot where you enjoy all that and even more.

Fernlands Nature Preserve boasts numerous varieties of ferns and other plants, and you will surely learn a lot about nature as you go hiking in it.

Map out a plan, get into the woods and enjoy the flora and fauna of the finest reserve in Carbondale.

The preserve is free of charge and you can visit any time, any day!

Address: 468 Kennedy Rd, Carbondale, IL 62903, USA

8. Enjoy some incredible Japanese at Yamato Steak House of Japan

Yamato Steak House of Japan
Credits: AS Food studio / Shutterstock

Yamato Steak House of Japan is a restaurant that adds to our list of top things to do in Carbondale, IL. The restaurant is designed with a stylish interior with some Japanese decor.

They have an awesome menu that includes meals such as Godzilla Roll and the New Strip Streak Bento Box. You would certainly love their steak too!

It is macerated in teriyaki and is usually very soft and appealing thanks to the variety of sauces that accompanies it.

Yamato Steak House of Japan is a place you don’t want to miss if you are craving a place to enjoy a good old Japanese meal.

This restaurant is open with the following schedule: Monday – Thursday: 11 am – 9:30 pm; Friday – Saturday: 11 am – 10 pm and on Sunday: 12 pm – 9 pm

Address: 1013 E Main St, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

Illinois holds some top US attractions and activities, check out the top things to do in Effingham, things to do in Aurora and fun things to do in Oak Park for a memorable exploration.

9. Hike the trail of Brush Hill Nature Preserve

Brush Hill Nature Preserve
Credits: BalanceFormCreative / Shutterstock

The Brush Hill Nature Preserve is a preserve owned by the Green Earth organization that has been in the business of preserving nature.

If you want to experience great hiking trails in the middle of the woods and inhale the fresh air, this is your topmost hiking spot.

Be sure to look out for unique plants and bird species. They will give you a perfect unwinding environment as you walk.

Brush Hill Nature Preserve is open 6 am to 6 pm daily

Address: 1085-1087 E Park St, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

10. Experience the exquisite Thai food at Thai Taste

Thai Taste
Credits: Thai Taste Carbondale / Facebook
Thai Taste

What else would you do in Carbondale, Illinois if you don’t try out the delightful Thai meals at Thai Taste.?This eatery is situated on the ground floor of a stately building that serves unique and classic Thai meals.

To add more excitement, Thai Taste presents dishes that come with the touch of the finest chef. It is one place you will surely fall in love with the moment you step in.

They have an extensive wonderful menu and the service will leave you amazed. One of the best places in Carbondale you can sample a meal is at Thai Taste, and you will not forget in a hurry how well the feeling and the food are.

You can visit any day of the week, though they are open sessional, from 11 am – 2:30 pm and 5 pm – 8:30 pm.

Address: 100 S Illinois Ave, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

11. Experience the smoothness of Grand River Spirits’ handcrafted whiskey

Grand River Spirits
Credits: Mariyana M/ Shutterstock

Don’t forget to visit the Grand River Spirit, one of the top things to do in Carbondale, IL.

Grand River Spirit currently produces hand-crafted blends of fun, rum, and whiskey, gin. Every step taken in the spirit-making process is handled meticulously and precisely to ensure that the final product is extremely smooth.

Here, you will also have the opportunity to sample the various types of liquor produced here and you can also seize some for your friends and family back home.

Lovelier is that there are cocktails offered on-site with a fabulous touch of finesse to give you a memorable taste.

Opening hours for Grand River Spirits are as follows: Friday (4 pm – 7 pm), Saturday (11 am – 5 pm) but (

a public visit is closed from Sunday to Thursday.

Address: 428 Wood Rd Carbondale, IL 62901

12. Enjoy live performances at McLeod Theater

McLeod Theater
Credits: SimoneN / Shutterstock

McLeod Theater is an amazingly wonderful SIU performing arts venue that plays host to musicals and plays produced by students and professional companies.

So, if you desire to attend live entertainment at an affordable price, you have a great option just a short way from downtown Carbondale.

The McLeod Theater has a seating capacity of 521 on two tiers, and regularly improves and modernizes its stage lighting and technology.

In the summer months, the McLeod Summer Playhouses – the SIU Department of Theater’s professional arm, puts on a season of four productions for guests to enjoy. It spans over six weeks, so you can plan towards that.

13. Visit R. Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett Dome Home

R.Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett Dome Home
Credits: Community helper 1000 [CC BY-SA 4.0], Wikimedia Commons
R.Buckminster Fuller and Anne Hewlett Dome Home
Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983), was a treasured architect, philosopher, and systems theorist of his time. He worked at SIU throughout the 1960s and much of the 70s and from 1960 to 1971 he lived in a self-designed house, at 407 S. Forest Ave with his wife Anne Hewlett.

This house was the only house that Fuller ever owned, and it is also the only geodesic dome, for which he was known.

During his time here, he wrote eleven books, designed the famous Montreal Biosphere, and was awarded nine patents.

The property was restored in the 2000s and is an easy ten-minute walk from downtown Carbondale. It is owned and managed by a nonprofit organization that gives tours before eventually setting up a historic house museum at the site.

14. Explore Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee National Forest
Credits: Jeffrey K. McCrary / Shutterstock
Shawnee National Forest

Located at the edge of an immense area of conserved natural beauty, Shawnee National Forest comprises 280,000 acres of federally managed lands combining the Shawnee and Ozark Hills.

As you may have thought, Shawnee National Forest has an extraordinary variety of scenery, ranging from curious rock formations and rugged bluffs to rolling forest, lakes, and creeks, all laid along more than 400 miles of equestrian and hiking trails.

Within these boundaries are reasonably wilderness areas – the wildlife-rich Clear Springs and neighboring Bald Knob, both remote and rugged, and the Panther Den which is the closest.

You will see almost all of the Shawnee Hills American Viticulture Area within the national forest. There are varieties like Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Riesling, and Chardonel flourishing in this region.

15. Check the Banterra Center (SIU Arena)

Banterra Center (SIU Arena)
Credits: taka1022 / Shutterstock

The SIU has its sports facilities located on “Saluki Way” on the southeast side of the campus. There, you’ll find a concentrate of complexes and arenas such as the 15,000-seater Banterra Center, brought to light in 2010.

It is next to the Modernist Banterra Center – a building completed in 1964 for $4.3 million then.

The center featured a slew of important music artists including Johnny Cash, Peter Gabriel, and Elvis Presley who all performed at this venue. It was also here that rapper Drake gave the first live show of his career in 2010.

The arena is an 8,339- capacity bowl for the Southern Illinois Salukis basketball teams. The men’s team played in NCAA Division I and qualified for the Sweet Sixteen most recently in 2007. The team has also produced nine NBA players in its history.

Are you planning a road trip to Illinois and wondering what to do? here is a guide on things to do in Quincythings to do in Bloomington, and fun things to do in Champaign for a memorable time.

16. Interact with Carbondale Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ Market
Credits: Aleksandar Mijatovic / Shutterstock

Farmers Market is a known piece of the puzzle as a community of multigenerational farmers, producers and artisans come together at this well-attended farmers’ market where virtually everything comes from Southern Illinois.

The market holds on Saturday mornings, it has a summer location at the Westown Centre, and then indoors at the University Mall (its most recent location) during the winter season. The latter holds from early December to late March.

Impressively, the market is currently into its fifth decade and is the go-to spot for farm-fresh produce all through the summer. Also, the local craftspeople supply baked goods, eggs, cheese, honey, salsas, pickles, diverse baked goods, and unique gifts.

17. Take the Super Splash Park

Super Splash Park
Credits: Eric Cote / Shutterstock

Your summer in Carbondale would be more fun thanks to Super Splash Park – a public water park run by the city’s park district.

Super Splash Park focuses its audience on swimmers who want some exercise including families with energetic children.

You will see an eight-lane lap pool with a diving board, a lazy river, a leisure pool with beach entry, a water slide, and interactive spray equipment for younger children.

These are complemented by amenities like a large deck with shaded areas, a party pavilion, and a concession stand.

18. Get lost in the perfect game at Castle Perilous Games & Books

Castle Perilous Games & Books
Credits: defotoberg / Shutterstock

One of the largest game stores in Carbondale is Castle Perilous Games & Books. It is one of the best things to do in Carbondale, IL, and would be the first for anyone who loves games.

The store has 200 different board games, a wide selection of tabletop games, and a great selection of comics which you will surely love.

It would interest not just you but your younger ones, so you can bring them along.

Stop by and check in the store, and you will be lost in the world of comics. also, there are fun games that will give you an exhilarating experience!

They are open for operation Monday through Saturday (10 am – 9 pm) and on Sunday (2 pm – 6 pm).

Address: 2919, 207 W Main St, Carbondale, IL 62901, United States

19. Taste good wines at Monte Alegre Vineyard & Cellars

Monte Alegre Vineyard & Cellars
Credits: Marian Weyo / Shutterstock

Carbondale is nestled on the northwestern fringe of the Shawnee Hills AVA, but it does not affect the plenty of wineries/vineyards in the vicinity.

Located just off E Main St, less than ten minutes from downtown, Monte Alegre Vineyard & Cellars has the most convenient.

This property used to be a farm for horse breeding and training but became a commercial vineyard in the 90s, mainly growing Chambourcin and Vidal Blanc, and later Seyval Blanc, Chardonel, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese among others.

Here at Monte Alegre, you can taste and purchase wines crafted from grapes grown, hand-picked at this vineyard, and aged in the cellars. The bucolic setting features a choice of varietal wines and blends, including fresh grape juice during the harvest season, starting from July through October.

20. Ride horses through the Autumn Ridge Acres

Autumn Ridge Acres
Credits: gabati / Shutterstock

Head to the Autumn Ridge Acres if you are looking for something very friendly to do with the kids. Now, this is one of the best things to do in Carbondale, Illinois.

Autumn Ridge Acres is a great ranch that has several hiking trails and you would get to spend the day in the company of great animals.

They have experienced guides and one will be assigned to you if you want to hike. It offers you the opportunity to explore the trails with the assistance and expertise of any of these guides.

So, what? Saddle up and prepare for a fun-filled horse riding lesson! Autumn Ridge Acres is open every day, from 8 am to 10.

Address: 895 E Autumn Ridge Rd, Carbondale, IL 62902, USA

21. The Science Center of Southern Illinois (TSC)

Science Center of Southern Illinois (TSC)
Credits: The Science Center/ Facebook
Science Center of Southern Illinois (TSC)

The Science Center of Southern Illinois (TSC) is an amazing place to be when in Carbondale. This hands-on children’s museum is located in the Science University Mall and packed with engaging exhibits for ages 3-13.

The center also offers an exciting lineup of programs for the young folks to absorb. TSC is an everchanging and always increasing museum thanks to its massive upgrade of assorted exhibits.

Some of the highlights you may capture include a 3D real-time topographical sandbox, a whimsical musical area, a Fuller-inspired geodesic dome climbing structure, a 10-foot Lariat chain kinetic sculpture, and an earthquake table.

These are in addition to creatively designed stations where the kids can discover and explore concepts and fields like engineering, probabilities, wind energy, and paleontology.

22. Have a taste of the finest cigar at Yesteryear Tobacconist

Yesteryear Tobacconist
Credits: Hans-Even Bakken / Shutterstock

Yesteryear Tobacconist is a tobacco shop in Carbondale, Illinois, and exists firmly as part of the Other Miscellaneous Store Retailers Industry.

It is an old-world Tobacconist that serves premium pipe and cigarette tobacco and a massive selection of the finest cigars on this side of America.

So, pop in this shop if you are an enthusiast and get yourself something from a wide variety of carefully manufactured cigars.

Here, there is a tobacconist who will guide you through the great list of cigars in the house and advise you on the best preference for your pick. 

There is also a perfect gift place to stopover. If you are looking for a souvenir to take back home, you can grab a gift here!

Yesteryear Tobacconist is open from Monday through Saturday (10 am – 6 pm) but they are closed on Sundays.

Address: 213 S Illinois Ave, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

23. Sample out secondhand goods at The Thrift Shop

Thrift Shop
Credits: Armin Staudt / Shutterstock

Finally, on our list of things to do in Carbondale, IL, is The Thrift Shop.

The Thrift Shop is an in-house consignment thrift store featuring vintage goods and supporting local artists.

It is a community-based store whose major target is to give back to society through charitable activities. The owners say they have a drive of making this to be a fun place for creative people, hence the different engagements

At the Thrift Shop, you would enjoy two floors of second-hand clothing, collectibles, furniture, toys, music records, books, and other treasures.

If you wish to spend some money shopping and search for amazing items at a pocket-friendly price, this is your perfect spot.

Operation hours are open from Tuesday through Saturday, time is 9 am – 6 pm (closed on Sundays & Mondays). Stop by and get a T-shirt here. You can add it to your wardrobe collection back home.

Address: 215 N Illinois Ave, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA

Check out more cities in Illinois, here is  a guide on things to do in Napervillethings to do in Peoria, and fun things to do Schaumburg in for a fun time

Plan your trip to Carbondale

It’s time to get ready for the real deal in Carbondale, Illinois.

This city provides the best holiday experience with friends or family, thanks to the amazing museums, beautiful parks, engaging theaters, and natural landmarks.

Do have a wonderful vacation experience!