Carbondale Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, where to stay, and how to travel in Carbondale, Illinois with this comprehensive travel guide.

Introduction to Carbondale

Carbondale is a city located in Southern Illinois, United States of America. The city is known for a vibrant arts and culture scene, outdoor activities, and scenic views. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or an adventure seeker, Carbondale has something for you. This comprehensive travel guide will introduce you to the best places to visit, things to do, where to stay, and how to travel in Carbondale.

List of Places to Visit in Carbondale

There are plenty of exciting and unique places to visit in Carbondale. Here are some of the must-visit attractions in the city:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • The University Museum: A museum featuring art, artifacts, and documents that showcase Southern Illinois University’s history and culture.
  • General John A. Logan Museum: A tribute to one of the most famous Carbondale residents, General John A. Logan. The museum features exhibits and artifacts related to Logan and the Civil War.
  • Cedarhurst Center for the Arts: A non-profit organization promoting art, culture, and nature. The center offers exhibitions, class, workshops, and events in its 90-acre campus.

Natural Attractions of Carbondale: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Giant City State Park: A 4,000-acre park featuring hiking trails, rock formations, camping sites, picnic areas, and a lodge.
  • Little Grand Canyon: A 3-mile hiking trail that takes you to a panoramic view of a mini-grand canyon surrounded by scenic landscapes.
  • Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge: A wildlife haven offering hiking and biking trails, birdwatching, fishing, and hunting in a protected ecosystem.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Carbondale

Carbondale is a hiker’s paradise, with plenty of scenic trails to explore. Here are some of the best hiking/biking routes in Carbondale:

  • River-to-River Trail: A 160-mile trail that takes you from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River through forests, valleys, and hills.
  • Little Grand Canyon Trail: A 3-mile trail that takes you to the panoramic view of Little Grand Canyon.
  • Cedar Creek Trail: A 3.5-mile trail offering a scenic hike along Cedar Creek.

Best Things to Do in Carbondale: Activities and Tours

Besides hiking, there are plenty of other exciting things to do in Carbondale. Here are some of the best activities and tours in the city:

  • Shawnee Hills Wine Trail: A tour taking you through some of the best wineries of the Shawnee Hills.
  • SIU Craft Shop: A shop offering handmade crafts and artworks made by Southern Illinois University students and faculty.
  • Performance events: Carbondale has a vibrant arts scene and hosts many performing arts events throughout the year, including live music, theater, and dance.

Week-Long Itinerary for Carbondale

If you have a week to spare, here’s a sample itinerary to help you explore Carbondale:

Day 1: Visit Little Grand Canyon and Giant City State Park Day 2: Explore the University Museum and General John A. Logan Museum Day 3: Take a wine tour on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail Day 4: Hike Cedar Creek Trail and explore Cedarhurst Center for the Arts Day 5: Visit Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and go birdwatching Day 6: Explore the SIU Craft Shop and attend a performing arts event Day 7: Relax and enjoy Carbondale’s food and drink scene

Food and Drink Scene of Carbondale

Carbondale has a diverse and flavorful food scene, offering everything from comfort food to international cuisines. Here are some of the must-try dishes and local beverages of Carbondale:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Panther Pizza: A local pizza joint offering signature pizza flavors like mac and cheese, BBQ chicken, and Cajun shrimp.
  • Murphysboro BBQ: A local joint offering award-winning smoked BBQ and homemade sides.
  • Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza: A local pizza chain famous for its thick crust pizza and homemade Italian dishes.

Local Beverages

  • Southern Illinois Brewery: A craft brewery offering a variety of beers made with locally sourced ingredients.
  • Von Jakob Vineyard: A winery offering a variety of wines made with grapes grown in the Shawnee Hills vineyards.
  • Scratch Brewing Company: A microbrewery offering unique and seasonal beers made with locally foraged ingredients.

Where to Stay in Carbondale: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Carbondale has plenty of accommodation options for every budget and style. Here are some of the best hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in the city:

  • Hampton Inn Carbondale: A modern and comfortable hotel offering complimentary breakfast and a central location.
  • Carbondale Cabins: Cozy cabins located in the woods, offering a rustic and private stay.
  • Economy Inn and Suites: A budget-friendly motel located near the Southern Illinois University campus.

What to Buy in Carbondale: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Carbondale has plenty of unique and locally made products that make perfect souvenirs. Here are some of the best local products to bring home:

  • Artworks and crafts made by Southern Illinois University students and faculty at SIU Craft Shop.
  • Wine and cider made with locally sourced grapes and fruit at Von Jakob Vineyard and Orchard.
  • Local honey, maple syrup, and jam made by local farmers at the Carbondale Farmer’s Market.

Local Culture and Customs of Carbondale

Carbondale has a diverse and inclusive culture, welcoming people of all backgrounds and beliefs. However, it’s worth noting that the city has a deep appreciation for its history and natural landscapes, and locals take pride in preserving and promoting them.

Best Time to Visit Carbondale

Carbondale has a humid subtropical climate with hot summers and mild winters. The best time to visit Carbondale is from April to October when the weather is pleasant for outdoor activities. However, if you’re a fan of autumn colors, October is the best time to visit Carbondale.

Do’s and Don’ts of Carbondale

As a visitor, there are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while exploring Carbondale:


  • Respect the city’s history and natural landscapes
  • Visit local businesses and support the local economy
  • Try the local cuisine and beverages
  • Attend local festivals and cultural events


  • Litter or damage the natural areas
  • Ignore the city’s cultural heritage and diversity
  • Be disrespectful to locals or other visitors
  • Leave without exploring the city’s hidden gems.

Safety and Health

Carbondale is a generally safe city to visit, but it’s always a good idea to take some precautions. Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy in Carbondale:

Safety in Carbondale

  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially at night
  • Avoid walking alone in poorly lit or isolated areas
  • Keep your valuables safe and secure
  • Follow traffic rules and regulations while driving.

Health in Carbondale

  • Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen when outdoors in the summer
  • Watch out for ticks and other insects when hiking in the woods
  • Bring enough medication if you have any health conditions
  • Seek medical assistance if you need it.

Getting to Carbondale: Transportation Options and Logistics

Carbondale is easily accessible by air, road, and rail. Here are some of the transportation options and logistics to help you plan your trip to Carbondale:

  • Airports Near Carbondale: The nearest airports are the Southern Illinois Airport (KMDH) and St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) located approximately 10 miles and 115 miles from Carbondale, respectively.
  • Bus Stations Near Carbondale: Greyhound bus station and Amtrak train station are located in Carbondale, making it accessible by bus and train.
  • Other Options: Carbondale is located on the intersection of Interstate 57 and Illinois Route 13, making it accessible by car and motorcycle.

How to Get Around in Carbondale

Carbondale is a walkable city, but if you want to explore the surrounding areas, you might need a car or a bike. Here are some transportation options to help you get around in Carbondale:

  • Cape Bike Rentals and Tours: A bike rental service offering bicycles for exploring Carbondale and the Southern Illinois area.
  • Car Rentals: Various car rental services like Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise are available in Carbondale.
  • Taxis and Ride-Sharing: Uber and Lyft are available in Carbondale.

Where to Go Next from Carbondale: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Carbondale is located in the scenic Shawnee Hills region, offering many nearby destinations and excursions. Here are some of the best places to visit near Carbondale:

  • Shawnee National Forest: A national forest offering hiking, camping, and scenic drives.
  • Cape Girardeau: A historic city located on the Mississippi River, offering museums, parks, and historic landmarks.
  • Garden of the Gods: A natural wonder within the Shawnee National Forest, offering scenic trails and rock climbing.


Carbondale is a vibrant city located in Southern Illinois, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty, history, and culture. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie, Carbondale is a destination worth exploring. With this comprehensive travel guide, you’re well equipped to plan and execute your next trip to Carbondale.