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Ozark Getaway to Giant City State Park

Ozarks family getaway to Giant City State Park

You might not be able to see forever, but it's close, looking out from the observation platform of the water tower.
Patsy Bell Hobson
Hikers have figured out how to handle a heat wave. Take a walk in the shaded forests of the state parks.
photo by Patsy Bell Hobson

Giant City Lodge was built in the 1930s. This historic site draws people from miles away for scenic picnics in the park and Sunday fried chicken at the lodge.

Check into Giant City Lodge for a true Ozarks mountain getaway. Often, folks are surprised to learn the Ozarks spill into Southernmost Illinois. If you have any doubts, a drive through the Giant City State Park will confirm that you are in the Illinois Ozarks.

Giant City State Park Visitor’s Center contains an exhibit hall with displays of the natural, cultural, and geological features of the park. A 10 minute film about the park can be viewed in the audio/visual room.

There is a Discovery Corner for children to explore. Also, brochure racks contain information about other parks in the area, as well as a variety of local tourist attractions. The Visitor’s Center is open daily from 8 AM until 4 PM.

Cabins - Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Giant City Cabins range in price, size and amenities.

The Giant City Cabin's are open the first Friday of February through mid-December. Summer time cabin stays usually require advanced reservations. Still, if you have time for a last minute getaway, give the lodge a call.

The first group of 12 Historic Cabins are the original CCC built cabins. All one-room cabins offer 2 double beds. Located south of the Lodge, it is an easy walk for meals.

The 18 Prairie Cabins are duplexes located just north of the Lodge. Each two room cabin offers a queen bed and a full-size Murphy bed. All cabins have a small refrigerator, coffee maker and DISH Network™ satellite.

The 4 larger and the most scenic Bluff Cabins feature a deck overlooking the woods below. Includes two queen beds, a cot, and electric fireplace plus a wet bar, small refrigerator, coffee maker, and DISH Network™ satellite.

Every cabin has an Independent heat/AC units. Guests have access to the outdoor pool and children’s pool. There are also handicapped accessible cabins available

Though the cabins are rustic, the Giant City Lodge has more amenities. Comfortable seating near the massive fireplace is the ideal location to link up on the wireless high-speed internet.

There is a well stocked gift shop in the lodge. Adults can also enjoy beverages at Clem & Arlie's Spirits Lounge. Step outside the lodge to climb water tower with a 50 foot observation deck.

Trip Tip: While at the lodge, stroll over to the Gyrator. (Between the parking lot and the lodge) What an amazing work of public art. You don't have to say the word “scientific”, if there are kids within ear shot.

Gyrator sits on top of a sandstone bluff at Giant City State Park. The base features noon and seasonal markers that measure the daily rotation of earth and the annual orbit of the sun.

During the day, tell time using the giant sculture according to the seasons. At night, the Gyrator will point at the North Star. In creating "Gyrator," the artist Stephen Luecking, pictured parent and child visiting the sculpture and discussing the astronomy of the sculpture.

Bald Knob Dining Room is open daily, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Weekday breakfasts in the spacious dinning room, are never crowded but are always good. You will always get eggs exactly as ordered. Not every restaurant can make a good breakfast.

Special features on the lunch and dinner menu include America's original red meat. Bison steaks and burgers are worth a trip to the state park. There is hickory smoked Southern style “Should Be Famous Barbeque”.

Homestyle Dinners include Chicken N'Dumplins, Country Fries Steak, Vegetable Medley and some of the best crispy fried chicken livers ever. Thursday night is an all you can eat BBQ Feast. A Friday night fish fry is all you can eat catfish and hushpuppies.

Dining reservations always accepted on weekends and recommended during the week for parties over 9. For all reservations, call 1-618-457-4921.

Horses - Horseback riding is a feature seldom found in state parks. It is a popular feature. Giant City Stables is in the state park.

Giant City Stables offer group and private horseback riding lessons for English and Western riding. You can also register for trail rides, horse camp and pony rides. Bring your own horse or a lesson horse will be provided.

To avoid disappointment, reservations are always recommended. Download the registration and liability forms online. Helmets are provided and mandatory.

Getting There – Enjoy over 4,000 acres of natural Ozarks beauty. Hundreds of guests flock to the specialty of lodge, an all you can eat, family-style fried chicken dinner every Sunday.

Giant City State Park offers camping, picnicking, hunting & fishing, rock climbing & rappelling, horseback and riding. Lodging and dining are offered daily. Giant City State Park is 12 minutes south of Carbondale. Giant City State Park, 460 Giant City Lodge Road, Makanda, Illinois, 618-529-4110. Open March 15–November 1, 9 AM–5 PM Wednesday–Monday. Giant City Lodge

Mile chart:

St. Louis, MO – 141 miles, 2 1/4hours
Paducah, KY – 65 miles, 1 ¼ hours
Chicago, IL – 339 miles, 5 hours
Cape Girardeau, MO – 45.5 miles, 1 hour
Carbondale, IL – 17.5 miles, 11.5 minutes

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