Part 24 of my "Heritage" Travel Campaign.
After I wrapped up the first half of my road trip in Mobile, Alabama, I took three weeks off and spent it in southern Georgia with friends. We went to Orlando to watch the Miami Hurricanes play the Florida Gators in the first game of the season at Camping World Stadium.
The first half of my road trip was all about the South, and the second half was going to be all about the West. Toward the end of August, I decided to get back on the road and kick off the second half of my road trip with a visit back home to southern Illinois where I grew up for Labor Day weekend.
In my own words, "Southern Illinois is a rural paradise with small-town charm that, culturally, sits at the crossroads of the Midwest and the South."
Southern Illinois has about 1.2 million people and is best known for its coal mining heritage. It is nicknamed, "Little Egypt," and is widely considered to cover the southern third of the state of Illinois. Early settlers came to southern Illinois from a region known as the Upland South, which includes the states of Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and parts of Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina. In other words, the people and the culture of southern Illinois tend to reflect that of the Midwest and the South. The Shawnee National Forest is located in southern Illinois and covers about 280,000 acres of Federally managed lands. Southern Illinois University Carbondale is located in Carbondale, Illinois and enrolls about 12,000 students. Southern Illinois is a rural paradise that offers numerous state parks and campgrounds with hunting, fishing, hiking, boating, etc. Southern Illinois wineries have become popular in recent years as the region now offers a variety of vineyards to choose from on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Southern Illinois is a highly underrated U.S. tourist mecca that has been growing in popularity over the last decade and is being recognized by more and more people who work in the travel, tourism, & hospitality industries.