Compiled by Jon Weaving –

The Numbers are IN!
State Travel Director, Cory Jobe, spent several days in ILLINOSouth bringing good news about the economic impact of tourism in our 22 counties. The board of directors, tourism partners and staff kicked off his visit with a cocktail reception at Gateway Motorsports Park. Owner Curt Francois welcomed everyone to the Park, which celebrated bringing INDYCAR racing back to the track. Jobe told the crowd that traveler expenditures in the Bureau’s region topped $1.3 billion in 2016, added $32 million in local tax collections and supported 9,800 jobs. That news go some enthusiastic applause!

Who Has Cabin Fever?
The weather is getting colder. The kids have been back in school for a couple of months. Bet you’re looking for something to do indoors to burn off that pent up energy or entertain holiday guests. Look no farther than these indoor play places in ILLINOISouth! Check the websites and Facebook for hours, prices, special events and coupons.

Be sure to wear socks (bringing an extra pair is a good idea) when you come to A Jumping Joy in Granite City and Millstadt. There’s a huge selection of inflatable bounce houses and other fun items for children to jump on, slide down and generally play with. Open bounce times are available, or make reservations for a party or group. 2901 State St., Granite City, (618) 410-4792, or 749 W. Washington St., Millstadt, (618) 476-6232, Facebook.

Fairview Heights has three amazing facilities for children and adults to blow off steam and get a workout. Monkey Joe’s is 15,000 sq. ft. of 20 ft. tall inflatable houses where kids are encouraged to bounce off the walls and explore the slides, mazes and obstacle courses. There’s even a Mini-Monkey Zone for ages 3 and under. Socks are a must here, too. 10855 Lincoln Trail,, Facebook, (618) 398-7800.

Wall-to-wall, massive trampolines fill the space at Sky Zone where games like Ultimate Dodgeball, SkyHoops, SkyJoust and Laser Tag are popular. Special programs like Toddler Time, Family Night and SkyFit provide a fun workout for all ages! They recommend filling out the waiver form and even buying tickets online before you go. 10850 Lincoln Trail,, Facebook, (618) 589-1111.

When a game is priced by the minute, it’s pretty obvious it’s going to be intense! Knockerball 618 at St. Clair Square Mall is a workout for adults and children (recommended ages 8 & up). Climb inside the safe, single chambered ball of air. Grab the inner handles and adjust the shoulder straps to almost defy gravity. Now try to roll, flip or bump another player. This is a terrific team-building, family or group activity. For a party or other event, they’ll even bring the game to your location. 129 St. Clair Square,, Facebook, (618) 726-7561.

The EDGE is a favorite destination in Belleville for a variety of activities all under one roof. They have the “World’s LARGEST laser tag arena,” (14,000 sq. ft., multi-level) and two video arcades with the newest, coolest games and some of the classics. The five screen movie theaters, featuring the two Bistros where refreshments can be brought to your recliner seat, round out the entertainment. Hungry? d.s. vespers Sports Pub & Eatery has a full bar and table service for meals, or grab a bit at the snack bar. 701 S. Belt W,, Facebook, (618) 236-2101.

Welcome New Businesses!
From breakfast to barbecue to homemade desserts, three new restaurants offer a variety of menu items. Miss Barlow’s Cafe in Martinsville serves breakfast and lunch Monday-Thursday from 6am to 1pm and dinner Friday and Saturday from 6am to 8pm. Facebook has rave reviews about the food, especially the fish, pulled pork and desserts. 31 W. Cumberland St. (217) 382-5782
Wicked Smoke BBQ is making its mark in Waterloo’s dining scene with wood smoked ribs, pork butt, chicken and brisket. This family-run business caters to families, including a Claw machine with little pigs and balls as the prizes. Open Monday-Saturday, 11am-8pm (or until sold out). 951 N. IL Rte. 3, (618) 939-2271
Little Rascal’s (formerly Mr. Kenny’s) is Chester is open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Saturday and features a variety of menu items, including barbecue, fish, hamburgers and the popular chicken fried steak. 2453 State St., (618) 826-1010.

The new St. Clair County Event Center hosts a Flea Market the first full weekend of each month where vendors sell antiques, collectibles and merchandise old and new. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. With almost 30,000 sq. ft. under roof this facility is perfect for trade shows, consumer shows, motorcycle swap meets, craft shows, etc. Adams Auction Estate and Consignment auctions, Mannheim Gateway Auto Auctions and Belleville Picker Markets are on the calendar. The Country Cafe by Roy-el Catering is the concession and catering vendor (yum!). The Cafe will open to the public Friday-Sunday beginning in December. 1550 E. State Rte. 15, Belleville, Facebook,, (618) 830-7552.

Happy 100th Anniversary!
The Flora Depot was built in 1917 by B&O Railroad and designed by Frank S. Nichols. Today, it is restored, and serves as a museum, office space, and community gathering place. In 1998, the Flora B&O Depot was named one of the three sites in Clay County on the National Register of Historic Places. After that, it was purchased by the Flora Community Development Corp. The renovated three-story building includes the Museum, which contains city and county historical artifacts, and the Chamber of Commerce on the first floor; offices on the second floor; and a community room on the third floor. 223 W. Railroad St., (618) 662-5646,