You don't need to go far to enjoy the Heartland.
You only need a single tank of gas to "escape" on a staycation.
Good news: there are plenty of places you can enjoy in the Heartland.
Spend your next Heartland Weekend in Murphysboro, where you can soak up some sun, sip on a unique brew, and chow down on some authentic Italian cuisine.
You can cast away your worries at Kinkaid Lake and Marina.
This spot is scenic and laid back.
“We love this lake everything is special about this lake,” Brittney Dirnberger said.
She knows this body of water well.
After coming here year after year, she now shares part ownership of the marina.
“It’s just a community of amazing people,” Dirnberger said.
Here you can cast your line, go for a dip, or set up a tent and stay the night.
No trip to the lake is complete without a stop at the Spillway. Some say its one of the best swimming holes in southern Illinois.
Now on shore: a fully renovated marina.
It has a brand new restaurant, a fully stocked storefront, and an area for live music.
The owners say it’ll knock your flip flops off.
Scratch Brewing Company
Take a drive off the beaten path to Scratch Brewing Company, just 15 minutes from Murphysboro.
Here the Shawnee National Forest isn’t just the backdrop, it’s also the main ingredient.
“We’re trying to make a beverage that is distinctly our region,” owner Aaron Kleidon said. “Southern Illinois is largely forest and so we brew beer with ingredients from the forest largely.”
The farmhouse brewery features a rotating selection of beers that might make you actually feel like your sipping up nature.
Kleidon said his goal is to create something that reminds him of growing up in southern Illinois.
He was born and raised in Ava, Illinois.
On the current menu, one of the beers features tree bark.
“We have a beer made with shagbark hickory, the bark of the tree so we’ll toast that in the oven,” Kleidon said. “And it smells like toasting a marshmallow over a fire. So for that beer, it reminds a lot of people of their childhood.”
Dandelions, mushrooms, grapevine are some of the other non-traditional elements you might find in Scratch’s brews.
Each beer features a main ingredient Kleidon and his team can find or grow right here in southern Illinois.
“It’s definitely my favorite place, southern Illinois, so it’s nice to showcase what we have that other places around the country don’t have,” Kleidon said.
Cummare's Italian Ristorante
The smell of marinara will lead you to Cummare’s Italian Ristorante for dinner (or lunch!).
Owner Daniela Brooks says you can smell the garlic and basil a block away.
On the menu here: authentic, homemade Italian cuisine.
“We make everything from scratch daily, all the pasta dough, all the pizza dough, sauces, everything,” Brooks said.
It’s all served up by Brooks and her family, who moved to Murphysboro from Italy.
“My dad comes in and turns the ovens 6,7 o’clock in the morning gets the dough going, gets sauces going,” Brooks said. “The only reason it works as well as it does is because family is here.”
The table is set for family AND friends.
In fact, Cummare’s is Sicilian for best friend.
“We care. It’s not just our business. This is our life,” Brooks said. “You know it just becomes going to visit a friend rather than going to dinner they get that kind of experience.”
The lake, a cold brew, and some homemade pizza... sounds like a perfect day in our book.