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When the weekend finally hits, the only thing on your mind is to get off campus. Why not try out something other than your usual spot? It’s time to discover original local hangouts that most students don’t know about. Branch out from traditional IHOP and Steak ‘n Shake runs and get a taste of local culture.


For years, Principians have been in dismay due to the lack of a nearby Starbucks. However, the opening of local coffee shop Maeva’s may open up new opportunities and smiles for coffee-deprived students.

Located between Homer Adams and Downtown Alton, Maeva’s rests in an old schoolhouse upcycled into a hip urban center. The interior can be compared to the City Museum, with stained glass and mirror shard mosaics and tastefully selected antiques. Maeva’s would be an excellent place to play a round of “I Spy.” On your next visit, try to find Grumpy Cat in colonial attire.

Junior Chase Schneider discovered Maeva’s over the summer, describing it as “the feel of a library mixed with [a] cozy loft.” Schneider recommends the Aztec chocolate coffee and the dirty chai. The dirty chai is the amalgamation of a shot of espresso and chai tea. The earthy tones can be attributed to the chai, which is hand-brewed by the owner. The added espresso gives the beverage extra pep yet still tastes comfortably natural. Assorted baked goods are available and are equally as scrumptious.


Hey boys, want to impress a date without driving further than half an hour? Try Bossanova, nestled in downtown Alton. With a combination of cozy and classy, along with a red brick vibe, the establishment’s menu offers a range of pastas and salads. This is one of the nicest venues in the area, perfect for anniversaries or special occasions. The menu is pricier than Bread Co., but reasonable considering the quality and quantity of the dishes.

Caravan Resale Shop

Although you could travel all the way to the Galleria to chase the latest styles, a better investment is only a short drive to Alton: the Caravan Resale Shop. Recycled clothing is sold as a fundraiser to support the Oasis Women’s Shelter, which rehabilitates women and their children from households with domestic violence. Were you in need of that missing piece to your Halloween costume? The Caravan may have just the thing, and for a fraction of the cost for a similar item at Target. Also, if you are an antique fanatic, be sure to check out the broad selection of old fashioned and seasonal decor.

Haunted Sites

Alton is famous for being one of the most haunted cities in America, so there is quite a range of activities for supernatural thrill seekers. The infamous McPike Mansion hosts a few seasonal tours. The old mansion hasn’t been occupied since the 1950s, and it is said that the spirits of the past inhabitants haunt the building. Group tours are available by appointment throughout the year, but the public is welcome to tour on October 31. Donations are put toward restoring the historic landmark.

For the bravest of the brave, there is also a paranormal investigation held in the Pere Marquette Lodge & Conference Center in Grafton, which warns guests to be prepared to witness paranormal activity on site. Spirits of Civil War soldiers are thought to wander about the lodge, occasionally disrupting the otherwise peaceful ambiance. Paranormal experts use mediums in an effort to communicate and interact with the ghosts.

A historical tour through First Unitarian Church and the Alton penitentiary tells the story of some of Alton’s haunted relics. The versatile tour offers walking or bus options through each location. The tour can last up to three hours and is based off of the writings of Alton native Troy Taylor.

Other Options

Less frequented by students, there are many treasures to discover in Grafton. Grafton is an adorable small town up river from Elsah. You can satisfy your sweet tooth at Grafton Fudge & Ice Cream, which, according to junior Andrew Jesper, has fudge “that is to die for.” Junior Allex Sammulli shared Jesper’s sentiments and added, “It’s a nice place where you can get decadent fudge at a relatively affordable price.”

Senior Lyssa Winslow recommended the Aerie’s Riverview Winery, nested atop the bluffs in Grafton overlooking the Mississippi River. “The view is breathtaking,” she said. Additionally, the menu is more affordable than one would expect for such a nice venue. “You can get a meal and share an appetizer for around $15 per person,” Winslow claimed.

Overall, be creative. Look beyond the boundaries of Homer Adams Parkway and explore the area. It is only too easy to get in the pattern of trips to Bread Co. and Target, but finding a new place not only supports local businesses, but gives you the satisfaction of discovering the next best thing.