Hidden Gems in Stark, Marshall, and Woodford Counties


Payton Letko, Guest Writer


The Greater Peoria Area is a treasure trove of small-town Midwestern charm, curiosities, history, nature,  and good eats. Venture into the counties of Stark, Marshall, and Woodford for an adventure and discover your new favorite treasure. From tasty treats that surprise and delight to charming historic brick structures that whisper tales of bygone eras, you’ll uncover a side of Greater Peoria that’s waiting to be explored.

Marshall County

Henry Marina + Riverfront Park  {Henry}   //   Grab the kayaks and fishing poles, it’s time to relax on the river. With scenic views of the historic Henry bridge, this is the most picturesque + historic park in the county. 

Midwest Farm Charm  {Lacon}

Embrace the charm of the Midwest and pop on over to Midwest Farm Charm. Shop for cute and creative decor to bring more heart into the home, or take a fun-loving class like sign painting or Barkuterie 101 to learn how to make a healthy treat board for posh puppies.

Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area  {Lacon}   //   Along the Illinois River and just a short drive from Chillicothe sits 6,000 acres of lush forest and natural life. Ideal for camping, hiking, fishing, geocaching, and more, Marshall State Fish and Wildlife Area is the perfect weekend adventure.

Occasional Treasures  {Henry}   //  Once a Family Physicians Office, this historical building from 1985 now holds vintage goods and thrift finds that tell their own stories. Spend a Saturday exploring the many rooms to find the perfect gift or perhaps the treasure you didn’t know you needed.  

The Pizza Peel  {Lacon}   //   You don’t have to go all the way to Italy to enjoy some delicious ‘za. Named after the 2,000 year-old pizza making tool, The Pizza Peel aficionados have been serving up pies for over 20 years. Locals love it for the handcrafted dough and fresh veggies as well as the atmosphere. Located in the renovated and remodeled old Legion Hall, providing a cozy and historic flair to your dining experience. Not in the mood for a whole pie? No problem. The regulars rave about The Pizza Peel calzones, sweet or savory. Even a proud Chicagoan would give their regards. 

Stark County

Bradford Snack Shack  {Bradford}   //  In 2018, a Bradford native started feeding the town out of the small shack, lovingly called the Snack Shack. While there isn’t a lot of seating, Bradford Snack Shack does have gooey, cheesy pizza burgers, loaded chicken bacon ranch fries, and other delightful lunch and dinner specials they serve along with ice cream, shakes, slushies, and snow cones. 

Cozzi Ranch  {Wyoming}   //   Get a breath of fresh air and into the great outdoors with a Cozzi Ranch adventure. Dedicated to teaching the youth and D.D. community the joys of fishing, hunting, and exploring nature in a safe space. Whether you’re interested in learning outdoor skills or bonding with others, the heartfelt people behind this nonprofit will lead the way. 

Lucy Dot’s Little Bakery Shoppe  {Toulon}   //   In the hot summer months people flock to their ice cream window for Parfundaes and Polka Dots. On Wednesday nights, people take a break from the kitchen and order one of their delicious — and filling — homestyle dinners. For every other occasion, Lucy Dot’s cupcakes, cookies, muffins, and unique bottled soda flavors are a sure hit.  

Pony Truss Steel Bridge   {Wyoming}

Enjoy the views from the historic Spoon River Trail Bridge, built in 1899 by the Rock Island and Peoria Railway. Also known as a “pony truss” steel bridge—built so low overhead bracing cannot be used. This scenic structure west of Wyoming is now a quintessential stop on the Rock Island Trail.

Rough and Tumbled  {Wyoming

Rough and Tumbled is proof that geology rocks! Their cozy and fun shop holds all sorts of glittering treasures, including beautiful rock and gemstone jewelry, decorations, and even sparkling Moroccan geodes. However, Rough and Tumbled is more than just a rock collector’s dream. They host events like jewelry making classes and have a sluice experience where you can discover your own treasures. This local gem is perfect for a day with the kids.

Spoon River Bowl  {Wyoming}   //   For a night of fun with family or friends, visit Wyoming’s retro bowling alley on open bowling nights or drop by during bowling league season. Don’t worry about working up an appetite, the kitchen will satisfy your hunger so you can focus on the right kind of turkey. For those 21+, pop over to the Spoon River Bowl’s bar for a drink from one of their vibrant and accommodating bartenders.

Sunflower Boutique  {Wyoming}   //   Good vibes and self-care radiate from the boho chic Sunflower Boutique. Find the perfect gifts for birthdays, coworkers, holiday stocking stuffers, or a little treat for yourself. Stocked with unique, thoughtfully selected items like candles, relatable stickers, adorable plant holders, and more handcrafted by talented artisans. Sunflower Boutique also carries an array of all-natural bath and body products, some of which the owner creates herself.  Stop by and bring some sunshine and happiness into your day.

Historical Dr. Thomas Hall’s Office  {Toulon}   //   On the premise of the Stark County Historical Society in Toulon sits the Dr. Thomas Hall office building, believed to be the first doctor’s office in Illinois. To this day, Dr. Hall’s office contains his instruments, medicines, and records, left intact just as it was the day Dr. Hall turned the key and walked out.

Curry’s  {Wyoming}   //   Established  in Camp Grove and now located on the edge of Wyoming towards Princeville, Curry’s has been a Stark County staple since 1929. Every day of the week, Curry’s provides an entirely homemade salad bar with a plethora of options, including three types of pasta salad to a light and airy dessert fluff. People love their thin crust pizzas with a secret multi-cheese blend and evening meal specialties, especially fried chicken night. The three sisters who keep the family tradition alive are known for stepping out the kitchen to chat with their customers, making anyone who walks through their doors feel like a regular. 

West Main Coffee Company {Toulon}   //   As of Fall 2023, customers have been greeted by the smell of high-quality fresh brewed coffee, espresso drinks, and morning pastries when they walk into West Main Coffee Company. Built as a space for the community and those passing through to come together over a delicious beverage. The new coffee shop plans to host various events and invites businesses, clubs, and organizations to hold meetings at the coffee shop as well.

Catalpa Grove Tavern  {Toulon}   //  While this Toulon  favorite is best known amongst the motorcyclists and bikers, it became popular with the local crowd for its live music events and tasty grub. During weekdays, order one of their specialty sandwiches  like “Hot for Teacher” or the  “Mother Clucker” for out of this world flavor combinations, and don’t forget the Herbie Sauce for dipping those crispy fries. On the weekends, The Grove — as the locals call it — serves up a mean brunch until 11am. Catalpa Grove Tavern is named after the beautiful catalpa tree grove that provides a cool respite from the heat to drink an ice cold  beer and kickback outside.

Woodford County

Bittner’s Meat Co.  {Eureka}   //   Fire up the grill for a premium choice steak from Bittner’s Meat Company for some good eats. Serving the Eureka area quality pork, beef, and deer since 1942 and the only organic processing facility in Illinois since 2005. 

Black Partridge Park {Metamora}   //   From sunrise to sunset, hit the hiking trails or armor up for the mountain biking trails in the extensive 450-acre Black Partridge Park. Nicknamed the crown jewel of the Metamora parks, you can picnic and enjoy views of the historic cabin.

El Paso Antique Mall  {El Paso}   //   For vintage and collectible items full of memories, come visit the El Paso Antique Mall. The accessible floor plan and paved parking lot make it easy for all to browse to their heart’s content.  

Lake Eureka Park  {Eureka}   //   This 240-acre park boasts a 36-acre lake! On the north shore of the lake you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards. A manicured, lawn-like shore which is 100% accessible and is “kid friendly” for bank fishing. Expect well-maintained shelters, picnic tables, playgrounds, disc golf courses, a dog-friendly park, and—of course—lake views!

Lydia’s Dairy Barn  {Eureka}   //   The best way to beat the summer heat is with a twister from Lydia’s Dairy Barn. Bring your furry four-legged friends along for a doggie dish. Lydia’s also offers an almond milk, gluten-free, dairy-free hard scoop ice cream. Vegans, rejoice! 

MadMac’s Coffee  {Germantown Hills}    //    Flavorful lattes, fresh Ardor pastries, and creamy Triple Diples cheesecakes are on the menu at MadMac’s Coffee. Sit back, sip, and relax!

Metamora Courthouse  {Metamora}

Experience a slice of history at the historic Metamora Courthouse once visited by Abraham Lincoln. Now, a museum dedicated to early local history, the 1850s court system, and Lincoln’s journey as he traveled the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Be sure to grab a photo opp with the Abe statue out front!

Minonk Chocolate Company  {Minonk}   //   When the summer heat dissipates, Minonk Chocolate Company opens its doors and light the fires that warm the large copper kettles for their homemade, hand-dipped caramel apples. This chocolate company has been around for over 100 years, allowing them to perfect their snappers, caramel whips, and other chocolates.

Old Mill Vineyard {Metamora}   //   Unwind on this 10 acre vineyard with tranquil views of the pond from the Bent Tree tasting room and patio. Wander through vineyard rows and soak up the sunshine as you sip from a selection of dry or sweet whites and reds. Let the tannins play on your tongue while you nibble on a cheese tray– or feel free to bring your own little picnic of snacks and small bites.

Partridge Point Orchard {Metamora}   //   In 1974, this You Pick Apple Farm planted 280 apple trees to start their orchard. Since then, they’ve expanded to over 800 trees and nine different varieties of apples. Families can enjoy the day harvesting bushels and take a rest by the lake. Lovebirds of all ages have been known to propose for Homecoming dances and marriage on the scenic orchard grounds. It’s a place where memories are made.

Ronald Reagan Museum + Peace Garden  {Eureka}   //   Nestled on the historic Eureka College campus is the Ronald Reagan Museum and Peace Garden. Over 10,000 items from President Reagan’s student days on campus, his acting career, and California governorship, and two terms as President of the United States of America have been collected since 1975. You can even find a section of the Berlin Wall there!

The Barn III {Goodfield}   //   This isn’t your typical barn. Here you’ll find Light Shows, Dinner Theater, Craft Shows, and more. Looking for a place for your special day? The Barn III transforms into a charming Midwestern wedding venue. Head to the cornfields for a good time! 

The Zinger Zanger Shop of Curiosities + Contemplation  {Germantown Hills}    //    Original art and zines and vintage finds– oh my! A delightful shop of curiosities in the front and an inspirational life coaching space for contemplation in the back.

Uncle Bob’s Homemade Ice Cream  {Eureka}

In 1980, Uncle Bob’s Homemade Ice Cream made its grand debut in a tent at the Heart of Illinois Fair. Today, you can stop by the shop and try one, two, or maybe even three flavors from its tried and true list.

Payton Letko, Guest Writer
Payton Letko, Guest Writer

Payton Letko is a Stark County native passionate about travel, good food, and life-long learning. When she’s not working on her various projects, she can be found with her nose in a book, sipping a hot beverage, or experimenting with sourdough.

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