The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arthur, ILBy Bailiegh Basham · April 20, 2021
The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Arthur, IL
Visit Arthur for one-of-a-kind experiences in the heart of Illinois. Home to the state’s largest Amish community, Arthur has a rich cultural heritage with plenty to see and do. Arthur is a quaint Midwest destination for your next day trip, with its own annual festivals and special events. It makes a charming stop on the way to other large Midwest cities like Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago. It’s a short drive to Champaign and a little over an hour from Springfield. Whether you’re passing through or staying overnight, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of Arthur sightseeing with some insider details. As they say when traveling, it’s always better to ask the locals. We’re local residents and run our family business out of Arthur, so we’ll help you make the most out of your visit.
Things you should know about Arthur, IL
Arthur’s surrounding Amish settlement was established in 1865 by a handful of families and is the oldest and largest Amish settlement in Illinois. The village has approximately 2,300 residents with an additional 4,500 Amish residents populating Moultrie, Douglas, and Coles counties in such communities as Arcola, Arthur, Lovington, Sullivan, Tuscola, Cadwell, Chesterville, Atwood, and Cooks Mills.
Located fewer than 10 miles west of Interstate 57, Arthur provides a wonderful centerpiece for those looking for unique shopping or the enriching cultural experiences offered in the surrounding countryside. This includes the fourth-largest settlement of the Old Order Amish in the United States and the largest settlement in Illinois.
In the early 1870s, a switch-track was needed for the new railroad crossing the swampy land between Paris and Decatur. It was decided that it would be placed near today’s Vine Street, Arthur’s main street, and now the town’s primary commercial thoroughfare. The street separates the town into two counties, Douglas County to the east and Moultrie County to the west.
Arthur has become a popular destination for tourists interested in the Old Order Amish community. Yet to this day, the community takes pride in its motto “You’re Only A Stranger Once” and welcomes visitors and shoppers from across the country. If it is your first time visiting Arthur, make a stop at the Visitors Center, located at 106 E Progress Street, for more information.
Places to Eat While in Arthur, IL
One great way to get acquainted with Arthur is to dine like a local. This is the perfect place to order Amish-style favorites, especially if you’ve never tried these comforting and hearty dishes before. There are also BBQ, Tex-Mex, and Italian options to please every palate. Read on for our dining recommendations in Arthur, IL.
First on the list is Yoder’s Kitchen. Yoder’s not only has a buffet of Amish-style meals, but it also has a full bakery of tasty foods guaranteed to leave you feeling satisfied. Located at 1195 E. Columbia St., Yoders is a one-stop shop for dining and quality Amish gift shopping.
Roselen’s Coffee & Delights, located at 1045 E. Columbia St., has a full breakfast and lunch menu. Perhaps you’d like to start your day here or grab an afternoon snack. You’ll find coffee, lattes, teas, ice cream, and delicious homemade baked goods.
Pauly’s BBQ features award-winning beef brisket, pulled pork, and more. Don’t forget to try their homemade smoked mac and cheese. You can find them at 310 E. Columbia St.
La Cascada Mexican Grill is popular for its authentic Mexican cuisine and delicious salsa. Located at 1063 E. Columbia St., La Cascada Mexican Grill is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike.
Heartland Deli & Delights has delicious sandwiches along with fresh bread, cookies, pies, and snacks. The perfect lunch spot. Dine-in at 205 S. Vine St.
Los Gallos Mexican Grill is a popular Tex-Mex restaurant located in the heart of Arthur. Located at 128 S. Vine St., Los Gallos is popular for its large portions and drink specials.
Finally, Arthur’s Itsa Pizza restaurant offers fresh ingredients and made-from-scratch pizzas with friendly service. Try it for dine-in (508 N. Vine St.), carryout, or delivery.
Things to See or Do While in Arthur, IL
There are many things to see and do in Arthur, including unique Amish experiences. One of which is the Amish family-owned Green Meadow Farm, which is perfect for families and groups. This goat farm offers horse buggy rides and behind-the-scenes tours. You’ll also be able to purchase goat milk products. Schedule an appointment, or stop by to purchase the locally-grown products.
The Shady Crest Farm Market is known for its unique offerings and weekly specials. Taking a leisurely stroll through the market is the perfect way to spend a morning or afternoon. There are many items for sale, including fresh fruits and vegetables, deli meat and cheese, hand-dipped ice cream, homemade fudge, baked goods, candy, dried fruits, bulk foods, and more.
Downtown shopping on Vine Street is an attraction in itself. In Arthur, the downtown business district is filled with a variety of gift shops, a bakery, fine art, unique craft and boutique shops, furniture shops, and several restaurants. The shops feature cheese, fudge, jams, butter, baked goods, and handcrafted furniture. You can also take in the local art and photography.
Beachy's Bulk Foods is pleased to offer a wide range of specialty products that can't easily be found elsewhere. The selection includes deli meats and cheese, freshly made peanut butter, gluten, and sugar-free items, pickled jar goods, homemade pies, baked goods, and so much more.
You’ll also want to add The 200 Acres to your sightseeing list for two reasons: The Great Pumpkin Patch and The Homestead Bakery. Open every fall, The Great Pumpkin Patch offers an expansive selection of pumpkins, squash, gourds, and mums. It offers one of the widest varieties that you’ll find anywhere in the country. This family event covers a wide expanse of fall fun, with mazes, friendly animals, treats and scares.
The Homestead Bakery is a community staple, offering a full line of made-from-scratch Amish baked goods. Favorites include caramel iced cinnamon rolls, sweet breads, cookies, and angel food cakes. The Homestead Bakery also carries locally-made noodles, jams, jellies, and butters.
Lastly, Penn Station is a venue located in downtown Arthur, IL. This beautiful space is perfect for hosting weddings, receptions, banquets, and concerts.
Major Events in Arthur, IL
Several events in Arthur, IL are so special that they tend to happen only several times a year. Consider taking a road trip during one of the following seasonal festivals that interest you.
Arthur is known for its events themed around collecting antiques, providing family fun for the whole weekend. Usually the first weekend in March and the second week of November, two Primitive Shows - "Homesteaders on the Prairie" and "Gathering on the Prairie" - offer antique findings with plenty to see and do.
The Arthur Cheese Festival occurs every year over Labor Day weekend. Arthur invites tens of thousands of people to celebrate downtown with a festival full of food, games, crafts, races, entertainment, and of course, cheese! When you visit, you get the chance to win a national title at the National Cheese Eating Championships or a world title at the International Cheese Curling Championships.
Beginning in the early 40s as one of the first Merchants Sidewalk Sales Day, Arthur’s “Strawberry Jam” Festival continued the tradition of a small town, early summer special weekend. You’ll find craft booths, vendors, food, and games for the whole family. Be sure to stop by the main tent for strawberry giveaways!
Every year on the Saturday before July 4th, crowds estimated at over 30,000 people flock to Arthur for the Freedom Celebration Fireworks. This gigantic fireworks display features entertainment, food vendors, an air show with WWII aircraft, skydivers, and a 16-inch firework shell amid the display.
The second week of October brings over 50 top-flight competition BBQ teams from all over the country to Arthur for the Central Illinois Bragging Rights (CIBR) BBQ Festival and competition. Talk with the pros and try out the award-winning ribs, wings, pulled pork, and brisket.
Depending on when you visit Arthur, you may witness one of the annual community parades, including the 4th of July parade, Cheese Festival Parade, Arthur High School Homecoming Parade, and the Christmas Parade.
The Moultrie-Douglas Fair is one of the oldest continuous county fairs in the state. It features livestock shows, demo derbies, pageants, live entertainment, a carnival, and more. This event typically takes place in mid-July. It is located in the E.L. Jurgens Park located on the south edge of town.
And, of course, the Arthur 3rd Saturday Market Bazaar is a recurring event filled with a large variety of vendors. Find everything from antiques to crafts, boutique items, collectibles, homemade goods, and more. You’re sure to find something new every month!
Places to Stay While in Arthur, IL
Eat, play, and sleep in Arthur when you stay in one of Arthur’s most popular lodging options. Here are some of our recommendations:
Located on East Route 133, Arthur’s Country Inn sits in a quiet residential area. It is just a short distance from an Amish pastry and coffee shop and offers close proximity to nearby shops and restaurants. Its rooms feature handcrafted Amish furniture.
Marsha’s Vineyard Bed & Breakfast is another popular place to stay in Central Illinois. Marsha Herschberger welcomes you to visit their cottage home, which features two spacious suites. The Garden Room is cozy and inviting, and The Loft is a tastefully decorated suite with Amish decor.
There are also nearby lodging options in Arcola, 9 miles East of Arthur. The Arcola Inn is conveniently located next to several restaurants and is pet-friendly. The Quality Inn Hotel offers modern amenities, free breakfast, and is a short distance from Lake Shelbyville and Amish Country. Check out the Best Western Plus for additional hotel amenities, such as an indoor pool and gym.
Additional lodging is available in Tuscola, which is 19 miles Northeast of Arthur. The Baymont Inn & Suites is located just off I-57 and is close to Amish Country, the Tanger Outlet Mall, and the University of Illinois. The Holiday Inn Express and Super 8 hotels are within walking distance of the Tanger Outlets. These hotels feature breakfast, pools, WiFi, and many other modern amenities.
Towns near Arthur, IL Worth the Visit
Arthur is located in East Central Illinois and is approximately within a thirty-minute drive of metropolitan shopping areas, and three major universities. There are several Amish Centennial Farms in the area, which are farms that have remained in the same family for at least 100 years. Take a scenic drive alongside the farmland and explore all the area has to offer. Here are several attractions/towns in the surrounding areas near Arthur that are worth visiting:
The Little Theatre on the Square in Sullivan, IL is celebrating over 60 years of live theatrical performances. In 2005, it received national recognition and acclaim from USA Today, when it was named one of the “Top 10 Places to See the Lights Way Off-Broadway.” More than 175 famous stars have performed on this stage, including Mickey Rooney and Alan Alda.
A popular destination is Lake Shelbyville, located only about thirty minutes from Arthur. This area is known for its beaches, boating, hunting, fishing, camping facilities, water skiing, and swimming. It features 11,000 water acres and 172 miles of shoreline, and it’s the perfect place to explore the outdoors.
The Aikman Wildlife Adventure in Arcola is a wildlife drive-through park where you can get up close and personal to animals normally only seen behind fencing at zoos or on television. Guests can feed the animals right out of their vehicle while they drive the 1-mile long path through the 25-acre Sanctuary.
The Depot Welcome Center in Arcola, IL is located in a restored railroad station. It serves as a visitor information center and a museum, showcasing railroad memorabilia, a Raggedy Ann doll collection, and what is said to be the largest collection of antique brooms and brushes in the country, appropriate to the town that calls itself the "Broom Corn Capital of America."
Fun Facts About the Amish Community in Arthur, IL
If you’re road-tripping to Arthur from a surrounding metropolitan area, take some time to read up on these interesting fun facts about Arthur’s Amish community.
Just like there are various types of Christian churches within Catholic and Protestant ranks, the Anabaptists have multiple factions as well. In Arthur, one of the strictest “Old Order” churches is central to the community. It is surprising to some that each church’s Bishop determines the practical rules for church members. A few of the local community’s rules and practices are listed below.
- Hook and eye closures and buttons are allowed, but no zippers or Velcro.
- Only black shoes are to be worn.
- Buggies may be enclosed including a roof, doors, and windshield. These typically are not heated, but when they are, a small gas stove is used.
- Requisite power for work must be produced by a diesel generator.
- Phone services are shared by several families in a phone “shack” where messages may be left and returned, but the phone is seldom answered.
- When the community in Arthur reaches approximately 1000, which it has done now four times, a new church district is created and more land is acquired.
- Reputation is its own reward in Arthur. Once a member of the Amish community has lost his/her reputation due to dishonesty, poor business practices, or not carrying a proportionate share of the community burden, it is very difficult to recover.
- Community is the heart of the Amish faith. In Arthur, the community is known for its ability to respond to fires and natural disasters. If a home is damaged beyond repair, it is demolished, reconstructed, and ready for the occupants within six weeks. No insurance is required and the family who lost their home owes nothing except to be available the next time tragedy strikes.
- Financial strength is important in Arthur for the community. Newlyweds are given land and a very low-interest loan to build a home. As their home is paid off, they continue to contribute to community funds so there is money to loan others. This is also the means by which the Amish care for their aging. The community/church bank is the retirement investment and the needs of the elderly are not neglected.
- Church, family, and business are not separate for Arthur’s Amish. Here, benches are moved monthly from one home to another for church and after services conclude, the business meeting begins.
- Medical bills are shared in church and the collection plate is passed. The Amish here is expected to pay for all minor bills themselves. If they incur a bill the family cannot afford, it is taken to the Bishop and he reads all the bills in church. Each family is then encouraged to contribute toward community bills and the bill is paid by the church as the Amish self-insure.
Though the Amish in Illinois is a relatively closed community, Arthur’s Amish, Mennonite, and “English” coexist beautifully. The Amish school and local public schools even interact annually for a field day. Also different about this community is their willingness to be studied. Here, in particular, neuroscientists are studying the families to determine why the Amish have been spared Autism and a number of other medical issues. Arthur’s Amish are different indeed.