When warm weather finally breaks the isolating chill of winter, the first instinct is to get out.

Just like school kids escaping to recess, faces young and old rush outside to bask in the sunshine. Runners and walkers take to the streets, yard work begins and playgrounds fill with children.

In addition to the beautiful parks and lakes of Southern Illinois, another popular outdoor activity is visiting the many wineries dotting its hilly landscape.

During the last several years, wineries have expanded from simple tasting rooms, where you can sample reds and whites, to much more expansive venues that feature food, music and even beer.

Walker’s Bluff in rural Carterville is an example of this concept taken to an entirely different level.

Since opening in 2009, the 160-acre vineyard and entertainment complex has hosted nationally known musical acts such as Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Sebastian, Monkee Peter Tork and legendary Cajun group BeauSoleil. Legends, a fine dining restaurant, offers gourmet cuisine. And, there is even a general store on the grounds.

However, that’s only the tip of the summer-melting iceberg. When you’re looking for something to do outside the house — for mom, dad and the kids — chances are you’ll find it at Walker’s Bluff.

“Our thinking has always been that there’s really not a lot for entire families to do in this area,” said Austin Goins-McCree, director of marketing at Walker’s Bluff. “Not that we’re the only venue that offers things for children, but I think we’re pretty unique in the fact that we have things that parents can enjoy. They just don’t have to sit back and wait for the kid’s activity to be over.

“It’s not a drag for the kids, and the parents aren’t going to just watch their kids; it’s something the whole family can do together.”

In some ways, Walker’s Bluff is almost like a large park, with its wide open spaces and ponds. You can sit in a nice quiet, scenic area or congregate around the gazebo and participate in whatever activity is happening that day. There are always large, inflatable structures for the kids to bounce and play.

Weekends usually follow a set schedule at Walker’s Bluff. On Fridays nights, a free movie is shown on a giant outdoor screen. Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, you can enjoy music in an outdoor amphitheater.

Drinks and food are available in the gazebo area, including snow cones, popcorn and cotton candy for the kids.

Sundays also have free kid’s craft activities, where the children get to participate in a special project to take home with them.

“We definitely want to make sure whatever we do is fun, and it’s not something every kid has done before,” said Mary Beth Darr, Walker’s Bluff event coordinator.

In addition to regular activities, Walker’s Bluff usually has something special up its sleeve. For instance, on Memorial Day weekend, there will be water slides set out on the grounds.

“And, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to come out here,” Darr said. “You can come out for free and enjoy our food, if you want to do that. We try not to charge a cover or ticket price.”

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