Art, Ice Cream, and Secret Grottos

Southern Illinois unique locations, Makanda specialty shops and art grotto.

Giant City State Park is beautiful, and unique, from the interpretive displays of foliage, to the vintage shops of Makanda, and it’s whimsical secret gardens, near the entrance to the park.

When entering the state park there is a little row of shops in the town of Makanda, the Makanda Boardwalk. This chain of shops dates back to the 1890’s, and has been saved and restored. These stores currently house local artists, craftspeople, and even a country store. Each shop definitely had it’s own character.

The Makanda Country Store, features hand dipped ice cream. Visions offers local art from over 100 artists, including paintings, ceramic vases, even handmade jewelry.

My favorite shop however, was the Rainmaker Studio. Initially I loved it for the artwork. The owner and artist, Dave Dardis, creates beautiful metal sculptures there in his shop. Little did I know that hidden in the back was the Rainmakers Art Grotto.

As we walked toward the back of the shop it definitely started to get very whimsical, with antique wood carvings, the most interesting of art pieces, foliage and even old fishing nets. Edging my way through this interesting hallway we came to an open door leading outside. It blew me away. You would have never known something so beautifully unique was hiding back there.

Immediately we were met with a sparkling fish pond and large scale metal artwork trees, surrounded by beautiful foliage. It was quite literally a secret garden, with stone pathways, bridges, and art throughout. This multilevel wonderland was created by Dave over a period of 30 plus years. He created this for himself, for his own enjoyment, his own freedom.

I found it inspiring to see the work of a person truly just doing something because it made them happy. To me there is love in that, there is character and soul.

That wasn’t just a garden, that was happiness. There is great power in doing what you love!


Be sure to click on the picture to open them in full size!



For more information on the Makanda Boardwalk please visit  Visit Makanda.

If you are looking for somewhere unique to stay overnight during your visit, we share recommend some fantastic nearby cabins in Hide Away in the Shawnee National Forest.  

For information about the Giant City State Park trails, check out Beautiful Giant City.  

If you are hoping to experience the US next full eclipse, in 2024, Makanda is the place to be!



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