Carbondale: a love story

By Tony McDaniel

I hail from Belleville, a town of nearly twice the population of Carbondale. If you’re not familiar with the area, it sits a stone’s throw from St. Louis. On a clear day, the Gateway Arch is visible from certain elevated spots in town.

Belleville is known for it’s great mainstreet area that runs straight through a town square that is centerpieced by a beautiful fountain. Two blocks down on East Main Street is a bar district that is a blast most nights.

Leaving Belleville was hard. I lived there for 23 years.

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When I told my friends I was leaving for SIU, they all asked “Why do you have to go?” I would always respond with “I’ve got to chase my dreams.” After that, I would make a joke about how I asked if they’d move SIU to Belleville, but it wasn’t cost effective for the university.

If Belleville sounds like a good time, it is. But you aren’t missing out. You’ve moved to the best town in Illinois.

I moved to Carbondale in January knowing very little about the area and knowing even fewer people here.

What I found was an accepting community, a great nightlife and an even better outdoors area.

It took me little time to get acquainted with the area and the people. This town is full of people new to the area and everyone is either making or has already made a fresh start here.

That makes a very welcoming atmosphere.

I appreciate beauty in nature. Try to find a more aesthetically pleasing area in this state, and you can’t. Southern Illinois’ rolling hills and high bluffs allow for some of the most amazing scenery in the state.

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If you haven’t ventured outside of Carbondale yet, do so. Go spend a day hiking at Garden of the Gods or Little Grand Canyon, or even just get in your car and drive south into the Shawnee National Forest.

If hiking isn’t your thing, grab your golf clubs and head to Hickory Ridge Golf Course for one of the most challenging, but best looking golf courses in the area.

Regardless of how you do it, find a way to soak in the wildlife and nature this area offers, even if it just lounging around Campus Lake for a lazy afternoon.

When the sun sets on Carbondale, this place really comes alive! If you’re of legal age you’re in luck. There is great nightlife here.

If you live in Carbondale and don’t know what to do at night, you are in luck. There is probably a bar full of like-minded people just a short walk from you.

If music is your thing, you’re in a great town to see bands live. Spots like Hangar 9, Pinch Penny Pub and Copper Dragon have shows nearly every night. They sell all the adult beverages you and your friends will love, if you are 21 of course.

If watching sports is your thing you are a lot like me, and again you’re in luck.

SIU competes in 16 Division I sports and this area is flush with great athletes. Catch a game at Saluki Stadium and see our very own Salukis face some of the best teams at the Football Championship Subdivision. At SIU Arena, become a member of the Dawg Pound and help create a raucous environment for the visiting team.

SIU has brand new football, baseball, basketball and track facilities that the students help pay for with an athletic fee. This allows students access to any game, as long as they have a valid student ID.

Use the opportunity to watch our Dawgs battle tooth-and-nail for the win.

I’ve fallen in love with this town and the area around it. There is never a dull moment in Carbondale. It’s unlikely this will be my home forever, but I’m proud to call this place my home for the next few years.

If you’re reading this as a freshman and are still adjusting, I hope I’m one of the first to say welcome to Carbondale, and enjoy your stay.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected]@tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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