Carbondale is a small city of about 25,000 (2020) in southern Illinois about 14 miles (22 km) east of the Mississippi River at roughly the southern edge of the plains, and the northern limit of the Shawnee hills. The surrounding area boasts some pleasant countryside, particularly in the Shawnee National Forest preserve.
The town hosts the main campus of Southern Illinois University.
Carbondale is served daily by Amtrak's  The Saluki, Ilini, and City of New Orleans trains to and from Chicago (with intermediate stops, e.g., at Champaign-Urbana), and New Orleans (stops in Memphis).
The Saluki train departs Chicago at 9:15AM and greets Carbondale at 2:45PM (on the reverse it leaves Carbondale at 7:30AM and arrives to Chicago at 1PM). Illini train usually departs in the afternoon around 4PM and arrives at 9:30PM (same on reverse), but the New Orleans southbound to Memphis and New Orleans (leaves Chicago at 8PM) doesn't arrive until 1:20AM, and the northbound to Chicago doesn't arrive until 3:10AM (arrives Chicago 9AM).
Carbondale sits at the crossroads of Illinois Highway 13, and U.S. route 51. Most visitors who drive in will arrive via IL 13 from Marion, where it intersects with Interstate Highway 57. Another much more scenic option for those driving from St. Louis, Missouri, is to take IL 3 South to IL 149 East, which intersects with IL 13 in Murphysboro (look for an exit just on the Illinois side of the Poplar Street bridge.) Highlights include the picturesque Mississippi river town of Chester, Illinois, and the many bluffs which offer fantastic views of the river.
Lambert Field in St. Louis (STL IATA) is the closest major airport, with flights to and from most destinations in the U.S. and a few international destinations. From there BART Airport Shuttle, +1-800-284-2278, provides door-to-door service to Carbondale, and other destinations in Southern and Central Illinois for around $50. Call for a quote.
Most of what's interesting in Carbondale is within walking distance of the center of town (Main and Illinois), at least for most fit travelers. Generally however, sidewalks are most reliably available and intact within the center city between Oakland Avenue on the west and Wall Street on the east, including the SIU campus of course, which with its many well-tended and winding paths, grassy knolls, several woods, and a lake is an urban hiker's bonanza.
- Saluki Express [dead link]. +1 618-536-3351. The SIU Student Center operates a bus system with 9 regular routes operating whenever classes are in session. There is also late night service and a special intersession service. Tickets cost $1 for the general public, and passes are available starting at $13 per month. SIU students ride free.
- Ace Taxi, 800 E. Walnut St., +1 618 549-8294. Bright green cabs with fast service and a wait time usually around 10 minutes. They accept credit cards which is really convenient. The drivers are really nice and wear uniforms. The cabs are hands down the nicest in the area as they are clean inside and even smell good. Also they do not make you ride with strangers.
- Yellow Cab, 215 S. Illinois Avenue at Walnut Street. The cab stand is only a block or two from the bars and restaurants of Illinois Avenue and downtown, but you could wind up waiting there for a while if all of the cabs are out. Cabs tend to be dirty and poorly kept. Don't be surprised if you end up sharing the cab with strangers - unlike most urban taxi companies, Yellow Cab will take multiple passengers on a single trip.
Driving in Carbondale is pretty straightforward, with only a couple of instances of one-way streets (Main St. West-bound, Walnut St. East-bound, Illinois Ave. North-bound, and University Ave. South-bound).
The biggest hassle for drivers is the difficulty of parking anywhere near the SIU campus when classes are in session. Most spaces on campus require a special sticker which are available to older students or to staff or faculty. A few spaces are reserved strictly for visitors, however the best advice is probably not to bother, since there are ample parking spaces a few blocks away in town, and the walk is generally quite pleasant.
There are bicycle lanes on many of the bigger streets throughout town, and the smaller streets are generally quiet enough that even the least experienced urban cyclist should feel completely safe. The latter is especially true in the western (mostly faculty inhabited) parts of town. The City of Carbondale prohibits cyclists on city sidewalks.
If you feel like taking a longer ride there are ample opportunities around Carbondale, especially to the east and west. Try riding Grand Avenue toward Crab-Orchard lake (take a little jog to the right at Giant City Road). Illinois Highway 13 leading west from Carbondale to the neighboring city of Murphysboro is surprisingly bicycle friendly: the shoulder is paved and the width of a full traffic lane. The whole trip center-to-center is about 7 miles, but with the growth of the incorporated parts of the two towns it's only about 1½ miles between the two city limits.
- 1 University Museum, 1000 Faner Drive, North End Faner Hall, ☏ . Tu-F 10AM-4PM, Sa 1-4PM, closed on University holidays. Natural history and contemporary art museum. Public metered parking from the Student Center and beside Woody Hall. According to Wikipedia, there were concerns about the museum closing permanently - call ahead.
- 2 Buckminster Fuller Dome Home.
- 3 Carbondale Depot Museum, 111 S Illinois Ave, ☏ .
- 4 African American Museum of Southern Illinois.
- A total solar eclipse on Monday 8 April 2024 starts at 1:59PM local time and lasts 4 min. The chances of a clear sky are 40%. The track of totality is northeast from Mexico, Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, then across the south tip of Illinois to Indiana and Ohio.
There is only one institution of higher learning in the city.
- SIU Salukis, 170 Boydston Center, ☏ , toll-free: . SIU's sports teams are a popular diversion in town and throughout the region. SIU is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference for most sports; its football team is in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (which is a separate organization, despite the similar name). The main venues, most notably SIU Arena for basketball and Saluki Stadium for football, are on campus. SIU is an NCAA Division I member, but the football team is in Division I FCS, a step below the much bigger programs in Division I FBS. However, an advantage of this is that tickets can be easier to get (and cheaper) than at higher-profile schools.
- 1 Jeremy "Boo" Rochman Memorial Park (Boo Castle Park), 31 Homewood Drive, ☏ . sunrise-sunset. A whimsical playground full of dragon and wizard statues. The centerpiece is the castle playground where kids can let out their imagination. The park is most appropriate for kids under 12. Port-a-potty, a drinking fountain, and vending machine. Free street parking. Free, donations are accepted.
- 2 Evergreen Park. A city park.
- 3 Turley Park (Lenus Turley Park). A city park with a playground.
- New Kahala Chinese food at 600 S. Illinois Ave. It's right in the middle of town. Easy access, great food, great prices. For the quality and price, no other Chinese place in town comes close.
- China Wok, 883 E. Grand Ave, ☏ . China Wok offers better food than China Express, for those willing to travel a mile off campus.
- Larry's House of Cakes, 1807 W Main St (Murdale Shopping Center), ☏ .
- Don Taco, 780 E. Grand St. Cheap Mexican food -- real cheap, eat dinner for 3 bucks!
- Underground Public House, 717 South University Avenue (on the "Island"), ☏ . Open Tuesday-Saturday at 4PM. Eclectic dining for the frugal gourmet. A popular hangout for SIU faculty and locals. Lamb chops on the menu most of the time. A short walk to Shryock Auditorium.
- Global Gourmet, 102 E. Jackson Street. The quality you would expect in a one of the best restaurants of a major city. New menus daily, and creative deserts as well.
- Harbaugh's Cafe, 901 S. Illinois Ave. Solid, not too-greasy greasy spoon. Very popular with locals.
- Hunan, 710 E Main St. Excellent Chinese food. They do not deliver.
- Italian Village, 405 S Washington St. Known for their meatball sandwich.
- Mary Lou's Grill, 114 S. Illinois Ave. Very homey breakfast joint. If you like biscuits and gravy, this is your place.
- Pagliai's, 509 S Illinois Ave.
- Quatro's, 218 W. Freeman (at University), ☏ . Carbondale is a college town, and as you would imagine it has its share of pizzerias. Quatro's is a standout in part because of the unique quality of their pizza dough, which is made with brewers yeast -- legend has it that the yeast is obtained through some special deal with a St. Louis brewery. $4-12.
- Thai Taste, 100 S. Illinois Ave. The only Thai restaurant in Carbondale.
- Tres Hombres, ☏ . 119 N. Washington. 11AM-10PM (lounge open until 2AM every night). Good Tex-Mex standards, including a vegetarian burrito. Great value in food and drink. The lounge offers a bit more swank than the average collegiate joint. On weekends they feature live music, usually a local blues band. $12–18
- Hangar 9, 511 S. Illinois Avenue (just south of the train station), ☏ . Open most evenings 6PM-2AM during University sessions. The Hangar has been presenting live music for many years. Once known as a jam-band haven, the music calendar has become more eclectic since the early to mid-1990s, booking punk rock, ska, and other live acts. $1.50-3.50 draft beer.
- PK's, 308 S. Illinois Avenue, ☏ . Open most evenings 6PM-2AM during University sessions. This is a real tavern for people (over 21) who like real taverns. The crowd is a mix of locals and students who are quickly on their way to becoming locals. Live music (usually blues, but sometimes something quite a bit stranger) is programmed most evening weekends. $1.25 draft beer (Tuesday nights are $0.75 draft nights and Thursday is $1 day draft and rail.).
- Longbranch Cafe & Bakery, 100 E Jackson St, ☏ . A great place to sit down with a big cup of coffee and a good book. They also offer a range of snacks and desserts, juices and smoothies. Lots of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as organic stuff.
- The Cellar, 101 W. Monroe Street, ☏ . 21 and over. This bar is the kind of place you don't find unless you're looking for it. popular among grad students, The Cellar features many TVs. Their signature drink is the bloody mary.
- Traxx (Sidetracks), 198-206 W Freeman St, ☏ . It is across the street from the railroad tracks serving Amtrak and various freight trains, open daily 'til 2AM. A former line dancing bar, Sidetracks offers a unique atmosphere. From the picture frames dominating the inside walls filled with pictures of former employees, to the railroad artifacts scattered around. Hosts live DJs and live bands, and is considered a significant hang out for the SIU Rugby men's and women's teams. Keep a look out for Rugby Tournament weekends, which will draw dozens of teams from all over the nation, but also SIU alumni.
Most Carbondale hotels are on Main Street (Illinois Highway 13) at either the extreme east or west edges of town. This doesn't make for the easiest stumble home from say, South Illinois Avenue, but there's always the cab company, or Lyft or Uber.
- Train Inn Carbondale, 406 E. Stoker St, ☏ . Surrounded by SIU property, within a one-minute walk of the Rec center, and four minutes walking to downtown or Pinch Penny. The food is great and the historic house is a City of Carbondale landmark.
- Hampton Inn, 2175 Reed Station Pkwy. Waffles for breakfast and indoor pool and hot tub are part of the package. +1 618-549-6900
- Cabin By The Pond, 4760 Springer Ridge Road, ☏ . Three cabins by two ponds. A mile south of campus (SIUC). Affordable rates and wooded setting.
- The Davie School Inn, 300 Freeman (South of Carbondale 16 miles), ☏ . Check-in: 2:30PM, check-out: 11AM. 11 850 sq ft suites, with private baths with jacuzzis, king beds, kitchenettes, suites along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, Shawnee National Forest, and south of Carbondale. $100-300.
- Shawnee National Forest
- Giant City State Park
- Crab Orchard Lake
- Cedar Lake
- Little Grand Canyon
|Routes through Carbondale|
|Champaign ← Centralia ←||N S||→ Memphis → Jackson|
|Champaign ← Centralia ←||N S||→ END|
|Decatur ← Centralia ← Jct W E ←||N S||→ Makanda → Memphis|