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  • Writer's picturethehonestmama

My Visit to Southern Illinois & First Influencer Retreat

I had the unique opportunity to experience my first influencer retreat in beautiful Southern Illinois this weekend. My friend Jessica over at Caffeine Until Cocktails spent months tirelessly putting together an amazing weekend packed full of activities for over a dozen visiting influencers. If you know Jessica, you know she’s the Queen of Southern Illinois and has been doing incredible things for the local businesses in her area for several years now. Her mission this time was to bring other influencers to the area to extend the reach of businesses and tourism in Southern Illinois, and she succeeded down to every last detail. Not only did she pick the best of her area to highlight, she somehow managed to put together the perfect group of women to come along for the experience.

During the last leg of my sketchy winter travels on the slow ride down from Central Illinois, once the weather and roads finally cleared, I was in awe at the hills and curves all around Lake Egypt which was home to the beautiful lake house that would become ours for the weekend. The house boasted 3,400 square feet with stunning sunrise lake views, six bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and a large kitchen and living room area with an open floor plan which was designed for entertaining. Upon arrival, I found my room with a display of so many thoughtfully curated gift items.

On Friday evening, we had a casual pajama style welcome party where all the ladies attending were able to meet and interact. There was gorgeous decor by Poppy + Vine Co., delicious charcuterie layout provided by Faye, personal bar service provided by The Proper Pour with cocktails provided by RollnUp, and the cutest cake from Cakes by Ally. We had an absolute blast on night one and still managed to make it to bed at a decent hour to prepare for the early start on Saturday.

Day two started bright and early with coffee from Crown Brew Coffee Co. and full glam service with hair and makeup by The Avenue. The assembly line preparation the ladies from the salon had in place to get through everyone in a few short hours was meticulous and ensured that we were all ready with plenty of time for the bus departure at 10:30am. I enjoyed getting to know the salon owner, Olivia Porter, who was my bus buddy for the day. She and her husband own The Avenue together. She focuses on the salon side and offers a variety of custom services, while her husband focuses on the barber side of the business. They are truly a one stop shop for men and women’s services, and y’all know I love a power house husband and wife business team.

Once we were glammed and loaded onto the bus, our first stop of the day was Faye in Murphysboro for brunch. The vibe at Faye was something you’d expect from a larger city but the hospitality was exactly what you come to love from a small local business. I had a hard time deciding between a mimosa flight or espresso martini on the drink menu, but ultimately went with the martini and it did not disappoint. I ordered a biscuit with gravy, scrambled eggs, and Wenneman's bacon and the food was nothing short of outstanding.

Our next few stops were a winery and bourbon bar in Alto Pass. Peach Barn Winery had a delicious Peach Fuzz sweet wine and live acoustic music, and Havisham Bourbon Bar had the most unique aesthetic. The atmosphere at Havisham felt like stepping back in time into a speakeasy and reminded me of some of the unique spots we visited last spring on our trip to Austin, Texas. Their drink menu was full of options even for the non-bourbon connoisseurs.

Our last stop was the men’s basketball game at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. We enjoyed dinner provided by 17th Street Barbecue, where I had the smoked chicken wings that have been ranked as the top 10 wings in America. We were then escorted to our own booth and even got introduced on the court for the Galentine’s event during halftime. At first glimpse, Banterra Center gives the smaller intimate feel of a high school varsity gym, but quickly intensifies as soon as you’re in that competitive Saluki atmosphere. The cherry on top of a fantastic day was the nail biter of a game where the SIU Salukis secured the win in the final seconds.

By Sunday morning, it was already time to head back home. The weekend truly felt like it went by in a blink, and while I was sad to see it end, I am so grateful for the memories and new friendships that were made on this trip. Thanks to Jessica and the Southern Illinois Tourism groups (Visit SI, Southern Illinois Now, and Southern Most Illinois) I was able to experience the best of Southern Illinois in such a short time, and I’m sure it won’t be my last visit!


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