Alton is a city on the Mississippi River in Madison County, Illinois, United States, about 18 miles north of St. Louis, Missouri. It is a part of the Metro-East region of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area. It is famous for its limestone bluffs along the river north of the city.
Alton was a town of heavy industry and manufacturing. Laclede Steel established major steel manufacturing operations in the town. Local industry also includes Cope Plastics and Hanley Industries. Alton was home to once-thriving, now defunct, industries such as the Owens-Illinois Glass Bottle Works and Alton Box Board Company (a maker of all types of cardboard boxes for all types of uses).
Restructuring in the industry in the mid 20th century led Alton to create a new future. It has facilities for corporate and vacation retreats and it has transitioned into a popular tourist destination. Alton's location and historical heritage make it a popular destination for antique shopping, touring historic areas, and gambling aboard the Argosy Casino. Other Greater Alton attractions include Alton Marina; nine golf courses, fine dining and night life; and a large selection of bed-and-breakfasts and guest houses. Billing itself as "the wedding capital of the Midwest", Alton has become a popular venue for weddings, receptions, and honeymoons. Some visitors also come to explore the natural environment of the area.
A designated bikeway extends for miles north of town along the Mississippi River and below the limestone bluffs; its relatively flat grade and passage through tree-shaded areas makes it an easy ride for families. During the migration seasons, Alton is a destination for bird watchers along the Mississippi Flyway; winter visitors come to see the bald eagles that roost on the Illinois limestone bluffs and feed on fish in the river. It is the area of the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. A few miles to the north is Père Marquette State Park, with a WPA-era lodge and attractions including trails for hikers and riders, and horses for hire.
Alton has been selected as a station stop on a high-speed passenger rail service running from St. Louis to Chicago. Alton also recently won the Small Business Revolution: Main Street contest.
Alton has a population of over 26,530 people. Alton also forms part of the Greater St. Louis metropolitan area which has a population of over 2,787,701 people.