Getaways

Brown County
Brown County IN

If you’re looking for a fun weekend, a nice drive, and beautiful Autumn colors, than Brown County, Indiana is the place for you. The thickly forested foothills of the Cumberland Mountains produce truly remarkable colors. In fact, they’re so spectacular that it isn’t uncommon to find October weekends at some hotels booked more than a year in advance. But fear not! There is always plenty of room to be found.

Driving to south-central Indiana in the winter can be a bit of a chore (its a little more than four hours from the Loop), but certainly not in the Spring or Summer, and during Autumn the scenery is breathtaking for the entire trip. True, there are plenty of areas a little closer to Chicago for viewing fall colors, but Brown County has enough other selling points to make it a great destination for a weekend getaway.

Brown County been a center for crafts ever since impressionist painters made it their home in the early 20th century. There are more shops than you could ever cover in a weekend (Nashville, IN has a population of 800 souls, but more than 300 shops), so don’t even try – there are plenty of other things you’ll want to see and do, and you’ll need to budget your time just to scratch the surface.

Tours of Nashville, the local town, are available by tram or carriage, and are a great way to soak up some of the history of the community. And if you’re interested in antiques, you’ll find yourself in the right spot. Besides the countless smaller shops and stands, you’ll find much larger malls (yes, malls!) devoted entirely to antiques. You won’t go home empty-handed. Or even empty-trunked.

Brown County also offers plenty for those interested in something a little more “outdoorsy.” Golfers will be happy to visit Salt Creek, an eighteen-hole course located adjacent to the Brown County State Park. The north entrance is on Highway 46, 2 miles east of Nashville, IN. For information, call (812) 988-7888. Just down the road in Columbus is the Otter Creek Golf Course, consistently one of the top twenty-five public courses in the country (Golf Digest Magazine). Their address is 11522 E. 50 North; call (812) 579-5227.

Fisherman can stop by the Brown County State Park office and get an Indiana license, then head over to Ogle Lake and get into the local bass and bluegill. Horseback riding is also available at the Schooner Valley Stables. You can go trail riding as well as take a moonlight or overnight trip (you won’t find that in Chicago!). Call (812) 988-2859. And besides Ski World’s seven wintertime ski slopes, they conveniently offer summertime go-carting and a water slide. Call (812) 988-6638.

Of course you’ll want to spend plenty (if not the majority) of time at the Brown County State Park (the largest in Indiana). Here you’ll find plenty of hiking, fishing, swimming (they have an Olympic-size outdoor pool), hayrides, and much, much more. The park is located on Highway 46, 16 miles west of I-65. For more information, call (812) 988-7316.

Dining and lodging in this area covers everything from camping to the sophisticated palate, so don’t worry about finding a place to stay that suits you. With everything Brown County has to offer, its easy to see why its become something of a hotspot. Pack your bags and have a great weekend!


Cave of the Mounds/House on the Rock
Southcentral Wisconsin
Blue Mounds, WI

If you’ve been in the City for a while without a break and are looking for something different (REALLY different), then grab some friends, hop in your car, and head up I-90 north into Wisconsin. The “Cave of the Mounds” and “House on the Rock” are sure to provide you with a getaway that you won’t soon forget!

The “Cave of the Mounds” is a giant labyrinth of caverns, considered the most significant system of caves in the upper Midwest. Tours are given daily from mid-March through mid-November and on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the winter. Call (608) 437-3038.

Cave of the Mounds was accidentally discovered on August 4, 1939 on the Brigham Family farm. Workers removing limestone from a quarry accidentally blasted into the cave. The blast tore the face off the quarry and revealed a great underground tunnel. All quarrying stopped and was never resumed.

The dynamite blast revealed a limestone cavern more than twenty feet high opening into other rooms and galleries, all containing numerous mineral formations.

The excitement of the discovery brought so many curiosity seekers that the cave had to be closed in order to preserve it. Soon, lights and wooden wooden walkways were installed and in May 1940, “Cave of the Mounds” was opened to visitors.

Millions of visitors later, the Cave’s wooden walkways have been replaced with concrete; a large stone building has replaced the original entry building; and theatrical lighting has been installed to dramatize the colors and shapes within the Cave. Picnic areas, rock gardens, gift shops, and a visitor center have been developed.

In 1988, Cave of the Mounds was designated a National Natural Landmark by the United States Department of the Interior. In receiving this honor, Cave of the Mounds was recognized as “a site which possesses exceptional value as an illustration of the nation’s natural heritage and contributes to a better understanding of man’s environment.” It really is an interesting and beautiful spot, and you’ll be surprised that you can find yourself in something so odd and beautiful only a couple of hours outside the Loop. Enjoy!

When you’ve spent enough time marveling at Mother Nature’s underground wonders, hop back in the car and drive another half-hour west on U.S. Highway 18, then north on Highway 23. You’ll come across what many consider a bigger wonder (though manmade): “The House on the Rock.”

This is Wisconsin’s #1 tourist attraction. The House on the Rock (a monument to obsession) was originally built in the 1940s as a retreat by Alex Jordan. It is an architectural wonder, built atop a 60-foot-high chimney of rock; strangely, this isn’t its claim-to-fame.

Its real draw is the maze of odd adjoining museums covering 16 buildings and a 2 1/2 mile walk! The regular tour (self-guided) takes between 3 and 5 hours, depending on your personal “linger-factor.” You’ll come across the world’s largest carousel, largest fireplace, largest theatre organ console, largest collection of Bauer and Koble stained-glass lamps, “Largest Sea Creature,” “The Infinity Room,” Music of Yesterday Museum, and much more.

The House on the Rock truly is a must-see; be prepared for a surreal trip through Wisconsin’s own version of the Twilight Zone! Call (608) 935-3639.

These two odd (but interesting and fun!) spots are sure to provide you with a short escape out of the City that’s sure to leave you with memories, if not questions, that you’ll have for a long, long time. Have Fun!


Door County
Door County, WI

Chamber of Commerce: 920-743-4456 ”

Are you looking for something new, interesting, fun, and sure to make you happy no matter what your tastes? Then welcome to Door County, Wisconsin! With its 250 miles of scenic shoreline that ranges from smooth, sandy beaches to rugged limestone outcroppings, Door County has been called the “Northern New England” of the Midwest.

Also known as Door County Peninsula, it is one of those places that seems to draw accolades like other Midwestern areas draw mosquitoes.

While many of the superlatives may seem like the spin doctoring of the local Chamber of Commerce, the 70-mile long peninsula county actually deserves its great press. Its one of the best possible destinations for a Chicago getaway (unfortunately, this is no secret), a place where you’ll find picturesque hiking and biking in five state parks, plenty of challenging golf courses, acres of pick-your-own cherries and raspberries (which is a lot of fun – don’t turn your urban nose up to it!), theatre, music, museums, and all the funky antique stores, coffee shops, and art galleries you can shake a stick at.

Flanked on the west by Green Bay and Lake Michigan on the east, the narrow channel at the peninsula’s northern tip was once famous for its treacherous passage. Trappers and American Indians called it “porte des mort,” or death’s door, a moniker that stuck.

Like Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula straight across the Big Lake, Door County is made up of a number of tidy towns literally straight out of tourist picture books. Most of these little villages have fewer than 1,000 year-round residents, which will clue you in to how popular Door County is in the summer among the tourists – lines and traffic are pretty common.

The most popular of Door County’s towns are on the bay side, or the northwest shore. The Lake Michigan side, or southwest shore, is more rugged, with ling stretches of white-sand beach and rocky cliffs pounded by the Big Lake’s surf. Inland you’ll find rolling, rural countryside and the county’s many celebrated cherry orchards.

The town of Sturgeon Bay was named for its natural harbor and serves as the gateway to the peninsula. Driving over the Hwy-42/57 bridge, you’re likely to spot an enormous freighter below. Follow Hwy-42 up the Green Bay shoreline and you’ll eventually run into Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay.

Not far from these little burgs are ancient dunes, including “Old Baldy,” the tallest at 90 feet. It rises above Lake Michigan at Whitefish Dunes State Park. At the top of the peninsula is the working fishing port of Gill’s Rock, where passengers board ferries for the six-mile trip to Washington Island. A quiet, relatively flat landscape perfect for cycling, it’s the oldest Icelandic settlement in the United States!

Most of the accommodations in Door County are condo-style hotels or B&B’s. In Sturgeon Bay, the White Lace Inn at 16 N. 5th Avenue (920/743-1105) has charming, whitewashed rooms in an original 1903 Victorian. In downtown Baileys Harbor, the Blacksmith Inn (920/839-9222 or 800/769-8619) offers beachfront rooms above a renovated 1912 blacksmith shop. Cool!

For those on the rugged (or financially-strapped) side, good camping is easy to find as well. Check out Peninsula State Park or Potawatomi State Park, northwest of Sturgeon Bay.

Restaurants range from the innovative Cookery in Fish Creek (920/868-3634) to Sister Bay’s Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, 702 Bay Shore Drive (920/854-2626), home to a friendly herd of goats who munch on the restaurant’s thatched roof; this is the sort of thing that makes Door County so wonderfully unique.

Cherryland Brewing on North Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay (920/743-1945) is known for its beer-battered fish (though this delicacy can be found pretty much on every corner – which is a good thing).

While in Door County, be sure to check out a “Fish Boil,” a tasty local tradition. Cooks toss potatoes, onions, and whitefish filets into a huge kettle over an open fire (this is definitely an outdoor tradition). Then kerosene is added to the fire, the kettle (which is covered, don’t worry) boils over, steam engulfs everything, and fun is had by all. Rumor has it that the best fish boil in Door County can be found in Fish Creek at the White Gull Inn, 4255 Main Street (920/868-3517), which also has comfortable guest rooms.

Besides the dining, hiking, golf, antiquing and shopping, and beautiful sightseeing, Door County offers fun and interesting cultural experiences, including plenty of small theatre. A guaranteed fun time is the American Folklore Theatre in Fish Creek (920/854-6117). Also in Fish Creek, be sure to visit the Peninsula Players (920/868-3287).

For more information or help finding a place to stay (reservations are a VERY smart idea, especially during the summer months), contact the Door County Chamber of Commerce (920/743-4456). Also, make sure to pick up the local free paper, the “Peninsula Pulse.” Besides listing local arts, entertainment, and hotspots, it’s a good source for Door County culture and local goings-on.

No matter what you wind up doing, Door County is sure to satisfy your need for getaway exploration. This beautiful peninsula truly has something for everyone, from the general tourist peeking in shops to the more hardcore, outdoorsy sportsmen. Whatever your tastes, you’re sure to have a great time and arrive (reluctantly) back in Chicago refreshed and pleased with your Door County memories. Enjoy!”


Galena
Galena, IL
1-800-747-9377

Galena is a great destination for those tired of the rush and hustle of the Big City. Though it was once the largest town in Illinois and the largest Mississippi river port north of St. Louis, it now seems like a city that time forgot. This was the site of America’s first mining rush; the the bounty was lead (“galena” is the ore’s Latin name) instead of gold. Now the town’s population (which once included Ulysses S. Grant) is under 4,000, though it retains the bronze medal as Illinois’ most-popular destination, behind Chicago and Springfield.

Visit the Galena/Jo Daviess County Historical Society and Museum, Old Market House State Historic Site, Old General Store Museum, Vinegar Hill Historic Lead Mine and Museum, and the Ulysses S. Grant Home to soak in Galena’s history (there’s clearly plenty). Or unwind along the town’s quaint streets among gift and antique shops. Stroll through Grant Park before having dinner at one of Galena’s many restaurants and cafes. No matter what you do, this charming small town will provide a fun, educational, stress-free weekend.

Galena is located in the northwest corner of Illinois, and is about a three-hour drive from the city. The drive is a pretty one, especially as you near that side of the state. If you do plan to visit Galena, make sure you make reservations beforehand.


Harbor County
Harbor County, MI

Harbor County in Southwest Michigan reaches from the Indiana border north along the Lake Michigan shoreline through New Buffalo, Union Pier, Lakeside, and Bridgman. Chicagoans have been vacationing here for well over 100 years, and for good reason – there’s something here for everyone in need of a break from the City.

Because of its popularity, condos line the largest full-service marina on Lake Michigan, and local restaurants can get pretty busy (especially in the summer). But this should never keep one from visiting Harbor County; the area is still graced with beautiful sand, surf, and sunsets.

Harbor County has a lot to offer besides its outdoor splendour. Galleries and antique shops are found on every corner. Possibly the best known gallery is “Lakeside Gallery,” 15486 Red Arrow Highway (616-469-3022). It attracts serious artists, which aren’t hard to find in the area. Saugatuck to the north started out as an artists colony. Equally well-known in the antique department (and right next door) is Rabbit Run Antiques, 15460 Red Arrow Highway. Rabbit Run specializes in English and Irish pine furniture, quilts, rugs, and country folk arts. Harbor County is full of sophisticated shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants, so don’t empty your pockets at your first stop – you’re sure to find plenty of “must haves.”

If shopping’s not your bag, you’re still in the right place. Southwest Michigan is BEAUTIFUL country, and there are plenty of outdoor activities at your beck and call. If you’re seeking a stroll in the sun or a few hours of beachtime, head to the beautiful beaches at Warren Dunes (12032 Red Arrow Highway; 616-426-4013). You won’t believe that you’re on the same lake that hosts the crowded Oak Street and North Avenue beaches of downtown Chicago. You might also find yourself in the shadow of a local hanglider (some of these dunes rise 250 feet!).

For another form of exercise, head to the Three Oaks Bicycle Museum and Information Center (right downtown: 110 Elm Street, 616-756-3361). This interesting and sometimes downright quirky museum contains a treasure-trove of relics and memorabilia, but will also rent you a modern-day bike. Also available are maps of local bike routes (and don’t worry – these trails range from the Lance Armstrong Brutal to Homer Simpson Lazy).

Another interesting, fun spot in the area is the Tabor Hill Winery and Vineyard. To reach it, get on Highway 12 to Bridgman, then north to Lake Street (which becomes Shawnee Road). Go east and simply follow the signs. There you can either picnic on the grounds or eat at the restaurant, and after lunch, join the tour of the winery!

Another great little spot is Fernwood, a nature facility and botanical garden (13988 Range Line Road, between Berrien Springs nad Buchanan). This six-acre park offers visitors a lilac garden, boxwood garden, perennial garden, rock garden, and fern trail. The newly-revamped visitors center now even has a sunny plant room, gift shop, and tearoom. Call (616) 683-8653.

Some of the many other points of interest in the area include:

Cook’s Energy Information Center: Red Arrow Highway, 3 miles north of New Buffalo; (616) 465-6101.

Lemon Creek Fruit Farms, Vineyards, and Winery: 533 Lemon Creek, east of Baroda (from I-94, take the Bridgman exit). Its seasonal, so call ahead if you’re not visiting in the middle of summer, (616) 471-1321.

Michiana Antiques Mall: 2423 S. 11th Street, Niles; (616) 684-7001. This mall has 100 dealers; no one goes home empty handed!

Berrien Springs Courthouse: U.S. Highway 31 at Union Street, 3 blocks north of downtown Berrien Springs. This 1839 Greek Revival courthouse is the oldest county government building in Michigan. (616) 471-1202.

If you’re not in Harbor County for just the day, you’ll find plenty of places to spend the night. One note: Harbor County is unique in that it has few large hotels for being a resort area (which admittedly adds to its charm). If you’re traveling with kids, pets, or need the amenities that a national chain offers, just stop off in Michigan City, IN on your way in and you’ll find plenty of larger hotels.

Your getaway to Southwest Michigan is sure make you a believer in the east side of Lake Michigan. The area is a well-kept secret; which is surprising, since its only about a 1 1/4-hour drive from the Loop! Have a great time on your Harbor County adventure!


Heartland Spa
1237 East 1600
North Road
Gilman, IL 60938

(800) 545-4853

At the first sign of a few extra pounds, many hit the bike path, buy a gym membership, or strap on the rollerblades. But if this is a little extreme, you can join other Chicagoans at the Heartland Spa.

While less than a two-hour drive away, the Heartland Spa could easily be tucked away in the Swiss Alps or Napa Valley. Instead its situated on thirty-one acres of lush Gilman, Illinois countryside. Here the Hearland Spa stays true to its Midwestern ideals, by offering equal parts of clean living and indulgence.

On your way to Gilman, antique buffs may wish to stop off in Crete, Illinois (to do this, take I-94 out of Chicago to Highway 1). This extremely-southern Chicago suburb is far enough off the beaten path that its antique shops aren’t picked over, and the prices aren’t sky-high. You may wish to start at Marketplace Antiques (550 West Exchange; 708-672-5556). Its dozen-ish dealers have filled it to the rafters with china and glass primitives, quilts, and jewelry. If you decide to visit Crete on the way to the Heartland, stay on Highway 1 on your way out of Crete to the Heartland Spa in Gilman.

The Heartland Spa itself is a beautiful country estate with every conceivable amenity and a large, knowledgeable staff. One of its greatest attributes is its ability to balance health without hysteria, luxury without snobbery, and just enough gain without too much pain. This is a spa for ‘real’ people; you won’t be embarrassed for not having a washboard stomach or tree-trunk thighes. You’ll check your stress at the door – mellowness is the overiding theme here. The rooms are comfortable and pleasant, and you won’t run into phones or tv’s to break the mood. Everything from sweat-suits to bathrobes are provided, and you simply drop your laundry on your doormat; it’ll be taken away and replaced lickety-split.

The Heartland Spa offers a two-for-one package, priced at $378 ($430 on the weekend) per night for two people. One massage is included, but other services are extra. Single rates: $340 per person per night ($378 on the weekends). Weeklong stays are also available, for those with the luxury of time and money and the affliction of too much stress (and weight) in thier lives.

During your stay you can participate as much or as little as you’d like in the scheduled programs, or simply traipse around the surrounding pastoral farmland. If you like to sleep in, no one will be pounding on your door. If not, conditioning classes, weight training, water exercises, aerobics, yoga, educational programs, and more are available. Finally, the food at the Heartland is (of course) of the healthy variety, but done so well that you won’t miss the calories.

On your way back to Chicago, you may want to keep up your new, healthy lifestyle with a canoe trip on the Kankakee River (considered by some to be the finest canoeing river in Illinois). If so, Reed’s Canoe will outfit you completely, whether you’re taking a two-hour or two-day trip. Reed’s is open from April to October; (815) 933-9036. If canoeing isn’t up your alley, stop off at the Kankakee State Park and check out its beautiful bike and walking trails (815-933-9036). The state park also offers camping, picnicking, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding, and more.

Lose some of those extra pounds and stress with a trip to the Heartland, and you’ll return to Chicagoland a completely new (and happier) person. Enjoy!


Historic Marshall
Marshall, MI
Chamber of Commerce: 800-877-5163

One of America’s best-preserved 19th-century towns, Marshall grew quickly in the 1830s when early land speculators considered the spot most-likely to be named Michigan’s state capital. When that honor went to more centrally-located Lansing, this city (12 miles east of Battle Creek, in south-central Michigan) was left with hundreds of impressive residences, civic buildings, and an ornate Greek Revival governor’s mansion – but no governor.

Subsequent booms as a stagecoach stop, railroad center, and patent medicine maker brough more wealth and more Victorian-era buildings. Today, more than 800 Marshall buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places!

The historic homes tour in September is among the city’s biggest draws. Year-round, a self-guided walking tour takes visitors past historic (but mostly private) homes and buildings that range from Gothic Revival to Queen Anne.

One exception is the quirky “Honolulu House” (800/877-5163) near Fountain Circle, which dates from 1860 and is now Marshall’s historical museum. Built by a former American consul to the Sandwich Islands (a.k.a. Hawaii), the house is decorated with pineapple motifs, elaborate paneling, and topped with a pagoda. Cool!

Nearby streets are filled with antique shops, cafes, and the 1920s-era Bogart Theatre, a great place to catch a flick. Another landmark, Schuler’s Restaurant at 115 S. Eagle Street (616/781-0600), has served up thick slabs of prime rib and other potential heart attacks since 1908.

The red brick National House Inn, 102 S. Parkview Street (616/781-7374), was built in 1835 as a stagecoach stop and is the state’s oldest surviving inn. Its a great place to spend the night if you don’t want to make the drive home, but try to call ahead – its been known to fill up quickly.

Another interesting must-see in Marshall is the American Museum of Magic at 107 E. Michigan Avenue (616/781-7666). With its posters, props and memorabilia it should prove to be unlike any museum you’ve every visited. And, in nearby Colon, you might be lucky enough to catch the Abbott’s Magic Get-Together (616/432-3235), when around 1,000 magicians gather to showcase their talents! Over sixty years old, the “Get-Together” includes workshops and demonstrations by world-famous magicians. Neat!

Though basically an “historic” town, Marshall does have plenty for those not interested in the local houses and architecture. But don’t sell them short before you see them! Even if you THINK you won’t like viewing these fantastic old mansions, you’ll more than likely surprise yourself once you get there; they really are amazing, and they’re literally on every corner. Besides that, the drive there is beautiful (especially in the Fall). Enjoy!


Indiana Amish Country
Amish Country, IN

If you’ve grown overly-weary of your cell phone, pager, voice mail, PC, palm pilot, traffic jams, sirens, and the rest that bustling Chicagoland technology has to offer (and irritate), this getaway is for you. It’s the Indiana Amish Country, and it’s a perfect spot for an afternoon or weekend away from the high-tech world of the Windy City.

In every corner of Northern Indiana Amish Country, you’ll come across attractive, accessible cities, towns and villages that haven’t given up on the simple pleasures of life. The sense of “community” is rich here, with concerts, parades, and festivals a constant source of celebration. These are the epitome of the Midwest’s small towns.

A really great (and possibly the best) way to experience the character of these unique communities is to explore them yourself. Hop in your car and go! You’ll find a hearty welcome in each charming village, nestled in some of the most beautiful countryside America’s Heartland has to offer.

East of South Bend and Elkhart, US-20 leads to the Crystal Valley and the well-known cities of Shipshewana and Middlebury, home to about 20,000 Amish and Mennonites. A great way to get an overview of the area and the interesting lifestyles therein is to take the Heritage Trail Driving Tour, a 100-mile loop that begins and ends at the Elkhart County Visitors Center, 219 Caravan Drive (219/252/8161). Another good source of information is the Amish Country visitor’s bureau (800/377-3579).

As with other Amish areas, the most authentic experience can be had off the beaten path and away from the tourist traps. Skip the bus-tour crowds and follow your nose! A good place to see is the Village Inn, 104 S. Main Street (219/825-2043), Elkhart, a quiet country café where locals serve up hearty coffee shop delights, including homemade pies for just a buck a slice. You can’t beat that!

Another great spot for Amish culture and lifestyle is the little town of Nappanee, which is the center of one of the largest Old Order Amish settlements in the United States.

Nappanee is an active, growing community that has been chosen by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a Heritage Tourism Pilot area, one of only four such areas in Indiana. Nappanee has it all; the only thing you won’t find in Nappanee is a stranger. In Nappanee, guests at the Inn at Amish Acres, 1234 W. Market Street (219/773-2011) stay in one of 64 Amish-themed rooms and eat at the bustling restaurant housed in a restored hand-hewn barn. The inn and restaurant are part of a 19th-century Amish farm with 18 restored buildings on 80 acres.

Elkhart, Northern Indiana’s River City, combines natural beauty and vibrant cultural events. Music has always played a big part here (the city that is still regarded as the “band instrument capital of the world”). The yearly Elkhart Jazz Festival is nationally famous and brings together the nation’s top jazz names for a swinging weekend. It isn’t as big as Jazzfest or Bluesfest, but an argument can be made that these festivals are better. They’re accessible, fun, and you won’t be shoulder-to-shoulder (or armpit-to-armpit) with the sweaty folk around you.

Elkhart is home to more intriguing festivals, including the Winterfest, Mainstreet Showcase of Art, and Rhapsody in Green. Whether you’re looking for the quiet of a lazy riverbank or the excitement of city life, you’ll find it in Elkhart!

Goshen (the Elkhart county seat) is a picturesque city with a delightful, inviting atmosphere. It is known as the “Maple City” because it is located along the Elkhart River, where leafy maple trees create lush shade in summer and a spectacular show of color in autumn.

In the heart of the third largest Amish settlement in the United Stated lies Shipshewana. In this peaceful little village, you’ll start to wonder just what year, decade, or even century you’re in. Things haven’t changed here too much (and that’s a good thing). From May to October, Shipshewana is also famous as the home of the largest weekly outdoor flea market in the Midwest. Whatever the season, Shipshewana is a delightful place to step back in time and experience the friendly charm and country hospitality of Amish Country.

US-20 will lead you to the Menno-Hof Mennonite-Amish Visitors Center (219/768-4117) off Hwy-5 in Middlebury. Local Amish and Mennonite residents built the huge barn that houses the center in a six-day barn-raising (ala Harrison Ford in “Witness?”). Inside, visitors get an introduction to the religious communities’ beliefs and lifestyles, as well as surprisingly high-tech multimedia exhibits.

Middlebury doesn’t disappoint; it’s a town where tradition, hometown pride, and country charm get thicker with every cobblestone corner you turn and quaint little shop you enter. A trip to Middlebury wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Krider Gardens, a horticultural exhibit originally created for the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair.

The beauty of Middlebury extends to the hills that surround the town. At Bonneyville Mill Park, you can purchase flour at Indiana’s oldest operating gristmill and hike 233 acres of hills, woodlands and meadows. Stop for a picnic in East Park or catch a small-mouth bass in the Little Elkhart River, at River Bend Park.

Many might think that a trip to the Indiana Amish Country would be perhaps a little “too” relaxing (a.k.a. boring). But there are obviously plenty of things to do, from shopping, restaurants, and nightlife to hiking and the outdoors – its not all bonnets and buggies. Having said that, the Amish life is a very interesting one, and is worth learning about and experiencing. Gas up the car, pull out your map, pick the cities you’d like to visit, and give them a shot! Have a great time!

Indiana Dunes State Park
1600 North 25 E.
Chesterton, IN 46304

219-926-1952

You’ll love the sights and sounds of the three miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan. The sand dunes will astound you, as will the vast variety of desert plants, giant wood ferns and white pines. And it’s only an hours drive from Chicago, and accessible via Metra’s South Shore/South Bend train.

The park includes seven hiking trails, as well as access to the 9 mile Calumet Trail, camping (must 21 years of age), cross-country skiing trails (no rental on site), smelt fishing, picnicking, swimming (in season), and more!

A beautiful nature center offers details of the history of the dunes area and a variety of special programming year-round.

On a clear day or night, hike up trail #4 to the top of Mt. Toms, the largest dune in the park. Atop Mt. Toms you’ll have a great view of the Chicago skyline, and at night, a beautiful view of the stars. Trail #2 includes a boardwalk that stretches over some wetland, and is one of the best trails for viewing spring wildflowers. Trail #10 is the longest trail in the park at 5.5 miles, and will take you along most of the park’s Lake Michigan shoreline.

The campground has around 300 campsites, as well as a camp store, toilets, and hot showers. Shelters and a picnic area are available for those just staying for the day.

If you’re not interested in picnicking, you can find a restaurant in the town that is the home of the Indiana Dunes State Park, Chesterton. Chesterton hosts many restaurants and plenty of shopping. A trip into town may be a great compliment to your visit to the park.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, authorized by Congress in 1966, is located approximately 50 miles southeast of Chicago, Illinois in the counties of Lake, Porter, and LaPorte in Northwest Indiana. The national lakeshore runs for nearly 25 miles along southern Lake Michigan, bordered by Michigan City, Indiana on the east, and Gary on the west. The park contains approximately 15,000 acres, 2,182 of which are located in Indiana Dunes State Park and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.”

Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, WI
1-800-345-1020

Lake Geneva is located in Southeastern Wisconsin, 10 miles north of the Illinois state line, 75 miles north of Chicago and 45 miles southeast of Milwaukee. I-43 is six miles to the north and I-94 is 27 miles to the east. It is approximately ninety minutes from O’Hare International Airport. This was once the vacation hotspot for the Midwest’s aristocracy; ladies and gentlemen in their summer finery arrived with an air of anticipation. Their rambling wooden hotels and vast gingerbread cottages awaited them, and many still stand awaiting summer visitors. Even though today’s lifestyle brings a more relaxed atmosphere, Lake Geneva has lost none of its charm & elegance. The sparkling lake waters, wide array of boutiques & galleries, parks & walkways, and many choices of fine or casual dining make this one of the jewels of the Midwest.

The lake is the center of activity, and “downtown” Lake Geneva is situated along its shore. Its a lovely few blocks of shops, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. This is definitely a summer resort town, though that shouldn’t automatically pigeonhole it into the “cheesey” (haha) category. This is truly a beautiful town, and no one would be bored here at ANY time of year. Lake Geneva is all about charm, and the opulence hasn’t been completely drained of it. Here you’ll find a surprising number of sprawling resorts, cottages, and bed and breakfasts. If that isn’t necessarily your speed, take a spin to Williams Bay on the other side of the lake. This is a bit off the beaten path, and is a little less sugary than Lake Geneva. Either way, you’re sure to have a wonderful time.

There is plenty to do here. Lake Geneva hosts surprising number of festivals (all year long), and the area is full of history. Take a tour (maybe on a boat or helicopter), spend some time on the lake or beach, or golf or visit a health spa. There’s plenty of history here, and many of local points of interest worth visiting. Nature lovers will find great hiking and horseback riding, while those interested in something a little more fast-paced have close access to car racing and a dog track.

There are also plenty of winter activities in Lake Geneva. Spend a cozy weekend here and enjoy your days snowmobiling, ice skating, cross-country and downhill skiing, ice fishing, or at the Winterfest Festival. You can even finish up the perfect winter day with a sleigh ride! You won’t run out of things to do in Lake Geneva.

If you choose to visit Lake Geneva for an overnight trip, make sure you make reservations, or you may have trouble finding a place to stay. There are also plenty of cottages available to rent for a week or the whole summer, but again – get there first before they fill up.”

Long Grove
Long Grove Road and McHenry Road
Long Grove IL 60047
(847) 634-0888

If you’re looking for a short jaunt out of Chicago (but don’t have a whole lot of time, or the desire to comb the entire Midwest countryside), then Long Grove is a great bet for you.

First settled in the 1800s, Long Grove has retained its old-fashioned charm, as many buildings date back to the mid-19th century. The town’s covered bridge is a great emblem for Long Grove, exemplifying its rustic look. But there’s a lot more here than handsome old architecture.

The success of Long Grove’s turn-of-the-century shopping environment is not just luck. After World War II, when the Village began taking shape, a need to preserve the historic value of the district was recognized. As a result, the first Historic District in Illinois was created in 1960 by Village ordinance.

The town’s shopping district history dates back to the 1940s, when the first of many antique shops opened. There are also more than 90 boutiques selling clothing, crafts, artwork, home furnishings, homemade foodstuffs, and an abundance of collectibles, keepsakes and gifts.

Stop by the Long Grove Confectionery to watch chocolatiers swirl fudge and dip strawberries. Lunch and snack options include the cheap Peppermint Stick, popular for hot fudge sundaes; Seasons of Long Grove for fancy buffet-style lunches; and the Pond View, great for a little breakfast with the ducks.

Long Grove is a great place to visit for a break from the hustle of the general Chicago lifestyle. Its a wonderful way to slow down for a day or afternoon; meander through old shops, take in the “slower” feeling of times gone by, and let the stresses created by the Loop work-week take a back seat for once. Have fun!”

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island, IL
1-800-454-5227

If you’re tired of the fast-paced, traffic-ridden, stress-builder that Chicagoland can be, Mackinac Island is the spot for you. Even the drive through Michigan can be a beautiful getaway (though nothing as fun and relaxing as the island itself). Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall, this fantastic getaway has it all.

Mackinac Island (pronounced “Mack-in-aw) is one of the Midwest’s most-photographed and talked about travel destinations. Located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, the island offers unforgettable natural and historical treasures, surrounded by the sparkling blue waters of The Great Lakes.

Mackinac Island is accessible in winter by Great Lakes Air in St. Ignace and April through December via ferry boat service from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. Try Arnold (800/542-8528) or Shepler’s (800/828-65157). Mackinac Island is about a full day’s drive from Chicago, and is a great choice for a quick getaway.

The residents of Mackinac Island banned the noisy, smelly “horseless carriage” in the late 1890’s (cars still aren’t allowed there today) and forever set the tone and solidified the character of this tiny two-mile-wide island.

Generations later, visitors still enjoy the the Victorian-era retreat. The only thing that’s changed is that the straits are now marked by a five-mile suspension bridge, built in 1957.

Affectionately known as “Mighty Mac,” its the world’s third-longest suspension bridge (Mighty Mac looks excactly like the Golden Gate Bridge, and some speculate that it is even longer).

Even though its not the biggest island in the world, Mackinac has played a very important role in Midwest history. The Native Americans who originally lived there used it as a burial ground and called it Michilimackinac, or “The Great Turtle.”

Later, British and French occupiers shortened the name to “Mackinac.” They made it a fur-trading post, and it eventually became the headquarters to John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company.

Finally, tourists replaced rapidly diminishing furs and fur traders in the mid-1850’s. The landmark Grand Hotel on Grand Avenue (906/847-3331) was build in 1887. It is the largest summer-only hotel in existence, and a place where guests still “dress” for dinner. Also, the Grand Hotel’s front porch is the world’s longest, at 680 feet.

Mackinac Island is also home to “Fort Michilimackinac,” which has been worked since the 1950’s. The summer dig here is the longest continuously-operating archaeological expedition in the United States. The old fort is now part of the 1,800-acre Mackinac Island State Park (906/847-3328), which occupies 80% of the island.

Because the only cars allowed on Mackinac Island are emergency and utility vehicles, you’ll need a bike or horse & carriage to get around (if you don’t want to walk, that is – remember, Mackinac isn’t so big that getting around on foot is tough work).

Hwy-185 circles the island’s rim and is usually crowded with bikes, rollerblades, and pedestrians. Those who take the road less-traveled and venture off the beaten path will be glad they did. They’ll find quiet routes filled with gingerbread cottages, deep forests, small harbors, and breath-taking natural wonders. Make sure you see Sugar Load and Arch Rock; both make it easy to understand why the Great Lakes Indians considered Mackinac holy ground.

If you’re looking for nightlife during your getaway, Mackinac Island offers something for everyone’s individual taste. Whether it’s live music or just a quiet romantic dinner for two, day or night, main street offers something special for everyone. Black tie to casual, “comfortable” is the style of the island.

Rooms at the Grand Hotel start at $350 (as many presidents can tell you), but other gracious – and less expensive – lodgings can be found. Try the 1887 Metivier Inn B&B on Market Street (906/847-6234); doubles here start at $120. Unfortunately, no camping is allowed on Mackinac Island, but there are plenty of places to stay, and LOTS of camping is available just across the straits in either the Upper or Lower Peninsulas.

Though primarily a summer resort, those in need of a wintertime getaway will find Mackinac Island an ideal spot as well. If the ice is thick enough, a snowmobile can speed you across the frozen straits. Other times you may depend on Great Lakes Air (906/643-7165). Passengers fly along with mail and other necessities (for under $20 one-way), and can even bring thier skis for free. Mackinac Island offers an extensive trail network for cross-country skiers or snowshoers. In fact, the east half of the state is designated for skiing and snowshoeing.

Carriage tours offers sleigh rides for those who would enjoy a tour of Mackinac’s winter wonderland. Nothing is better than the coziness of sharing a thick wool blanket with friends and loved ones on a tour of the island in a sleigh drawn by horses.

If you’re more interested in cozying up to a fire for a bit of relaxation, try a quiet inn like the Lilac Tree or Mission Point. You can also spend a snug evening at one of Mackinac’s restaurants, like the Mustang Lounge; its a favorite among the island’s 500 permanent residents.

No matter what you do or when you do it, Mackinac Island is a great choice for a fun getaway from the hustle and bustle of Chicagoland. Have a great time at this beautiful island resort!

Michigan City
Michigan City, IN
46360-3270
1-800-634-2650
Michigan City is LaPorte County, Indiana’s largest city. It’s located on the shores of Lake Michigan at the mouth of Trail Creek. The town developed as an industrial center, and later gained a reputation as a popular recreation and resort community. The “singing sands” of the Washington Park beach are famous, and a popular summer attraction. Adjacent to Michigan City is Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Mt. Baldy, the state’s largest moving sand dune.

Take the Historic Downtown Michigan City Tour, visit the Washington Park Zoo, see the Michigan City Lighthouse and Museum, do a little gambling, check out galleries and theaters, golf, shop at the enormous array of outlet stores and antique shops, or simply take a beautiful drive along Lake Michigan and a hike through the dunes or along miles of beautiful beaches. Spend a day here picking your own fruit (or Christmas tree) at one of LaPorte County’s two dozen “u-pick” orchards and berry farms, or go horseback riding, or sailing. Michigan City has it all.

Possibly the best thing about Michigan City is its accessibility. Only fifty miles southeast of Chicago, it is the perfect spot for a day trip, though there are an abundance of bed & breakfast, motels, and camping spots available. Michigan City should not be missed, whether for an afternoon, weekend, or entire week. The drive usually doesn’t take much more than an hour, and the South Shore Line runs here too.”

Quincy
Quincy, IL

If you think that southwest Illinois is nothing but farming communities and wide spots in the road, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Quincy, Illinois is the farthest thing from a “regular small town,” and is definitely worth the trip!

From Peoria (straight south of Chicago) US-24 winds southwest past ancient Native American burial mounds along the Illinois River, then bends west to the Mississippi River and finally to the quirky town of Quincy, one of Illinois’ best-known art communities. Quincy is an interesting spot, and not just for its art. It manages to give off an aura of genteel aristocracy, peculiar eccentricity, and Midwest stolidity all at the same time.

This southwest Illinois community of 40,000 was once one of the richest towns in the Midwest. As if to prove it, more than 2,000 of Quincy’s homes are on the National Historic Register. This wealth helped Quincy flourish as an art community. In 1947 Quincy established the nation’s first local arts council. Today, lovers of culture will find an Arts Corridor along Fourth Street, including the Quincy Art Center. The Center houses a 250-piece permanent collection, and is a constant host to local, regional, and national exhibitions.

If you’d like a little structure to your trip (or at least a starting point) stop by the Quincy Visitor Center (217-223-1000). It is located in the 19th-century landmark “Villa Catherine,” the only example of Moorish architecture on the Mississippi River. A few of Quincy’s hotspots include the Quincy Museum (16th & Maine Streets, 217-224-7669), which contains, among other fantastic treasures, one of the few square Baby Grand Pianos still in working condition. Another interesting stop is the Lincoln Douglas Valentine Museum (101 N. 4th Street, 217-224-3355). Here you’ll find a large collection of old and unusual valentines, including heart-shaped boxes once made at the Quincy Paper Box Company. Neat! The fact that this museum exists is a tribute and example to Quincy’s odd yet fun flavor.

The Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design (352 Maine Street, 217-224-6873) can be found in the old Richardsonian Romanesque library. Adjacent streets are lined with art galleries, antique shops, and unusual boutiques. Art is such a focal point in Quincy that gallery space can even be found in the local coffee shops.

Performing arts also have a home in Quincy. The Quincy Community Theatre and the Quincy Symphony both take the stage at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. As if that weren’t enough for a town of Quincy’s size, more music and theatre can be enjoyed at any and all of the area’s three colleges: Quincy University, John Wood Community College, and Culver-Stockton College.

Quincy truly embraces a “footloose and fancy-free” attitude, and is a great destination for a weekend getaway. If it’s a fun, cultural, interesting spot you’re interested in, look no farther! Quincy is the right spot for you. Have a nice trip!”

Rock River Valley
Dixon IL
547-3740

The Rock River Valley is the home of three state parks – White Pines, Castle Rock, and Lowden, and they provide picturesque outdoor landscapes that you won’t believe are only 100 miles from Chicago. The valley offers tall trees (don’t laugh – you’ll be surprised at how nice they are after not-seeing any for a while) and limestone bluffs in what is amazingly still a well-kept secret. Its rumored that John Denver wrote his hit “Country Roads” after visiting this area; if that doesn’t convince you of its beauty, not much will (besides a visit).

The Rock River Valley also has its share of odd tourist attractions, not the least being the popular “Chocolate Tour,” and the homes of both John Deere and Ronald Reagan.

And best of all, if you have the good fortune to be traveling during the leaf-changing weeks of Autumn, you won’t be disappointed. Veteran deciduites argue that this area is the top-drawer of Illinois’ Fall color tours. Be sure to take the little jog (Highway 2 north of Dixon) along the Rock River for the main show.

If you can manage to get to Oregon, IL early enough, you can catch the 11:30 departure of the “Pride of Oregon” paddleboat ride. It departs from Maxson Riverside Restaurant. If you miss it, don’t fret; there are two more departures, one at 3:00 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m. The evening departure includes dinner, the other two offer a luncheon and sightseeing, respectively. Whenever you manage to catch the boat, you’ll be in for a sightseeing feast, especially in Autumn. Prices range from $10 to $30 (depending on whether a meal is included). For more information, call (800) 468-4222.

If you’re interested in the southernmost stand of virgin white pine in the Midwest (and who isn’t?), make sure to visit White Pines Forest State Park. (6712 West Pines Road, Mt. Morris; (815) 946-3717). Officially this is Mt. Morris, but its only 8 miles west of Oregon. The park has seven well-marked hiking trails running through its 385 acres, and the entire area is rich in Native American history. This is the most-popular of the three local state parks; it boasts more amenities, including a lodge, gift shop, cabins, and restaurant.

Lowden State Park is right across the river from Oregon (go north on River Road from Route 64, to Route 2; (815) 732-6828). As you may well know, the 48-foot statue of Black Hawk if found here. The statue is the most-famous work of Lorado Taft, who started an artist’s colony here in the 1920’s called “Eagles Nest.” The beautiful 207-acre park is situated on a bluff overlooking the river.

Castle Rock State Park is the largest of the three state parks, with over 2,000 acres; this is the spot for the real nature-lovers (Route 2, Oregon; (815) 732-7329). For the geologists out there, this is one of the few places where one can view St. Peter Sandstone, which underlies nearly all of Illinois. For those less-nerdy, there’s a large wooden staircase to the top of Castle Rock that offers an outstanding view of the river.

This area is obviously a hot-spot for the outdoorsy-types, and not just White Pine and St. Peter Sandstone lovers. Fishing, canoeing, and hunting are popular, as well as golf (Silver Ridge Golf Course; 815-734-4440) and horseback riding (White Pines Ranch; 815-732-7923). If its the right time of year, you can even visit the Sinnissippi Forest and cut your own Christmas tree (815-732-6240).

If you aren’t crazy about actually wandering around and doing things outdoors, there are two local architecurally important spots in DeKalb. The first is the Ellwood House Museum, 509 North First Street. Col. Isaac Ellwood, who made his fortune in barbed wire (a local invention, by the way) built an astounding Victorian mansion here. It’s open from April to early December every day but Monday and major holidays. Admission is but $1.00. Call (815) 756-4609. The second spot has to be the Egyptian Theater, 135 North Second Street (near Lincoln Highway), (815) 758-1215. Touring companies still perform in this Egyptian Revival vaudeville theater, and its worth a stop.

You can also drive down Highway 2 to the John Deere Home, Grand Detour (5 miles north of Dixon). Admission is only $3.00, and you’ll be surprised at how interesting it is (815) 652-4551. Also, you could plan a trip to DeKalb (home of Cindy Crawford) and a tour of Northern Illinois University, the 2nd-largest school in Illinois. For a tour, call the University at (815) 753-1000.

Of course, there is always the “Blackhawk Chocolate Trail.” This is sort of crazy, but why not. Its a trip through four Northwestern Illinois counties where you’ll come across chocolate everything. You can even stay at an all-chocolate B&B, or plan a chocolate tea-time. For a brochure, call (800) 678-2108.

No small Midwest town would be complete without its requisite share of craft and antique shops, and the Rock River Valley won’t disappoint in this category. If you’re interested in staying for more than just a day, there are plenty of places to lodge and a surprisingly large variety of restaurants.

There are special events all year long, but you need not schedule your visit around them; the Rock River Vally obviously has plenty to do any day of the year. Visit this wonderful area before the secret gets out to everyone else, and Have Fun!”

 

Route 66
Chicago to St. Louis
Chicago IL

Have you got an itch that needs scratchin’, but can’t think of what exactly will cut the mustard? A little time to kill and a pair of itchy feet (or two pairs of itchy wheels)? Then get your motor runnin’ and head out on the highway! Its time for a road trip, and only one road will do: the best-known road in the world, Route 66!

Immortalized in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” romanticized in countless songs, and even the backdrop to a 1960’s TV series, Route 66 is definitely a potent symbol of American wanderlust, manifest destiny, and regular-old free livin’. From the 1920’s to the 1960’s, it was considered the “Main Street of America” because it moved the nation westward from the Rust Belt of Chicago to the Sun Belt of Los Angeles, passing hundreds of small towns – and dozens of kitschy tourist traps, neon-signed diners, and just plain crazy stuff – along the way.

Having been bypassed and in places even obliterated by modern Interstate freeways, the legendary highway no longer embodies the freedom of the open road as it once did, but in these days of franchised fast-food and chain motels, Route 66 has been rediscovered as a nostalgic memento of rapidly-vanishing Americana. What remains of Route 66 in Illinois parallels I-55 diagonally across the state between Chicago and St. Louis, reappearing frequently as “Historic Route 66” to give a memorable taste of what life once was along this great American highway.

Here are some of the places not too far from Chicago where you can still get your kicks on Route 66:

Willowbrook
Just a dozen miles from the Loop, the best-known Route 66 site here is “Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket,” 645 Joliet Road (630/325-0780), which has been open since the 1930’s. At one time, the restaurant’s flat roof was flooded in winter (deliberately) so that ice skaters on top could lure drivers-by to stop in for a bite to eat.

Wilmington
“The Launching Pad Drive-In,” 810 E. Baltimore Street (815/476-6535) is worth a look if not for the movies than for the giant, 30-foot tall “Rocketman” statue. It is truly one of Route 66′ finest pieces of space-age kitsch. And, there are less than 200 Drive-ins left in the U.S., so don’t pass up a chance to catch a flick at this one!

Pontiac
This former coal-mining town has one of the longest-lived Route 66 landmarks, the circa 1918 “Old Log Cabin Inn” (815/842-2908) on Pontiac Road, just north of town. Stop in and stay a while, if not overnight.

McLean
Old Route 66 survives in the shadow of I-55 at the “Dixie Trucker’s Home” (309/874-2323), the oldest truck stop in Illinois and home of – you guessed it – the Route 66 Hall of Fame! This must-see spot is furnished with plaques and artifacts that tell the story of the people who have contributed to Route 66′ unique place in history.

Lincoln
This Route 66 town was named for “Honest Abe” before he became president. At the dedication ceremonies, Lincoln supposedly “baptized” his namesake town by spitting out a mouthful of watermelon seeds, which is the reason for the plaster watermelon and plaque next to the train station in the middle of town.

Litchfield
This little town is home to some of the richest Route 66 memorabilia still in existence, including motels, another drive-in theatre, and many old, old billboards. If for nothing else (perish the thought!) Litchfield is definitely worth a stop for its very friendly, slightly fancy “Ariston Café” (217/324-2023), located smack-dab in the middle of town.

Collinsville
Just east of St. Louis and the Gateway Arch, this homespun town has the largest prehistoric ruins north of Mexico: the 2,200-acre “Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site” (618/346-5160). And if that isn’t enough to float your boat, Collinsville also boasts the 170-foot “Brooks Catsup Bottle,” the world’s largest catsup bottle and a classic piece of roadside kitsch. It stands ½-mile south of Main Street at 800 S. Morrison Street; you can’t miss it. Don’t forget your fries!

If you’ve got a few extra hours, days, weeks, or even months, along with a hankerin’ for the open road, Route 66 is for you. If you’ve got the time, wheels, and gumption, you can take it all the way to La La Land! But even if you don’t make it “to the end of the road,” you can have a great time and see some truly historic, very interesting, and undeniably cool things on your homemade road trip. Hit the road the next time you’ve got the urge to get out of Dodge!”

 

Saugatuck
Saugatuck MI
(616) 857-1701
M-F 9AM-5P

Saugatuck is the embodiment of small town America. It’s a harbor village where visitors feel they’ve turned back the pages of time and entered a simpler life. The layers of history that surround the area are intriguing and the picturesque village retains its 19th century character.

Throughout Saugatuck’s history, artists have been drawn to its towering dunes, sugar sand beaches and jewel-like setting on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today that artistic heritage persists through strong ties to the Chicago Institute of Art with its summer camp at Oxbow and a profusion of private art galleries and craft boutiques. There is also a midsummer Chamber Music Festival and excellent summer stock theater.

If you’re looking for a relaxing weekend getaway spot, then Saugatuck is definitely a spot to look into. Here, no one is in a hurry. Its a popular escape from the pressures of daily life and the “gold standard” of executive retreats for small corporate meetings and family reunions.

From downtown one can walk to almost everything. Take a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk or picnic by the gazebo in the park overlooking the harbor. Ride a Victorian hand-cranked ferry, or rent a boat, canoe or bicycle-built-for-two to discover the sophisticated charm of Saugatuck’s shops and local restaurants. Or simply spend the day at the beach! You can’t lose along Michigan’s shoreline.

Remember the corner drug store fountain? Saugatuck still has one! Here, hand-creamed sodas, phosphates and malted shakes have been their specialty for 75 years. Saugatuck is also the home of world famous Broward Marine, a shipbuilding site where multi-million dollar yachts are built by top craftsmen for clients from around the world.

Because its only two-and-a-half hours from Chicago, Saugatuck is the perfect spot to spend the weekend. You’ll find lodging in modern privately-owned motels. Here the proud tradition of attention to detail is exhibited in the services provided to guests who often return year after year. If you prefer to stay in a charming country inn, Saugatuck is the Bed and Breakfast capital of the Midwest. It offers an extensive variety of historic accommodations where the traveler feels more like a friend of the family than a customer.

A restful year round retreat, Saugatuck has something for everyone, including a calendar year of festivals and seasonal events. Its also a great jumping-off point for the nearby shoreline resort towns Holland and Grand Haven.”

 

Springfield
Springfield, IL

I suppose when one thinks about it, it isn’t hard to understand why Springfield is overlooked by many as a weekend getaway hotspot. It doesn’t have beautiful lakefront sunsets or cruises like Michigan City or Lake Geneva, or bluffs and foothills like Galena, the Rock River Vally, and Brown County. But, Springfield still gets sold short; as it turns out, its a wonderful place to spend a weekend.

Besides the many historic sites focused on Abraham Lincoln, Springfield offers plenty for the general weekend getaway-er. The Springfield Renaissance Hotel is one of the finest lodgings in the Midwest, and that includes those on Michigan Avenue (its also an incredible bargain, especially on the weekends).

The town itself has managed to escape the in-your-face commercialism you’d find at Carlsbad Caverns and Niagra Falls; you won’t find a rubber tomohawk shop on every corner, nor will you have to pay a $2.50 “Lincoln Tax” for a can of coke.

Like everything else in this quaint town, the landmarks of Illinois’ most famous citizen are easily accessible and line-free. And with virtually all the historic and government buildings free of charge, Springfield can be a lot cheaper than other weekend getaways.

The Lincoln sites are spaced closely together, which is a perk. And the block of Eighth Street between Capitol Avenue and Jackson Street is closed to car traffic (a very nice feature), and comes complete with gaslights and wooden sidewalks.

A good place to stop first is the Lincoln Home Visitors Center; here you can pick up tickets for the tour of Lincoln’s home, which is only a block away. Don’t dawdle too long on your way there; the tickets are free, but are dispensed on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Lincoln Home Visitors Center is at 426 South Seventh Street, 8:30 – 5:00 (with extended summer hours). Their number is (217) 492-4241, ext. 221.

After the Lincoln Home Tour (which is sure to impress you, and make you happy with your tax dollars at work) you may want to tour the Old State Capitol. Its fully refurnished and restored to duplicate Mr. Lincoln’s legislative years. The Old State Capitol is located at the Downtown Mall, on the corner of Adams and Washington, and is open March through October from 9:00 to 5:00, November through February from 9:00 to 4:00; (217) 785-7961.

If you’d like something a little more up-to-date, you could visit the newer State Capitol (which was built in 1868). It houses the current Illinois state legislature and constitutional offices. It is located at Second Street and Capitol Avenue, is free, and is open to visitors Monday through Friday, 8:00 – 4:00; Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 – 3:00. Call (217) 782-2099.

Next to the capitol is the Illinois State Museum (Spring and Edward Streets; 217-782-7386). Its emphasis is on Illinois’ history, geology, and anthropology. You’ll also find photography and decorative arts, miniatures, and a mastodon skeleton (the highlight). There’s a “hands on” discovery room for the kids, but this is a museum primarily for the history-minded. While definitely a worthwhile spot to visit, the Science and Industry Museum it ‘aint. The Illinois State Museum is open Monday through Saturday, 8:30 – 5:00; Sunday, noon – 5:00, and is free.

Another of Springfield’s popular stopping points is Lincoln’s Tomb. Inside are Mr. Lincoln himself (of course), his wife, and three of their four sons (the fourth, Robert Todd Lincoln, is buried at Arlington National Cemetary). The tomb (technically the Lincoln Tomb State Historical Site) is only a ten minute drive from downtown, at Oak Ridge Cemetary. The entrance is at 1500 North Monument Avenue, or at North Walnut Street. The monument is open daily, March through October, 9:00 – 5:00, and November through February, 9:00 – 4:00. This is also free; call (217) 782-2717 for more information.

There are a plethora of other things to see and do in Springfield; there’s definitely something for everyone. In the summer you may want to visit Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site. This is near Petersburg, about 20 miles northwest of Springfield on Highway 97. Lincoln lived here for six pivotal years of his young life. About two dozen buildings have been restored to thier 1830’s grandeur. It is open from March through October, 9:00 – 5:00; 8:00 – 11:00 during the winter. Call (217) 632-4000. New Salem also boasts an outdoor amphitheatre, where you can catch the local Theatre in the Park performances. For information and reservations, call (217) 632-5440.

Also of local interest are:

The Governor’s Mansion, Fifth and Jackson Streets, (217) 782-6450 or (217) 789-6950.

The Lincoln Memorial Garden & Nature Center, 2301 East Lake Drive, (217) 529-1111.

Washington Park Botanical Gardens, (217) 753-6228.

Henson Robinson Zoo, 1100 East Lake Drive, (217) 753-6217.

Springfield also has nine public golf courses and plenty of antique shops (sans inflated prices). Obviously this quiet little town has more than its fair share to offer the weekend adventurer than most state capitols. Take advantage of this great town soon!

 

Starved Rock State Park
Route 178
Utica, IL 61373
815-667-4726

This place has it all, and you won’t believe that you’re only 90 miles from Chicago!

Whether you enjoy hiking along the nature trails, or viewing the many spectacular overlooks along the Illinois River, recreational opportunities abound. From picnicking to fishing and boating, from horseback riding to camping to enjoying winter sports, there’s so much to do, you’ll want to come back again and again. It is truly a wonderful place to visit at any time of year.

The Illinois River Valley in the Starved Rock area is in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. The park is best known for its fascinating rock formations that were laid down by a huge shallow inland sea more than 425 million years ago. These formations surfaced and were shaped by erosive forces. The valley was formed as glacial meltwater broke through moraines sending torrents of water surging across the land. This deeply eroded the sandstone and other sedimentary rock. Eighteen stream-fed canyons highlight the park’s setting. They slice dramatically through tree-covered, sandstone bluffs for 5-6 miles.

Starved Rock State Park derives its name from a Native American Legend of injustice and retribution. In the 1760s, Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa tribe upriver from Starved Rock, was slain by an Illiniwek while attending a tribal council in Southern Illinois. During one of the battles that subsequently occurred to avenge the death of Chief Pontiac, a band of Illiniwek was attacked by a band of Potawatomi (allies of the Ottawa). The Illiniwek sought refuge atop a 125-foot sandstone butte. The Potawatomi surrounded the bluff and held their ground until the hapless Illiniwek died of starvation- thus giving rise to the name “Starved Rock.”

During the early spring, winter thaw and frequent rains create sparkling waterfalls in all 18 canyons. The vertical walls of moss-covered stone create a setting of natural geologic beauty uncommon in Illinois. Some of the longer lasting waterfalls are found in Saint Louis and LaSalle Canyons. If you come in the winter or spring, make sure to visit the lock directly across the Illinois River to view migrating bald eagles. Also, head into nearby Ottawa or Utica for dinner and a beer or a little gift shopping.

The lodge is the “headquarters” of Starved Rock, and is really something to behold. The stone and log lodge is situated on a high bluff just southwest of Starved Rock itself. Built primarily by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the lodge reflects the peaceful atmosphere of yesteryear. It has been refurbished, and a new hotel wing has been added. This addition features a registration lobby, indoor swimming pool, children’s pool, sauna, and outdoor sunning patio.

The lodge offers 72 luxury hotel rooms and 22 comfortable cabin rooms. The original Great Room, centered around a massive stone fireplace, is furnished with decorative rugs and art.

The restaurant is open daily and offers many house specialties. It can accommodate up to 250 people for banquets. There is also a small, cozy tavern adjacent to the main room where you can stop in for a cold one and look out over the mighty Illinois River from the beautiful clifftop patio.

 

Wisconsin Dells
Wisconsin Dells WI

There are literally hundreds of lodging, entertainment and dining options in the Wisconsin Dells area. In addition to all the popular attractions and national chains you will also find some of the best in family owned businesses, unique dining, relaxing lodging alternatives, nature trails and so much more.

In 1946 Mel Flath brought the first W.W.II ducks to the dells. He operated a tourist trip from land near the present Mexicali Rose until 1953. Although he sold out his original duck tour company, Today his family has continued the tradition with the Dells Duck Tours, the red, white, and blue Ducks that you see today! In fact many of the attractions that people have enjoyed are still here today including Witch’s Gulch, Stand Rock and more.

In the early 50’s Tommy Bartlett made a permanent home for his ski, sky, and stage show in Wisconsin Dells. In fact many attractions such as Story Book Gardens, Biblical Gardens, Fort Dells, Super Slides, and others entertained thousands during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. From that time the Dells began to transform into the Dells we know today we go-carts, roller-coasters, water parks and more.

Today the Dells is fast becoming a year around attraction. Large complexes have been built that house the first Indoor water parks, and more are on the way! The Ho-Chunk Nation has had great success with their casino on Highway 12, and is bringing a better life to their people as well as becoming a major employer to all people in the Dells area. You can enjoy Jet Boats, Roller coasters, fine dining and un-paralleled lodging and camping experiences. Where is the Wisconsin Dells headed in the next century? We can only guess, but what ever the future brings, the Wisconsin Dells is sure to remain one of America’s premiere family vacation destinations.