Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Illinois August 2013
I recently visited Illinois to discover some of what this state has to offer. My first stop was the city of Rockford, where I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Rockford. The rooms are a very nice size and each room has a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker. Kids will love their indoor pool, complete with a water play area with water spraying and a slide.
Our first night there we visited the Prairie Street Brewhouse, a unique historical building originally built in the 1850s. The restaurant is located on the Rock River in downtown Rockford. What a beautiful setting. Every Thursday night they have Dinner on the Dock, where guests can enjoy dinner while listening to live music.
Rockford is a wonderful place to visit with your family. Riverfront Museum Park Campus has 3 different museums on one campus. Burpee Museum of Natural History www.burpee.org has JANE, the world’s most complete juvenile T-Rex, as well as Homer, the Triceratops. The second floor is dedicated to gemstones, and the third floor has reptiles. The museum features many hands-on activities, in addition to regular exhibits.
After visiting Burpee Museum of Natural History, next we visited the Discovery Science Center. This has to be one of the best children’s/science museums I have ever visited. There are more than 250 hands-on art and science exhibits, a TV studio where kids can record themselves on a green screen, cool machines that you play with to see cause and effect, a sports area where you practice different sports to see how your body reacts to different situations, and so much more. There is also a great toddler area with a pretend house that the kids can play in, as well as an area where kids can work on repairing a car. The kids I saw were having fun playing in the water area, as well. This is a place that adults will enjoy as much as the kids.
We also visited Volcano Falls, where you can play miniature golf, do go cart racing, play laser tag, hit in a batting cage, and play at an arcade. You can spend hours here. There are 2 tracks for the go-carts, and I had such a great time racing my friends around the track. I also enjoyed the batting cage (although I only hit 2 balls). You can choose between hardball and softball, and different pitch speeds.
Later in the evening we visited Anderson Japanese Gardens, an incredibly lovely and peaceful place. You can stroll along the path admiring the beautiful landscape, waterfalls, fish, and buildings. It is complete heaven. We sat outside listening to the Miles Nielsen band, and when they finished, we saw the most spectacular fireworks show...it was a stunning evening.
The next couple of days I was able to explore other parts of Illinois. We first visited Woodstock Square, which is a cute little town with historic buildings. The Woodstock Opera House used to house the library, justice court, and the fire department. It now has a variety of different events throughout the year. If you are a movie buff, you will love the Groundhog Day Walking Tour. There are metal plaques throughout the city showing the different locations where the movie was filmed. The town has cute little stores surrounding a large public park. While strolling through the streets I stopped at Jaci’s Place for a wonderful cookie and then La Petite Creperie & Bistro for lunch. Love my crepes. We sat in the outdoor patio, which was a lovely setting. I also enjoyed visiting Ethereal Confections, a wonderful chocolate and coffee shop where they have pour-over coffee.
Our next visit was to the Richardson Adventure Farm and Corn Maze in Spring Grove, IL. This is an incredible place to visit. In addition to the crops of corn and soybeans, they grow over 50,000 Christmas trees and have the world’s largest cornfield maze. Being a California girl I had never been in a corn maze before. In fact, I had no idea how one creates a corn maze. I discovered that they come up with a design, input it into the computer, connect the GPS on the tractor to the computer, and there you have it, the makings of a corn maze. Every year the corn maze is a different theme. This year the theme was The Beatles, and the maze was 28 acres and included 11.5 miles of trail. Along with the corn maze there are a number of different activities including a zip line, orbiting (where you roll in a ball), live pig races, jumping pillows, giant slides, and more. Plan on spending many hours here. You can even attempt the corn maze at night, so bring a flashlight.
Our next stop was the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens in Vernon Hills, IL, which houses the Cuneo family collection of fine art and furnishings. The house was completed in 1916. It is a beautiful mansion, and the gardens are stunning. There are 7 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms in the 31,000 square foot home. In 2009, the Cuneo Foundation gave the estate to Loyola University Chicago. This $50 million gift was the largest in Loyola’s history.
That evening we went to the Ravinia Festival to see Lyle Lovett perform. The Ravinia is a wonderful venue for live music. You can purchase tickets for reserved seats in the Pavilion stage area, or you can purchase general admission tickets and bring a blanket and chairs and set up a picnic on the large lawn area. There are speakers throughout, so no matter where you are sitting, you will be able to hear the performance. We actually ate at the restaurant located at the Ravinia, called Mirabelle, which offers a lovely selection of salads, cheeses, meats, and wonderful side dishes--and let's not forget the scrumptious desserts. Such a wonderful evening.
That night we stayed at the Embassy Suites in Deerfield. This is a great hotel for families, located 14 miles from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The spacious 2 room suites are wonderful, and each room has two flat screen TVs, as well as a wet bar area with a refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. If you want to exercise, there is an indoor swimming pool and a fitness room. They offer a complimentary evening reception, as well as complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast each morning. The lobby and atrium is a wonderfully relaxing place to spend some time after a long day of touring. Cadwell’s Grille & Lounge serves wonderful martinis.
We started out our next morning visiting the City of Lake Forest, which is located 31 miles north of the city of Chicago. It is a cute little town with boutique shops. We stopped at the Farmers' Market and I had the best corn on the cob ever from Twin Garden Farms. It wasn’t even cooked, and it tasted incredible. They told me they have a patent to grow it a certain way and that is why it is so sweet. I was going to order some since they ship it but the shipping charges were $60 so I didn’t…but if you are in Lake Forest, I highly recommend getting their corn on the cob.
The next morning we visited the Chicago Botanic Garden. Absolutely stunning. There are 26 gardens and four natural areas encompassing the 385 acres of land on and around the nine islands. Everywhere you turn there are beautiful gardens and plants. You could spend hours here.
Our final visit was the Illinois Holocaust Museum. This museum is so powerful. There are over 500 artifacts, documents, photographs, and a German rail car of the type used in Nazi deportations. The museum teaches universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference. Police recruits participate in an intense day of active learning in the museum, exploring moral and ethical decision-making. The museum’s motto is “Remember the Past, Transform the Future.”
Illinois is a wonderful state to visit. There are great cities throughout the state, and so much to see and do. I was there such a short time and I was only able to explore a small portion of everything there is to offer. I look forward to returning.
I would like to thank the Travel Media Showcase for hosting my visit to Illinois and introducing me to such a beautiful state.