Our region offers endless opportunities for summertime fun. Here are a few ideas for a great weekend getaway.
Geneva: Fill Up on Family Attractions This Summer
Quiet, suburban Geneva is loved for its quaint shopping, picturesque parks and a plethora of family-friendly summer activities.
Attending one of Geneva’s festivals is a must, and there are many to choose from. Check out the chrome at a classic car show, which happens on Thursday evenings in July and August. Educate your palate by tasting local eats at Festival of the Vine from Sept. 11 through 13. And, dance to top local bands at several music festivals.
Laura Rush, communications manager for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, says there is something fun for everyone to do in Geneva. She recommends starting with the Geneva Arts Fair, which happens on July 25 and 26 along South Third Street, downtown. More than 155 artists are expected to display their fine art in media such as drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramic, glass and textile. There will also be activities for children.
“I always think the summer should be the time to do something new, and Geneva has so much to offer, I am confident that ‘something new’ is close by,” Rush says.
Geneva’s downtown shopping district is a good place to start your search. The neighborhood’s more than 140 specialty shops sell trendy clothing, elegant home decor, specialty cookware, designer jewelry, stylish shoes and exclusive treasures.
Landmark local eateries, such as Stockholm’s brewpub, and award-winning restaurants provide both casual and sophisticated dining for every taste preference. Local lodgings provide cushy overnight accommodations.
The River Park Summer Concert Series delivers diverse performances on July 19 and 26 at 6 p.m. Bring a lawn chair or a comfy blanket and sprawl out across the park, which is located on the bank of the Fox River, just north of Hamilton Street. Performers play until sunset.
Music lovers will also enjoy the Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival on Sept. 6 and 7, when musicians share their talents through concerts, hands-on workshops, topical song and story workshops, and classes in dance, voice and instruments.
For the outdoorsy, many green parks and open spaces provide trails for biking, running, walking or relaxing along the river. A favorite is Peck Farm Park, located on the city’s west side, where visitors can see hundreds of butterflies fluttering about.
Just a mile south of downtown, the Fabyan Villa Museum and its breathtaking Japanese Gardens are open to the public on Wednesdays, Thursdays and weekends.
This 100-year-old estate belonged to businessman George Fabyan and his wife Nelle, who hired Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907 to construct their lavish residence. Visitors can reach the 300-acre property, now owned by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, from IL Rt. 31.
Even sports fans can find something to enjoy in Geneva, especially at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, where they can see Major League Baseball’s up-and-comers. The stadium is home to the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For more information on Geneva, go online to geneva.il.us.
Quad Cities: Make Memories Around the Waterfront
Fun times are waiting where the Rock and Mississippi rivers meet. The Quad Cities are a watery playground comprised of five communities: Moline, East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa. From our region, take Interstate 88 to reach the area quickly, or weave around the Mighty Mississippi on the more scenic Great River Road. With endless activities, the area is staying busy all summer.
The John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline provides fun for the whole family. With interactive exhibits and engaging displays, the museum of John Deere tractors and machinery is a must-see spot for Jessica Waytenick, public relations and marketing manager for the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It’s fun to climb on the equipment,” she says.
Another of Waytenick’s favorite destinations is the Skybridge, in downtown Davenport. More than a pedestrian overpass, this cable-stayed bridge that runs 50 feet above River Drive enables panoramic views of the Mississippi River, and at night is lit by a kaleidoscope of colors.
When it comes to accommodations, several unique hotels provide comfortable lodgings. For a historic setting, Hotel Blackhawk in downtown Davenport celebrates its 100th birthday this year. Recently renovated to match its former glory, this landmark destination is plush with modern amenities.
Another Davenport highlight is Modern Woodmen Park, where you can catch a baseball game with the Quad Cities River Bandits, a minor-league affiliate of the Houston Astros. But baseball isn’t the park’s only attraction.
“Along with the new Ferris Wheel that stands 105 feet above the playing field, there’s a longer dual zip line, rock climbing wall, Drop’N Twist vertical ride and the Space Camp gyroscope ride,” Waytenick says. “It was voted the best minor league park in America.”
There’s no shortage of riverside restaurants to please your appetite. The Captain’s Table in Moline is known for its delicious seafood, steak and spirits, a made-from-scratch approach to dining, and incredible views of the Mississippi. Waytenick also recommends Front Street Brewery in downtown Davenport, one of Iowa’s oldest brewpubs and a cozy joint known for its burgers, beer and outdoor seating.
Playing in or on the water is a huge part of summertime in the Quad Cities. A variety of river cruises, such as the Channel Cat Water Taxi and the Celebration Belle, move travelers up and down the river daily.
But don’t fret if you’re a land-lover. An abundance of biking, walking and hiking trails are located throughout the area’s parks and forest preserves, including the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island. The rolling hills at this wooded park were once home to American Indians and early settlers.
The area’s vibrant cultural scene includes gems such as Genesius Guild, an outdoor theater in Rock Island that welcomes an unusual array of arts. Experience professional ballet, opera in English, Greek tragedy in mask, Greek comedy in contemporary re-writes, Shakespearean comedies and tragedies, and more at Lincoln Park.
Outdoor concerts and an abundance of festivals also commence this summer. Professional golfers tee up at the John Deere Classic, this year from July 9-12, while locals play tug-of-war across the Mighty Mississippi at Tug Fest this Aug. 13-15. Commemorate jazz legend Bix Beiderbecke at a festival in his honor from July 31-Aug. 1, or experience the culture of the Caribbean at Ya Maka My Weekend from Aug. 14-15.
Explore more information about the Quad Cities at VisitQuadCities.com.
Rockford: Celebrate Summertime in a Rising Social Scene
Hidden gems are scattered everywhere throughout Rockford, making it a fun place to explore. From the luscious greenery at Rock Cut State Park to the eclectic boutiques within the Edgebrook shopping district, there’s no shortage of exciting activities to engage in this summer.
Rockford has a big-city feel, but its best attractions come at a reasonable price, says Andrea Mandala, marketing and communications manager at the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She appreciates how Rockford has a variety of family-friendly activities every day of the week, and how the area is enjoying an urban renaissance.
“Our region is truly on the rise, with a resurgence of activity and change happening each day,” Mandala says. “I love that our downtown is a cultural hotbed for artists and local entrepreneurs to live out their passions. It’s always an adventure exploring any of our parks, paths and recreational sites. The local brewery and foodie scenes continue to get recognized on top lists throughout the country, and our family-friendly museums and attractions are great places to help tell the stories of our history and the discoveries we’ve made along the way.”
At the top of Mandala’s must-do list is Anderson Japanese Gardens, on Spring Creek Road. One of the top-rated Japanese gardens in North America, these 12 acres of tranquil landscape contain meticulously placed rocks, trees and paths designed to re-energize visitors.
All summer, garden visitors can experience a live music series on Tuesday evenings at 5 p.m. The public is invited to bring a picnic dinner or purchase food from on-site vendors, and enjoy listening to musical performers in a picturesque setting.
Adventure is all around during the summertime, whether it’s plunging down waterslides at Magic Waters Waterpark, off Interstate 90, or wakeboarding at West Rock Wake Park, on the city’s west side.
Mandala recommends biking, canoeing or fishing at Rock Cut State Park, with an entrance off Illinois Route 173. Across the park’s more than 3,000 acres, visitors can spot foxes, deer, muskrats, woodchucks and other furry friends amongst the abundant hiking and horseback riding trails. More than 270 campsites provide easy overnight accommodations.
The weekly Friday Night Flix series provides relaxing evenings all summer long at Davis Park, in downtown Rockford. Bring a blanket or lawn chair and enjoy family-friendly films such as “Despicable Me,” “101 Dalmatians” and “Toy Story 3.” Films start at 7 p.m. and admission is free.
Further up the Rock River, the historic Prairie Street Brewhouse hosts Dinner on the Dock every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. Held on the docks outside the Brewhouse, this weekly party includes the Brewhouse’s craft beers, local musical acts and delicious food.
“Watching someone relax and sing along at Dinner on the Dock is truly one of my all-time favorite experiences,” Mandala says.
To learn more about summertime fun in Rockford, visit gorockford.com.
Rocky Waters Vineyard & Winery: Excellent Views, Wine, Fishing & Hospitality
If the idea of a serene and private setting with a plush fishing cabin appeals to you, set against the backdrop of vineyards and a winery, you may want to consider a getaway to Rocky Waters Vineyard & Winery, 2003 W. Hanover Road, Hanover.
Jared and Phyllis Spahn established this idyllic vineyard in 1997, before the renaissance of winemaking in northern Illinois had fully wakened. Their operation has been recognized by Midwest Living magazine as one of the “Top Places To Visit” for five consecutive years.
“The view of and from the lodge at Rocky Waters Vineyard and Winery was featured in Hollywood films for three consecutive years beginning in 2012,” says Jared.
The 25-acre vineyard perched on a bluff in hilly Jo Daviess County offers lovely views and tranquil places to sit and enjoy them. There’s a gift shop, tasting room and spacious deck for relaxing with a glass of wine.
Fourteen wines are made on the property, 100 percent from grapes grown there, such as Marechal Foch, Leon Millot, St. Croix and white varietals of Lacrosse and St. Pepin. Every wine sold has won a medal, and 32 of the medals were won in international wine competitions with judges from around the world.
“Rocky Waters has earned 40 medals in 5 years of entering competitions,” says Jared. “Of the 40 medals, 32 have been in international competitions with between 3,000 and 4,000 wines entered, representing about 950 wineries from around the world.”
The winery offers a Case Club and Wine of the Month Club.
A few best-selling wines:
Tower Red is made from Marechal Foch grapes. It’s dry, fruity and aged in French oak, giving it a hint of dark chocolate on the finish.
Wild Turkey Blush is semi-dry Marechal Foch that’s complex and fruity, very clean and offers a hint of cranberry on the finish.
Meadow Blush is made from Sweet Leon Millot grapes and is sweet and very fruity, with a very soft, smooth finish and hint of cherry.
Live music is offered on the deck occasionally. Weddings, corporate events and other private parties are accommodated. The gift shop and tasting room are open daily, Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The winery and vineyard are closed some holidays, so consult rockywaters.net or call (815) 591-9706 before visiting.
Savanna, Ill.: Seek Some Small-Town Fun on the Mississippi
The remote city of Savanna, Ill., may be small, but it sure knows how to have fun. A haven for outdoors enthusiasts, Savanna is set on the Mississippi River and The Great River Road, which follows Illinois Route 84. Whether you get there by car or by boat, you’re in for a gorgeous getaway.
Savanna is the beginning of The Great River Trail, an exhilarating 65-mile bicycle path that leads to the Quad Cities. Bikers, runners and walkers can marvel at the landscape while they explore the winding paths, says Pam Brown, executive director of the Savanna Chamber of Commerce.
She also suggests stopping by the area’s many parks for hiking, biking, golfing, bird watching and picnicking. A favorite is the 2,500-acre Mississippi Palisades State Park, which offers scenic overlooks, deep ravines and rugged trails. Visitors may fish, boat, hunt and camp.
When it comes to unwinding, however, Brown prefers another spot. “Nothing is more relaxing than sitting in Marquette Park, watching the river roll along,” she says.
The riverside park hosts the annual Shadfly Festival, this year on Aug. 21. Whereas most festivals host a parade on the streets, this one happens on the water, with a parade of boats, each adorned in colorful lights. There will also be live music, food and beverages, vendors and a raffle.
During the day, visitors can enjoy the Savanna Museum and Cultural Center’s memorable “Gallery of Civil War Soldiers” exhibit. The collection portrays the life’s work of local history teacher Gene Wright, who handmade more than 100 life-sized mannequins donned in Civil War-era clothing.
Each mannequin tells a unique story, from the 12-year-old drummer boy to the woman soldier disguised as a man. The museum is open on weekends only, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Continue walking through history in Savanna’s quaint downtown. Its shops provide some exciting finds, such as the newly opened College Street Creations, which specializes in handcrafted home decor, jewelry, uncommon trinkets and more. Plus, it’s fun for kids (and adults) to draw masterpieces on the chalkboard wall.
Just up the street, Frank Fritz from History Channel’s “American Pickers” sells plenty of old and unusual items inside his store, called Frank Fritz Finds. His collection is unique and ever-growing, and customers can sell him their old motorcycles, toys and antiques. Watch him on TV or meet him in person.
Also downtown, you’ll find many family-friendly restaurants. Manny’s Pizza is famous for catering to lovers of pizza and tacos. Cafe Crumbles and Kountry Kettle are highly regarded among locals for breakfast and lunch.
Just outside of town, the family-friendly biker destination Poopy’s Pub ‘n’ Grub now serves “poop pies,” (otherwise known as homemade pizza) along with its ever-popular burgers.
Who says small towns aren’t fun? Discover more about Savanna at VisitSavanna.com.
Wauconda: A Big Bang in a Small Town
Get ready for some friendly faces and serious outdoor fun.
A perfect small-town getaway, the quaint village of Wauconda, in Lake County, has long been remembered for its historical attractions, good food, scenic lakefront and family-friendly events.
“Wauconda has a very unique downtown with great shops,” says Alise Homola, executive administrative assistant for the Village of Wauconda. “We received 2015 top picks for our community parade, festivals and, most of all, our restaurants.”
One of locals’ favorite eateries is Slyce Coal Fired Pizza, which prides itself on a simple menu and fresh ingredients. Open Tuesday through Sunday for dinner, Slyce serves up 15 types of oven-fired or custom-ordered pizzas. Extra-adventurous eaters may enjoy Frank’s Karma Cafe, a local spot named after the owner’s deceased German Shepherd. True to the restaurant’s name, patrons can enjoy whatever the kitchen decides to serve that day, even homemade desserts.
Wauconda’s best entertainment is water-related, says Homola. She recommends boating, paddle boarding and participating in water sports on beautiful Bangs Lake. With its natural glacial water, this lake is one of Chicagoland’s most popular destinations for family recreation. Its brief appearance in the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers,” combined with its pristine beaches, makes the lake a memorable place to play.
The water provides a scenic backdrop for lakeside dining, which visitors can enjoy at Lindy’s Landing and at Docks Bar & Grill. Both places have outdoor seating, banquet spaces, live entertainment on weekends, and a wide assortment of wines, spirits and imported beers.
The outdoor fun continues at Lakewood Forest Preserve, where visitors can explore multiple trails for hiking and horseback riding. Furry friends are welcome at the preserve’s dog park and pond. Lakewood is the county’s largest forest preserve and is also home to the Lake County Discovery Museum, a fun and interactive museum that’s kid-friendly and filled with exhibitions on local culture.
Visitors will also enjoy the village farmers’ market happening every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. on Main Street. Vendors sell a variety of plants and flowers, locally grown fresh fruits and veggies, savory spices and herbs, and multiple varieties of homemade jams and honeys. Crafters sell their artwork, jewelry and homemade household items.
Main Street is also the happening spot where this year’s 16th Annual Street Dance happens on Sept. 5, from 3 to 11 p.m. The event is free to the public and offers live music, beverages, food and, of course, plenty of dancing in the streets. Visitors near and far are welcome to celebrate with the community.
When it comes to historical attractions, the Andrew C. Cook House is a “must-see” spot, Homola says. The area’s first non-log cabin dwelling is now a museum commemorating the Civil War era and previous owners Andrew and Mary Cook, who raised their nine children in the house.
For out-of-town visitors, overnight accommodations are available in nearby Lake Zurich and Fox River Grove.
To discover more information, visit Wauconda-il.gov.