Recreation & Destinations

NWQ Summer Getaway Guide

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Our region offers endless opportunities for holiday escapes. Here are a few ideas for an easy weekend getaway this summer.

See if you can spot all of the barn quilts around McHenry County when you follow the DeKalb County Barn Quilt Trail this summer. (Bob Myers photo)

Get It Fresh From the Farm in DeKalb County

By Pat Szpekowski

Make plans this summer to enjoy the savory rewards this season brings. Grab your cooler, hop in the car and head out for a pleasant drive through the scenic rural areas of DeKalb County. Along the way, encounter a local farm stand or farmers market and look out for the colorful barn quilt proudly displayed on a family’s barn.

“Visit DeKalb County and bring the farm to your home table,” invites Debbie Armstrong, executive director of DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We are home to four farmers markets and many other farm stands throughout DeKalb County,” Armstrong adds. “You’ll find many fresh, favorite treats that have been just-picked from a local family-owned farm on the same day. No matter which direction your car takes you, there’s a farmers market nearby in DeKalb, Genoa, Sandwich and Sycamore.”

Be prepared to stop, shop and discover a bounty of fresh and local agricultural products close to home. Fill a sack with familiar favorites or try something new. Each farmers market offers its own special take on a variety of specially grown fruits and vegetables. Find the sweetest corn to butter up for the next dinner, picnic or outing. Forget the hot-house tomatoes this summer when the juiciest varieties of ripe-from-the-vine tomatoes are waiting to dress up a salad or sandwich.

In addition to these tasty summer staples, most farmers markets offer their own specialty products, such as farm-fresh eggs; locally grown, fresh-from-the-beehive honey; and homemade condiments, relishes, jams, salsas and olive oils.

Local artisans offer beautiful pottery selections to perk up any kitchen table decor; bouquets of richly scented, locally grown flowers are ready to enhance that special find.

If you’re looking for another fascinating drive this summer, try learning about the barn quilt tradition while you take a self-guided tour along the DeKalb County Barn Quilt Trail. “The DeKalb County Convention & Visitors Bureau worked with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau and Bob Myers, of HAWK Arial Imagery, to curate a list of our county’s barn quilts,” explains Armstrong.

What is a barn quilt? It’s a single, uniquely designed quilt-style block typically painted on a detachable canvas and displayed on the side of a barn or other farm structure. Each barn quilt is custom designed. It can highlight the owner’s family history or hobbies, reflect patriotism, represent local or family quilt designs, or honor a family pet. Each one is created straight from the heart.

The barn quilt movement started with a star quilt fashioned in 2001 by Donna Sue Groves in Ohio. “Today, that movement has taken root in DeKalb County, where 40-plus barn quilts are scattered on farms throughout the county,” adds Armstrong.

The DeKalb County Barn Quilt Trail is broken into five distinctive legs, allowing visitors to explore the self-guided tour at their own pace.

“The trail is a great complement to pair with the DeKalb County Barn Tour event taking place on Aug. 11,” adds Armstrong. This one-day driving tour of select barn sites is jointly hosted by the DeKalb Agricultural Heritage Association and the Joseph F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center.

For more information on local farmers markets, barn quilts and many a scenic summer drive, visit dekalbcountycvb.com.

The Geneva Inn, in Lake Geneva, is resurrecting its supper club menu, delivering numerous supper club staples and a three-course menu.

A Taste of Wisconsin at Geneva Inn

By Pat Szpekowski

There’s still time to make an ordinary summer something extraordinary. Melt the stress away while discovering the grand traditions and pampering services of a longtime favorite lakeside location.

And you won’t need to board an airplane to get there.

The Geneva Inn, in Lake Geneva, is reinventing itself and adding several unique lakeside comforts for guests and vacationers to enjoy.

This popular year-round retreat, located on the scenic shores of Geneva Lake, is unveiling inventive ways to bring back great traditions that honor its heritage.

New patio amenities, revitalized turn-down services, and the return of an old dining favorite make the panoramic lakeside views and spectacular colors of a sunset even sweeter to embrace this summer.

“To further enhance our first-class hospitality for patio diners, we have revamped our seasonal lakeside patio food and drink menu and have added the special ambience of a cozy fire pit to tame the cool days and nights,” says Kara O’Dempsey, general manager. “We’re also providing live music every Wednesday through Sunday night, through September, to entertain our patio guests as they sit and relax.”

The patio food and drink menu has also been transformed. Enjoy delectable offerings such as chopped salads, burgers, seafood and more from the Geneva Inn’s own food truck.

There’s even more in store. “Come and discover our exceptional hospitality,” adds O’Dempsey. “Whether you arrive for just a day or stay for an extended period of time, we’ve revitalized our new classic turn-down service, giving a nod to cognac and chocolate. We are also pleased to offer daily complimentary coffee for our guests.”

The Geneva Inn is already well-known for its charming accommodations and award-winning cuisine. Now, it’s taking a big step forward in resurrecting a famed dining destination.

“We have now re-launched The Grandview Restaurant and Supper Club,” O’Dempsey says. “It features a new menu with past fan favorites, as well as a refreshed lineup of Lake Geneva’s most compelling selection of globally inspired cuisine infused with Midwestern touches.”

A welcome surprise is the addition of an all-new Supper Club portion of the menu.

“It will both satisfy appetites and bring back nostalgic memories of a timeless, tried-and-true Wisconsin tradition and experience,” adds O’Dempsey. The menu will include tempting Wisconsin supper club staples and a three-course menu with your choice of soup or salad, entree and a dessert.

Savor a Grandview Salad with spinach, fennel, strawberry, candied pecan and goat cheese, dressed with honey chive vinaigrette. Enjoy the comfort of the made-in-house soup du jour. Indulge taste buds with a succulent steak or seafood platter. Sip a sweet handcrafted brandy mixed into an Old Fashioned cocktail.

The cozy waterfront restaurant with a refreshed environment is a popular dining destination, in part because it offers a relaxed and elegant atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner any time of the year. Of course, it also delivers those unexpected and much-appreciated views of Geneva Lake.

For more information, and to set a dining reservation, visit genevainn.com or call (262) 248-5680.

Anderson Japanese Gardens puts on a “Tuesday Evening in the Gardens” music series every Tuesday at 5 p.m. The series has become a Rockford staple. (Rockford Area CVB photos)

Rockford’s Ready for the Summer Season

By Cira Bennett

There has been a strong push in the Rockford region to offer events and activities that are new, exciting, nostalgic and infused with Rockford Pride.

“The Rockford community has a big event lineup in store this year,” says Andrea Cook, associate director of marketing and communications for the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Each one gives people an opportunity to gather together to enjoy things like live entertainment, our local makers, and, most of all, the scenic beauty that can only be found by coming to visit us in the Rockford region.”

Those who are looking for a little more arts and culture can tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Laurent House, the only building the famed architect designed for a person with disabilities, and the only structure he designed in Rockford. Tours begin at Midway Village Museum – another place to explore local history and culture throughout the summer.

Closer to downtown, the Riverfront Museum Park campus encompasses the Discovery Center children’s museum, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Dance Company, Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Northern Illinois Public Radio offices and Burpee Museum of Natural History. Each organization boasts many of its own attractions and entertainment lineups that are packed with family-friendly activities.

When the weather heats up later in the summer, there are various Rockford Park District pools to choose from, along with Magic Waters Waterpark. Another way to make waves is wakeboarding at West Rock Wake Park at Levings Lake. Located off U.S. Route 20 on Rockford’s southwest side, West Rock removes the need for a boat to wakeboard because boarders instead are pulled by a cable system. While you’re playing at West Rock, enjoy some other amenities like volleyball courts, basketball courts and barbecue pits.

Rockford has many other staples that people look forward to, such as the Tuesday Evening in the Gardens music series at Anderson Japanese Gardens, the Dinner on the Docks music series Thursday nights at Prairie Street Brewhouse, Rockford City Market around Water Street on Friday nights, and River District’s Shop the Blocks – a downtown event where visitors can shop sidewalk sale deals and experience alfresco dinning.

Visitors can also kick back and relax in “parklets,” which are selected downtown parking spaces turned into temporary, interactive spaces where you can connect with friends, play a game of life-size chess and enjoy other “chillaxing” activities.

At the end of summer, Rockford closes out the season with a citywide celebration called 815 Day, or Rockford Day. Playing off the city’s primary area code of 815, the annual event, held (of course) on Aug. 15, showcases the people, places and things that make Rockford great, with fun and interactive experiences throughout the city. Area businesses, agencies and organizations feature Rockford Day discounts, activities, products and services throughout the day.

To find out more about these and other events, visit gorockford.com.

Take a short drive to Starved Rock Lodge & State Park, in Utica, Ill., and enjoy “Visit a Canyon with a Boat Ride Tour,” which includes a trolley ride, guided hike to Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon, and a 90-minute boat ride. (Kathy Casstevens photos)

There’s Something Every Day at Starved Rock

By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge

Why wait for the weekend for an overnight getaway? Starved Rock Lodge & State Park, in Oglesby, Ill., has added more fun things to its summer calendar.

A variety of mid-week overnight packages are available, and each includes activities from horseback riding and Gator Creek Cruises to wine tasting. Of course, hiking is also a popular activity because of the beautiful canyons, seasonal waterfalls and stunning bluff views of the scenic Illinois River Valley.

One of the area’s best experiences is to have lunch on the Veranda at Starved Rock. This year, visitors can enjoy new furniture and an improvement to the east-side seating area, which now boasts the best view in LaSalle County. Try locally made craft beer from Tangled Roots, or Signature Ale made by Leinenkugel, along with a freshly grilled brat or burger. The Veranda is a popular place to relax before or after a hike, while The Back Door Lounge and Main Dining Room offer a cool respite on hot summer days.

The rich history of Starved Rock is best shared aboard one of the Lodge’s Historic Trolley Tours, which depart daily and give visitors an overview of the legends, unique landscape and cultural heritage of the area.

On Monday and Friday, Land & Water Cruises on Eagle I include a trolley tour, lunch and boat ride on the Illinois River. For a late-day adventure, choose the Dinner and Evening Cruise, offered on Mondays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m.

New this year is the “Visit a Canyon with a Boat Ride Tour,” which departs every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. This tour includes a trolley ride, guided hike to Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon, plus a 90-minute boat ride. On Thursday, the “Trolley Tour and Boat Ride” departs at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

One way to spend a summer afternoon is by enjoying a “Tribute to the Stars” show. See your favorite legends come to life on stage, including Patsy Cline, The Beatles and Elvis Presley, and listen to a few Broadway favorites, too.

On July 12, the annual Country Showdown kicks off at 7 p.m. on the Veranda. Talented vocalists compete for a cash prize and the chance to move on to the national competition at the Grand Ole Opry.

In addition, Starved Rock Lodge has teamed up with Revolution Brewing Company for the first-ever Revolution Craft Beer Dinner on Thursday, July 25, which includes trolley transportation and delicious food and beer pairings at the Lodge, the LaSalle County Historical Society Museum in nearby Utica and Social Kitchen in LaSalle.

Lodge rooms and cabins are available year-round. They’re just steps away from the Lodge and a walk in the woods, which creates memorable experiences for people of all ages.

To learn more about Starved Rock Lodge’s many summer events and activities, visit starvedrocklodge.com or call (815) 667-4211.

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