Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Lake Geneva Cruise Line
812 Wrigley Dr., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-6206, cruiselakegeneva.com
Operated by Gage Marine, this cruise line offers guided boat tours that show off the best architecture, charm and elegance along Geneva Lake.
Through the late 1800s and early 1900s, wealthy Chicago families made Geneva Lake their summer getaway, and a century later their stately homes still decorate the lakeshore – mixed among many more recent additions. All of Lake Geneva Cruise Line’s tours give you a closer look at the homes.
There are many types of tours to choose from. The cocktail cruise serves up plenty of live entertainment and a cash bar. There’s a romantic sunset dinner cruise, which includes an elegant dinner with a narrated tour; the popular ice cream social tour serves up cold treats and a little local history.
If you’re into live music, a jazz dinner cruise features live music and a meal. The always-popular Mail Boat tour takes you along on the daily postal delivery.
The cruise line has a fleet of eight boats. The oldest, the Steam Boat Louise, was acquired in the 1930s; the Duchess, the most recent addition, joined the fleet in 2006.
The tour season runs daily from May 31 through Oct. 31.
McHenry Outdoor Theater
1510 N. Chapel Hill Road, McHenry, (847) 362-3011, goldenagecinemas.com
This outdoor theater, which is the only one remaining in Chicagoland, has been providing memorable moments for families since the 1950s.
Just as it did in the golden age of the automobile, this outdoor theater invites people to enjoy a new movie release in the comfort of their car – or in close proximity. And, it serves up a double-feature every night.
The modernized digital sound and projection equipment allow movies to be seen crystal-clear on a large, jumbo screen, while the audio is broadcast through radio checkouts, portable stereos and car radios on 89.9 FM.
The classic concession stand serves up many snacks during the night. It’s a source of pride, because the concessions are a primary means of funding the outdoor theater.
Releases change regularly, so the best way to follow the schedule is on Facebook and Instagram.
The outdoor theater is open daily until mid-August. Tickets must be purchased nightly at the gate, which opens at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Start time varies through the season.
The Wild Rose Farm Bell
215 E. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 584-6967
Perched outside the St. Charles History Museum is a large ship bell that’s traveled a long way over the past 150 years.
Cast in Kentucky in 1868, the bell served a series of steamboats through the late 1800s. In 1904, while carrying passengers to the St. Louis World’s Fair, the boat sank to the bottom of the Mississippi River. The bell was recovered and delivered to Red Leak Plantation in Arkansas.
In 1915, the bell made its return to New Orleans and rang in the Mardi Gras parade that year.
The bell was auctioned off in 1920 and purchased by Herbert Crane of St. Charles, who brought the bell home and hung it in a tower on his Wild Rose Farm. It rang at the start of and end of each workday and alerted the field workers when dinner was ready.
The bell stayed at the farm, even after the Rosensteel and Lappin families developed the Crane Road Estates neighborhood there in 1986.
The bell remained on the farm until 2007, when the Rosensteel family donated the bell to the St. Charles History Museum. It currently sits on the patio, just outside the museum.