Time for a weekend escape! Here are some great getaway spots to visit.
DeKalb County: Where Something Special Happens in Autumn
By Pat Szpekowski
As the summer season slowly fades away, there’s something special about the anticipation of fall. The notion of picking fresh apples from a tree, choosing the best and biggest pumpkins, and breathing in the fresh country air appeals to just about everyone. The time is now.
“DeKalb County is the perfect place to plan a fall family getaway,” says Bonnie Heimbach, interim director of the DeKalb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re home to many family-owned farms and orchards that focus on bringing the best to you during this beautiful time of the year.”
The fun unfolds as you take a self-guided tour of these special farms while meandering the country roads around Malta, Maple Park, Waterman and DeKalb. Each destination provides its own special touch to heighten the fall spirits.
Jonamac Orchard, in Malta, features more than 10,000 apple trees representing more than two dozen tasty varieties. Enjoy “everything apple” inside the store and bakery. While you’re there, be sure to visit the campfire spots, a petting zoo, a hay pile, an apple train and a 10-acre corn maze that becomes “haunted” at night. The Cider House, filled with hundreds of unique items, shows off the process of brewing delicious apple cider.
Be sure to try apple picking at the 230-acre Kuipers Family Farm, in Maple Park, with its 5-acre, 2-mile corn maze. Enjoy hayrides, farm animals, a haunted forest, tractor tire mountain, and much more. The Orchard Shop and Bakery provide fresh apple cider donuts and many home-baked pies and treats. In November, the farm switches gears for the winter holidays.
Theis Farm Market, also in Maple Park, has pumpkins, gourds, squash, corn stalks, Indian corn and straw, plus fresh eggs, homegrown popcorn, and honey from bees on the farm. It’s a place filled with simple pleasures.
Fall memories await at the Honey Hill Orchard in Waterman. Explore the 1880s converted Apple Barn with its craft/gift loft. Choose from more than 25 varieties of fresh-picked apples. Savor the fresh-baked pies and caramel apples, apple cider donuts, and crisp apple cider.
Still yearning for more of the essence of fall? Visit the Harvest Playland at Yaeger’s Farm Market in DeKalb. Take some time and enjoy a hayride through the corn field as you head to the hidden pumpkin patch.
Yaeger’s also boasts a 5-acre corn maze, straw pyramid, wooden castle, ship and train. That’s just the beginning of so many more things to do.
Hungry? There are apples, caramel apples, caramel apple cookies, plus so many more butters, jellies, jams, pie fillings and fancy fall foods to take home and enjoy.
Fun times beckon throughout DeKalb County, especially as fall gives way to winter. “Holiday events are a great destination to enjoy here, too,” adds Heimbach, “including the Holiday Lights with Pete’s Train.”
Kids will enjoy the 300,000 lights and figures that make up Pete’s Train at Waterman Lion Community Park in Waterman. Glide on the free train ride through the park and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate, too. Santa comes down from the North Pole to visit kids every Friday through Sunday during the season.
There’s so much to do in DeKalb County this time of year that you’re sure be asking, “Are we there yet?”
Visit dekalbcvb.org to learn more.
Time to Visit to Geneva: A Season for Making New Traditions
By Farren Washington
For those who look wistfully upon summer’s end, planning a fun fall trip can chase away the blues, especially in the quaint city of Geneva, where a wide variety of events can entertain the entire family.
“Any time our businesses or partners – including Geneva Park District, Geneva Public Library, Geneva History Museum – have events, people want to come to them,” says Laura Rush, communications manager at the Geneva Chamber of Commerce. “While Geneva is a beautiful and fun place any time of the year, an event is an added bonus. Geneva is a picture-perfect destination.”
The fall season was ushered in with September’s Festival of the Vine, a long-running tribute to local food and wine. But it’s just the beginning of this season of fun.
October Thrills and Chills
On Oct. 19, the Geneva Park District transforms its Stephen Persinger Recreation Center into a haunted mansion worthy of Halloween. Guests are given a tour of Madame Klara’s house of horrors and participate in an escape room-type event. Raffle prizes and games take place throughout the evening. Pizza, soda, alcoholic beverages and other refreshments are available for purchase. Pre-registration is highly recommended.
The following weekend, Geneva Park District’s Halloween Hayday presents a Halloween-themed egg hunt as well as kids’ games, arts and crafts, a costume contest, science experiments and hay rides. Games and activities run from 10:00 a.m. to noon, with family magician Jaime Aponte performing from 12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
A half-hour later, the Howl O’ Ween Dog Parade embarks just outside at Peck Farm Park. Prizes will be awarded for the most outrageous, creative and scariest costumes. For information and registration, visit genevaparks.org or call (630) 232-4542.
Magical Holiday Season
November brings its own set of fun, especially as Geneva’s downtown merchants gear up for the busy holiday shopping season. Come Black Friday, the rush is on.
Nothing tops Geneva’s kickoff to Christmas, scheduled this year for Dec. 6-7.
“The first Friday and Saturday is our Christmas Walk and Holiday House Tour, where visitors and residents have been coming for over 20 years,” says Rush. “It’s a tradition for most, and now older generations are bringing younger generations.”
Friday evening kicks off with Graham’s Chocolates presenting the First Candy Cane of the Season, followed by the arrival of Santa Lucia (the Swedish symbol of the season). She’ll be offering cookies to visitors. Santa Claus arrives and then opens his gingerbread home for visits from delighted children.
All Chocolate Kitchen, on Third Street, plans to re-create its Guinness World Record-breaking candy cane with a 10-foot replica for the public to savor.
Revelers can also enjoy self-guided tours of five exquisite Geneva homes, decked out in holiday splendor by local decorators. These homes will be open Dec. 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Dec. 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tickets are $35 per person and include a traditional holiday tea. Proceeds are used to decorate the city for the holiday season. Tickets are available through the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, which presents the weekend festivities with the support of the City of Geneva. Call (630) 232-6060, or go online to genevachamber.com to order tickets. Tickets are on sale starting in mid-October.
Holidays in Geneva are all about tradition, so be prepared to make some unique and special events part of your family’s new traditions.
Starved Rock Lodge: Have You Been to One Lodge Lane?
By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge
Nestled in the middle of Starved Rock State Park is a one-of-a-kind destination that sits high atop a bluff overlooking the scenic Illinois River.
Located at One Lodge Lane in Oglesby, Ill., Starved Rock Lodge is more than just a historic hotel. There’s a restaurant on-site that serves award-winning prime rib, local fare and gluten-friendly options, among plenty of other dishes. There’s also a cafe featuring decadent flavors of ice cream and fudge made at the Lodge. The indoor pool is a favorite for families and multi-generational travelers.
Outdoor dining on the Veranda offers the best views in all of LaSalle County. Just steps away from the trails is the Back Door Lounge, which has a delicious menu and serves locally made craft beer to match.
You can also book trolley tours, river cruises and guided hikes to truly enjoy the natural wonders at Starved Rock.
There’s no better way to explore the deep sandstone canyons and seasonal waterfalls than with a guided hike offered each Saturday and Sunday at Starved Rock. A boxed lunch is included, and reservations are required. If you prefer a bigger challenge, try hiking all the canyons in one day by saying yes to the MegaHike on Sept. 28-29.
Autumn puts fall-themed fun “on-tap” at the historic 1930s-era Lodge with a keg tapping on Sept. 29. German music by the Duseldorfers Band fills the air while the annual Woodcarvers Expo takes place in the Great Hall. Woodchips fly throughout the day at a live chainsaw carving demonstration.
The annual “Hike for a Cure” breast cancer fundraiser departs from the Veranda on Sunday, Oct. 6. A preview party on Oct. 5, from 8 to 11 p.m., brings pink drinks and an all-girl band to the Veranda.
A tasty menu of German food, beer, wine and music will be featured at two upcoming Oktoberfest Dinners slated for Oct. 19 and 20, which is also Fall Colors Weekend. Fall Colors Trolley Tours are offered on Mondays and Saturdays at 9:30 and 11 a.m. throughout October, so leaf lovers can get their fill of fall foliage before the colorful autumn array disappears.
Take in the sights of the season aboard the “Autumn on the River” cruise, which departs every Thursday and Friday at 11 a.m.
The ambiance of the historic Great Hall makes a lovely setting for the Rosie & The Rivets tribute show on Oct. 28-29. A hot lunch buffet is included with your ticket.
Gift cards are available for purchase online and may be used for tribute shows, lodging, dining, tours, souvenirs and more.
Upcoming events include holiday buffets on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Tickets are also on sale now for the Lodge’s annual New Year’s Eve Party in the Great Hall.
Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and a reminder that this is a place where the past is always present.
Book overnight stays, tours and events at starvedrocklodge.com or by calling (815) 220-7386.