Time for a road trip! Here are some great getaway spots just a tank of gas away.
DeKalb County: Leave the City and Find a Bold Spirit
By Pat Szpekowski
There’s something special about taking a summer ride in the country to explore and experience new adventures. Whether it’s antiquing, shopping or visiting farmers markets, it’s a fun treat to capture a rare find and sample the very best wines, craft beers and bold spirits locally produced in DeKalb County.
“Nowhere is the pride of craftsmanship more apparent than within the breweries, wineries and distilleries of DeKalb County,” says Erin Reynolds, interim executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “From award-winning wines to signature craft beer to hard spirits enjoyed by visitors from around the world, these makers produce bold flavors that can’t be found anywhere else.”
There are five such establishments located within a short drive of the city of DeKalb, located in the heart of the county.
“These local treasures will leave visitors with a newfound sense of appreciation for the talent, work and results produced by some of the finest liquid craftsmen in the U.S.,” adds Reynolds. “They all provide tours of their winemaking, brewing and distilling expertise.”
The Forge Brewhouse, in DeKalb, is more than a taproom. It’s a working brewery where owner and operator James Heinrich and his wife co-owner, Lisa, take their craft very seriously. Ingredients are locally sourced wherever possible, whether it’s hazelnuts from Chicago or apples and pumpkins from nearby Jonamac Orchard. The Forge offers 13 beers on tap and a popular root beer.
Whiskey Acres in DeKalb began with a dream. Fifth-generation farmer Jamie Walter and his partner have grown every ounce of corn, rye, barley and wheat on the family farm to produce flavors unlike what’s found anywhere else. Have a drink on the distillery’s flagstone cocktail patio, take a tour, or enjoy some pours. While you’re there, you might consider booking a wedding, meeting, or party in the new 4,200-square-foot visitors center.
Not too far away, Jonamac Orchard, in Malta, is producing signature hard cider, apple wine and apple ale. The sprawling 105-acre farm offers up country hospitality and classic fall-time fun, plus fresh fruit and baked goods around late summer and fall. Juice from Jonamac’s apples is transported to Prairie State Winery in nearby Genoa, where it’s carefully fermented and bottled into 10 varieties of apple wine. Jonamac’s Cider House, open around orchard season from August to November, is the place to sample a spectrum of spirits.
Prairie State Winery and its Prairie on State Wine Cellars, in Sycamore, are the bold vision of former high school teachers Rick and Maria Mamoser.
Established in 1998, their winery has become well-known and their varieties have garnered many awards, including numerous Best of Class and Gold Medals. The lineup includes reds, whites, blushes, desserts and fruit favorites.
Waterman Winery & Vineyards, in Waterman, handcrafts regional wines as well. Its vineyard sits in a valley and appears as though it’s lifted from California wine country. Tastings of Waterman’s authentic, handcrafted red, white and fruit wines are available from April through December. Experience true rustic charm of a century-old farm and fresh countryside air during your visit.
“Make the trip and visit our makers,” says Reynolds. “Discover the bold spirits of DeKalb County.”
Find out more about these unique bold spirits and craftsmen at dekalbcountycvb.com.
The Geneva Inn: A Lakeside Getaway that Brings the Outside In
By Pat Szpekowski
Are daily chores and deadlines putting wear and tear on your personal energy? Why not take a well-deserved break and immerse in the peaceful, lakeside environment of The Geneva Inn?
Located on the glistening scenic shores of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, this cherished inn offers panoramic lakeside scenes with indulgent deluxe and luxury lake view rooms.
To further enhance its well-known customer ambiance and first-class hospitality, The Geneva Inn has recently gone the extra mile to bring the calming effect of the outside in.
“We have totally revived all of our Deluxe Rooms and repainted our grand exterior,” says Kara O’Dempsey, general manager of The Geneva Inn.
“Guests love our atmosphere, and we have purposely made changes to our rooms and inn to mirror the beauty of the lake. Soothing soft-blue and gray palettes adorn our rooms to capture the relaxation of life at the lake.”
The deluxe non-lake view rooms have been totally upgraded with brand-new floors and window treatments. Guests can opt for a room with a private balcony, too.
Luxury lake view rooms and suites are spacious and airy. Step onto the balcony to catch a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Spa-like amenities await guests with oversized soaking tubs. The inside decor reflects the serene aquatic mood.
“We pride ourselves on memorable personalized service to deliver the highest possible experience for all guests,” says O’Dempsey. “Come by boat, the shore path or by car to enjoy our outdoor patio, too.”
For a tasty breakfast, the indoor Grandview Restaurant, with a stunning lakeside view, offers an array of imaginative skillets, omelets and Benedict’s. More options include savory breakfast tacos or guacamole toast, as well as sweet options like melt-in-your-mouth lemon brioche French toast. For dinner, choose mouthwatering selections from land or sea, or a pre fixe Supper Club three-course meal.
O’Dempsey recommends the outdoor patio for enjoying menu specialties like shrimp ceviche, hot paninis, vegetarian wraps, tasty salads and scrumptious sides. Take the beautiful scenery as you sip a mimosa or a glass of wine while you’re out there. Enjoy a bloody mary cocktail or Spotted Cow beer – a sought-after Wisconsin treat.
Seasonal piers offer easy access to boats and charters.
“Our engaged staff makes a stay at The Geneva Inn most memorable and relaxing,” O’Dempsey says. “Take time for a weekend away with the girls or a romantic couple’s retreat. Coupled with our award-winning cuisine and charming accommodations, your pampered getaway will be complete.”
Find out more about special summer indulgences and luxuries at genevainn.com.
Lincoln Way Inn: Escape to an Eco-Friendly Retreat
By Rhonda Mix
If you’re looking for a fun and laid-back weekend getaway that’s surrounded by more than one type of “green,” check out Lincoln Way Inn, a cozy bed-and-breakfast located in Franklin Grove, just 90 miles west of Chicago.
Named after President Abraham Lincoln and the historic Lincoln Highway, the historic home is located right along America’s first transcontinental highway in a quaint small town.
“We specialize in creating a stay your way,” says Lisa Marie Ayres, who co-owns the inn with husband John. “An eco-friendly, sustainable getaway, Lincoln Way Inn offers more than just a room. It’s a chance to explore the allure of the prairies and experience a destination that engages you in the sights, sounds and tastes of the countryside. It’s an immersive getaway that reflects a balance of both elegance and ease, thoughtfully designed – a contemporary, peaceful retreat that’s surprisingly close to Chicago.”
Lincoln Way’s small inn hospitality is coupled with an eco-minded setting. Accommodations include all-organic, 100 percent cotton linens, robes and towels. Reusable glass water bottles are provided, and every room is cleaned with all-natural products. Visitors can enjoy the inn’s all-natural homemade lotions, lip balms and non-chemical room sprays. Breakfasts are also homemade, from farm-to-table, and are organic and locally sourced whenever possible.
“Our honey is from our bees, and our summer produce and greens are from our weekly CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] deliveries from Oasis Acres Farm, just outside of town,” Ayres says.
Food waste is limited because scraps are composted.
Green amenities aside, guests at the Lincoln Way Inn are greeted with a welcome charcuterie tray; picnic lunch to take into nearby Franklin Creek State Park; bicycles; a garden pergola; garden pagoda complete with fireplace; and massage and facial services. For guests with a sweet tooth, there’s also a s’mores bar. Additionally, visitors can cozy up in the guest library, two living rooms, front porch and dining porch. Private balconies are available for whoever stays in the luxurious Blackhawk Suite and Carriage House.
When it comes to breakfast, Ayres says she loves to bust the B&B myths that guests have to eat at a set time and sit with strangers. Breakfast is served between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., and visitors will discover a number of indoor and outdoor nooks in which to enjoy their meal. Breakfast in bed is an appealing alternative.
There are abundant attractions situated close to the Inn. Visitors can explore the natural treasures of Franklin Creek State Park and the Nachusa Grasslands, where bison roam. Search for white pelicans and eagles around the Rock River in nearby Dixon; visit landmarks such as the historic Lincoln Highway Headquarters, the Grist Mill, or Chaplin Creek Village; or grab a bite to eat at recommended eateries such as Hazels, Lincoln Way Café, LaVigna and Blackhawk Steak Pit. Every Saturday several area towns feature a farmers market.
What’s now known as the Lincoln Way Inn was built as a private home in 1912 by Columbus D. Hussey, a local businessman who made his fortune in lumber and coal. The Inn remains a beloved community landmark and a reminder of Hussey, whose family once owned several hundred acres.
“Located in a small community, the hamlet of Franklin Grove offers an immersion into the Midwest,” says Ayres. “Whether you’re looking to experience an all-inclusive getaway, an apiary field-trip, apple picking, snowshoeing, art galleries, concerts, or seeing herds of native bison a few miles away, there’s truly something for everyone. With so much to do and explore, you’re sure to find activities that interest you. For most guests, fitting them all in is the hardest part.”
For more information, visit lincolnwayinn.com.
Summertime Views at Starved Rock Lodge: A Destination for Reunions & Quality Time
By Kathy Casstevens, Starved Rock Lodge marketing director
Why wait for the weekend for an overnight getaway? Whether it’s a family reunion, a meetup with college buddies, or a wedding, Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center, near Utica, has a fun-filled calendar of events less than 90 minutes away.
If you need to relax and disconnect, the Lodge has a therapeutic massage cabin and a big indoor pool. Mid-week overnight packages offer affordable and memorable experiences, from river cruises and winetasting to horseback riding. Guests can choose a comfy hotel room or a cozy cabin in the woods with free parking and Wi-Fi. Of course, hiking is the most popular activity at Starved Rock State Park, where you can explore beautiful sandstone canyons, seasonal waterfalls and stunning bluff views of the scenic Illinois River Valley.
The Veranda at Starved Rock Lodge combines outdoor dining with one of the best views in LaSalle County. Locally made craft beer is on tap from Tangled Roots Brewery, or try Starved Rock Signature Ale. The grill menu includes salads, grilled brats and burgers. There’s even a “Doggie Delights” menu for your furry friends, who are welcome in dedicated sections of the Veranda. It’s a great place to kick back before or after your hike.
If you’d rather cool off inside, the Back Door Lounge and Main Dining Room serve lunch and dinner daily. Prime rib (served on Saturday nights) was voted No. 1 in north-central Illinois. Sunday brunch is a crowd-pleaser for locals and guests alike.
Starved Rock’s most popular tour is the Historic Trolley Tour, which departs daily through October and gives visitors an overview of the legends, unique landscape and cultural heritage of the area. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Land & Water Cruises depart from the Great Hall of Starved Rock Lodge and include a trolley tour, lunch and a boat ride on the Illinois River aboard the Eagle 1 pontoon boat. For a relaxing late-day adventure, choose the Dinner & Evening Cruise, offered on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 5-8 p.m. The “Visit a Canyon with a Boat Ride Tour” departs twice each Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. This tour includes a trolley ride, guided hike to see examples of St. Peter Sandstone at Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon, plus a 90-minute boat ride along the Illinois River. Booking is already available for “Autumn on the River” and “Fall Colors” tours.
One of the best ways to spend a leisurely summer afternoon is enjoying a Tribute to the Stars show in the cool comfort of the historic Great Hall.
Enjoy entertainment by Skip Griparis (The “Man of 100 Voices”) on Aug. 5-6, Rock & Roll Jukebox on Aug. 12-13 or the Best of Broadway on Aug. 19-20. All matinees include a buffet lunch. Prices vary per show. See show dates for 2019 and 2020 on the Lodge’s website.
Learn more about a getaway at starvedrocklodge.com or by calling (800) 868-7625.