A great weekend’s journey isn’t so far away. Here are some excellent places to visit.
Winter’s Best on Display at Delavan
By Peggy Werner
Known for its pristine lakes, parks, Indian mounds, circus history and historic downtown, Delavan, Wis., is a popular destination for events and activities of all kinds, all year long.
Winter only accelerates the fun.
“Delavan is definitely Main Street USA, a small town with a big impact,” says Belle Carbonara, public relations and community outreach manager for the Walworth County Visitors Bureau. “It’s a great place to visit any time of year. There are adventures in Delavan for all ages, all interests and all seasons.”
With a population of 8,310, Delavan is located 45 miles southwest of Milwaukee, just a few short miles north of Lake Geneva.
This January brings the continuation of the Dancing Horses Christmas Show, which happens Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. through Jan. 3.
“Power of A Dream” is the theme of this year’s show, and it centers around happy childhood Christmas memories. The 90-minute, Las Vegas-style show includes old and new Christmas songs, a visit from Santa and an encore performance by Starburst, the company’s mini horse.
Like everywhere else in the world, Delavan has been affected by COVID-19, but local retailers, restaurants and lodging operators are being creative in how they attract shoppers, visitors and guests. Over at Lake Lawn Resort, there are heated and insulated igloos for outdoor dining all winter long.
Delavan Lake and the nearby Comus Lake are popular destinations for winter ice fishing. Rudy Lange Sledding Hills is one of the most popular places to sled in Wisconsin. Calladora Spa, at Lake Lawn Resort, is offering winter packages to help people relax and unwind while also rejuvenating their skin from the harshness of cold Midwest winters.
For the second year in a row, Delavan artist Noel Winn, of Avenue Artworks, has hand crafted a Christmas ornament, with proceeds benefiting the Downtown Business Association. This year’s ornament commemorates the 76th anniversary of D-Day and the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment, while also sharing a likeness to the Borg-Gibbs-Bradley World War II Products Walldog Mural located at 118 Ann St., in Delavan.
The Walldog murals are especially magnificent during the winter months as the bright colors sharply contrast with new-fallen snow. The visitor’s bureau offers scavenger hunt printouts for a guided tour of the murals, which can be supplemented with information about each mural online at visitdelavan.com.
“Virtual Author Events” is a free Zoom series on Tuesday evenings in January and February hosted by Aram Public Library. “Stories from the Wreckage: A Great Lakes Maritime History” will be the topic on Jan. 12. Author John Oden Jensen, a former crab boat captain and shipwreck survivor, will talk about his professional and personal experience, as well as his study of North American mariners, ships and shipwrecks.
The virtual series continues Feb. 2 with Dean Robbins, author of “The Astronaut Who Painted the Moon,” a non-fiction children’s book about the true story of Alan Bean, the only artist to travel to outer space.
Authors Ron Legro and Avi Lank, who wrote “The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods,” will talk about the book that documents the life of astronomy enthusiast Frank Kovak, a Wisconsinite, on Feb. 9. The Kovac Planetarium in far-north Monico, Wis., is named in his memory, and it’s the world’s fourth and largest mechanical globe planetarium.
For more information about a visit to Delavan, check out visitwalworthcounty.com.
Try a True Taste of What’s in Swiss Town
By Sara Myers, multimedia editor
There’s nothing like spending time with family this holiday season, and in New Glarus, Wis., there are plenty of places to grab some good grub and see some sights with family and friends. But that’s just part of the allure of this destination.
A return to some community and social activities is driving demand for small-scale events around New Glarus. Bailey’s Run Winery is one place that’s been welcoming those who want to connect. Located just outside of New Glarus, this winery held “mini festivals” in the warm months. In the colder months, it’s still serving up some fun with pizza-making classes, wine samplings and fresh-cooked dishes.
“Whether it’s bingo or a festival, they always have live music and they have a huge outdoor space,” says Bekah Stauffacher, executive director of New Glarus Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a good place for people to congregate and get together.”
New Glarus has a reputation as “America’s Little Switzerland,” in part because of the charming, Swiss-inspired architecture that’s on full display downtown. One of the best ways to experience that Swiss flair is through your stomach. Swiss restaurants such as the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant, Glarner Stube and Chalet Landhaus offer classic dishes including Rösti, a dish comprised of shredded potatoes and cheese mixed together and fried into a pancake.
“The New Glarus Hotel Restaurant has schnitzels, which are like meat pounded flat and then breaded and fried,” says Stauffacher. “They also have Kalberwurst, which is like a really mild sausage covered in gravy. It’s definitely a good place to come get your fall and winter comfort food.”
Downtown is filled with unique, homegrown shops selling all sorts of interesting items. It’s a natural place to get a head start on holiday shopping – and to support local retailers in the process. Find unique gifts at places like The Bramble Patch, Brenda’s Blumenladen, Lollygag Antiques and New Rose. If you’re walking around town with friends and just want a snack, the New Glarus Bakery and Fat Cat Coffee Works are both recommended by locals.
If you’re looking for more outdoor recreation you can head to the Sugar River Trail, where locals and visitors can enjoy snowmobiling and cross-country skiing after the enough snow falls, of course. The 24-mile trail is also a prime place to bike before the snow falls this season. Hiking and snowshoeing is available at the 435-acre New Glarus Woods State Park.
For more information on sights, shopping and good eats, head to swisstown.com.
Enjoy the Winter Season in Ottawa
By Sara Myers, multimedia editor
When the snow starts to fall and the Christmas lights go up, the holiday season becomes truly magical. In Ottawa, the arrival of winter is a time to celebrate some magic and enjoy some quality cuisine.
Be sure to explore the local shops around downtown Ottawa, where plenty of unique gift ideas await.
On LaSalle Street, find Iconic Boutique, a local women’s clothing and accessories store.
Prairie Fox Books, a locally owned, independent book store, carries a wide range of new books across many genres. The store routinely hosts authors and special events in a cozy, English library-styled setting.
Thymeless, a home decor shop on Columbus Street, offers holiday gifts and vintage items to spruce up your house.
Mixed among the homegrown stores of downtown are unique local restaurants that continue to draw support. Whether or not they’re open to indoor dining this season, they’re still serving a real array of take-out menus.
Jeremiah Joe Coffee is a local coffee shop on LaSalle Street where lattes and smoothies have been a staple for 18 years.
B.A.S.H., better known as Burger and Sushi House, serves up a one-of-a-kind mishmash of American and Japanese cuisine.
Red Dog Grill’s winter menu features Nashville hot chicken and lobster mac and cheese, among other unique finds.
“We’re urging people to shop early to beat the crowd, more or less,” says Curt Bedei, executive director of the Ottawa Visitors Center. “We’re also hoping that people will purchase gift cards to help small businesses. That goes for local restaurants, too. We do have a page on our website called ‘Ottawa Cares,’ where we have a list of businesses that are open, what their hours are and if they have gift cards available.”
For more information, head to pickusottawail.com.
A Winter Escape Awaits in LaSalle County
By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge
Winter at Starved Rock Lodge is a quiet time. After the whirlwind of challenges forced upon us in 2020, we all need a new perspective, some fresh air and wide-open spaces. So, get up and go outside to see frozen waterfalls. Look up and see bald eagles in flight. Experience the joy of walking on a trail covered with freshly fallen snow.
When was the last time you got up early to watch the sun rise? If you go to the boat ramp at Starved Rock State Park, in Oglesby, or position yourself along the seawall near the Visitor Center, you’ll be amazed at the beauty of a brand new day.
Planning a getaway to a restful place where you can get some nature therapy could be just what you need to elevate your mood this winter. You can set up your remote office and laptop in your hotel room or cabin. You can work outside or at a table in the indoor pool complex. You can also take a much-needed break and swim a few laps or unwind in the hot tub between emails and Zoom meetings.
The Lodge’s Great Hall fireplace is always glowing and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows, which brings the outdoors inside. There are several places to work in the warmth of this historic, architectural masterpiece, including desks on the second floor that are tucked away from public areas. You’ll have to wear a mask, and everyone around you will do the same.
Following important safety protocols continues to be a top priority at the Lodge. While Tier 3 mitigations continue statewide, indoor dining is prohibited but carryout meals are readily available from the Main Dining Room, Café and at Trailheads on weekends.
Guided hikes and historic trolley tours are offered each weekend. Capacity is limited and social distancing is practiced. If you’ve never been to Starved Rock before, these activities will enhance what you see and do during your visit.
Join us for a narrated trolley ride to see Starved Rock’s winter wildlife in its natural habitat. This 2-hour trolley tour departs from the Lodge and takes guests on a tour through Buffalo Rock State Park to visit our resident bison. Then, you’ll travel to the Illinois Waterway Visitors Center observation deck to search for eagles. The tour will also introduce visitors to the history and legends of Starved Rock and the surrounding area.
Sled Dog demos are scheduled to take place on Jan. 17 and Feb. 28. Jason Hussong, musher and team leader with Free Spirit Siberian Husky Rescue, shares his useful knowledge of these amazing canines.
Check the Lodge’s website before each event to find details on each day’s schedule. Learn more and make your reservations at starvedrocklodge.com or by calling (815) 220-7386.
Making Your Next Vacation Possible
By Sara Myers, multimedia editor
Longevity of local businesses is a source of pride for many communities. Many local staples have been started by families who have carried on through generations, and Lindstrom Travel, in Rockford, is a prime example.
In 1928, Frank Lindstrom founded the travel agency, and it’s been in the same family for more than 91 years. Today, the company is run by brothers John, Charlie and Richard Sturm.
“We’ve been around for a long time and we anticipate being around for a long time,” says John, president of Lindstrom Travel. “Our parents worked here before us – we are third generation. We’re still in a position where we’re doing fine. People aren’t traveling like crazy currently, but we are prepared for when this turns to a better scenario.”
With the holiday and winter season upon us, Lindstrom Travel, 5970 Guilford Road, Rockford, primarily assists people who are looking to head to warmer places. Many trips are available now and into 2021.
“We’re sending people to Mexico, and we’re booking a few cruises for next year – I’m booking some river cruises for next year and our Alaska cruise,” says Charlie, vice president of sales.
One always-popular destination is the Riviera Maya, in Mexico. A current package Lindstrom offers, the 5-Night Grand Velas Riviera Maya, includes an elegant suite, personalized concierge services and an award-winning signature spa, which happens to be the largest in Latin America. All suites feature amenities such as a stocked mini-bar with premium drinks, turndown services, Wi-Fi and “fancy” L’Occitane products.
The Caribbean in general is a popular destination this time of year, Charlie adds. One special package is the 5-Nights Cap Juluca. This getaway is set on a mile-long beach in Anguilla – a favorite among Hollywood elite. The exclusive resort features 18 separate Moorish-style beachfront villas, each with no more than six rooms or suites.
Stateside, several options are available, as well. The 5-Nights Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa special typically appeals to wine lovers who want a casual getaway to California. The package introduces travelers to exceptional cuisine and a start-of-the-art space in the heart of Wine Country. Overnight guests will also receive a complimentary bottle of wine, daily wine tasting and a ride on the Napa Wine Train.
Lindstrom Travel can also connect families with popular Florida vacations. The 5-Night Walt Disney World Swan is aimed at families with little ones. The package includes an overnight stay at Swan Hotel, located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it’s also close to other attractions like Universal Studios Florida, home of several Harry Potter attractions.
Regardless of your travel plans, Lindstrom Travel offers itself as a resource for any travel-related questions.
“We get all sorts of calls. Some people want to know everything and some know specifically what they want or they will just say, ‘We need to get away,’” Charlie explains. “People look to us for answers. We’ve got a lot of experience with that. They want to make sure this is going to be the right thing – the best use of their time.”
For more information, visit lindstromtravel.com.