Archive for the ‘Getaways’ Category

The Wright trip for stage and scenery

Peck's Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

Peck’s Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

A fall vacation that is not the same-old, same-old awaits 189 miles (about 3 hrs., 20 min.) northwest of Chicago in Spring Green, WI.

 

Water bottles, check. pillow ( I like mine), check. Phone, cords and bathing suit, check. Well, there is a lap pool at The House on the Rock Resort, my weekend retreat.

 

On the agenda is see a show at American Players Theatre which everyone calls APT,  tour Wright’s Taliesin, explore the hilly countryside and stop at Peck’s Farm Market East on the way home for yummy, fresh corn. The town is surrounded by farmland so visitors will be treated to true farm-to-table products that are not just a nod to today’s popular menu phrases.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center near Spring Green Wisconsin. (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center near Spring Green Wisconsin. (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

For Chicagoans and west suburbanites, I90 to US 12/14 around Madison is arguably the shortest, quickest route. Coming from the northern suburbs, I mosey west over to US 12 because I94 is under construction and it means I can stop at Anderson’s Candy Shop in Richmond, IL  for chocolate and Kindfolk Coffee inside a boutique center in Cambridge, WI, for a latte.

 

Fortunately, my room is ready even though I arrive closer to lunch than the 3 p.m. check-in. So after dropping my bags, I get directions to the Spring Green General Store for lunch. GPS is fine but I also like to know ahead of time where I’m going.

 

I heard that the Genera Store, alone, is a destination experience. Wow! Can’t believe all the stuff crammed on the shelves and down the aisles. But lunch first. Hmm, heard the soups are good however, I’m going to do a chicken salad sandwich on whole grain ciabatta and wash it down with peach iced tea.

 

After ordering at the counter and receiving a flag from Mexico (lots of countries represented) to ID my order, I find a table on the indoor porch. Totally stuffed, I walk off lunch, peering into boutiques and stopping in Arcadia Books.

 

Outside Freddie Valentine's restaurant in Spring Green. (J Jacobs photo)

Outside Freddie Valentine’s restaurant in Spring Green. (J Jacobs photo)

Then back to the resort to unpack, call Taliesin to book a tour for tomorrow and relax. I get lucky because I should have reserved a tour before leaving home. Fortunately someone had just canceled for the Highlights Tour that goes to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and his studio.

 

APT is also tomorrow and where I plan to do dinner. I ordered a picnic supper when I bought my show ticket.

 

So tonight will try  Freddy Valentine’s Public House in the historic State Bank of Spring Green. Imagine chowing down on great ribs in a bank. I was told by owner David Owen who named it after his dad, that everything on the menu was really fresh.

 

In its seven years, the restaurant has picked up several mentions as one of the best small town restaurants in Wisconsin worth the drive

 

BTW, in this town almost every building is historic. The General Store is in a converted cheese storage building dating to about 1919 that was other things before becoming the store and café in the 1980s. The bank, built in 1915 was listed on Register of Historic Places in 2007.

 

Pool at House on the Rock Resort. (J Jacobs photo)

Pool at House on the Rock Resort. (J Jacobs photo)

It will seem funny going to Wright’s organic, Prairie School style of architecture at Taliesin tomorrow after seeing old, small-town buildings of the same period, today, just a six-minute drive away.

 

Wright first built Taliesin on his family’s large farm in 1911. Then he rebuilt it after fires in 1914 and 1925. It was listed as a Historic Landmark in 1974 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2019.

 

The visitor’s center with its great view of the Wisconsin River and where Taliesin tours start and end, is perfect for lunch. Going on the tour was a great way not just to see the inside of his home and studio but also take in breathtaking views of the Wisconsin River Valley in the fall.

 

Back at the resort to relax, I have time before the APT show to fit in some laps in a really attractive indoor pool where high ceilings and glass walls make it feel connected to the outdoors.

 

Refreshed, I drive less than a mile from the resort to the American Players’ campus, pick up my pre-ordered dinner, then picnic at a table before taking a shuttle up the hill. I will be seeing Lauren Gunderson’s “The Book of Will” in the outdoor amphitheater.

 

American Players Theatre outdoor venue. (J Jacobs photo)

American Players Theatre outdoor venue. (J Jacobs photo)

As the sun sets behind the trees, the seats start to fill with people more inclined to trekking up the hill than I was. Surprised by the many people who seemed to know each other, my seatmates explained that Apt audiences return every year like they do.

 

Not surprising, was that the show turned out to be every bit as good as the version I saw in Chicago a few years ago because APT attracts actors, directors and choreographers from TV, film and regional theaters.

 

Now I’m thinking I should come back next year.

 

For more restaurants, places to stay and things to do visit SpringGreen.

 

 

Four National Parks for the vacation do list

 

Memorial Day is almost here. If you haven’t figured out where to spend some of you summer vacation days think National Parks.

Sure there are the ones you always hear about out west – and they are definitely worth visiting. But expand your horizons to other areas of the country.

Check out the National Park Service website for places you can get to in, say, a day and half with Find a Park.

To get you started here are some choice NPS destinations doable from Chicago ranging from an island and dunes to forests and mountains..  BTW April 20-28, 2019 is National Park Week.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Indiana Dunes

Just around Lake Michigan, a little more than half an hour from Chicago next to Porter IN, the fomer Indiana Dunes State Park was recently given National Park status.

Extending 15 miles around the southern part of Lake Michigan, the park is a birders destination, but with 50 miles of trails, this is also a great place to hike if you like dunes, water views, forests, prairies and even rivers.

For visit tips see and stop at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, 1215 N. IN Hwy 49, Porter, IN 46304. For information call  (219) 395-1882 or (219) 926-2555 and visit NPS Plan.

 

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

You know about traffic jams but if you drive through this national park you will likely encounter “bear jams,” the phrase the locals use to characterize the stopping of cars to take photos when bears cross the road.

A second item to know if you go is that Gatlinburg, where you may start your park tour, is home to a large artists community. So save time to do “The Loop,” the eight-mile Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

In the park visit the Mountain Farm Museum, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, or the Roaring Fork area to see farms, churches and homes built by early settlers. You might see black bear, white-tailed deer and turkeys crossing the road or at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.For sweeping mountain views drive up Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap.

The Park Headquarters is at 107 Park Headquarters Road,  Gatlinburg, TN 37738. For more information call (865) 436-1200 and see NPS Plan Your Visit. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about 585 miles (about a 9.5 hour drive) from Chicago.

 

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Isle Royale National Park

If looking for a breath-taking, backpacking, boating or fishing experience check out Isle Royale, MI , a National Park island in Lake Superior. Wheeled vehicles not allowed. Camp out or snag a room at Rock Harbor Lodge.

Drive to a departure town such as Houghton, Michigan about 400 miles from Chicago and 200 miles north of Green Bay WI. Visitors then take the NPS’ Ranger III boat over to the Isle. Different boats go from other towns.

Transportation services go there from Houghton and Copper Harbor, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota.

Houghton is off of US-41 at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. For more information and tips visit NPS Plan. For Houghton and Isle Royale info call (906) 482-0984.

 

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

The park is beautiful any time of year. Visit in the fall to do its Pierce stocking Scenic Drive or in the winter if you like to snow shoe. Or visit in the spring when birds and wild flowers fill the woods. Come back in the summer to hike or bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The park’s Port Oneida Rural Historic District features late 1980s farm life and crafts.

Do climb the immense sand dunes. The dunes at Sleeping Bear, town of Empire and at Pyramid Point are on bluffs about 400 feet above Lake Michigan.

The clue about what to see and do is the word Lakeshore. There are 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline plus inland lakes and streams. Park Headquarters are at 9922 Front St., Empire, MI 49630 Park Headquarters call (231) 326-4700 or try the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center (231) 326-4700, ext. 5010. See NPS Visit to plan the trip.

Adjacent towns such as Glen Haven, and Leland further north on the Leelanau Peninsula, are fun to visit. So is boating out to South Manitou Island for its lighthouse.  The park has campgrounds. Click here for accommodations and attractions and to plan your visit. Add a couple of days to visit the wineries and towns on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 331 miles, about 5 1/2 hours, from Chicago.

 

 

 

Tulip Time returns to Holland

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

After a bruising winter it’s time to go to a town that celebrates brightly colored flowers with dancing, art, music and windmill-ground flour. No passport needed.

It’s Holland, MI where everything Dutch is celebrated year ’round but where when May comes tulips line the streets and the town is in festival mode.

Plan now to visit because accommodations fill fast. Tulip Time is May 4 through May 12, 2019. Week days are  less crowded but to catch the events you want, check the schedule.  To see the schedule visit Tulip Time events.

Dutch dances begin May 2, Tulip Town Tours, the artisan market and Art in Bloom, Tall ships, Tulip Time Quilt show are May 4.  But many of these events continue through the festival.

 

Tip: Don’t limit your time to just the main festival site.

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

My favorite stop is Windmill Island Gardens on the edge of the downtown.   It has a real, from-Holland, working Dutch windmill. There is also an antique children’s carousel and replica Dutch buildings. For Tulip time there is a Dutch Trade Fair and Dutch food.

Next are two places  on the outskirts of town near the highway that feature gardens and Dutch goods: Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens /DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory where you can watch shoes being made and delft painted, and Nelis’ Dutch Village Family Theme Park  & Wooden Shoe Factory which is geared to kids.

 

Accommodations I like the Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown and CityFlats Hotel that is also downtown. To see more choices visit Holland  Hotels.

Dining. I haven’t had a bad meal there. Among my faves are Alpenrose Restaurant and Curragh Irish Pub.But walkthe main street, 8th Street, and explore. There are lots of boutiques and good restaurants plus good sculptures to see and photograph.

Go. Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Take a spring training vacation

Sloan Park aka Wrigleville West before fans filter in. (J Jacobs photo)

Sloan Park aka Wrigleville West before fans filter in. (J Jacobs photo)

Not sure when our weather predicting ground hogs thought spring was putting in an early appearance but waiting for that warm weather to come to Chicago while sunning in Arizona is looking pretty good right now.

Besides, both Chicago baseball teams are there and won’t be back home until April; the 8th for the Cubs against the Padres and the 4th against the Mariners for the Sox. And their spring training facilities are in good vacation areas.

The Cubs’ Sloan Park, otherwise known by its somewhat similar layout and vendors as Wrigleyville  West, is in Mesa.

An easily doable, laid back town with a couple of museums, outlet shopping, and is down the road from good restaurants, mountain scenery, and close to highways.

You’ll know Sloan Park in Wiglleyville by the street signs: Waveland Avenue is on the north, Sheffield Avenue is on the east and Clark street on the west.

Cubs tickets at other teams’ AZ parks might be easier to get than at Sloan and visiting other parks is also  fun.

To stay next to the Cubs’ action check out the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West. For lots of Cubs information visit Spring Training.  For home info see MLB/Cubs/Park.

 

Go to spring training and wave your Chiago Whtie Sox cap. (M Temkin photo)

Go to spring training and wave your Chiago White Sox cap. (M Temkin photo)

Camelback Ranch, in Glendale is the spring home of the Chicago White Sox.and shared with the LA Dodgers.

In Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, visitors get all the advantages of Phoenix’s  terrific museums and its famed botanic garden but are close to White Sox action.

At last report, spring training tickets are still available for Camelback Ranch but do check for Sox games in the area

For ballpark info visit WhiteSox/springtraining/ball park. For White Sox season info see MLB/WhiteSox.

Jodie Jacobs

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