Archive for the ‘Wisconsin’ Category

Last gasp of summer vacations within four hours of Chicago

 

Before becoming engulfed in everything fall from cool nights to school schedules, take a few days for one last summer break. Within four hours of Chicago there are restaurants and resorts with lake-side views, good spas and shopping, plus scenic boating and biking choices.

Gaze out from Peninsula State Park after hiking, biking or taking a trolley ride there. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Gaze out from Peninsula State Park after hiking, biking or taking a trolley ride there. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

Door County, WI

About 3.5 hours north of Chicago is a finger-like peninsula that sticks so far out into Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other that there are almost too many scenic views for one trip.

The Door, as visitors and residents call it, begins halfway up in the fleshier part of the finger but the vacation destination begins at the Sturgeon Bay knuckle and continues  up the finger to Gills Rock. Some folks even cross the choppy waters north by ferry to Washington Island, an interesting day trip when time allows.

To make the most of your vacation, first nail down where to stay. The sailing, hiking, biking and the Door’s specialties of art gallery hopping and lighthouse touring can wait. But accommodations fill quickly.

Before deciding, you should know that the Lake Michigan side is known as the “quiet side” because the small towns are nestled further apart among the forests. The Green Bay side is dotted with small bustling villages, restaurants, shops and inns.

But it doesn’t take long to cross The Door’s farmland in between so neither side is a bad choice. Both sides have state parks.

To stay amid the action, look at places on the Bay side from Fish Creek to Ephraim to Sister Bay. For quiet side accommodations, look at Baileys Harbor.

The best way to find lodging is to go to Door County, click Availability or Stay. If still not sure call the bureau at 800-527-3529 because they are very helpful.

“One of our primary things to do is help people find a place to stay,” said Communications Director Jon Jarosh.

The web site lists lots of activities but if you want a map and brochures stop at the Visitors Bureau after where WI Highways 57 and 42 connect at 1015 Green Bay Rd. on the south end of Sturgeon Bay.

 

Galena, IL

Downtown Galena is a historic and yummy place to be.

Downtown Galena is a historic and yummy place to be.

 

Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois about three hours from Chicago are the scenic rolling hills of the Galena Territory and the historic town of Galena, home to Ulysses S. Grant with tie-ins to Abraham Lincoln.

Indeed more than 80 percent of Galena has historic district designations.

But a trip here isn’t just about going back in time. Situated on the Galena River and near the Mississippi, it’s a picturesque river-town edged with steep, photo-op streets.

Shopping its main street is delicious because there are wine-tasting places and yummy ice cream and candy shops.

Nearby, are the stage coach trail, fort and scenic vistas of Galena’s Jo Davies County. There is usually balloon or Wine or other festival taking place in the area.

Accommodations here range from charming B&Bs and inns to resorts.

If interested in combining golf, spa treatment or hiking, a good place to stay is the Eagle Ridge Resort on the outskirts of town at  444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena and at (800) 892-2269.

If interested in a Labor Day Weekend stay check out its special events and guest rate package.

To learn more about the area and find other lodging choices visit Galena.

 

Lake Geneva, WI  

Boats pull up at piers around Geneva Lake.

Boats pull up at piers around Geneva Lake.

 

Closer to Chicago is the town and lake where some of the city’s elite used to vacation and where some urbanites still have homes and cottages. It’s Lake Geneva on Geneva Lake and the small towns nearby.

From Chicago’s northern suburbs, the drive is about 1.5 hours but don’t try to make it faster than the posted speed limit. Some of the small towns along the route add to their coffers with speeding tickets.

However, Lake Geneva is an easy, fun getaway for folks who like to hike, bike, golf or enjoy water sports.

A great way to hear about the estates around the lake is to take the mail boat which pauses, sort-of, at some piers for postal deliveries.

Because the Lake Geneva area has been a vacation destination since before the turn of the last century, there are lots of lodging choices from contemporary to vintage and from resorts and B&Bs to inns and condos. To fit in golf or a spa treatment, consider the Grand Geneva outside of town.

For accommodation availability visit Lake Geneva and enter your arrival and departure dates.

 

So, instead of looking at the calendar with dismay that summer is just about gone, fit in a getaway. You deserve it.

 

 

 

Three winter events within an hour’s drive of Chicago

 

Snap pictures of gorgeous snow sculptures. Relive Groundhog Day. Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a sharp new vehicle. All three possibilities will brighten February  days. So, post the one you love on the calendar.

 

Wisconsin 1 by Milwaukee team of Dave Andrews, Gina Dilbirti and Zach Ruezter won the National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, 2016. Visit Lake Geneva photo

‘Door Master’ by Milwaukee team of Dave Andrews, Gina Dilbirti and Zach Ruezter won the National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, 2016. Visit Lake Geneva photo

Lake Geneva Winterfest

The National Snow Sculpting  competition takes over Lake Geneva’s lake front Feb. 1 through Feb. 5, 2017.

But the town’s Winterfest’s fun events such as a Cocoa Crawl, visiting Baker House’s  Ice Bar, Maxwell Mansion’s tours and activities at the Grand Geneva Resort continue through Feb. 12.

The snow sculptures are amazing. Each of the fifteen, three-member teams from across the U.S. transform tall snow cylinders into beautiful works of art.

The cylinders are typically delivered on Wednesday. By Friday night, the sculptures are gleaming in the moonlight ready to be judged on Saturday morning.

Wintervest visitors vote for a “People’s Champion.” The gold, silver and bronze categories are voted on by the sculptors based on creativity, technique and message.

 

Groundhog Day Festival

Walk the sites where Harold Ramis’ popular “Groundhog Day” film was shot in Woodstock, IL. The town is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the filming there from Feb. 1 through Feb. 5. But it will likely be celebrating again next year to mark the movie’s 25th anniversary of when it was released in 1993.

Co-written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, the film has Pittsburg TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) trying to cover Groundhog Day when he gets stuck in a time warp.

Also starring Andie MacDowell as news producer Rita Hanson and Chris Elliott as cameraman Larry, the movie supposedly takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. However, with the exception of a couple of opening and highway shots to set a sense of place, it really was filmed  in the cute, countryside town of Woodstock. Ramis had been searching for a site within a day’s drive of his Winnetka home.

The film site tour and showings of the movie are free. If you go early enough (7 a.m.) on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, you can see how Woodstock Willie reacts when he comes out of his tree trunk home. Pray for clouds so he doesn’t see his shadow. No shadow would mean an early spring if you believe this animal’s behavior predicts the weather.

Annual CAS draws a crowd at McCormick Place. CAD photo

Annual CAS draws a crowd at McCormick Place. CAD photo

 

Chicago Auto Show

CAS, the annual big introduction to what will officially be out for 2018, features about 1,000 vehicles and draws thousands of visitors.

In town Feb 11-17, it spreads across McCormick Place but with all those vehicles and visitors the best way to avoid the crowd crush  is to go charity preview night.

The show starts off with a dressy charity party, Feb. 10. Its $275 ticket benefits 18 local charities but $222 can be tax deductable as a donation. Expect comp hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, entertainment and celebrities.

Regular tickets are $13 adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and $7 children ages 7-12. Discounted ticket day is Feb. 15 when women pay $7.

 

 

 

The Angel Museum, a perfect holiday outing

When the bustle of holiday preparations start to weigh on brain and shoulders, seek smiles and joyous countenances from angels. More than 12,000 of them are lifting visitors’ spirits at a small museum just over the Illinois border in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Joyce Berg gives a tour of The Angel Museum in Beloit, WI

Joyce Berg gives a tour of The Angel Museum in Beloit, WI. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

They are porcelain, ceramic, glass, metal and wood and nearly 100 other materials. They range from about 1/8 of an inch to life-sized and from candle holders, vases and chubby, cuddly, doll-type cherubs to artistic figures, ink wells, pins and a WWI medal. And they were crafted by artists in more than 60 countries.

Their home is the former Catholic Church of St. Paul building slated for demolition until Beloit residents, the city and angel collectors Joyce and Lowell Berg stepped in. Or as Joyce says, “Angels saved the church.”

Opened in May 1998, the museum’s collection dates back to the Berg’s falling in love with the Italian bisque figures of two angels on a seesaw during a 1976 Florida vacation.

“We stopped at an antique store. We weren’t looking for angels. But that Christmas when we got out our decorations we realized we had other angels. The next year on a trip we bought more angels. It became a passion,” said Berg during a recent museum tour (Lowell has since died but is remembered with a special angel exhibit in one of the cases).

Collecting, however, comes with a couple of problems. The collection grew too large for the Berg home. In addition, people who heard about the angels wanted to stop in to see them. The church building was a perfect solution to both issues.

The museum is in a former church. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The museum is in a former church. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Since then, the collection has grown to more than 14,000, a number that is too large to show at one time. “So, I rotate them,” Berg said.

What is amazing is that she has only one duplicate angel. “It’s mind boggling how artists have come up with so many different angels. Their little faces just make you feel good,” she said.

The museum also contains Oprah Winfrey’s collection of 600 black angels. A passing comment on Winfrey’s show about not seeing black angels resulted in hundreds of black angels sent to the celebrity.

When Winfrey said how much she loved them but didn’t have room for them all, she was told about the museum in Beloit. It now houses her donated collection.

As to most of her angels residing in a museum instead of her home, on the museum website, Berg said, “I want to see a place where goodness prevails and I can share my angels with the masses.”

Black angels in the Oprah collection. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Black angels in the Oprah collection. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The museum also sells angel artifacts in its Heavenly Treasures Gift Shoppe. Hours Thursday-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.The museum will be closed Dec. 22 to March except for special events or tours.

The Angel Museum is at 656 Pleasant St. at Hwy 51, Beloit, WI 53511. It is about a 1 hour, 30 minute drive from Chicago. For other information visit Angel Museum and call (608) 362-9099 or (877)-412-6435.

 

Enjoy fall color as a day trip from Chicago

Stroll among paths of gold. Hike where every turn reveals another photo op. See the countryside on an old train or find a new scenic vista. Just go. Get out there where the leaves are still changing color and the weather isn’t too frosty.

Elegant Farmer

See fall color by boat in Lake Geneva. Photo compliments of Visit Lake Geneva

See fall color by boat in Lake Geneva. Photo compliments of Visit Lake Geneva

Maybe you have seen and tasted delicious apple pies in your grocery store from the Elegant Farmer. But the farm and its bakery, about 90 miles north of Chicago in Mukwonago, WI, is also a fun destination during its Autumn Harvest Festival. Festival hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. now through Oct. 23, 2016.  Along with picking up yummy treats from its store, apples and pumpkins from its fields or taking a hay ride, the Elegant Farmer is one end of the turn-of–the-century’s East Troy Electric Railroad.  The train is a remnant of Wisconsin’s Interurban rail system. Train tickets are $12.50 adults, $10.50 seniors, $8 children age 3-11 and free to under 3. The Elegant Farmer is at 1545 Main Street · Mukwonago, WI 53149 at the crossroad of County Highways ES and J. For other information visit Elegant Farmer and call (262) 363-6770.

Lake Geneva

Cruise Geneva Lake or float over its town of Lake Geneva and the surrounding area in a hot-air balloon. Hike the path around the lake or do the zip line across a colorful tree canopy. There are so many ways to see fall color in Lake Geneva, WI you might decide to stay overnight. However, if you go, you might want to tie it in to the Canopy Tours Fall Festival, Oct. 22 or 23 where you get music, food, pumpkin painting and other activities and can watch the Pumpkin Drop from zip liners  (or participate if you do the zip line event). Lake Geneva is about 90 minutes north west of Chicago. For other information visit Lake Geneva or call (262) 248-9271.

Morton Arboretum

Golden paths await at Morton Arboretum. Photo compliments of Morton Arboretum

Golden paths await at Morton Arboretum. Photo compliments of Morton Arboretum

The Arboretum in west suburban Lisle is coming alive with color. Maples and oaks near parking lots 7 and 8 began changing two weeks ago as have the maples near parking lots 14 and 15. To find out more about the color changes and what’s blooming click on Fall Color Report. Or ask when you arrive. For fun take the Scarecrow Trail on the Meadow Lake Trail. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Illinois Highway 53, Lisle, IL 60532. For other information visit Morton Arb and call (630) 968-0074.

 

 

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