A Michigan Art Coast Getaway

 

 

Saugatuck, MI is made for strolling, popping into shops and taking a break for coffee, tea and ice cream. Photos by Jodie Jacobs)
Downtown Saugatuck, MI is made for strolling, popping into shops and taking a break for coffee, tea and ice cream. Photos by Jodie Jacobs)

Autumn officially began Sept. 22, 2022, in the Northern Hemisphere.  Which is a good excuse to take to the road. You get warm days and cool nights so leaves are changing color.

If looking for high color, try to go the second week of October. But if looking for a relaxing getaway with good art galleries, good food, good wine and fun shops, consider the Saugatuck/Douglas, and by extension, the Fennvillee/orchard/winery area.

A popular summer and fall destination, the towns are on the State of Michigan’s vacation/harbor/dunes coast about 130 plus miles if going east and then north from Chicago around  Lake Michigan.

Douglas is basically on the south side of the Kalamazoo Rive and Saugatuck lies on the river’s north side, closer to the area’s dunes. Fennville is a short distance south and east.

 

Wickwood Inn, a B n B in Saugatuck, MI.
Wickwood Inn, a B n B in Saugatuck, MI.

Where to stay

Saugatuck has several B and Bs and inns. We stayed at the Wickwood Inn which actually is a B ‘n’ B because it is within easy walking distance of the downtown, serves wine and light appetizers in its bar/library late afternoons, sweets all the time next to the kitchen and breakfast nook and breakfast options every morning in the dining room.

The 1937, colonial-style home of former Saugatuck Mayor Frank Wicks, the house was bought by the Louis family in 1981 and turned into an inn. It became famous for its breakfasts when neighbors, Bill Miller and Silver Palate Cookbook co-author Julee Rosso bought it about ten years later.

In 2021 it was sold to Shea Soucie and Martin Horner, partners of the Chicago-based Soucie Horner Ltd, a luxury design company who added their stamp to the house with new décor and furnishings.

Possibly because of COVID, the breakfast we had no longer a buffet. Choices served at your table in the dining room included but were not limited to eggs done your way, smoked salmon, good bread for toast and excellent jam.

The rooms had received a luxury make-over with really comfortable bedding, good showers and relaxing color tones. 

We liked that the house became our late afternoon refuge from sightseeing. Its garden porch was perfect for reading and its parlor with fireplace had comfortable sitting for chatting and relaxing.

When we rang the bell, Jeff West, our Wickwood, host for the weekend, said our room would be ready early and we could park in the Inn’s lot before checking in. Parking is challenging in downtown Saugatuck, so we were happy to leave our car at the inn. Note, a guest card must be in the car window. 

One of many rooms in the J Petter Galleries, Douglas, MI
One of many rooms in the J Petter Galleries, Douglas, MI

Galleries

Because check-in wasn’t until 4 p.m. ET and we were still operating on CT we stopped at J. Petter Galleries, a large, meandering two-level structure on the Blue Coast Highway. It’s in Douglas just before the bridge and the turn into Saugatuck.

J Petter Galleries is a fine art gallery in the classical definition. Going there is like spending time at an art museum where you don’t hurry.

Operating the gallery since 2013, Julianne Petter has been building a wine section and wine-tasting bar that deserves a visit along with the art exhibit rooms. Juli, as she’s known, referred to the appreciation of fine wine on our recent visit as “the art of wine.” 

To connect its artists to its wines, the gallery is running a label design contest for a “Beaujolais nouveau” style of wine developed for them here in the United States.

 Water Street Gallery, our next stop, is a short drive south on the Blue Coast Hwy from Petter’s in downtown Douglas. Water Street is much smaller than Petter’s but still nice. It has interesting sculptures outside in front and down a few steps in back that is accessible around the street corner through its driveway. 

Button Art Gallery, our third stop, is across the street and down a block from Water Street Gallery. Button is a fun place with creative pieces inside and in the garden outside. 

Saugatuck is known as Michigan’s Art Coast going back to when the Art Institute of Chicago set up classes there as the Ox-Bow School of Art in 1910. Ox-Bow School of Art still exists, offering credited and non-credited classes.

 Artists still live and vacation in the area. Plus, there are individual artist galleries and studios downtown Saugatuck. The three galleries mentioned here that are in Douglas carry several artists’ work and were open when we visited on a Sunday and Monday (leaving Tuesday morning).  Best is to check their hours and days open.  

Fenn Valley Vineyards is an old, established winery in Fennville, south of Saugatuck-Douglas
Fenn Valley Vineyards is an old, established winery in Fennville, south of Saugatuck-Douglas

Wineries

We saved visits to wineries located in Fennville for our second day so as not to rush tastings and exploration of the area.

The oldest is Fenn Valley Vineyards developed, owned and operated by the Welsch family since 1973. Its site was specifically chosen in an area that has been good for orchards. 

Located five miles from Lake Michigan, Fenn Valley is a 240-acre farm on top of a large sand ridge between the Black River and the Kalamazoo River valleys that benefits from Lake Michigan’s temperature moderating conditions and a well-drained soil.

Everyone’s taste is different. I prefer full bodied, dry reds but everything tried during our wine tasting was very drinkable and good for serving guests. My faves were the Classic Chardonnay fermented in French oak and the Meritage, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. To learn more about these wines see Fenn Valley Wines

The wines served to us at Wickwood were from Fenn Vally.

Bree does the wine-pours at Magalas, a new winery in Fennville , MI
Bree does the wine-pours at Modales, a new winery in Fennville, MI

Newish in the valley is Modales. Formed in 2016, Modales consists of two farms, a 75-acre farm at the winery about 3.5 miles from Lake Michigan that had been a stone fruit farm and a 37-acre farm closer to the lake.

Until more of the vines planted are ready for harvest, Bree noted they have bought grapes from the Leelanau region of Michigan (which I found in the past to have become some remarkable wines) and then process them according to Modales tastes and standards.

I liked the 2018 Lamastus Red which was a blend and full-bodied. I also tasted a wine from grapes just harvested in 2022 on the property that was young but showed considerable promise.

Good wine is worth waiting for so I expect Modales to become better known as it develops its specialties and plants more vines. Though young, the winery is worth a visit and then a return in a few years to taste again.

 

Coast 236 Scallops in Saugatuck, MI
Coast 236 Scallops in Saugatuck, MI

Where to Dine

Coast 236, a downtown Saugatuck restaurant and bar, is known for its wine flights, cocktails and recognition in Wine Spectator. But it also has excellent cuisine.

Many of the diners were doing the day’s featured multi-course dinner with matching wines. However, since we had just spent the day tasting wines I chose a main-course option of New Bedford Diver Scallops with Foie Gras from Labelle Farms. They were accompanied by citrus semolina gnocchi and broccolini. The sauce was a sauternes beurre blanc. Wow!

I often use scallops as a restaurant test and these passed with an A plus. They were perfectly prepared and the dish was so loaded with flavor that I used the toast we ordered to accompany our meal as a way to sop up the sauce.

My dinner companion wasn’t hungry so chose the tapas-sized dish of New Zealand Lamb Lollipops.

Note: Chef Rick Bower and the restaurant have been recognized by the James Beard Foundation for commitment to sustainable seafood sourcing.

Pennyroyal Cafe in Saugatuck, MI
Pennyroyal Cafe in Saugatuck, MI

Pennyroyal Café & Provisions is a small dine-in and take-out spot on the Blue Coast Highway in Saugatuck. Sitting inside is not about atmosphere but about getting a table. The outdoor patio is nice but the wait is long. However, Pennyroyal is so innovative and the food so delicious that people are willing to be crowded inside or put up with the long wait outdoors.

Part of the problem is that Condé Nast Traveler has more than once noted that Pennyroyal was a restaurant destination. Also, Executive Chef Melissa Corey had worked for James Beard award-winning chefs and she won when appearing on Food Network’s “Chopped.”  

We chose to try the restaurant for lunch because it was a Monday and closed about 3 p.m. that day. The all-day menu was different from the dinner one.

Even though we came what we thought was after the busy brunch crowd, yes, we had to wait for a table outside for about 45 minutes.

Imagine a BLT that includes delicious Gruyere cheese, Nueske’s bacon from Wisconsin and San Francisco-style sourdough bread from a Grand Rapids, MI baking company that was nicely grilled.

Definitely gourmet, what came was a cross between a BLT and a grilled cheese sandwich. Reading about Nueske’s, a long-time family business, is a clue to how important the chef considers individual ingredients.  Yum. It was worth the wait. 

There are no reservations for lunch but reservations can be made for dinner. So, if in the area, try to get a dinner reservation.

 

Crane's Bakery Restaurant Winery in Fennville,MI
Crane’s Bakery Restaurant Winery in Fennville,MI

Shopping 

The Saugatuck/Douglas/Fennville area has good breweries and antiques which will give you more places to taste, look or wander but if time is short you might want to put these three stops on your itinerary.

Crane’s, a triple threat of bakery, restaurant and small-batch winery, sits among the fields and vineyards of Fennville. This is the place to pick up a pumpkin or fruit pie. We brought home one of the best pumpkin pies and cinnamon sugar dusted, apple-cider donuts we’ve ever tasted.

We did not stay for lunch because we were going to Pennyroyal and we didn’t try the wines so if in the area, go for them and add them to your list or add a comment on this website.

 

Mazwi is an African shop whose imports fit in well with the arts in Saugatuck, MI
Mazwi is an African shop whose imports fit in well with the arts in Saugatuck, MI

Mazwi is across the street from Coast 236. Its owners travel to Africa to import items for their Saugatuck shop. My problem is limiting purchases to gifts for family because there are so many interesting and artistic items.

Kilwins, a chocolate and ice cream shop on Butler St, downtown Saugatuck can be found in other fun, Midwest travel destinations but that doesn’t make it less of a shopping stop when chocolate ior a caramel-coated apple is on the mind.

We did Crane’s with the wineries but went there to pick up a pie to take home. As to shopping, we finally got around to checking out the shops after lunch and picking up fudge to take from Kilwins. The fun of travel destinations is to pace stops so the break really is a vacation and not something that needs downtime for recovery.

 Enjoy! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harvest Moon is on the horizon

September's full moon is the Harvest and Corn Moon. (J Jacobs photo)
September’s full moon is the Harvest and Corn Moon. (J Jacobs photo)

As you begin to see more fresh corn in farmers markets and grocery stores and more leaves dotting the grass and walkways, you know our food is entering the harvest season. So, no surprise that the September full moon is called the Full Harvest Moon and the Corn Moon.

Actually, Harvest Moon is the designated name according to when the full moon is closer to the Fall Equinox. In 2022, that applies to the September full moon because the Autumnal or Fall Equinox is Sept. 22.  Visit Autumnal Equinox at the Old Farmer’s Almanac for this designation of when fall begins. (Meteorologists like to say Sept. 1 is the first day of fall.)

Start watching the moon grow fuller and brighter this first full week of September. In 2022, the moon will begin to appear full Sept. 8 and really seem full blown Sept. 9, but it will reach its full stage early in the morning of Sept. 10. 

BTW, next month’s full moon is Oct. 9, a few days more than September’s past the Fall Equinox. It will be the Hunter Moon. 

Maybe you’ll notice that the Harvest Moon is particularly good for bringing in crops. Nearing fall, the moon rises about 50 minutes later each evening. But that changes in September for areas in the mid-northern latitudes where moon rising is only 20 minutes later due to a shallower eclipse angle of Earth to Sun. 

It is not a Supermoon but unlike other months’ full moons, the Harvest  Moon rises around sunset for several evenings. That early rising frequency and lengthy moon lit twilights allow farmers more time to do their harvesting before the nights turn really frosty.

In addition, the moon will look totally full through Sept. 11.  For more Harvest Moon info visit Farmer’s Almanac. For more full moon names visit Time and Date. For good, basic Earth to Sun angles visit Earth/Sky and ecliptic

 

 

 

Labor Day weekend fly or drive tips

 

Yes, Labor Day weekend around Chicago will find busy highways and both airports filled with coming and going passengers. So whether flying or driving, leaving a day early and or returning a day later may improve mood and impatience quota.

Driving tips

Check the department of transportation in the states where you might be driving for construction updates. In Illinois find travel information at IDOT for roadway news, recreation information and passenger services. 

You just think you have to be somewhere at a certain time or on a set day but breaking up the drive with a meal or overnight stop at a scenic or interesting town makes the vacation (or visit) easier on the back or sitting time.  

What to bring: an extra cell phone charger. because people lose them or forget them, a temperature (cold or hot bag) that closes for drinks and snacks and the Mapquest guide  you printed off ahead of time because you have learned that the G”PS system doesn’t always choose the best way or where to divert to avoid a bad backup.

 

O'Hare Airport. (Photo courtesy of CDA and O'Hare Airport))
O’Hare Airport. (Photo courtesy of CDA and O’Hare Airport))

 

Tips and information flying in and out of Chicago airports from the Chicago Department of Aviation

The bad news: Airline carriers are projecting about 1.6 million travelers to O’Hare and Midway International Airports between Thursday, Sept. 1 and Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. 

ADA says that compared to the same Labor Day period of 2021, O’Hare expects to see a passenger increase of 7.3% and its airlines project Monday, Sept. 5, will be the busiest day.  At Miday, airlines project there will be an increase of passengers of approximately 49.9%, with Friday, Sept. 2 being the busiest day. 

The good news:  Both airports have upgraded their dining and shopping options.

In addition, flyers to the Chicago area will find the arrival sections of O’Hare’s main terminals free of construction for the first time in more than a year. Also, for the first time in two years, the 9,300-space O’Hare Main Parking Garage is completely open and ready for travelers. 

A $48.8 million project was completed to maintain the pedestrian connections between the terminal facilities, elevated parking structure, and transportation infrastructure to and from the city. Additionally, the reconstruction of roadways and sidewalks includes Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant crosswalks and handrails. 

Even with the improvements, the CDA recommends people take the CTA Blue Line to O’Hare and CTA Orange Line to Midway. Metra’s North Central Service offers weekday service from downtown Chicago’s Union Station to the O’Hare transfer station next to the Multi-Modal Facility, with access to the Airport Transit System (ATS). 

Also recommended is using the Kiss n’ Fly drop-offs at both airports. At Midway, passengers can be dropped off at West 59th Street and South Kilpatrick Avenue and take a short walk into the terminals. At O’Hare, passengers can be dropped off at the Multi-Modal Facility, 10255 W. Zemke Blvd., and board the ATS for a short ride to Terminals 1, 2 3 and 5. 

Cell Phone Lots where pick-ups wait are free at both airports. The O’Hare Cell Phone Lot is at 560 N. Bessie Coleman Drive. The Midway Cell Phone Lot is at West 61st Street and South Cicero Avenue. 

Because people may have longer than usual wait times at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoints during the weekend, the CDA suggests arriving early.  Real-time updates for O’Hare checkpoints are available at FlyChicago.com

If considering the economy lots check the status of available parking before leaving for O’Hare at flychicago.com/ORDParking

Bring a mask. Some areas may require them.

 

Meteors and Supermoon compete for attention

 

Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Circle Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 on the calendar or make a note on the smart phone for a double sky phenomenon. But one sky event may make it hard to see the other.

The Perseids, arguably the best meteor shower of the year, already started July 17 but continues through Aug. 24. It peaks Aug. 12-13 with from 50 to 100 meteors zooming across the sky per hour.

The meteors are debris from parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle whose radiant is the Perseus constellation in the northeastern sky. The greatest number of meteors will be visible after the radiant rises, according to Earth SkyThe radiant rises around 11 p.m. CT, nearly due northeast in Perseus so the Perseids are best viewed from midnight to sunrise. 

Perseus was the Greek mythological hero who stopped (beheaded) Medusa the Gorgon (Maybe you’ve seen the TV ad where Medusa enters a bar and turns guys to stone).

The problem: August’s full moon, glowing in the sky Aug. 11-13 is the fourth and last supermoon of 2022. As a supermoon whose orbit brings it closer to earth than most moons come the rest of the year, it looks larger and brighter than usual. That large illumination makes it harder to spot meteors.

July's full moon was a supermoon because its orbit brought it so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)
July’s full moon was a supermoon because its orbit brought it so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)

“Sadly, this year’s Perseids peak will see the worst possible circumstances for spotters,” said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, who leads the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

“Most of us in North America would normally see 50 or 60 meteors per hour,” he said, “but this year, during the normal peak, the full Moon will reduce that to 10-20 per hour at best,” said Cooke.

Aptly named, at least for 2022’s August Supermoon, this full moon is called the Sturgeon Moon after the giant fish found in the Great Lakes that is often caught the last month of summer.  A good source for full moon names is The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The sturgeon is considered a “living fossil” for its beginnings about 136 million years ago.

(For information on when to watch for the Perseids in your area visit Time and Date.)

 

Go for a wine festival Stay to do a wine trail

Vintage Ohio wine festival (Photo courtesy of Ohio Wine Producers Assoc.)
Vintage Ohio wine festival (Photo courtesy of Ohio Wine Producers Assoc.)

Among the best rewards of being a travel writer is discovering that an area known as a scenic destination is also a food and/or wine destination.

When getting off I90 in northeastern Ohio to check out some Lake Erie marinas for a boating magazine and follow a covered bridge trail near Geneva and Ashtabula as a bonus “while in the area” side feature I found myself driving back roads lined with grape vines.

I love covered bridges but on the fertile lands south of Lake Erie and along the valley cut by the Grand River east of Cleveland, one vineyard bumped into another, and another.

The area turned out to be one of seven Ohio wine regions. According to the Ohio Wine Producers Association (ohiowines.org), the one I luckily stumbled across is called Vines and Wines.

Do the vines and Wine trail for lunch while in northeastern Ohio (J Jacobs photo)
Do the Vines and Wines trail for lunch while in northeastern Ohio (J Jacobs photo)

Never one to pass up a tasting or two or more, I found Harpersfield, a family-operated winery just south of I90 at the southern edge of Geneva, had an amazing chardonnay and has since expanded its offerings.

Don’t worry about town locations. The Grand River’s valley is along the south side of I90. So, when looking for Debonné Vineyards with a Madison address remember you are at a Grand River winery at the southern edge of Madison.  Debonné is a European-style estate-bottled winery in operation since1916 that is known for its Reisling, Pinot Gris and ice wine.

While near Madison, look for the St. Joseph Vineyard and its award-winning pinot noirs.

My timing couldn’t have been better because the vineyards I visited were talking up Vintage Ohio, an annual wine festival the first week of August that coincided with my assignment.

That visit was in 2013. Now, nine years later, I learned that Vintage Ohio, is still going on and is back after a short COVID hiatus with 18 wineries, some from the Vines and Wines Trail but others from other Ohio regions.

Some of them, such Buccia from Conneaut, are new to the festival. Others, such as Gervasi from Canton, are Vintage Ohio veterans. There will be 18 vineyards at the festival, plus some breweries, bands and craft venders, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars plus food trucks.

Formed in 1997 to familiarize the public with Ohio wines, the festival is also a good excuse to visit an interesting area, do the Vines and Wines Trail, explore the towns along Lake Erie east of Cleveland, and yes, see some covered bridges.

Vintage Ohio is at Metroparks Farmpark in Kirkland, OH. The festival runs Aug 5 and 6 in 2022 from noon to 9 p.m. For tickets and other information visit  Vintage Ohio

For Ohio Wine Trails visit Ohio Wine Producers Association. Also visit Grand River WineriesAnd for a vacation place on Lake Erie check out The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake. 

 

Meteors overhead

Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Word of meteor sightings in the middle of July have been coming into news bureaus but little has been said about the timing. Astronomers know there is usually meteor activity going on over head.

However, the meteor showers that catch attention are typically the big ones with major peak times such as the Perseids that peak Aug. 11-12 in 2022.

Peak dates don’t mean those meteor showers haven’t already started.

Currently the Delta Aquarids which are a montage of meteors seeming to radiate below the “square” of Pegasus, started about July 18 and go through early August. They can produce up to 20 meteors per hour.

Their best sighting is from mid-evening to dawn in the Southern Hemisphere and the southern part of the United States during the new moon phase July 28. That is when moonlight won’t be a factor because the moon is between Earth and the Sun.

In addition, the Perseids have also started. Brighter than the Delta Aquarids, they can be seen now because the comet of origin, 109P/Swift-Tuttle, passes through Earth’s orbit July 14 to Aug. 24. Their peak will be during August’s full moon phase Aug. 12 but is expected to deliver about 100 meteors per hour.

So, just because a meteor shower is said to peak at a certain time during the month, does not mean its meteors aren’t zooming overhead before and after those dates.

EarthSky has a good analysis of these two July-August meteor showers.

 

July has largest looking full moon of the year

July full moon is a supermoon because it is so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)
July full moon is a supermoon because it is so close to Earth. (J Jacobs photo)

If up and about the night of July 13, 2022 you likely had a bright light shining into you abode. It is best “supermoon” of 2022. But if the weather was bad, don’t worry. It still looks large and bright through Friday morning even though its full phase and peak illumination was July 13 at 2:38 p.m. EDT.

This July full moon appears larger than normal because its orbit brings it close to planet Earth. NASA’s Full Moon guide xxplains that astrologer Richard Nolle used the term “supermoon” in 1979 for a new or full moon within 90 Percent of perigee as its closest approach to Earth.

In other words, a supermoon looks larger but isn’t.

Full moons have been given names by Native Americans, Europeans and other groups usually according to nature, rituals, farm life and animal behavior.  July’s full moon is often known as the “Buck” full moon.

A good place to get more name infomation is the Old Farmer’s Almanac. It has a video that also talks about what has been left on the moon.

 

 

Three road trip tips

Inside the Archway near Kearney NE. ( J Jacobs photo)
Inside the Archway near Kearney NE. ( J Jacobs photo)

Yes, the roads may be busy this summer, after all, we’re anxious to return to some sort of normal re visiting friends, families and vacation sights. But the skies aren’t very friendly, airports are jammed, flights are often canceled and you may still need a car if taking a train.

So, pack the car.

Tips:

  1. Invest in investigation Don’t worry about being hip or a techy. GPS doesn’t always take you the best way, the most scenic way or the way you might want to go if you had a map on a seat or a lap. Look online or (gasp) at an atlas (stores still sell them) or at a Mapquest directions and map that you can print to consider different routes. Ex: GPS wanted a route we knew included traffic-slowing construction. So, check the Department of Transportation in the states you go through. In Illinois it is IDOT.

 

  1. Don’t miss fun and interesting sights on the route to or from your destination. Driving straight through is hard on the back and legs and if you really consider the road trip as a well-deserved vacation then adjust the plans to fit in an extra day or two.   If you think Iowa and Nebraska are merely unending rows of grain, think again. A few miles north of I 80 west of Iowa City are the Germanic Amana Colonies to stay, shop or eat. The Archway over I 80 in Nebraska is definitely worth a rest stop. It is peopled with outstanding glimpses into “westward ho”.

 

3. Gas and rest stops may surprise you. If you live in a high gas-priced area, getting out of state is good for the budget. We found gas prices were below the $5 and $6 range once we left Chicago and Illinois. We also found that states’ highway rest stops were kept clean and had brochures on what to see along the road. So, stop to stretch, learn about the area, toss garbage and uncap the water or soda you keep in a cold bag or container. (You did pack one, right

Tau Herculids meteor shower

 

Meteor shower Photo courtesy of NASA)
Meteor shower (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Back in the beginning of May we mentioned two meteor showers for the month: the Eta Aquarida early in May and the Tau Herculids at the end of May.

What was unknown and only a guess was how large the Tau Herculids shower would be. It wasn’t on everyone’s radar as one to watch or even  existing.

However, EarthSky suggested it could be an exciting display because it was the debris from parent comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, (SW3) which had been breaking up and would likely be seen in the Earth’s Western Hemisphere at night

Though the debris was, as predicted, not bright, and didn’t fill the sky with hundreds of meteors at a time, the Tau Herculids did put on a reasonable display with as many as 25 to 35 meteors seen around midnight CT May 30 p.m. to May 31 a.m.

Noticed by astronomers in 1930, it is now on more sky watch lists. A good site to see reports of the meteor shower is at EarthSky.

Memorial week escapes one day drive away

Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)
Door county, WI is all about wate. (J Jacobs photos)

Memorial Day signals summer even if just for the long weekend or for a whole week if school is already out. But that vacation should be in the planning stage now to get the accommodations and restaurants wanted. (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

With gas prices looking more and more like highway robbery a one-day drive there may better budget cents.  (Note: If going before Memorial Day check hours. Some shops, galleries, restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday)

Here are three destinations, each within a different state, that are an easy day’s drive from Chicago. They all have historic roots. First is a Wisconsin peninsula that is basically an island with several small villages. Second is a Michigan town paired with two good neighbors. Third is a historic Illinois town near the Mississippi River.

Door County, WI

A finger separating the calmer waters of Green Bay from the often more turbulent waves of Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin peninsula home to Door County draws vacationers looking for relaxing seascapes, fine art and pottery galleries, delicious food, trails to bike and hike and lighthouses.

Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Phot by Jodie Jacobs
Visit a lighthouse in Door County (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Although The Door, as it is often called, begins halfway up the peninsula south of Brussels for drivers taking Hwy 57, the tourist destination starts further north across a bridge at Sturgeon Bay that is about a four-hour, fifteen-minute drive from Chicago.

Stop before crossing the bridge to get a map, dining and gallery brochures and expert information at the Visitor Center, 1015 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay.

Best plan is to make accommodation reservations before leaving home. Destination Door County/Stay lists inns, B and Bs, cabins, guest houses, motels, resorts and condos.

You might want a place near the center of The Door in Ephraim such as the Eagle Harbor Inn or a place with water views such as Harbor House in Fish Creek or the Yacht Club in Sister Bay or a place known for its good breakfast such as the Church Hill Inn.

Settle in, check the map you now have to see all the towns and crossroads from bay side to lake side and figure what kind of food you want that first night, casual, pizza, fine dining or one of The Door’s noted “fish boil.” experience.

More than one restaurant does an excellent fish boil. The historic White Gull Inn in Fish Creek is among the most popular. Fish boils are fun to watch but you have to like white fish to eat the dish and not worry about bones (for most of them).

When in the mood for home-made root beer, a hamburger and a picture-worthy sundae, stop at historic Wilson’s, a local ice cream parlor in Ephraim.

Door County is fruit country, particularly cherries, so be sure to pick up a cherry pie, chocolate covered cherries and a selection of preserves while there or before you leave. Couple of suggestions: Schartner’s Farm Market on Hwy42 south of Egg Harbor and Seaquist Orchards, north on Hwy 42 past Sister Bay have yummy products.

Other items to bring back are a painting and pottery. Door County is home to several artists and artisans. Also, indulge your inner artist at Hands On Art Studio on Peninsula Players Road in Fish Creek. A complex of small buildings, Hands On has the tools, materials and experts to help with ceramics or create a glass, clay, mosaic or jewelry item.

Or stop in any way to see what is there and then go up Peninsula Players Road to Edgewood Orchard Galleries to walk its sculpture trail.

BTW, bringing back food and art is part of a driving trip vacation.

 

Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J jacobs photo)
Dune climbing is part of the Saugatuck, MI experience ( J Jacobs photo)

Saugatuck/Douglas MI

At about 139 miles from Chicago, Saugatuck, its twin town of Douglas and neighboring town of Fennville are an easy two-hour, 14-minute drive north on Interstate 196.

Saugatuck is on the north side of the Kalamazoo River with Douglas across the way on the river’s south side.. Fenville is south and slightly east of Douglas. They all have attractive stops when on a driving trip to what is known as Michigan’s Art Coast.

Gallery hopping is as much an attraction and pursuit as climbing the area’s dunes and dune riding. A popular art stop is the J. Petter Galleries on the Blue coast Hwy in Douglas just before crossing the bridge and turning into Saugatuck.

Artists have been coming here for at least 100 years when the Art Institute of Chicago opened Ox-Bow School. The school still has workshops and classes and the Art Barn in Fennville has drop-in times for anyone interested in creating something.

Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)
Cross the Kalamazoo River on the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (J Jacobs photo)

Inns and B and B’s on the lake, across from the river and near downtown  Saugatuck offer comfortable rooms, friendly hosts and in many cases, breakfasts.

Walk along the river in Saugatuck but for something different take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry across the river then climb Mt. Baldy dune’s 302 steps for great views of the surrounding area.

For a back-in-time break stop in the Saugatuck Drug Store & Soda Fountain for a root beer float.

When not checking out the shops downtown Saugatuck, fit in a visit to the Saugatuck Brewery and browse the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion, both on the Blue Star Hwy in Douglas.

Slightly further out in Fennville take refreshing breaks at the Fenn Valley Vineyards and Virtue Cider, both a few minutes away in Fennville.

Both have products you take home to enjoy while looking over and emailing photos of the Saugatuck area.

 

Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)
Kandy Kitchen and other fun Main Street shops and historic structures draw vacationers to Galena. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena, IL

Galena, IL a 19th century former lead mining town and once popular 1850s  political stop for both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the town rises on hills above the Mississippi River in northwest Illinois.

The area’s fall color is enough to make Galena a seasonal destination but many vacationers come in winter to ski or summer for fun shopping in a historic town. About 800 buildings, comprising 85 percent of the downtown and surrounding area, make up a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Among them is the home of Ulysses S. Grant where he was living when he heard he was elected the 18th President of the United States, and the Desota House Hotel where Lincoln spoke in 1856 for John Fremont’s bid for the presidency.

Along with Desota House, there are several B and B’s. If looking for luxury consider the Select Registry inns of Goldmoor and Jail Hill  (really). For hiking, biking, golf and spa look just outside of Galena’s downtown at Eagle Ridge.

After checking in or dropping off overnight bags, start the visit at the Galena Country Visitor Center. Located in a former train depot near the Grant house, it is on the south side of the Galena River across old rail tracks at 101 Bouthiller St.

Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)
Historic Galena nestles into hillsides above the Mississippi River. J Jacobs photo)

Ask for a map of the downtown and area and get ready to shop and explore..\

Galena has lots of restaurants but the one that needs a reservation more than others is Fried Green Tomatoes. So, make you dining reservation before you arrive in town.

Vising Galena is about walking tits historic downtown and popping into clever, yummy and interesting shops such as Kandy Kitchen, Chocolat ,  Bread & Vine, a patisserie with good macarons, desserts and yummy sandwiches and American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the shop many folks crowd into first.

But don’t forget to cross the street and head up towards the highway and beginning of the shopping area for a true treasure store called Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn .  Indulge in your inner farmyard, antique shopping persona. After all, driving here means room in the car for collectibles.

One more tip: check the department of transportation website whichever state and trip you choose to find out about construction.

Happy and safe travels!