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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Think about a getaway for movie stars close enough for call backs and retakes but far enough from Hollywood to really be a home away from home and you have a star-studded neighborhood in the Palm Springs, CA area.
Now picture several home groupings that boast mid-century modern architecture zoned similarly to 1800s historic designated areas so that changes have to conform with the period and you’ll have more than 30 neighborhoods in and near Palm Springs.
The area welcomes visitors to tour the neighborhoods by bus, bike and double-decker streetcar during Modernism Week, an annual festival celebrating mid-century design, architecture and culture. The event includes talks, a featured home tour and parties.
BTW, the outside of Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms home on East Alejo Rd. that backs up to Dinah Shore’s back yard is typically on one of the tours. It is in what is considered the Movie Colony/El Mirador neighborhood. And there is a tour that goes to Sunnylands, the former Annenberg Estate in Rancho Mirage.
Modernism Week is Feb. 17-27, 2022. Find tickets and more information at modernismweek.
See snow sculptures. Ice skate, Explore an ice village with illuminated caves or a Nordic village with downhill and cross-country skiing. Put Wisconsin and Michigan on the travel excursion list to catch these events and ideas before winter ends.
Ice castle kingdom
Stay at Geneva National Resort and Club’s The Ridge in Lake Geneva, WI where guests can now explore an illuminated ice kingdom complete with caves, fountains and frozen slides. Opened Jan. 22, 2022. The Ridge guests get the best available tickets to the ice kingdom, including the difficult-to-get Saturday times.
Call ahead about tickets if driving over to Lake Geneva and not staying at Geneva National. Current expectation is that it will remain open through February depending on the weather. The resort also features ice skating, cross-country skiing and fine dining.
Walk around and judge for yourself amazing snow sculptures created by 15 state teams from across the county at the US National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva.
Held Wednesday when snow arrives through Saturday for the judging, the annual Snow Sculpting Championship takes place at Riviera Plaza and flat Iron Park during the city’s Winterfest, Feb. 2-6, 2022.
Wisconsin Team 2 of Sculptora Borealis won with “Inoculation” last year and Florida’s Less Latitutde, more attitude,” took second with “the Power of the Mind’s Eye.”
Winterfest also includes ice sculptures and entertainment. For more information visit Winterfest 2022.
Downhill ski at award-winning Crystal Mountain that controls snow quality with its own machines, has good cross-country trails and an excellent ski school. Located in Thomsonville, MI, Crystal Mountain is a scenic, Nordic style resort village with several accommodation choices, spa and large, indoor pool.
Shopping on-line makes holiday gift-choices COVID safe and fun. Just try to do the shopping now while orders have a good chance to make it to their destinations by Christmas. You also are likely to find some things you would like. Hey, give yourself a gift.
For the traveler or travel wannabe National Geographic has a holiday special – for $39/year that includes immediate digital access, 12 print issues, and a tote bag. Find the details at NationalGeographicHolidayGift.
Check out the giftshop on-line at a favorite museum such as the Art Institute of Chicago. The shop has great scarves, books, calendars, jewelry and home décor items. Look for gifts at MuseumShopartic.
Share your love of fine foods. Order from a favorite coffee or candy store. A couple of examples are Door County Coffee and Tea which is the go-to place in a Wisconsin vacation spot and Long Grove Confectionery in a historic Chicago suburb.
Instead of merely zooming (the old-fashioned sense of the word) in on your fall destination, check out places along the way to stop that you might not get to in a separate trip.
A surprising thing happened as we planned a Door County getaway for October.
Looking at the map ((we use GPS and paper maps) we realized we could break the drive up from Chicago into two destinations with a short stopover in Sheboygan. We know and have been to the American Club in Kohler, but why Sheboygan?
The John Michael Kohler Art Center downtown Sheboygan on New York Avenue has opened an exceptional branch called the Art Preserve over on Lower Falls Road that celebrates intuitive Wisconsin artists. Not only is the building artistic, its contents include large and sometimes full collections from each artist.
I had seen good intuitive exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum so hearing what the Art Preserve would have and that it would open in July I was excited about stopping there on our way to Door County for a fall color trip.
The art work is remarkable!
The Art Preserve may seem small on the outside but that is an illusion. The art fills three floors.
Visitors wander around well-placed sculptures and home-made structures that have been taken down and moved there. They then move on to startling paintings on dividers and top notch (I want one) ceramics on tables and in cases. There are also artists’ amazing renderings of animals and people.
To stay within COVID protocols visitors should register their anticipated arrival time before leaving home. Once there, take all the time you want but allow for two hours.
If familiar with the parent museum you probably guessed the bathrooms are tiled with art (yes people go into each).
A good place for lunch is the Café over at the Kohler Art Center where you order at a small counter and the food is brought to your table. My husband and I each had a superb salad.
We spent the day in Sheboygan but it only is about three hours from our destination in Door County so it could have fit into the morning.
However, the Art Preserve is worth a return trip.
The Art P:reserve is at 3636 Lower Falls Road, Sheboygan, WI. find more information at Kohler Art Preserve. The JM Kohler Art Center is at 608 New York Ave., Sheboygan, WI.
Take a fall color break. Green is a fine summer color but to celebrate the change of season to autumn, drive to northern Wisconsin now or wait a couple of weeks to mid October. That’s when the scenery in southeast Wisconsin blends gold with copper and ruby reds.
But you need to make room or camp reservations now because places such as Door County and even Bay Field further north that are both only beginning to change, are already putting up “sold out” signs. Another popular destination is Eagle River.
The Iron River area Three Lakes show Land O Lakes and Minocqua already have high color
Don’t wait until you can’t reserve a room or camp site in Michigan. The state’s fall color map is already showing blazing color in the UP and rapidly changing leaves from the middle of the state north.
Here are just a couple of ideas to get you started.
The state, in itself, is a travel destination so you hardly can go wrong no matter where you decide to go but consider where you want to headquarter and when you can go.