A Galena getaway

Main Street downtown Galena. (J Jacobs photo)
Main Street downtown Galena. (J Jacobs photo)

Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois is the historic Mississippi hillside town of Galena. Its gorgeous fall color draws visitors from mid-September to Halloween, so if going then, book your stay now (weekdays are better).

But the shops, the mid-to late 1800’s structures, charming inns and good food make Galena a fun break in the routine pretty much any time of year. (Folks come here to ski Chestnut Mountain even if not every shop is open)

An easy three-hour drive from Chicago on I 90, the vacation begins when turning before Rockford onto US 20, General Ulysses S. Grant Highway when the four-lane expressway becomes a scenic two-lane road.

The historic hillside town of Galena, IL (J Jacobs photo)
The historic hillside town of Galena, IL (J Jacobs photo)

As you wind through the hills of Stephenson and Jo Davies Counties, you may realize you are on a ridge with grand vistas of lush valleys.

Although you can continue north through Galena to cross the Mississippi at East Dubuque into Iowa (and go the The Field of Dreams baseball movie destination), Galena is a getaway destination, itself.

Go back in time

Indian tribes roamed the area. then it was settled by French traders and explorers. However, the town flourished in the early 1800s when galena ore (lead) boats plied the Mississippi River. It then became a gateway west when Ulysses S. Grant’s family lived and worked here in the mid-1800s.

Historic staircase in the Desoto House Hotel. (J Jacobs photo)
Historic staircase in the Desoto House Hotel. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena was on the stage coach route (there still are some stage coach signs). Then by 1854, the rail line went through making it a natural stop for Abraham Lincoln who used the balcony of the Desoto House Hotel on Main Street to campaign for John Fremont in 1856. The Desoto House was also the campaign headquarters for Grant. Go in to see its staircase and ask about a tour.

A couple of other good stops are the old  railroad depot on the south side of the Galena River. It houses the Galena Area Tourism Bureau. Also on that side of the river is Gen US Grant’s home built for him as the town’s favorite son.

Ask about walking tours when at the depot. The Galena Historic District covers about 85 percent of the city and includes some 800 properties that were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Birdhouses at Red's in Galena (J Jacobs photo)
Birdhouses at Red’s in Galena (J Jacobs photo)

Shop

Think food, boutiques and quirky shops when strolling downtown Galena’s Main Street.

When pulling onto the street from US 20 I spied the cheese and wine store that I knew was there. But the unknown treasure was Red’s Iron Yard and Wholesale Barn a few stores down. I loved the roosters and birdhouses in front. My husband was drawn to the antique toy trucks in back.

Another fun store was Celebrity Hats on the other side of the street. Go in. Find your style.

Celebrity Hats (J Jacobs photo)
Celebrity Hats (J Jacobs photo)

Among the taste treats on the street were two chocolate stores and a patisserie that also did cocktails and sandwiches. Really. Called Bread & Vine, it did good macarons, lovely desserts and yummy sandwiches including a Croque Monsieur and savory croissant with smoked salmon.

There are a couple of chains but most of the stores are unique.

Dine

Outside Fried Green Tomatoes. (J Jacobs photo)
Outside Fried Green Tomatoes. (J Jacobs photo)

Some folks journey to Galena just for the Fried Green Tomatoes restaurant. You do need a reservation. The place is that popular. I made ours before leaving town. It is known for its steaks but we chose seafood because we know everything there is well prepared and we had meat before we left.  The front of the restaurant is on Main Street but its outdoor space is behind it where people park. This end of the street is blocked off for outdoor, curb and street side tables.

Also good is the historic Desoto House. It has three restaurants that are  open at different times of the day. For lunch we did the Green Street Tavern where I had the best garlic French fries ever tasted with a delish pulled pork sandwich. My husband had an apple and mixed berry salad  with walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette .

Our dinner the night before we left was at Frank O’Dowd’s Irish Pub & Grill at the Irish Cottage where we were staying. I liked their beer battered cod and seasoned Irish chips. My husband liked the traditional corned beef.

The snug at O'Dowd's Pub and Grill (J Jacobs photo)
The snug at O’Dowd’s Pub and Grill (J Jacobs photo)

Stay

Galena has several B and Bs. Check the Galena Country tourism  stay/site for ideas. We liked the Irish cottage for its first-floor patio suites but there were several other places that also looked good including the Goldmoor Inn which is a Select Registry on the road to Chestnut Mountain and the Chestnut Mountain Resort.  Both have good views and friendly service.

Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa about six miles outside town has now reopened for golf, events and regular tourist traffic.

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Vacation Destination Part One: Golf

Famed 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. (J Jacobs photo)
Famed 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. (J Jacobs photo)

If watching The Players Championship, a major golf tournamentheld at TPC Sawgrass this weekend, you will constantly see shots of its famous island hole. Ponte Vedra, FL,

A place to try a copycat hole is a short distance west at the World Golf Village near St. Augustine. WGV is akin to Hollywood for movie buffs.

The island hole replicated at the World Golf Village. (J Jacobs photo)
The island hole replicated at the World Golf Village. (J Jacobs photo)

 

If playing golf, picking up anecdotes about golf and walking where legendary golfers have walked gets the adrenalin going, put the Sawgrass Marriott Resort Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. or Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, St. Augustine, Fla. on your vacation list.

Sawgrass Clubhouse may not look as you expected. It's worth a visit. ( J Jacobs photo)
Sawgrass Clubhouse may not look as you expected. It’s worth a visit. ( J Jacobs photo)

TPC Sawgrass

Imagine teeing off on TCP Sawgrass’ famed 17th “Island Hole in Ponte Vedra, FL. It has already swallowed more than one pro’s golf ball during the Players tournament going on now, March 11-14, 2021. A major tournament, the Players was moved from May to March this year.

When the tournament is over you can play the course and see if you can land a ball on the green.

Arguably, the best way to snag the tee time you want is to stay at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. If not staying there, call and ask about a Resort Day Pass

While visiting TCP Sawgrass, soak up the legendary atmosphere with a Storyteller’s Tour of  the Clubhouse and bring your camera. The Clubhouse is TCP headquarters. It and the course were built for the tour’s players.

Plan to lunch or do dinner at the Clubhouse. When weather permits, get a table on the veranda of the casual “19” restaurant for its view of The Players’ presentation area.

If time allows, book a lesson at the Tour Academy TPC Sawgrass. You can take your lesson on a course walked by the world’s greatest players.

Visiting the Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village ( J Jacobs photo)
Visiting the Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village ( J Jacobs photo)

World Golf Village

Or stay at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village about half an hour south of Ponte Vedra on the western outskirts of St. Augustine. You can call over to TPC Sawgrass 14 days ahead to see if you can get a tee time.

At World Golf Village, you can try to reach its version of the 17th hole. Actor Bill Murray had landed a ball on that island green when in town for the Caddyshack Tournament he has sponsored at a World Golf Village course before The Players.

Then, chow down on great hamburgers and other pub food at Murray Bros. Caddyshack Restaurant.

Be on the alert for celebrities  Golfing greats occasionally drop by because it is home to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the King and Bear course Palmer designed with Jack Nicklaus (the only course they worked on together). The resort’s other course is the Slammer and Squire. Sammy Snead and Gene Sarazen were consultants to course designer Bobby Weed.

Stroll the Walk of Champions to read Hall of Famers signatures engraved on the path to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

No matter whether bedding down at the Sawgrass Marriott or the Renaissance Resort, be sure to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Exploring the Golf Hall of Fame (J Jacobs photo)
Exploring the Golf Hall of Fame (J Jacobs photo)

Head upstairs to see Hall of Famers’ lockers, learn the origins of golf and attempt to swing like the pros in a bay. Take a photograph as each of you cross St. Andrews’ famed bridge. Another flight up is the trophy room.

Tip: You might think the visit can be a quick in and out but you will find yourselves spending two hours in World Golf Hall of Fame.

World Golf Village is also the place to shop or sharpen your game. On the grounds is the PGA Tour Stop, a two-level, 30,000 square-foot golf pro shop, and the PGA Tour Golf Academy.

Visit St. Augustine, FL (J Jacobs photo)
Visit St. Augustine, FL (J Jacobs photo)

Both resorts are a good base for visiting the old city of St. Augustine,  founded 42 years before Jamestown and 55 years before pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.

Walk the historic area, boat the harbor and drive over to the Alligator Farm, where hundreds of birds nest in the trees knowing that animals can’t get to their nests because of the alligators below.

Birds flock to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine ( J Jacobs photo)
Birds flock to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine ( J Jacobs photo)

 

If you go

Sawgrass Marriott Ponte Vedra, 1000 PGA Boulevard, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.  800-577-6009 and 800-457-4653  800-457-4653

Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village, 500 S. Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, Fla. 888-740-7020

 

Go to AZ for MLB spring training and warm weather

Listen up baseball fans. Spring Training 2021 tickets for Chicago teams go on sale this week: Cubs 1 p.m. CT Feb. 19, White Sox, 11 a.m. CT Feb. 20.

Chicago weather is supposed to get better the last week of February, maybe even going up to 40 degrees. But imagine yourself in Phoenix, AZ where daytime temps are in the 70s and you exchange sweaters and sweats for shorts and T shirts.

Chicago Cubs (J Jacpbs photo)
Chicago Cubs (J Jacpbs photo)

The Cubs’ AZ home is Sloan Park in Mesa. A smaller version of Wrigley Field, Sloan Park is often called Wrigleyville West. It is bordered by roads  named Waveland and Sheffield Avenues and Clark Street.

The Sox play at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, a Phoenix suburb known as a restaurant, entertainment and sports mecca.

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

It may be easier to find tickets for your team’s games at competitors’ parks so get to know the schedule.

The Cubs’ schedule starts with the Padres away on March 1 and at Sloan Park against the KC Royals, March 2. Questions can be sent to mesa@cubs.com. The Cubs regular season begins April 1 when they play the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.

White Sox  open at home against the Brewers, Feb. 28 then away against the Angels March 1.  For help in getting there visit Trip Planner. For more ticket, protocols and other information visit White Sox Spring Training.

The Sox play their first game away against the Angels on April 1 and are away until they play KC at home on April 8. For the regular season information visit White Sox Tickets. and Schedule.

Related 2020 articles with town and stadium color:

Take a spring training vacation

Spring training at Wrigleyville-West

Enjoy spring at Camelback Ranch or Sloan Park

 

Remodeled Marriott to have virus killing air filtration

Hotel Paso del Norte Dome Bar, El Paso, TX. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Norte and Marriott Autograph Collection)
Hotel Paso del Norte Dome Bar, El Paso, TX. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Norte and Marriott Autograph Collection)

Historic Hotel Paso del Norte, a Marriott Autograph Collection property in El Paso, TX, is installing the Plasma Air system as part of its multi-million-dollar renovation.

Built in 1912 and on the National Register of Historic Place, the hotel is  known for its Tiffany-style stained glass dome, Native American carvings and a statue of Mexican General Pancho Villa.

But when age and changing guest needs required extensive renovations, the Marriott organization also decided to add a major new air system component to safeguard the health of visitors and staff.

According to Hotel Paso del Norte, Plasma Air kills 99% of bacteriophage in  after 10 minutes. It will be used throughout the property from guest rooms, hallways and common areas to restaurants, spa and fitness area. .

“We are among the First Marriott Autograph hotels in the world to install a system that cleans air to this level,” said Carlos Sarmiento, Hotel Paso del Norte general manager.

“Being in the renovation process when this crisis occurred gave us the unique opportunity to implement additional safety features before opening our doors,” Sarmiento said.

He added, “When we undertook this project we were prepared to restore the 108-year-old property’s architectural elements, create stunning event spaces and amenities, and curate a distinct culinary destination—but Covid-19 gave us the need to enhance air quality in all areas of the hotel.”

Information from the hotel and Marriott explained the Plasma Air system that is being installed as HVAC-mounted ionizers that use proactive air purification technologies to safely deactivate airborne viruses.

The system incorporates bipolar ionization that creates millions of positive and negative ions. It is supposed to be a proven method for virus destruction and has been tested in simulated hospital ICUs and hotels used to house medical personnel in isolation during the pandemic.

In addition, the hotel will have sanitizing stations, and sanitize high-touch areas at a minimum of every two hours, require associates to wear personal protective equipment, and receive temperature checks prior to each shift, and complete wellness questionnaires.

Other safety measures include that vendors wear masks and have their temperature checked. guests will be required to wear masks in public areas as mandated by local and state laws and Marriott, floor signage will encourage social distancing and trays will be used to hand items to guests.

To learn more about the hotel and when it will re-open visit Hotel Paso del Norte.

 

Two vacation spots open now

 

Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family resort with a good pool and dining options. (J Jacobs photo)
Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family resort with a good pool and dining options. (J Jacobs photo)

Crystal Mountain Golf and Ski Resort

Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, MI, a beautiful complex rated #1 Resort in the Midwest by Ski Magazine, is also a great get-away place in the summer.

Nestled in the forested highlands of Northwest Michigan, it lies south of Traverse City about five hours from Chicago.

Rooms in the Inn are convenient but when you need more than one room when going as a family or two couples you can move the stay up an affordable notch.

At the multi-bedroom MountainTop Town Homes you can take a shuttle down to the village’s main street or stay down the hill, close to the action in cottages and cabins.

Relax by a pool, play golf, dine well at the Inn and check out the Crystal Spa which is Leed certified.

Tips:

The resort is a charming small village complete with a mini grocery store but if you chose a cabin or condo you have a kitchen and dining area so bring snacks you love.

Crystal Mountain, is easy to miss so plug its address into your GPS. Quickest route is north from Grand Rapids up the center of the state.

For a break, go into Frankfort about a 15 minute drive west to Lake Michigan or Traverse City, about half an hour north.

 

Elkhart Lake is a quaint resort village in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)
Elkhart Lake is a quaint resort village in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

Elkhart Lake

A vacation in Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin combines Victorian atmosphere with country and contemporary comfort.

A little over two hours from Chicago’s northern suburbs, the village is a throwback to an earlier time when it was a summer vacation destination before the turn of the 20th century.

It is a sleepy town of resorts, family-owned restaurants, small stores and a century-old railroad depot museum and Saturday Farmers Market.

However, it is also home to a popular race car track that was known as Road America. Think of it as an advantage to keep good restaurants such as Lake Street Café and the Paddock Club, in business.

An eatery with a duel personality, Lake Street Café specializes in fun atmosphere and pub food in its bar and upscale bistro in its dining room. Its wine cellar has repeatedly been recognized by Spectator Magazine.

Next door is the Paddock Club which features local seasonal ingredients served in a contemporary, casual atmosphere. Look for familiar dishes with a twist of the unusual.

Among the resorts is Osthoff. It fits in with local Victorian architecture and neighboring old-time resorts but Osthoff was built in 1995. A historic-looking charmer, the resort was updated in 2007 with 21st century fixtures from Kohler, its upscale plumbing neighbor to the south.

Aside from the races, this is a town to come to feel the muscles relax, boat on the lake or play a round of golf. Bring the tennis racquets or read while the youngsters splash in a pool or the lake.

Enjoy spring at Camelback Ranch or Sloan Park

 

 

At Wrigleyville West. (J Jacobs photo)
At Wrigleyville West. (J Jacobs photo)

Instead of waiting for spring to descend on Chicago and the Cubs and Sox games, enjoy both this month in Arizona.

Go online to pick up Cubs  or Sox tickets, book a trip to Phoenix, find a hotel in the Phoenix-Mesa area and enjoy the more casual MLB games in the Cactus League.

At home in Sloan Park, the Cubs will take on the Oakland A’s Feb. 22, Colorado Rockies Feb. 25, KC Royals Feb. 26 and Milwajukee Brewers Feb. 29

Their away games (sometimes easier to get tickets) are the LA Dodgers, Feb. 23, Seattle Mariners Feb. 24, Texas Rangers Feb. 27 and San Diego Padres Feb. 28

For tickets and the calendar visit MLB/Cubs/schedule2020 

Camelback Ranch in Glendale is the spring home of the Chicago White Sox. A suburb of Phoenix, visitors get all the advantages of Phoenix’s museums, hotels and its famed Botanic Garden but are close to White Sox action.

The Sox have a home game against the LA Angels Feb. 22 and are awayh against the Cincinnati Reds Feb. 23, LA Dodgers Feb. 24, have a split squad against the Indians away and the Giants at home on Feb. 25, then away against the KC Royals,Feb. 26, are at home against the Mariners Feb. 27, Indians Feb. 28 and away against the Rangers on Feb. 29.

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

The Desert Botanic Garden is a popular Phoenix destination. (J Jacobs photo)
The Desert Botanic Garden is a popular Phoenix destination. (J Jacobs photo)

If you go

The excellent Sheraton Mesa at Wrigley West places you right at Sloan Park. But check Visit Mesa to see other accommodation choices. It’s also a good referral to restaurants and attractions.

While in the area try to get to the Desert Botanical Garden and hike Camelback Mountain or Pinnacle Peak Park. Do visit the famed Heard Museum for fine Native American arts.

While visiting one of the Cub’s or White Sox’s away games in or near neighboring Scottsdale, browse fine art galleries in Old Town and visit Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

So get away from Chicago’s winter. Relax outdoor with a margarita or cold draft beer while shouting Hey! Hey! at Wrigley West. You will feel right at home because the border streets  are Waveland Avenue, Clark Street and Sheffield Ave.

Or enjoy a Chicago hot dog (no ketchup please) at Camelback Ranch and watch the newly rebuilt Sox team take on old rivals. 

 

 

Three fun Valentine ideas

 

Instead of a heart-shaped box of candy, be original and think Portillo's justly famous chocolate cake. (Wagstaff Chicago photo)
Instead of a heart-shaped box of candy, be original and think Portillo’s justly famous chocolate cake. (Wagstaff Chicago photo)

Ask a friend, ask a lover or ask a few people to join you to celebrate the Feast of Saint Valentine Feb. 14. It’s just nice to have a fun day in the middle of winter. Since Feb/ 14 comes on a Friday in 2020, celebrate the end of the week or the beginning of a fun weekend.

The ideas listed here are for Chicago but they could be adapted anywhere by substituting  a local cooking class for No. 1, a decadent chocolate dessert for No. 2 and a different activity for No. 3. They range from pricey but yummy to free.

Peninsula Chicago Couples Cooking Classes

The Peninsula Chicago’s Shanghai Terrace is doing a Dim Sum for Lovebirds cooking class and dinner from Feb. 10 through Feb. 16. It includes a Chinese tea degustation, a class led by Chef de Cuisine Elmo Han and ends with a three-course dinner.  The cost per couple is $888 but there is a less expensive option Feb. 15 only. It’s the two-hour Valentine’s Day Cooking Experience. At $480 a couple it includes tortellini making and a three-course lunch of oysters, pasta and dessert in The Lobby. (Gratuity and tax not included).

Peninsula Chicago is on Superior Street at Michigan Avenue. To make reservations or for more information call (312) 573 6620, toll-free at 1 866 288 8889, visit  Peninsula Chicago or email reservations

Portillo’s Chocolate Cakes 

The restaurant is not just among Chicagoan’s fave when it comes to hot dogs or Italian beef. It’s chocolate cake ranks among the town’s top dessert choices. So Portillo’s is shaping it famous cake into a heart for Valentine’s Day. A the single-layer chocolate iced cake, the treat will be available at Chicago area locations Feb. 7-16, but can be pre-ordered beginning  Jan. 14, 2020 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.

In addition, 100% of the purchase price of each Portillo’s Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake sold between January 14 and February 16 (capped at $25,000) will be donated to the American Red Cross. Portillo’s is supporting the American Red Cross Biomedical Services to ensure a safe and reliable blood supply is available for patients in need.

Heart-Shaped cakes will be available for purchase in-store February 7-16. Guests are encouraged to pre-order the cakes beginning on January 14 by visiting portillos.com or calling 1-866-YUM-BEEF.

Ice skating in Millennium Park

Skate against the Chicago skyline or skate under the stars. Ice skating at Chicago’s Millennium Park below Cloud Gate (The Bean) is a popular winter activity encouraged by background music and a concession stand of hot chocolate. The skating is free. Visitors can bring their skates or rent, or use the rental free of charge if staying at a Hilton.

The historic Palmer House at Wabash and Monroe Streets, just west of the Art institute  and Millenium Park is a Hilton. So is The Wit, a popular millennial hotel by Doubletree at State and Lake, a couple of blocks west.

Up the experience by doing lunch at Terao Piano which is a short walk up the bridge from the park to the third floor of the Art Institute of Chicago or an elevator ride up from the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Those entrances to the restaurant don’t have a museum charge. Or do dinner in the Park Grill right there at the skating rink.

 

 

Consider theWit for a downtown holiday staycation

Ice skating the Ribbon in Millennial Park is easy when taking a staycation. (City of Chicago photo)
Ice skating the Ribbon in Millennial Park is easy when taking a staycation. (City of Chicago photo)

You’re in The Loop when you stay at theWit.

Well situated at State and Lake Streets, the hotel is close to Macy’s shopping, Walnut Room tree and holiday windows, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol,” Millennial Park’s Caroling at Cloud Gate and ice skating rinks, the Chriskindle Market, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago’s holiday-decorated Thorne Miniature Rooms and a short bus ride to the Auditorium theatre to see Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker.” Continue reading “Consider theWit for a downtown holiday staycation”

Discovering a great way to vacation in Central Florida

Pools and golf courses at Omni Orlando resort. J Jacobs photo)
Pools and golf courses at Omni Orlando resort. J Jacobs photo)

Sometimes my family stayed on a Disney property. Other times we stayed at a nearby  resort but rented a car. This time, I decided to accompany a small group whose aim was to check out a variety of attractions and travel options in the Kissimmee area.

The result was one surprise after another.

This was to be a no-car rental vacation. Yes, renting a car will likely be an option for some families and couples but we wanted to see what could work without that choice.

Continue reading “Discovering a great way to vacation in Central Florida”

A Wisconsin fall getaway

 

Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)
Fall in Ephraim, (Photo by John Nienhuis and Door County)

Picture a small town where goats on a restaurant roof can cause a traffic jam in a county where visitors to its scenic towns often gather around huge outdoor pots to watch traditional fish boils.

It is Door County, a peninsula that separates the calm waters of Green Bay from turbulent waves of Lake Michigan and where the must-take-home items are chocolate covered cherries or cherry pies and the must-visit time of year is fall.

An easy drive from Green Bay’s airport, the route on the way to the Sturgeon Bay, the first vacation town on the peninsula, is dotted with the crimsons, golds and pinksm of changing leaves. And, as TV ads say, “But wait.” The colors keep intensifying, driving northwest along curving roads through picturesque villages.

Continue reading “A Wisconsin fall getaway”