Just around Lake Michigan, a little more than half an hour from Chicago next to Porter IN, the fomer Indiana Dunes State Park was recently given National Park status.
Extending 15 miles around the southern part of Lake Michigan, the park is a birders destination, but with 50 miles of trails, this is also a great place to hike if you like dunes, water views, forests, prairies and even rivers.
You know about traffic jams but if you drive through this national park you will likely encounter “bear jams,” the phrase the locals use to characterize the stopping of cars to take photos when bears cross the road.
A second item to know if you go is that Gatlinburg, where you may start your park tour, is home to a large artists community. So save time to do “The Loop,” the eight-mile Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.
The Park Headquarters is at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. For more information call (865) 436-1200 and see NPS Plan Your Visit. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about 585 miles (about a 9.5 hour drive) from Chicago.
If looking for a breath-taking, backpacking, boating or fishing experience check out Isle Royale, MI , a National Park island in Lake Superior. Wheeled vehicles not allowed. Camp out or snag a room at Rock Harbor Lodge.
Drive to a departure town such as Houghton, Michigan about 400 miles from Chicago and 200 miles north of Green Bay WI. Visitors then take the NPS’ Ranger III boat over to the Isle. Different boats go from other towns.
Transportation services go there from Houghton and Copper Harbor, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota.
Houghton is off of US-41 at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula. For more information and tips visit NPS Plan. For Houghton and Isle Royale info call (906) 482-0984.
The park is beautiful any time of year. Visit in the fall to do its Pierce stocking Scenic Drive or in the winter if you like to snow shoe. Or visit in the spring when birds and wild flowers fill the woods. Come back in the summer to hike or bike the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. The park’s Port Oneida Rural Historic District features late 1980s farm life and crafts.
Do climb the immense sand dunes. The dunes at Sleeping Bear, town of Empire and at Pyramid Point are on bluffs about 400 feet above Lake Michigan.
The clue about what to see and do is the word Lakeshore. There are 65 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline plus inland lakes and streams. Park Headquarters are at 9922 Front St., Empire, MI 49630 Park Headquarters call (231) 326-4700 or try the Philip A. Hart Visitor Center (231) 326-4700, ext. 5010. See NPS Visit to plan the trip.
Adjacent towns such as Glen Haven, and Leland further north on the Leelanau Peninsula, are fun to visit. So is boating out to South Manitou Island for its lighthouse. The park has campgrounds. Click here for accommodations and attractions and to plan your visit. Add a couple of days to visit the wineries and towns on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Sleeping Bear Dunes is about 331 miles, about 5 1/2 hours, from Chicago.
After a bruising winter it’s time to go to a town that celebrates brightly colored flowers with dancing, art, music and windmill-ground flour. No passport needed.
It’s Holland, MI where everything Dutch is celebrated year ’round but where when May comes tulips line the streets and the town is in festival mode.
Plan now to visit because accommodations fill fast. Tulip Time is May 4 through May 12, 2019. Week days are less crowded but to catch the events you want, check the schedule. To see the schedule visit Tulip Time events.
Dutch dances begin May 2, Tulip Town Tours, the artisan market and Art in Bloom, Tall ships, Tulip Time Quilt show are May 4. But many of these events continue through the festival.
Tip: Don’t limit your time to just the main festival site.
My favorite stop is Windmill Island Gardens on the edge of the downtown. It has a real, from-Holland, working Dutch windmill. There is also an antique children’s carousel and replica Dutch buildings. For Tulip time there is a Dutch Trade Fair and Dutch food.
Dining. I haven’t had a bad meal there. Among my faves are Alpenrose Restaurant and Curragh Irish Pub.But walkthe main street, 8th Street, and explore. There are lots of boutiques and good restaurants plus good sculptures to see and photograph.
Not sure when our weather predicting ground hogs thought spring was putting in an early appearance but waiting for that warm weather to come to Chicago while sunning in Arizona is looking pretty good right now.
Besides, both Chicago baseball teams are there and won’t be back home until April; the 8th for the Cubs against the Padres and the 4th against the Mariners for the Sox. And their spring training facilities are in good vacation areas.
The Cubs’ Sloan Park, otherwise known by its somewhat similar layout and vendors as Wrigleyville West, is in Mesa.
An easily doable, laid back town with a couple of museums, outlet shopping, and is down the road from good restaurants, mountain scenery, and close to highways.
You’ll know Sloan Park in Wiglleyville by the street signs: Waveland Avenue is on the north, Sheffield Avenue is on the east and Clark street on the west.
Cubs tickets at other teams’ AZ parks might be easier to get than at Sloan and visiting other parks is also fun.
You get the gist of this escape. It’s a trip back to mid last century architecture and homes of famous people who wanted to be within a director’s calling distance of LA studios or not too far from Las Vegas stages.
A mere 119 miles southeast of Los Angeles and about 230 miles from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, CA sits on the always sunny (more than 350 days) western edge of Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. The events just mentions are a few of the dozens of tours and activities taking place in and around Palm Springs during the town’s annual Modernism Week, Feb. 14-24, 2019.
The bonus is two, really good shows in the Palm Springs Convention Center. Feb. 15-18, 2019. One is the high-end, Art Palm Springs. The other is a dealers’ Modernism exhibit. Feb. 15-18.
The week, actually 10 days, celebrates the area’s reputation for having more mid-last century homes than anywhere else in the world. Here, old homes are not torn down but are instead, preserved for people who appreciate mid-1900s designs. Indeed, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations architecture list in 2006.
Modernism Week happens twice a year, October and February. The fall event is small but the February one runs out of tickets to some of the popular tours and lectures. Check Tickets to see what is left and snap them up before you go.
Do a bus tour
Definitely get tickets for the Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Taking about 2.5 hours, the bus drives around Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods, and past Desert Spanish estates.
Knowledgeable guides tell stories about the stars and are likely to explain that the Palm Springs area was chosen because of what was then the studios’ “two-hour rule.” Actors had to be available within a couple of hour’s driving time for film and photo shoot calls..
It’s where tour guides have been known to say, “There is Frank Sinatra’s home, Twin Palms. When he was ready to party he hoisted a Jack Daniels flag between the palms.”
Mid-century architecture is so valued that the much photographed gas station at the foot of the area’s Tram, is on the tour as a re-purposed Visitors Center.
Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama have gotten away from cameras here but it is also a resort and golf area for folks who like its year-round summery weather.
Go to the Convention Center shows
At the Modernism Show, wander around the booths of dealers who specialize in 20th century design movements to see furniture and accessories similar to what your parents or grandparents cherished that are now back in style.
At the Art Palm Springs show check out the post war and contemporary art works.
Shop, Visit Galleries, Relax
There is so much to do during Modernism Week, that you should schedule in down-time. Stay awhile to explore the area, shop the boutiques and art galleries. One of the best galleries is Heather James in neighboring Palm Desert. Oh, and get in some golf and spa time. The Greater Palm SpringsVisitors Bureau has lots of ideas.
You don’t have to drive across country to find gorgeous tangerine and magenta vistas. Four easy-to-get-to Midwestern areas, Galena, IL, Geneva and Door County, WI and Bloomington/Brown County, IN, put on a color show that attract leaf-peepers as September merges into October. Sure there is good color throughout the region but these areas also have fun shops and good accommodation choices. You do need to make your reservation now, however, because they are not a secret. Best plan is to go during the week to avoid the crowds.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois at the Mississippi River, the town of Galena ripples down hilly streets and scenic roads. About a three hour drive northwest of Chicago, its hilly terrain is vastly different from Illinois’ Lake Michigan and prairie landscape. Leave time to explore the Galena Territory where every road turn and over every hill there is another photo op and color-filled vista.
Shopping the town’s main street is delicious because there are wine-tasting places and yummy ice cream and candy shops. Check with your accommodations host for restaurants that have your favorite cuisine.
There are lots of good B&Bs in town and even a historic hotel. Or if looking for expansive color vistas consider Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa. Only 6 minutes from the village’s downtown in the Galena Territory, it has lots of room choices so is perfect for a family or girls getaway. Eagle Ridge also has horseback riding, hiking and biking trails and balloon tours.
Nearby, are a stage coach trail, fort and the scenic vistas of Galena’s Jo Davies County. There is usually a balloon, wine or other festival taking place in the area so with all the outdoor recreation and activities around you probably won’t need a book to fill slack time.
Do like Chicago’s upper crust used to do. Drive up to Lake Geneva across the Illinois border into Wisconsin. The town is still filled with estates but also has B&Bs and resorts. About 1 ½ hours north of Chicago, Lake Geneva has been a vacation destination since the 1800s.
Visitors can hear about the estates that border Geneva Lake. The lake here is called Geneva Lake but the town reverses that by calling itself Lake Geneva. Take a boat ride that also delivers the mail pier-side or an evening sunset cruise to hear about the estates or celebrate fall with a glass of wine. The boat excursions are a good way to see some of the grand houses and resorts around the lake away from Lake Geneva. Motor boat rentals are also available.
To get away from the crowd after cruising shops and the lake and to see even more good color vistas, check the Grand Geneva for dinner or accommodations. It is just outside of town and the spa is a destination by itself.
About four hours north of Chicago, the fun and scenic vacation destination of Door County is on a peninsula that pokes like a finger into the waters east of the City of Green Bay. One side of The Door edges the watery way called Green Bay. The other side is lapped by the waves of Lake Michigan.
Bring a bike or rent one. Even though there are no traffic lights once past Sturgeon Bay where a canal allows boat traffic to cross, the car and pedestrian traffic of fall-color aficionados make moving from cute town to quaint town and good shops and restaurants to harbors and forest roads a bit slow on the Green Bay side. Driving the forests on the Lake Michigan side or crossing the peninsula between farms and fields is easier and just as colorful.
Bike or hike Peninsula State Park on Green Bay between Fish Creek and Ephraim. Go camera or smart phone ready to snap a ton of photos to download to Facebook or Instagram. To try whitefish done the Door County way reserve a spot at a restaurant’s fish boil. Tip: check for the annual fall color festival then try to go the week before or after it for better chance at accommodations and restaurant reservations.
About three hours south of Chicago, Brown County’s boutique and arts-filled Nashville (no not TN) and Brown County State Park have arguably been a prime peeper destination long before other regional areas publicized their fall colors.
Possibly, it was because in neighboring Bloomington, which adds golds and oranges to its usual red and white colors, Indiana University students and their parents knew about Brown County’s fall transformation. But you don’t have to go to a football game here or take a class to become immersed in the area’s amazing fall kaleidoscope of color.
A good selection of accommodations can be found in Bloomington and Nashville. Tip: Look up IU’s football schedule so you don’t go that weekend. Better yet, go during the week anyway.
The best part of vacationing in Door County, WI is the way its delightful harbors make you feel you left work and daily stress miles back at the last stoplight.
The county actually begins back a ways on a thumb shaped peninsula that separates Lake Michigan from Green Bay (the body of water, not the city). There are a smattering of stoplights at its southern end.
But once you cross a drawbridge over Sturgeon Bay, a shipping waterway cut across the peninsula to connect Lake Michigan to Green Bay, you enter a world where a curve in the road reveals yet another scenic view and where villages have a few scattered stop signs, not stop lights.
However, to experience the dangerous waters where Lake Michigan waves bump against those from Green Bay that give the peninsula its name, you should drive north about 40 miles from Sturgeon Bay to Gills Rock and then a short distance to Northport. There you would take a ferry across to Washington Island.
Among the stories floating between the peninsula and the island is a tale of how when one native tribe lured another tribe to cross from Washington Island to the peninsula, those who attempted the crossing died in the stormy waters, thus giving the crossing the name Death’s Door.
Safe? Yes, though sometimes the trip can be rocky. But the Washington Island Ferry is so popular the best plan is to check the season’s schedule and get to its departure ramp at Northport ahead of time so there is room for your car.
While exploring look for Island Stavkirke, a recreated 12th century Norwegian church and the Jacobsen Museum of island artifacts.
OK, you’re here, meaning at the Door County room, condo, guest house or cottage or other lodging you booked ahead of time, and you are already gazing out at the quiet blue expanse of Green Bay or the ever changing colors of Lake Michigan.
When “The world is too much with us… late and soon, as English poet William Wordsworth said with a poem that continues with “we are out of tune” you know it is time to take a break.
A good place to get back in tune is to plan a girls’ getaway where the view out the balcony door stretches across water and hills, where stress is forgotten over cocktails and delicious food and tension is massaged away by experienced hands.
My sister and I found such a place when we chose Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, WI for our annual spa getaway.
This year, my sister flew into O’Hare from Dallas so we could drive from my home in a northern suburb of Chicago. It took about an hour which is the same amount of time for someone flying into Milwaukee’s airport.
The resort is just on the eastern outskirts of Lake Geneva so we first parked downtown for a bit of boutique shopping then headed to the Grand Geneva to unpack and unwind. FYI, the lake is called Geneva Lake and the town is Lake Geneva.
The resort has lots of accommodation options ranging from deluxe rooms and suites to condos. We loved our deluxe double on the third floor of Building 3 with a view of a lake on the property.
BTW Grand Geneva has 1,300 acres that include ski hills in winter turned into an adventure spot in summer, golf, horseback riding and plenty of paths to hike and bike.
I liked the lap pool in the spa and fitness facility across the lane from our building. My sister liked the fitness center where she could work out with the type of equipment she used back home.
While waiting for our spa services in the women’s locker room, we heard happy chatter from girlfriends enjoying the spa’s whirlpool. Another waiting area open to males and females, was a quiet relaxation space with good fruit juice, crackers and cheeses.
We booked massages for one day and mani-pedi services, the next. Definitely recommend both.
The resort had two top notch dinner restaurants, the Geneva Chop House and Ristorante Brissago. Both have good food and good service. The night we ate at the resort we were in the mood for Italian flavors and loved our choices of a pumpkin bisque, Osso Bucco and eggplant parmigiano.
The resort’s Sunday morning brunch in its Grand Café was tempting but after a weekend of eating we ordered light breakfasts from the menu.
We left on Sunday but heard there was a shuttle that went into Lake Geneva on Monday for a tour of the town that included lunch. Maybe will do it next time.
I’m thinking the resort would be a good place to visit next Valentine’s Day or birthday or anniversary or Mother’s Day.
But regarding our experience, best of all was that everyone at Grand Geneva seemed to really care about the guests.
When needing some getaway time check in at the newly remodeled Marriott Lincolnshire. The resort’s 25 million dollar re-do has the excellent Spa at Lincolnshire, the really good Three Embers restaurant for breakfast and dinner, a nice, casual Wrights Brew& Bistro for lunch or dinner and a convenient Starbucks Café off the Lobby.
BTW, Three Embers replaced The Wharf with a fine menu of locally sourced dishes and a redesigned space that includes a wood-burning grill and a chef’s table. The butter has a wonderful, honey flavor from the chef’s on-site beehive and the pastry’s chef’s yummy rolls to spread it on.
Pack a swim suit to for a dip in the pool or hot tub. The pool entrance is nicely positioned near the rooms’ hallways and elevators so guests don’t have to walk by the lobby.
Don’t forget workout clothes for the redone fitness center or some laps around the resort. Rooms typically have a lake or golf course view.
If interested in good musical theatre and time allows, get tickets for the resort’s famed Marriott Theatre. Currently, “Ragtime,” is playing through March 18. Next is Oklahoma April 11-June 10, 2018, which celebrates the legendary musical’s 75th anniversary.
The theatre is connected to the resort on the main and second levels so it won’t be necessary to brave whatever nature is serving up outdoors.
Now, pick a date to escape. There are special deals for theatre, romance, spa and restaurants.