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.

Three no passport spring vacation ideas

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI (J Jacobs photo)
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, MI
(J Jacobs photo)

 

Don’t wait for the first robin or crocus to pop up to plan what to do or where to go for a spring vacation. Hotels and good B and B’s may already be booked and airlines will have few seats at the price you want. Make plans now

Good as Washington DC is, student groups may already have plane seats and hotel rooms so consider that destination for another time. Instead, Spring Break is a good chance to splash in a pool, visit and cross off a presidential museum or find an unusual children’s museum in a town not yet visited.

The suggestions listed here are Midwest destinations within a day’s drive of Chicago. The city’s schools are out April 6-10 and most suburban districts are out March 23-27 in 2020.

 

African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)
African themed Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. (J Jacobs photo)

Indoor Pool

Arguably among the best indoor water parks are the ones at the Kalahari Resorts. If living in the Midwest, consider the African-themed one at the Wisconsin Dells. The resort really is a combination amusement park, movie and dining destination and games emporium.

I like the Dells as a summer or fall escape when the weather is predictable but spring is a good time to enjoy a resort that has so much to offer, guests might not feel the need to leave.  Also check out other Wisconsin Waterparks for a spring Break.

An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)
An old time streetscape in the Grand Rapids Public Museum (J Jacobs photo)

Fascinating presidential and public museums

Located in Grand Rapids, MI, the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum combines his University of Michigan background, Nixon’s resignation, Betty Ford’s contributions and a replica of the Oval Office.

Across the road is the Grand Rapids Public Museum which has fun explorations and a merry go round ride. From American Indian displays to inventions, an old-time streetscape and a giant clock, there is enough here to spend the day.

 

An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)
An orangutan climbed down from his perch to try a computer game with a scientist at the Indianapolis Zoo. (J Jacobs photo)

Where a dinosaur and orangutans hang out

People outside of Indianapolis may not know the city has a remarkable Children’s Museum charmingly guarded by a huge dinosaur and that the Indianapolis Zoo is one of the few places in the country that boasts a specialized orangutan center where visitors can watch these intelligent animals play and practice their cognitive game skills.

I love the Childeren’s Museum’s Take Me There exhibits. When I visited it was to China. Currently it is to Greece. And there really is a simulated flight there.  And I was fascinated by everything the orangutans could do.

Also worth a visit when in town are the Eiteljorg Museum of American indians’ Western Art and the Indiana State Museum next door that has a wonderful Rube Goldberg inventions exhibit. See Visit Indy for more information.

 

Vines and Vistas make a great fall getaway

Think Traverse City for a fall getaway.
Think Traverse City for a fall getaway.

 

Maybe it’s the talk of the Chicago Bears’ training camp. Or maybe it’s the ads for back-to-school supplies and end-of-summer sales. All of a sudden I’m thinking about where to go for a fall getaway that is withing six hours of Chicago.  Planning the trip now helps get through the “dog days” of summer.

Continue reading “Vines and Vistas make a great fall getaway”

Four National Parks for the vacation do list

 

Memorial Day is almost here. If you haven’t figured out where to spend some of you summer vacation days think National Parks.

Sure there are the ones you always hear about out west – and they are definitely worth visiting. But expand your horizons to other areas of the country.

Check out the National Park Service website for places you can get to in, say, a day and half with Find a Park.

To get you started here are some choice NPS destinations doable from Chicago ranging from an island and dunes to forests and mountains..  BTW April 20-28, 2019 is National Park Week.

Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk Beach at the Indiana Dunes. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

Indiana Dunes

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.

For visit tips see and stop at the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center, 1215 N. IN Hwy 49, Porter, IN 46304. For information call  (219) 395-1882 or (219) 926-2555 and visit NPS Plan.

 

Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)
Stop for a photo op in the park. (J Jacobs photo)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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.

In the park visit the Mountain Farm Museum, Cades Cove, Cataloochee, or the Roaring Fork area to see farms, churches and homes built by early settlers. You might see black bear, white-tailed deer and turkeys crossing the road or at Cades Cove and Cataloochee.For sweeping mountain views drive up Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap.

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.

 

Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)
Camping photo at Isle Royale National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Isle Royale National Park

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.

 

Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo
Sleeing Bear Dunes National Lake shore bluffs are 400 feet above Lake Michigan. (J Jacobs photo

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

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.

 

 

 

Tulip Time returns to Holland

Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)
Tulip Time is almost here in Holland, Mi. (J Jacobs photo)

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.

Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)
Windmill Island has an authentic, working windmill. (J Jacobs photo)

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.

Next are two places  on the outskirts of town near the highway that feature gardens and Dutch goods: Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens /DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory where you can watch shoes being made and delft painted, and Nelis’ Dutch Village Family Theme Park  & Wooden Shoe Factory which is geared to kids.

 

Accommodations I like the Courtyard by Marriott Holland Downtown and CityFlats Hotel that is also downtown. To see more choices visit Holland  Hotels.

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.

Go. Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

An unexpectedly grand trip

 

Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids reconnects the past. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids reconnects the past. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

Picture a Midwestern river town that celebrates a favorite son with a presidential museum, its furniture history with a public museum, its appreciation of sculpture with an amazing garden and appreciation of art with a mega fall fair that awards half a million dollars in prizes.

Grand Rapids, Mi., a former U.S. furniture hub on the Grand River and childhood home of Gerald R. Ford is fun to visit year round. But come in the fall when the colors paint the scenery and  ArtPrize paints the town. An art fair where the public gets to votes and thus, choose where some of the prize money goes, ArtPrize attracts artists from across the globe and visitors from across North America.

 

Sometimes ArtPrize works can be seen in the Grand River and on its bridges.
Sometimes ArtPrize works can be seen in the Grand River and on its bridges.

 

Unlike fine art exhibits that are confined indoors to one museum or outside to a single city plaza or street, ArtPrize blankets Grand Rapids from banks to bistros and breweries to bridges.

Because works are displayed throughout the city visitors walk through buildings and neighborhoods they may not normally get to on a brief vacation.

For ArtPrize 2018, the numbers as of mid-August were 1,417 artists working on 1,271 entries at 166 venues. The event runs from Sept. 19 through Oct. 7.

Among the places that have been venues in past years but are destinations anyway to put on the must visit list are the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Public Museum across the road from it downtown on the river and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on the eastern outskirts of town.

 

This opera house is on an old Grand Rapids street inside the PUblic Museum
This opera house is on an old Grand Rapids street inside the Public Museum.

 

At the Ford Presidential Museum learn more about Watergate and Ford’s time in Congress, in the White House and at the University of Michigan. The museum is at 303 Pearl St. NW. Gerald Ford and wife Betty are buried on the grounds.

Cross the road to the Public Museum, 272 Pearl St., NW  to browse through rooms of native American artifacts, treasured examples from when the town was the US furniture hub, stroll through some old Grand Rapids streets, sit at consoles as an astronaut and ride a 1928 Spillman Carousel.

Save time to visit the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

 

Sown a Sculpture Park path look for a Henry Moore.
Sown a Sculpture Park path look for a Henry Moore.

 

Amble through the Sculpture Park and inside the main building to discover more than 200 pieces by well-known artists. Around every curve in the path come across works by Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Jean Arp, Richard Hunt Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg, Jaume Plensa and other pieces to photograph and put on Facebook or Instagram.

There is also a terrific children’s garden that adults would love and a peaceful Japanese Garden.  The Meijer Gardens are at 1000 East Beltline Ave NE.

 

BTW Grand Rapids is a good stop on the way up to Traverse City or when doing a triangle that includes Holland and Grand Haven, MI.

 

 

 

 

Stroll around tulips and visit a real windmill

Tour an authentic windmill on Windmill Island in Holland, MI. Photos by Jodie Jacobs
Tour an authentic windmill on Windmill Island in Holland, MI. Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Less than three hours north of Chicago there is an authentic windmill that grinds out flour. Surrounded by gardens, small waterways and bridges, it is on Windmill Island and open spring, summer and fall. But a great time to visit is the second week in May when tulips are blooming across the island and its town, Holland, MI.

The whole town celebrates the blooms and its Dutch heritage with dances, art and craft fairs, parades and food during its famed, annual Tulip Festival.

In 2018, it is May 5-13 but don’t worry if you can’t make it or find accommodations during the festival. According to the Veldheer Tulip Farm and Gardens, a company that grows and ships bulbs globally, the tulips should peak the third week of May.

Masses of gorgeous tulips greet visitors in Holland, MI in May
Masses of gorgeous tulips greet visitors in Holland, MI in May

No matter when going, Windmill Island is a must see. The windmill really is from the Netherlands. Dismantled and put back together there, it is run by a licensed operator who grinds flour that can be purchased and used at home. The island also features, a Children’s Carousel, a street organ, a couple of delightful buildings with Dutch figures and gifts and there are good walking paths.

But also visit the downtown for its good food, beer and boutiques.  Stop in at Austrian Alpen Rose for breakfast, lunch or a coffee and pastry break.

Save time to see wooden shoes made and delftware painted on the outskirts of town at the DeKlomp Delftware and Wooden Shoe Factory on Quincy Street. Entry is free but you’ll want to take home well-made gifts for yourself, family and friends. BTW De Klomp is Dutch for wooden shoes.

Learn about Delftware and watch it being painted.
Learn about Delftware and watch it being painted.

Another place is Nelis’ Dutch Village that features dancing, shoes, Delftware and playground activities. Entry has a fee because it is an entertainment area.

Room availability is scarce during the Tulip Festival so make plans ahead of time, then go enjoy the Dutch culture of a Holland that is here in the States.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Five fall trips where color is just part of the draw

 

Now that leaves on a few trees are changing is the time to figure out where to go to see spectacular color in a few weeks and next month.

 

Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI. Door County Visitors Bureau photo
Ephraim in the fall in Door County, WI.
Door County Visitors Bureau photo

But if you don’t want to merely drive some place for fall color and then head back home then consider a vacation destination with great views, hiking, biking, fun shops and lots of lodging and dining choices.

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Door County, Wisconsin, near Green Bay

 

Why:

 

    • ·         Good hiking and biking in state parks
    • ·         Really good art galleries
    • ·         Fun crafts and clothes shopping
    • ·         Excellent dining choices
    • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Green Bay

.        Lots of lodging choices

More information at Door Vacation and Door County

 

 

Where: Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois

 

Why:

  • ·         Scenic overlooks, hilly terrain and interesting stone formations
  • ·         Good hiking, biking in Giant City State Park
  • ·         Shawnee Wine Trail tastings
  • ·         Makanda, a delightful artist comunity

More information at Shawnee National ForestShawnee Wine TrailGiant City State Park and Makanda.

Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo
Explore the back roads of Brown County in the fall. Brown County photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Brown County, Bloomington area

 

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking, biking and horseback riding in Brown County State Park
  • ·         Fun crafts shops in Nashville
  • ·         Scenic hills and Hoosier National Forest
  • ·         Renown architecture in nearby Columbus
  • .         Indiana University has a beautiful campus (go on a non-football weekend)

More information at Brown County State ParkHoosier National Forest and Columbus.

 

 

Where: Wisconsin Dells on the Wisconsin River

 

Why:

  • .     Good river boat scenery
  • .     Nice hikes
  • .     Fun water-parks for kids
  • .     Interesting photo museum in town
  • .     Circus World in nearby Baraboo

More information at Fall colors Wisconsin Dells, Baraboo,  and fall color advantage.

Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall. TC Visitors Bureau photo
Traverse City area puts on a color show each fall.
TC Visitors Bureau photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where: Traverse City/Sleeping Bear Dunes  in northern Michigan below the UP

 

 

Why:

  • ·         Good hiking in a scenic national park
  • ·         Excellent wine trails
  • ·         Wonderful dining choices
  • ·         Beautiful views of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay.

More information at fall color trip, Traverse City/Sleeping Bear and Traverse

 

 

Fall color tips:  For current Midwest color reports go directly to a state’s tourism site.

Wisconsin’s suggested scenic drives are at Travel Wisconsin.

Michigan is at Michigan.org and at Fall Color Tours.

Minnesota is at MNUS and Explore Minnesota.

Illinois is at Enjoy Illinois and ILUS.

Indiana is at Visit Indiana and Hoosier fall color. http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/hoosier/docs/fallcolor.htm

 

Have a fun, safe trip!

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for fun fall color drives

But before packing the car and heading out check the following five tips to make the trip fun, not frustrating.

Deep reds are already tipping the tops of some trees. Drops of crimson sprinkle others. Gold leaves are beginning to line parks and parkways. Enjoy the local scenery, however, to feed that inner urge for a vista of color look for state and national forests nearby and in neighboring states.  But before packing the car and heading out check the following five tips to make the trip fun, not frustrating.

A state park in Door County glistens with gold
A state park in Door County glistens with gold

1.Don’t use your neighborhood color changes as the definitive guide. Colors in states or area of your state to the north and west may be in full fall color palette or just beginning to change south or east. In the Midwest visit these state information sites: Illinois, IndianaMichiganMinnesota and Wisconsin.

2. Take advantage of local Visitors Bureaus to find accommodations. As an example, Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and Traverse City in northern Michigan (below the Upper Peninsula) and Brown County (Bloomington and Nashville) in central Indiana keep tabs on what is available and know price points and type.

3. A GPS works some places but not all so stop at the area’s Information Center for maps, brochures and suggestions.

4. Because you are driving, not flying, throw those extra boots, hiking shoes, jackets, sun protector hats and sprays, water bottles, first-aid kits and backpacks into the car.

Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City
Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City

5. Don’t forget chargers for phones, ipads, cameras or whatever other electronics you take everywhere. Also check your accommodations before you leave, they already have enough chargers from previous visitors.

From crimson and copper to delicate pinks and sherbert oranges, colorful leaves surprise drivers around every corner in the upper Midwest. Just get in the car and go.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs