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.
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.
Before becoming engulfed in everything fall from cool nights to school schedules, take a few days for one last summer break. Within four hours of Chicago there are restaurants and resorts with lake-side views, good spas and shopping, plus scenic boating and biking choices.
Door County, WI
About 3.5 hours north of Chicago is a finger-like peninsula that sticks so far out into Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other that there are almost too many scenic views for one trip.
The Door, as visitors and residents call it, begins halfway up in the fleshier part of the finger but the vacation destination begins at the Sturgeon Bay knuckle and continues up the finger to Gills Rock. Some folks even cross the choppy waters north by ferry to Washington Island, an interesting day trip when time allows.
To make the most of your vacation, first nail down where to stay. The sailing, hiking, biking and the Door’s specialties of art gallery hopping and lighthouse touring can wait. But accommodations fill quickly.
Before deciding, you should know that the Lake Michigan side is known as the “quiet side” because the small towns are nestled further apart among the forests. The Green Bay side is dotted with small bustling villages, restaurants, shops and inns.
But it doesn’t take long to cross The Door’s farmland in between so neither side is a bad choice. Both sides have state parks.
To stay amid the action, look at places on the Bay side from Fish Creek to Ephraim to Sister Bay. For quiet side accommodations, look at Baileys Harbor.
The best way to find lodging is to go to Door County, click Availability or Stay. If still not sure call the bureau at 800-527-3529 because they are very helpful.
“One of our primary things to do is help people find a place to stay,” said Communications Director Jon Jarosh.
The web site lists lots of activities but if you want a map and brochures stop at the Visitors Bureau after where WI Highways 57 and 42 connect at 1015 Green Bay Rd. on the south end of Sturgeon Bay.
Tucked into the northwest corner of Illinois about three hours from Chicago are the scenic rolling hills of the Galena Territory and the historic town of Galena, home to Ulysses S. Grant with tie-ins to Abraham Lincoln.
Indeed more than 80 percent of Galena has historic district designations.
But a trip here isn’t just about going back in time. Situated on the Galena River and near the Mississippi, it’s a picturesque river-town edged with steep, photo-op streets.
Shopping its main street is delicious because there are wine-tasting places and yummy ice cream and candy shops.
Nearby, are the stage coach trail, fort and scenic vistas of Galena’s Jo Davies County. There is usually balloon or Wine or other festival taking place in the area.
Accommodations here range from charming B&Bs and inns to resorts.
If interested in combining golf, spa treatment or hiking, a good place to stay is the Eagle Ridge Resort on the outskirts of town at 444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena and at (800) 892-2269.
If interested in a Labor Day Weekend stay check out its special events and guest rate package.
To learn more about the area and find other lodging choices visit Galena.
Lake Geneva, WI
Closer to Chicago is the town and lake where some of the city’s elite used to vacation and where some urbanites still have homes and cottages. It’s Lake Geneva on Geneva Lake and the small towns nearby.
From Chicago’s northern suburbs, the drive is about 1.5 hours but don’t try to make it faster than the posted speed limit. Some of the small towns along the route add to their coffers with speeding tickets.
However, Lake Geneva is an easy, fun getaway for folks who like to hike, bike, golf or enjoy water sports.
A great way to hear about the estates around the lake is to take the mail boat which pauses, sort-of, at some piers for postal deliveries.
Because the Lake Geneva area has been a vacation destination since before the turn of the last century, there are lots of lodging choices from contemporary to vintage and from resorts and B&Bs to inns and condos. To fit in golf or a spa treatment, consider the Grand Geneva outside of town.
For accommodation availability visit Lake Geneva and enter your arrival and departure dates.
So, instead of looking at the calendar with dismay that summer is just about gone, fit in a getaway. You deserve it.
Snap pictures of gorgeous snow sculptures. Relive Groundhog Day. Imagine yourself behind the wheel of a sharp new vehicle. All three possibilities will brighten February days. So, post the one you love on the calendar.
Walk the sites where Harold Ramis’ popular “Groundhog Day” film was shot in Woodstock, IL. The town is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the filming there from Feb. 1 through Feb. 5. But it will likely be celebrating again next year to mark the movie’s 25th anniversary of when it was released in 1993.
Co-written by Ramis and Danny Rubin, the film has Pittsburg TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) trying to cover Groundhog Day when he gets stuck in a time warp.
Also starring Andie MacDowell as news producer Rita Hanson and Chris Elliott as cameraman Larry, the movie supposedly takes place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. However, with the exception of a couple of opening and highway shots to set a sense of place, it really was filmed in the cute, countryside town of Woodstock. Ramis had been searching for a site within a day’s drive of his Winnetka home.
The film site tour and showings of the movie are free. If you go early enough (7 a.m.) on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, you can see how Woodstock Willie reacts when he comes out of his tree trunk home. Pray for clouds so he doesn’t see his shadow. No shadow would mean an early spring if you believe this animal’s behavior predicts the weather.
CAS, the annual big introduction to what will officially be out for 2018, features about 1,000 vehicles and draws thousands of visitors.
In town Feb 11-17, it spreads across McCormick Place but with all those vehicles and visitors the best way to avoid the crowd crush is to go charity preview night.
The show starts off with a dressy charity party, Feb. 10. Its $275 ticket benefits 18 local charities but $222 can be tax deductable as a donation. Expect comp hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, entertainment and celebrities.
Regular tickets are $13 adults, $7 for seniors 62 and older and $7 children ages 7-12. Discounted ticket day is Feb. 15 when women pay $7.
When the bustle of holiday preparations start to weigh on brain and shoulders, seek smiles and joyous countenances from angels. More than 12,000 of them are lifting visitors’ spirits at a small museum just over the Illinois border in Beloit, Wisconsin.
They are porcelain, ceramic, glass, metal and wood and nearly 100 other materials. They range from about 1/8 of an inch to life-sized and from candle holders, vases and chubby, cuddly, doll-type cherubs to artistic figures, ink wells, pins and a WWI medal. And they were crafted by artists in more than 60 countries.
Their home is the former Catholic Church of St. Paul building slated for demolition until Beloit residents, the city and angel collectors Joyce and Lowell Berg stepped in. Or as Joyce says, “Angels saved the church.”
Opened in May 1998, the museum’s collection dates back to the Berg’s falling in love with the Italian bisque figures of two angels on a seesaw during a 1976 Florida vacation.
“We stopped at an antique store. We weren’t looking for angels. But that Christmas when we got out our decorations we realized we had other angels. The next year on a trip we bought more angels. It became a passion,” said Berg during a recent museum tour (Lowell has since died but is remembered with a special angel exhibit in one of the cases).
Collecting, however, comes with a couple of problems. The collection grew too large for the Berg home. In addition, people who heard about the angels wanted to stop in to see them. The church building was a perfect solution to both issues.
Since then, the collection has grown to more than 14,000, a number that is too large to show at one time. “So, I rotate them,” Berg said.
What is amazing is that she has only one duplicate angel. “It’s mind boggling how artists have come up with so many different angels. Their little faces just make you feel good,” she said.
The museum also contains Oprah Winfrey’s collection of 600 black angels. A passing comment on Winfrey’s show about not seeing black angels resulted in hundreds of black angels sent to the celebrity.
When Winfrey said how much she loved them but didn’t have room for them all, she was told about the museum in Beloit. It now houses her donated collection.
As to most of her angels residing in a museum instead of her home, on the museum website, Berg said, “I want to see a place where goodness prevails and I can share my angels with the masses.”
The museum also sells angel artifacts in its Heavenly Treasures Gift Shoppe. Hours Thursday-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.The museum will be closed Dec. 22 to March except for special events or tours.
The Angel Museum is at 656 Pleasant St. at Hwy 51, Beloit, WI 53511. It is about a 1 hour, 30 minute drive from Chicago. For other information visit Angel Museum and call (608) 362-9099 or (877)-412-6435.
Stroll among paths of gold. Hike where every turn reveals another photo op. See the countryside on an old train or find a new scenic vista. Just go. Get out there where the leaves are still changing color and the weather isn’t too frosty.
Maybe you have seen and tasted delicious apple pies in your grocery store from the Elegant Farmer. But the farm and its bakery, about 90 miles north of Chicago in Mukwonago, WI, is also a fun destination during its Autumn Harvest Festival. Festival hours are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. now through Oct. 23, 2016. Along with picking up yummy treats from its store, apples and pumpkins from its fields or taking a hay ride, the Elegant Farmer is one end of the turn-of–the-century’s East Troy Electric Railroad. The train is a remnant of Wisconsin’s Interurban rail system. Train tickets are $12.50 adults, $10.50 seniors, $8 children age 3-11 and free to under 3. The Elegant Farmer is at 1545 Main Street · Mukwonago, WI 53149 at the crossroad of County Highways ES and J. For other information visit Elegant Farmer and call (262) 363-6770.
Cruise Geneva Lake or float over its town of Lake Geneva and the surrounding area in a hot-air balloon. Hike the path around the lake or do the zip line across a colorful tree canopy. There are so many ways to see fall color in Lake Geneva, WI you might decide to stay overnight. However, if you go, you might want to tie it in to the Canopy Tours Fall Festival, Oct. 22 or 23 where you get music, food, pumpkin painting and other activities and can watch the Pumpkin Drop from zip liners (or participate if you do the zip line event). Lake Geneva is about 90 minutes north west of Chicago. For other information visit Lake Geneva or call (262) 248-9271.
The Arboretum in west suburban Lisle is coming alive with color. Maples and oaks near parking lots 7 and 8 began changing two weeks ago as have the maples near parking lots 14 and 15. To find out more about the color changes and what’s blooming click on Fall Color Report. Or ask when you arrive. For fun take the Scarecrow Trail on the Meadow Lake Trail. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Illinois Highway 53, Lisle, IL 60532. For other information visit Morton Arb and call (630) 968-0074.
Take a snow day to get away from political campaigns and shrug off Super Bowl 50 hype.
Lake Geneva, WI annual hosts the US Snow Sculpting Competition the first week in February. Teams from across the country that already won their local championships are now competing for national recognition.
And it doesn’t matter what Mother Nature has in store. Snow blocks are made at the Grand Geneva Resort because it needs the machines for its ski slopes.
The blocks are dropped off in the park near the Riviera on Geneva Lake (no typo, the lake really is a reverse of the town name).
Teams start carving their snow blocks this week to be ready for the judging this Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016. There are professional judges but visitors also get to vote for the “People’s Choice Award.”
You really have to see the snow sculptures to believe how incredible they look and the skill it takes to make them.
But snow sculpting isn’t all that is happening at this vacation town this weekend. The competition is part of Winterfest which includes helicopter rides, ice skating on a nearby lake, skiing and a slew of other activities at the Grand Geneva Resort plus open houses at several stores and galleries in town.
Parking is free for the week but there also is a shuttle bus from the nearby Home Depot.
Lake Geneva is a charming town about an hour’s drive northwest of Chicago just over the Wisconsin border. However, there is enough to see and do to it make it an overnight getaway. Check Visit Lake Geneva for accommodations and full list of activities.
You can hike, bike, kayak and canoe. To say bird watch would be an understatement. Thousands of ducks and Canada geese land here each fall.
You can capture two fall happenings at one time by traveling over to Horicon Marsh in Eastern Wisconsin. Horicon is a 33,000 acre (right, count the zeros) of wildlife, freshwater plants and a fall bird migration stop just south of Fond du Lac and about 1.5 hours north of either Madison or Milwaukee. Its bordering trees make photos here picture perfect.
Divided by two government entities, the north two thirds is operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The southern third is managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as the Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area.
You can hike, bike, kayak and canoe. To say bird watch would be an understatement. Thousands of ducks and Canada geese land here each fall.
The marsh is the largest redhead duck nesting place east of the Mississippi and sees the largest migrating flock of Canada geese. Mid-September is fine but to capture nearly 200,000 geese in your lens go in mid-October. As with TV that ads say, “wait, there is more,” you are likely to see some of the marsh’s 300 bird species including cranes and pelicans.
Among the largest freshwater marshes in the United States, Horicon is filled with muskrats, fish, frogs and red fox. Check events at the HoriconMarsh.org site for hikes.
There will be a guided hike and bird watch event Oct. 3 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Also a sunset crane watch is at the Palmatory Overlook, 1210 N. Palmatory St., Oct.17 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
A good intro to the marsh is the Emporium, a new interactive center that is fun for kids and adults.
Turn the trip into a vacation by staying nearby at the Honeybee Inn. The breakfasts are great, the rooms comfy and innkeepers/owners Barb and Fred Ruka are knowledgeable about the marsh and other area sights.
The Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is on the east side of Horicon Marsh, 3.5 miles south of State Highway 49 on County Road Z at W4279 Headquarters Road, Mayville, WI 53050, 920-387-2658. The Wildlife Center is at N7725 HIGHWAY 28, Horicon, WI 53032, 920-387-7890.
Wait until Groundhog Day Feb. 2 to find out when Spring will come or try one of these four remedies.
Cabin fever? It’s early January but cold and snow have already moved Spring up high on the wish list.
We can wait with fingers crossed until Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, 2015, to hear what Punxsutawney Phil has to say in Pennsylvania or Woodstock Willie in Illinois when they predict Spring’s coming. Or we can bring spring closer with these steps.
1. Go to the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show Jan. 17-18 to collect ideas and colorful brochures on places to go for spring or summer vacation. The show is in the west suburban Donald E, Stephens convention center in Rosemont. Turn it into a mini break by staying at the nearby Loews Hotel near the upscale Fashion Outlet mall.
3. Host a Super Bowl party with a desert theme. NFL’s Super Bowl XLIX is February 1 in sunny Arizona at the U Of Phoenix stadium, Glendale. Turn up the heat, wear shorts, serve margaritas and be inspired by some of Phoenix’s Mexican restaurant menus.
4. Or just celebrate winter with a trip to Lake Geneva, WI for the National Snow Sculpting Championship the last weekend in January. Teams come from across the United State to sculpt amazing, fantastical forms and vignettes. The town will be celebrating Winterfest with lots of food and fun. Stay the weekend at the Grand Geneva Resort for its ski slopes and spa.
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.
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, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota 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.
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.
A popular vacation spot popular in summer, the Dells’ lodges reduce rates after Labor Day even on weekends.
A popular vacation spot popular in summer, the Wisconsin Dells still have dynamic attractions in the fall when the trees are ablaze with oranges and gold and the lodges reduce rates, even on weekends.
There are lots of accommodation choices from indoor waterparks and resorts to chain hotels. Among the best of the total offerings of indoor entertainment, restaurants and lodging is Kalahari Resorts where guests can also bowl or swim up to an indoor bar and youngsters can do water-slides, carnival-style rides or play arcade games. A day pass is available for non-guests.
With summer vacationers gone, it’s easier to do a scenic river tour on by a World War II Ducks amphibian vehicle or an Upper Dells Boats tour to see “Stand Rock” where dogs and people have leaped.
But this is when the Wisconsin River’s banks are a blaze in red and gold
Tip: After doing the boat tour, stop in town at the 1875 photo studio of H.H. Bennett. The famed landscape photographer and photo-equipment inventor was the person who made the Dells famous with his “Stand Rock” leap photo. The studio is an amazing museum of photography and turn-of-the-last-century lifestyle history.
Fall is also when Circus World, a terrific collection of parade wagons and Ringling Bros. memorabilia, cuts its admission fee in half. Circus World is an easy 10 minute drive south of the Dells on US Highway 12 to Baraboo.
If time allows stop at the International Crane Foundation about two miles south of the Dells. Before going check to see if there is a festival or puppet demonstration. Cranes identify with whomever is feeding and caring for them so ICF staff dress in white and where crane-head puppets on their hands so the cranes will ID with other cranes instead of humans.
Fall is a great time to visit summer destinations such as the Wisconsin Dells.