Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Wine and Wildlife in Central Illinois


The bison didn’t come out to greet me while I had my morning coffee on the patio, but there was definitely a sense of peacefulness to start my day with.  

 


My friend Joan and I were staying at this hidden gem in Central Illinois. Not only did we get to enjoy this enormous scenic part, but it was filled with (mostly contained) wildlife and we had a brand-new cabin to stay in where the bison roamed in Wildlife Prairie Park.

 


After breakfast and coffee, we took the car down to the main entrance and boarded the train. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the park. You’ll get a basic overview from the conductor as you pass through the highlights. 

There is also a stop at the Pioneer area and butterfly habitat. You can get off to explore and pick up a train later to go back to the station.

 


We met with Brad and Sam at the Visitors Center. It’s worth a stop as there’s a lot of information on the area, from how it figures into the history of American Agriculture to charts of the fish you can find in the area.

After a walk through the trail to check out some of the animals, we got into the jeep for a tour of the other accommodations the park has.

 


Tent campers are welcome at Wildlife Prairie Park, but you may want to think twice about roughing it once you see all the unique accommodations.

The Cabooses are perfect for families, especially younger kid. They were created from actual train cars and have bunk beds in them. 



There are Prairie Stable suites with patios that have two small bedrooms in them. Just outside, picnic tables are a great place for groups to meet, as is the recreation center.

In the same area are the cottages. I really liked the way these converted grain bins, with kitchenettes, faced the lake, making them ideal for kayakers and fishermen. Firepits and grills are also outside in front of the lake.

 


From there we headed to Kickapoo Creek Winery which is just a few miles away from the park.

The tasting room is spread out and welcoming, and the grounds are just beautiful, making them ideal for weddings and other events. They also participate in Harvest Hosts, a group that list wineries that allow for RV parking.

  

The wines here are also worth the trip. The Rose Blush was our favorite, strawberry and cherry flavored, and not overly sweet. The Sun Kiss was also terrific, and my friend Joan, more of a red lover than I am, went home with a bottle of the St. Croix.

 I couldn’t resist the Chocolate Raspberry, which has strong notes of my favorite treat.

 



Kickapoo Creek Winery also serves food and the menu is wide ranged. After sharing a spinach artichoke dip, I had a Turkey Rueben while Joan had the Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich (served with a sesame ginger mayo). They were both delicious.

 


For dessert, we shared a Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake and Pecan Bourbon Pie, both of which were delicious.

We headed back to Wildlife Prairie Park for some rest on our patio. 

 


Before we had left for the winery, we met with Mike of the Mike’s Knot Just Ribs food truck, which parks by the Visitors Center. We took back a ton of barbecue for dinner.

We were still pretty full from lunch, but we did taste some amazing ribs, pulled pork nachos, coleslaw, beans, and macaroni & cheese. There were plenty of leftovers.


 


It didn’t take long before we were both exhausted from the day and headed to our bedrooms. We had a little more time the next day to see more of Wildlife Prairie Park.



Thursday, August 12, 2021

A Wildlife Oasis in Illinois You Can Stay At


It wasn’t easy to make the decision to go on my first trip after the pandemic started. I am high risk and had been good about sheltering at home and only staying around people within my pod. I hadn’t even seen my family, with the exception of a few, short, outdoor visits with my mom, who lives nearby in an assisted living.

I was definitely ready to get out for a bit and, when researching outdoor activities in the outskirts of Peoria (I was going there to see my puppy, who wasn’t quite ready to go home), I came across the perfect place for a safe getaway.


Wildlife Prairie Park is in Hanna City, Illinois, about three hours from Chicago. It’s a tremendous 1,800 acres that offers a ton of outdoor activities for all ages and abilities. It also happens to have an unusual selection of accommodations,

My friend, Joan, and I met with Brad Windsor, Volunteer Coordinator, and Sam Himegarner, Director of Hospitality, at our accommodation for the next two nights. We were one of the first to stay in a new Legacy Cabin.

The cabins have everything needed, for a family to stay for a few days, or even a week. There’s a full kitchen, large living room (with flat screen cable tv), two bedrooms, and a full bathroom.

The most special thing about the cabin is the backyard. You can sit on your patio and sip coffee in the morning, or barbecue on the grill in the evening, while watching the bison and elk roam in the pasture.

It’s hard to believe the park has been open since 1978 and it’s not better known.

Brad and Sam took us around in a jeep to get acquainted with the surroundings, which we would explore more over the next two days.

The park has five lakes, most of which you can kayak and/or fish at. There are hiking trails that are accessible (I brought my medical scooter) and others that are for the more experienced.

There’s also disc golf, mountain biking, a 30-foot sliding board, an Adventure Trek behind the scenes tour, and, of course, lots of wildlife.

They try to keep it to wildlife indigenous to the Midwest. Among them are Longhorn bulls, a black bear, bison, elk, owls, eagles, and a groundhog, Gerdie. Brad pointed out that Gerdie has a better record at predicting the weather than Punxsutawney Phil does.

We ended the tour with plans to get together the next day and check out some of the specific areas of the park. Joan and I decided to head to downtown Hanna City and find someplace to eat.

I had read online about Gil’s Supper Club and it sounded like a good place for some comfort food. I was right.

Gil’s has outdoor and indoor (bench) seating and a very big menu. I rarely eat fried food, but when they told me the chicken had its own fryer, it sounded quite good. It was and the portion was huge. I only ate about half, saving it with the rest of my potato and coleslaw.

Joan had the fried shrimp, which she said was delicious. The menu also includes chicken and seafood combos, pork chops, tenderloin, burgers, and more. Even the kids’ menu has a varied selection.

We went back to the Wildlife Prairie Park and relaxed in the cabin before bedtime. We had a big day of exploring, and a visit to Kickapoo Creek Winery, coming up.



Friday, February 12, 2021

Celebrating Romance is Different This Year

 

Sanctuary at Camelback

I know it’s been a while. I think it’s pretty obvious that I haven’t been doing much traveling. Like everyone else in the world, I’ve mostly been sheltering in place.

I did manage to get in two short, socially distant trips over the past six months that I will be posting soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d do a roundup of some ideas for those looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Romance deserves more than one day a year. February is the month that you’ll see most of the deals for it. That’s not different in this crazy time. What is different is the options to do things from a distance – if you’d like.

Here are some ideas from places I have been to and enjoyed.

Stay healthy. Wear your masks. I hope we’ll all be hitting the road in the near future.

Marcia Frost


Heart-Shaped Chocolate Cake? Of course!

The chocolate cake at Portillo’s is one of my favorites ever. In honor of Valentine’s Day,, they always have a heart-shaped one available. This year, they are partnering with No Kid Hungry to donate $5 for every cake sold.

If you are in Illinois, you can pick up a cake at Portillo’s or have it delivered from one of your local services (i.e. Grubhub, Door Dash). You can also order from their website to be shipped anywhere in the country.

Free Concerts

Nickelback at Ravinia

Ravinia Festival is normally three months of concerts in a relaxing Chicagoland atmosphere. Like many other events, they’ve had to adapt die to the pandemic.

Chicagoland’s loss is the world’s gain as Ravinia Festival is broadcasting a concert series on WFMT.com. The shows will continue through March 11th, on Thursday nights.

 

Don’t forget the donuts



Stan’s Donuts always gets creative with flavors for holidays and Valentine’s Day is mo different. My mouth is watering just thinking About how good their Peanut Butter Pocket is!

For February,  they are offering Beignet, Birthday Cake, and Lemon Pistachio. You can also order Stan’s Donuts for nationwide shipping through their website.

 


 

We Love Friends


On my last trip before Covid-19 hit the U.S, I was in Chicago. One of the things we did was to visit the Friends anniversary celebration at the AT&T store. It was a fun experience for any fan of the show, and we are.

The Friends Experience is coming back to Chicago, as well as New York. It will once again include displays with actual pieces from the sets, as well as interact opportunities. Visit the website for details.


A Romantic Inn


If you are ready to get away, Hotel Saugatuck in Michigan is a great place for romance. My stay was too short, but long enough to enjoy the spacious suite with jacuzzi, homemade dessert brought to our room in the evening, and delicious breakfast delivered in the morning.

If you are looking for the ultimate romantic getaway, check out the Hotel Saugatuck Proposal Package. It’s available through March 31st. They have rooms at the inn as well as cottages. 


Head to Titletown

Lodge Kohler Lobby

Green Bay, Wisconsin, is not only home to the Packers, it’s the location of Titletown, an outdoor complex of fun. From ice skating to tubing (free February 18th), you can bring your children or relive your childhood.

You can stay right there at Lodge Kohler, which has a full-service spa and  full-service spa and two great restaurants, Taverne in the Sky with its farm to table food and great views,  and the Leaps and Bounds CafĂ© (try the popovers).

 

Something Warmer



I’ve been to Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Arizona twice. The scenery is stunning and the spa is filled with unique and rejuvenating procedures. The resort also offers plenty of private casitas so you can easily socially distance.

With the warmer weather you can also find your own space at the pool, on the tennis court, or hiking. Check out all the specials they arecurrently running