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 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