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.


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