Archive for  January 2012

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17 hollywood in southern il

Superman Tired of the same ol’, same ol’?   Well, go ‘on location’  to see some of Southernmost Illinois’ ties with the big screen that might be just the trip to add a bit of pickup to your days. Instead of watching TV, you could be seeing where Tommy Lee Jones filmed the movie U.S. Marshals and glimpse the plane he flew in from an underwater view.

If you are a Super-hero fan like me, a visit to Metropolis is a must!  Metropolis is the home of Superman, the Super Museum and the Americana Hollywood museum, as well as a 15 ft statue of the Super Hero, and a life size statue of his love, Lois Lane.  The Superman hook came about because of Jim Hambrick’s fascination with Superman lore. Hambrick, a California native, brought his hobby to Superman’s hometown and opened a Super Museum. This fun stop boasts over 20,000 items, covering the earliest to the latest Superman memorabilia.  The Americana Hollywood Museum is dedicated to Hollywood of yesterday and today.

Remember the scene from U.S. Marshalls where the 727 crashes into the Ohio River? That was right across from the Bay City General Store & Lodging. The movie was filmed in 1997 and owner Donna Norton shared a bit of information about the film that put their little burg on the map. “The casting included countless local persons who posed as restaurant employees of Roy Willy’s World’s Best Bar-B-Que, local and state law enforcement and first responders,” she said.     Although visitors often think otherwise, there is no barbecue to be had, but there is RC Cola, Moon Pies and a great variety of antiques and collectibles and a general store restored to all of its 1915 glory.

If you are wondering what happened to that 727 used in U.S. Marshalls, it is at Mermet Springs, a scuba diving and training site.Mermet Springs

Interested in western history? Scenes from How the West Was Won were shot at Cave-In-Rock State Park, which is located, like the Bay City General Store, right along the Ohio River.  It took eight days to film Davy Crockett and the keelboat race.

Cave-In-Rock State Park was created in 1929, but its history dates back several centuries. The 55-foot-wide cave, situated on the banks of the river, served as shelter for Native Americans as well as French explorers. Then later in the 18th century and the early 19th century, the cave was used by outlaws and river pirates.  Later, it was used for revivals, town meetings, shelter and even as the backdrop for a western movie.     We filmed our own adventure here using our video camera, and, you can too!

These are just a few of the fun ways you can get a Hollywood fix without flying halfway across the United States! Keep in mind Southernmost IL. weather is much milder than that of Northern IL, but,  it can still freeze and ice up in Jan. & Feb., so check out the weather conditions. If the road is clear, hit the road!

Enjoy Southern IL!


18 paramount theatre

It’s better in the ‘burbs

When I was 16, a wise teacher forced the class to brave the cold, hop on the “el” and head to Chicago to experience La Bohème at the Lyric Opera House. The performance, the music, the venue moved me so that I’ve been passionate about theatre ever since.

The Paramount Theatre in Aurora pulled a gutsy move and launched their  own Broadway series this season—something the 1930s grand movie palace has never done in its 80-year history. It remains one of my most favorite places on the planet because of its history and its elegance—from the the rich salmon-and-gold Venetian panels to the enchanting cerulean ceiling (a good shot of that is in “Public Enemy” with Johnny Depp).

I heard the buzz about Paramount’s launch of the four shows that would be costumed, directed, choreographed and set designed—all in-house.  Plus a full orchestra.

Their production of “My Fair Lady” blew me away, as well as many Chicago theatre critics. The orchestra charmed, the cast the choreography was outstanding and it was as if the Lady Paramount opened her eyes and took her first breath. The performance was as grand as the theatre.

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” also wowed me with its dance numbers and exhilarating cast. Next up? “A Chorus Line.” I. Cannot. Wait. Treat yourself to an amazing performance in a stellar venue this winter. Performances run Jan. 18-Feb. 5.


19 pizzeria palace

Palace Pizzeria in Southern Illinois

Chicago sure has some great pizza, but it isn’t the only place in IL. to get delicious pie!     In the Southern tip of IL. the best place on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is the Palace Pizzeria located in Cobden, the center of the wine trail. This is THE place to do your one stop wine tasting because the Palace offers wines from all of the wineries on the trail. The pizza is awesome and there is also a great selection of premium beers. This is also a great weekend party spot. We went for karaoke night and had a blast.  Doug and Nancy (the owners) were wonderful hosts. If you are hitting the wine trail, you must visit the Palace! The Palace Pizzeria offers salads, sandwiches, appetizers, breads, personal stuffed pizza logs (calzones), specialty pizzas, thin, thick and double-thick crusts along with the award-winning super special ten topper pizza.

We enjoyed the veggie pizza.  The ingredients for the handmade crust and astounding sauce are carefully selected. The freshest toppings are a wonderful complement, and all components meld perfectly together for that award-winning taste.      Tell us about your favorite Illinois Pizza!

Enjoy eating in Southern IL!


20 fresh way to beat winter

Snowshoe in the Woods

Even though I’ve taken advantage of the less-than-normal winter so far, soon enough reality will hit me. Hopefully, the “reality” will be less than 20 inches of white stuff over a day and a half!

However, I spotted something that I thought sounded pretty cool. Paddle and Trail of Aurora whipped up an idea that I’m definitely willing to don my long underwear for.

It begins with a shuttle from Aurora’s Paddle and Trail up to North Aurora.  Then you embark on a guided (or unguided) snowshoe along the gorgeous Fox River trail for a little over 3 miles (about an hour). The tour begins at twilight which is the perfect time to spot elements of Fox Valley wildlife like Bald Eagles, fluffy ospreys, foxes and mink. I love snowshoeing because any one can do it and if I remember correctly, you feel like you’re floating on top of the snow.

You’re led back to downtown Aurora where Chef Amaury will be waiting for you at 33 West with a glass of unparallel wine and a platter of mouth-watering artisanal cheeses.  He is known far and wide for his gourmet offerings, interesting pairings and seasonal cooking with locally grown, organic ingredients.

This combo of outdoorsy activity followed by some upscale fare really appeals to my sense of seeking eclectic experiences. For me, this is a perfect way to combat cabin fever.  The dates for this package are Dec. 29 and Jan. 12.

Paddle and Trail also have a location in the Rockford area too.



1 winter bird watching

Bald Eagles in Flight

What better way to start off the new year, then trying to spot Bald Eagles!    I am lucky enough to live near the Cache River Wetlands, and, the Wetlands offer great opportunities for eagle watching, as well as spotting other birds.  The Cache River Wetland Center provides resource and identification materials to help you spot eagles and other birds in the area and along the rivers. They will provide maps and directions to the viewing station for the nest just off Illinois Route 37 off Perks road and south of the visitor’s center.    I enjoyed the mild winter day in Southern Illinois bird watching on my own, but, if you prefer some guidance, bundle up and join us on Sat. Jan 7th or, Feb. 4th from 3 to 6pm at 

Blue Heron

 Bellrose Waterfowl Reserve, an area typically closed to the public, to witness the majestic sight of ducks and geese arriving at  sunset to roost on the icy water. Bellrose Waterfowl Reserve includes 400 acres of wetlands that are managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide food and shelter for waterfowl during migration. Staff will provide spotting scopes and binoculars. For more information or to call ahead, contact Cypress Creek NWR at (618) 634-2231.

Share your eagle sightings with us!

Enjoy Southern Illinois!