Archive for  November 2012

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5 chili

Hungry travelers and foodies can get their fill on the Central Illinois Chili Trail, located in and around Springfield. Chili hot spots, such as Joe Rogers’ Original Recipe Chili Parlor, Joe’s Chili Bowl and Paul’s Confectionery, put their own unique spin on the spicy and hearty dish. Trail-goers can taste their way through the ultimate chili lineup and pick a favorite bowl!

Joe Rogers’ Original Recipe Chili Parlor

Joe Rogers’ Original Recipe Chili Parlor is famed as the No. 2 “Best Chili Spot in the Country” according to Bon Appétit magazine. Locals and visitors flock to the chili joint to try the flavor-filled masterpiece, served your way to suit individual tastes. With heat levels ranging from mid to firebrand, customers can satisfy their taste buds any way they’d like. In fact, Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” took on is Joe Rogers’ Firebrand chili challenge back in 2009.

Another well-known chili spot in Springfield is Joe’s Chili Bowl, a counter-service-only spot that also provides patrons with a range of spice options. What makes Joe’s Chili Bowl a true standout are the locally-made Art’s tamales served with the famous chili. The chili and tamale combination results in a mouth-watering explosion of flavor.

A trip on Central Illinois Chili Trail is not complete without a visit to Paul’s Confectionery in Decatur. The bustling chili destination has been a town favorite since 1945. The recipe dates back to 1924 and takes three days to complete one batch of the meaty perfection.

Click here to view a complete list of locations. Try one or visit all stops! When you’ve had your fill, tell us what chili bowl is your favorite. To learn about great attractions to visit while in the Springfield area, visit

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

7 pie

My Just Desserts owner Ann Badasch

Lunch hour on Broadway in historic Alton, Illinois will inevitably find Ann Badasch, owner of My Just Desserts, hustling from her busy kitchen that boasts 150 pie recipes to a front door that sometimes catches, letting in the cool air from outside.

It is here where she greets people she has known for years. These are the folks who saw her restaurant grow from featuring just her famed half-pound chicken salad sandwich (with green olives!), five pie recipes and the still-on-the-menu fan favorite tollhouse brownies. But she is just as welcoming to a newcomer like me, who has the luxury of choosing from a menu that changes every day based on the cravings of the kitchen.

Ann is even patient as I agonize over “Mrs. Ledbetter’s Chocolate Pie” or “Peanut Butter Luster.” In the end, I go with Ann’s favorite Peanut Butter Luster (always trust the owner) on account of its pre-baked crust lined with melted chocolate beneath a towering peanut butter filling and topped with a hard chocolate shell. Excellent choice.

She isn’t sure exactly what percentage of her business is made up of neighbors or tourists, but Ann guesses it’s about half and half with a healthy dose of seasonal visitors who come back year after year to shop the antique shops in Alton, check out the wineries in Grafton or Eagle watch at Pere Marquette State Park.

Attracting both locals and tourists comes easy to this natural host. She puts on Lincoln-themed dinners that point to the historic location of her restaurant, which takes up the first floor of the Ryder Building and sits along the Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail. The building once hosted a young attorney named Abraham Lincoln as he delivered a speech for Whig candidate William Henry Harrison, and it is the likely location of the trial for the murderers of the abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy who died in Alton defending his printing press.

Upon request, Ann will also host a dinner with the bare minimum of ingredients as a nod to the Alton area’s Lewis and Clark connections. In this case, she’ll design a dinner like one that the explorers would have enjoyed when they spent five months at Camp River Dubois before launching their journey.

So when you come to the place where the great rivers meet, don’t miss My Just Desserts and its one-of-a-kind hostess Ann Badasch.

Happy Travels!

-Jen Hoelzle

Deputy Director, Illinois Office of Tourism

8 skiing

Looking for a family-friendly winter weekend getaway filled with adventure and excitement? Plan a trip to visit Illinois’ ski destinations during winter break. Hit the slopes, be pampered at luxurious spas, stroll through quaint downtown shops and dine at some of Illinois’ best restaurants. Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena and Ski Snowstar near the Quad Cities offer everything you need for a fun-filled winter getaway the whole family will enjoy. Plan your trip on

Chestnut Mountain Resort

Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena (Photo courtesy of Michael Seroni)

Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena is the Midwest’s premier ski resort featuring 19 runs and a terrain park. Slopes range from beginner to expert to ensure that everyone can enjoy a ski excursion. For visitors learning to ski for the first time or seasoned skiers looking to brush up on technique, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers ski lessons for all ages and skill levels.

After a day on the slopes, rejuvenate at one of Galena’s luxurious spas, such as the Stonedrift Spa and Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. Next, explore the picturesque European-style Galena, situated on the banks of the Mississippi River. Galena’s Main Street is one of the most historic streets in the Midwest, filled with over 100 storefronts that boast art galleries, rustic antique stores, eclectic boutique shops and world renowned cuisine. Make sure to dine at one of Galena’s renowned restaurants on Main Street, such as One Eleven Main or Fried Green Tomatoes.

Galena offers a variety of accommodation options, including charming bed and breakfasts, historic hotels, major resorts and cabin rentals. Many locations offer specialty suites, indoor pools, on-site spas and an abundance of amenities. Remember to ask about special ski packages when booking your stay.

Ski Snowstar

Ski Snowstar in Andalusia

Ski Snowstar  is a family-friendly ski resort located only a short drive from the Quad Cities in Andalusia. Featuring 28 acres of ski terrain and 14 trails for beginners to experts, Ski Snowstar provides days of entertainment and adventure. The resort features a day lodge with a cafeteria, pizza and sub shop, fireplaces and an outdoor cooking area.

The nearby Quad Cities offers culture, history and fun to complete a weekend winter getaway. Comprised of Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf in neighboring Iowa, the Quad Cities is a destination with no shortage of fun. Warm up after a day outside with creamy hot chocolate at the historic Lagomarcino’s soda fountain, visit the newly redesigned John Deere Pavilion and enjoy hearty dishes and micro-brewed beer at Bent River Brewing Company.

The Quad Cities has an abundance of hotels and bed and breakfasts for your weekend getaway. Many options offer winter packages for your family getaway.

–The Illinois Office of Tourism


What better time than just after a presidential election and the release of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln to refresh and remind yourself of the great political lineage in Illinois? Not only was Abraham Lincoln a proud resident of Illinois, but three other U.S. presidents also called the state home.

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices in Springfield

Lincoln loved Illinois. Illinois loved him. Nobody embodies the state quite like Abraham Lincoln, and there’s no better state than Illinois to discover his heritage. Tracing Lincoln’s past across Illinois can quickly turn into a lifetime of experiences and practically a treasure hunt of historical significance with surprises waiting around every turn from north in Chicago to down interstate 55 to Alton.

During his time in Illinois, Lincoln lived in Decatur, New Salem and Springfield. His presence can be found everywhere from the remarkable presidential library and hallowed halls of the Old State Capitol to the meticulously reconstructed log cabin and village that defined his humble upbringing.

Nowhere gets you closer to Abraham Lincoln than Springfield, Illinois. Touch a piece of history at Lincoln’s Tomb. Walk through the reconstructed village of New Salem from his youth. Visit the only home Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln ever owned, now a national historic site. Understand the complexities of his life at one of the largest presidential museums of its kind.

Branch out and traverse the state to uncover hidden history by following the “Looking for Lincoln” path. Search for the “Looking for Lincoln” logo and placards and make your own expedition into Lincoln history!

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield

Don’t forget to stop by Alton in Southwest Illinois, a town overflowing with Lincoln history. Explore the Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail at ten different sites around town. See the place where Lincoln and Douglas debated, the “duel that never happened,” and stop by the Ryder Building where Lincoln served clients as an attorney.

Now, did you guess which other presidents have called Illinois home? Of course, there is President Barack Obama, but also Ronald Reagan and Ulysses S. Grant. Reagan was from the town of Dixon while Grant hailed from scenic Galena. You can find more information, including history, attractions and presidential trails on our website,

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

10 holiday magic

The holiday season is right around the corner and Illinois’ holiday festivals are a great way to kick off the wonderful time of year. Stunning light displays, exciting parades, special visits with Santa and classic holiday performances make Illinois the ultimate place to come together with friends and family. Here are a few ideas for holiday happenings occurring around the state. For more holiday activities and events, visit

The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Chicago

Chicago & Beyond

The BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, the nation’s largest evening holiday celebration, will take place on Saturday, November 17 in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Festivities include an evening parade marshaled by Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, illuminating one million lights on 200 trees, family friendly activities, concerts and, of course, holiday shopping. The event concludes with a spectacular fireworks performance over the Chicago River. Jumpstart your holiday shopping and experience an awe-inspiring holiday festival in one action-packed weekend. Make the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival a new tradition and create memories for years to come!

Land of Lincoln

Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays at The Baby Fold’s Festival of Trees from November 8-11 at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington. The four day festival features an abundance of events, such as the Top of the Tree opening gala, Avanti’s Family Night and Breakfast with Santa. Festivalgoers can explore the Gingerbread Village, see Santa’s Workshop and view custom-designed trees. All proceeds from the event benefit the children and families of The Baby Fold. In addition to the Festival of Trees, the Bloomington area boasts an abundance of family-friendly activities to entertain all ages.

Trails to Adventure

Experience a three mile drive through enchanted lighted displays, entertainment, crafts, food at the Annual Holiday Lights Fair in Du Quoin. The treasured holiday festival begins the day after Thanksgiving and runs through the month of December. Visitors can meet with Santa in the Expo Hall, take a trip on Santa’s train ride and even visit the jolly man’s workshop. Du Quoin is located only a short drive away from the beautiful Shawnee National Forest, bustling Carbondale and quaint Rend Lake. The Annual Holiday Lights Fair is a must-see during your holiday trip to Southern Illinois.

Great Rivers Country

The popular East Peoria Festival of Lights is celebrating 28 years of holiday cheer by starting one week earlier. Running from November 17 through the holidays, the festival features a gigantic drive-through light display and a narrated nativity display. The East Peoria tradition provides entertainment for the entire family and is a splendid way to jump start the holiday season.

Beautiful light display at the East Peoria Festival of Lights

–The Illinois Office of Tourism