Archive for  March 2013

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Anderson-Japense-Gardens

Do you want to get away from it all, relax and find peace amidst the chaos? There’s a place in Illinois where you can walk among tumbling waterfalls, witness the magic of blooming gardens, experience the peacefulness of koi ponds and sip warm tea at a 16th century Sukiya-style teahouse. This flawless retreat is the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford.

Rushing waterfalls at the Anderson Japanese Gardens

Rushing waterfalls at the Anderson Japanese Gardens

A stroll through the tranquil Anderson Japanese Gardens will take you on a journey across the globe and rejuvenate your mind. It’s a place unlike any other in the United States. In fact, the Anderson Japanese Gardens is one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens outside of Japan.

The mastermind behind the special place is John Anderson. After graduating college, John traveled throughout Japan with a close friend and was inspired by the unique Japanese culture. After returning to the United States, John purchased land and moved to a new home. The Spring Creek ran through his land, making it swampy terrain. Where some would see this as unusable land, John saw its potential for Japanese-style landscape.

Peace and tranquility at the Anderson Japanese Gardens

Peace and tranquility at the Anderson Japanese Gardens

After visiting the Portland Japanese Garden on a business trip, John contacted the garden’s designer, Hoichi Kurisu. The two set to work to build what is now the Anderson Japanese Gardens. Almost 40 years later, the Rockford retreat has transformed from John’s passion to an absolutely beautiful hideaway for visitors to enjoy.

You can discover this gem during primary season, from May 1 to October 31. Embark on a guided or self-guided tour. Enjoy yoga sessions. Experience ‘Mindful Meditation.’ Or, learn the Japanese language. Whatever your interests may be, the Anderson Japanese Gardens will introduce you to a new culture and leave you feeling refreshed and restored.

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

Wrigley Field

Spring is a great time of year to explore Illinois. Days are sunnier, the temps are inching up, and some of the state’s favorite attractions are open for the season once again. Check out this Top 5 list of spring things you’ll want to experience in Illinois.

If you’re a baseball fan, or just want to be part of a fun Chicago tradition, catch the home openers for the White Sox on April 1 (vs. Kansas City Royals) or the Chicago Cubs on April 8 (vs. Milwaukee Brewers). Nothing compares to singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch with the zealous Cubs fans in the bleachers at the historic Wrigley Field. Insider tip: Every time the White Sox hit a home run, the crowd is dazzled by fireworks that light up the sky at U.S. Cellular Field.

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Wrigley Field’s famous welcome sign (photo courtesy of the City of Chicago, Chris McGuire)

Beginning April 27, transport to Illinois’ frontier days with a ride on the LaSalle Canal Boat! Modeled after the mule-pulled boats that cruised the I&M Canal in the 1800s, this modern-day version features a captain and crew dressed as pioneer folk who tell tales of the early days on the Illinois prairie. After the ride, check out the cafe, gift shop and I&M Canal exhibit at the nearby Lock 16 Center. Insider tip: Mary Todd Lincoln joins the tour on Tuesdays and Sundays.

Cruise along the I&M Canal in this replica boat

Cruise along the I&M Canal in this replica boat

Visit the communities and characters that keep the nostalgic spirit of the Mother Road alive during the annual Illinois Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival, held May 4-5. Thirteen towns located along the 90-mile stretch of Route 66 – from Joliet to Towanda – celebrate the colorful history of the storied byway with street fairs, tours of local historic sites and classic car shows. Join the caravan of fellow Route 66 enthusiasts and make a weekend of it.

Rock out with bands, classic cars and a lively crowd on Route 66

Rock out with bands, classic cars and a lively crowd on Route 66

The southern tip of the state is a great place to golf nearly year round. Head to the Carbondale area and take a swing at one of the five courses that make up the Southern Illinois Golf Trail, which winds through the stunning scenery of the Shawnee National Forest. One of the courses, Kokopelli in Marion, was named by Travel + Leisure as one of America’s 100 Best Courses for $100 or Less.

Striking American white pelicans in Alton (photo courtesy of Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Striking American white pelicans in Alton (photo courtesy of Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

In Alton, there’s a new flock in town: American white pelicans. Hundreds of these migrating feathered fellows make their first appearance along the Mississippi Flyway in mid-March and stay until June. Drive the picturesque Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway from Alton to Grafton and you’ll spy the pelicans in graceful flight or scooping up fish from the river waters. Some of the best spots for pelican watching include the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge. The Audubon Center at Riverlands hosts Wings of Spring bird walks on weekends from April 20-May 12. Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge offers bird-watching tours April 20 and 27, in addition to weekends in May and June. If you miss the pelicans in spring, don’t fret. They pass through the Alton area again in fall.

— Margaret Doyle

Chicago-based freelance travel writer and editor at large for the Illinois Travel Guide, produced by the Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Located right outside of Champaign, in the heartland of Illinois, is a family farm welcoming visitors with open arms and big smiles. Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband left behind their life in Madison, Wisconsin and embarked on a journey that is now a fully working farm, dairy, garden and orchard.

Goats at Prairie Fruits Farms and Creamery

Goats at Prairie Fruits Farms and Creamery

After hard work and dedication, Wes and Leslie grew Prairie Fruits Farm from a tiny seven-acre venture to what’s now a full-fledged sustainable agriculture endeavor, supplying products to Illinois’ top restaurants, like Effingham’s famed Firefly Grill. What’s more, the duo opens the door to their farm to visitors from all walks of life.

The Orchard at Prairie Fruits Farm

The Orchard at Prairie Fruits Farm

If you’re a curious foodie or simply someone looking for unique experience, a trip to Prairie Fruits Farm will not disappoint. Wes and Leslie offer different experiences for all seasons. In the spring, play with baby goats, witness the first sprouts of the season and see the orchard in full bloom. During the summer, pick berries or sweet peaches. Fall brings beautiful scenic views and the prairie goldenrod buzzing with honey bees.

And when you’re stopping by, don’t forget to try the delicious “Angel Food” and “Little Bloom on the Prairie” goat cheese, creamy farmstead gelato and tantalizing sorbetto. Or, make a reservation for “Dinners on the Farm,” and experience a true farm-to-table meal.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Looking to discover one of the hidden gems of Illinois? Then check out the National Museum of Ship Models and Sea History! Fun for families or adventurous adults of all ages, this one-of-a-kind museum in Champaign County has been making waves for 12 years.

The gorgeous antique brick building filled with Maritime Treasures

The gorgeous antique brick building filled with Maritime Treasures

Founded by 70-year-old architect Charles Lozar, the museum is in a historic 1878 building in the heart of Sadorus, located in Illinois’ Land of Lincoln region. Hundreds of enchanting ship models that Charles began collecting as a young boy fill the two story museum.

The unique museum is also a non-profit, dedicated to model builders and the importance of ships throughout history. Overflowing with more than 400 models and treasures of many kinds, from Africa to China, the National Museum of Ship Models and Sea History has historical and handmade pieces that won’t be found anywhere else. Some of Charles’ best pieces are a 27 foot-long replica of the famous Queen Mary liner, built in three sections using 1 million toothpicks by Wayne Kusy from Chicago, and a 10-foot Titanic model on display for visitors.

While the museum is technically closed during the winter (December 1st through April 30th), Charles is happy to open the museum to you, personally, by appointment. Make sure you stop by for this VIP treatment, check out the amazing models and pieces and spend time in the gift shop and workshop so you and your “crew” can take home a ship model kit of your own.

E-mail Charles at clozar@aol.com or call (217) 352-1672 to plan your trip!

–The Illinois Office of Tourism

There’s a craft beer destination in Illinois that’s generating lots of buzz. Big Muddy Brewing, the first brewery in Murphysboro in more than 50 years, is a favorite for locals and tourists alike.

Chuck Stuhrenberg founded Big Muddy and began production in July of 2009. By brewing deliciously tasting craft beers, the local spot is helping reinvigorate the tradition of microbreweries in Illinois. Whether you’re a beer connoisseur or a new addition to the American microbrewery fan club, a weekend tour and tasting at Big Muddy Brewing is a must-stop.

Instagramer (at) dj_dubachery

Instagramer @dj_dubauchery had a great time experiencing Big Muddy’s brewery tour and tastings!

Tours and tastings are Saturdays and Sundays at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. For only $6, you’ll receive a Big Muddy pint glass and a sampling of Big Muddy’s seven brews. From conventional beers to true craft flavors, Big Muddy’s variety excites taste buds. Make sure to try the Brewery’s first beer, the “Kinkaid Wheat,” a clean and refreshing American wheat beer. Or, if you’re more adventurous, try the “Saluki Dunkel Dog,” a dark and sweet style beer with a hint of chocolate roast.

Instagramer (at) athirdeyeview

During a visit, Instagramer @athirdeyeview enjoyed some of Big Muddy’s “must-haves.”

While on your tour, make sure to check out their other popular brews such as the “Pumpkin Smasher,” which is brewed using real pumpkins; the “Galaxy IPA,” an American-style India Pale Ale; the “Vanilla Stout,” which is infused with pure Madagascar vanilla; or the original “Pale Ale,” a classic choice with just a hint of caramel.

Last— but certainly not least—every guest must try the “Big Muddy Monster,” named after the legend of the Big Muddy Monster. This brew is a lively and distinctive fusion of American Brown and India Pale Ale and an ode to Southern Illinois.

What is your most favorite brewery? Comment and share with us below! For more great activities in Southern Illinois, visit EnjoyIllinois.com 

– Illinois Office of Tourism