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Palms Grill Repurpose FEATURE IMG

Juicy burgers, creamy chocolate shakes, crispy french fries. What are your memories of stopping at diners during family road trips? What many people don’t know is that roadside diners originally sprouted up on Route 66.

In the glory days of Route 66, hundreds of these “town kitchens” opened to cater to travelers, as well as the local community. Some of the most well-preserved locations are still open today along a stretch of Historic Route 66 in Illinois.

For history buffs and road-trippers alike, there’s no better place to experience one of these diners than the Palms Grill Café in Atlanta. The Palms opened in 1934 to serve travelers with blue-plate specials, home baked pies and other classic Midwest diner grub. In addition to its restaurant role, the Palms also functioned as the town’s Greyhound bus station and served as a departure point for young men heading off to war. Ownership has maintained the café’s Midwestern charm, with checkered floors and steel countertop stools, among other mid-century collectibles. The café still serves classic American dishes and travelers must make sure to save room for the Palms’ award-winning pies.

Palms Grill Café is located in Atlanta, Illinois along historic Route 66.

Palms Grill Café is located in Atlanta, Illinois along historic Route 66.

The café is across the street from the infamous Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue, a 19-foot-tall statue of Paul Bunyon holding a giant hot dog that is one of the mythic Muffler Man Statues that line the Mother Road. While in Atlanta, visitors should check out the Route 66 Park & Tourism Center, Atlanta Public Library and the Smiling Water Tower for a photo op.

The Paul Bunyan Hotdog Statue in front of the Palm Grill Café sign

The Paul Bunyon Hotdog Statue in front of the Palm Grill Café sign

The Palms in Atlanta is located just off Historic Route 66, near Bloomington. Stop in to experience the food and friendliness of a classic Route 66 diner. For more information about things to see and do along Route 66, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Not a frequenter of biker joints, I don’t have a motorcycle license and renting scooters probably doesn’t count… who am I kidding, I’d never actually been to a biker bar.

So I didn’t know what to expect and, certainly not out of a place with a name like Poopy’s, other than a sense of humor. And THAT they have.

Billed as “Illinois’ Biggest Biker Destination,” it turned out that Poopy’s in Savanna is way more than just a biker bar. What began as a motorcycle parts shop has evolved into everything anyone who’s ever thrown a leg over a Harley could want.

I felt that I’d be safe if I went in at lunchtime, what kind of trouble could I get into that early in the day?

My main goal was to fill up my belly, wet my whistle, and get out of there alive — no one wants “She died at Poopy’s” on her gravestone –but I was immediately sidetracked by the museum-like quality of the place. Literally hanging from the ceiling were the coolest, wildest motorcycles I’d ever seen! Lunch was put on the back burner.

Things changed rather drastically out back and I quickly determined that wild shenanigans were no stranger to this part of Poopy’s domain. A band was setting up on the concert stage and the outdoor food shack was just opening.

Further on, Skid Mark Stadium, featuring cage matches involving fighters of all sizes, was being readied for the summer season. I may have missed the midget wrestling (that’s what they call it, not me), but I saw the pictures.

Feeling like inside was more my speed, I sat at the bar and was handed the funniest menu I’d ever seen. If one doesn’t think about it too much, that is.

Nothing like a good laugh to loosen me up. It gave me the courage (well, that and a beer) to start chatting up the natives around me. They were so much fun!

Once the Harley dudes found out that this was my first visit to a biker bar, I was told that I had to see the back room where I found myself smack in the middle of some inking action.

Yup, “Biker Destination” is not a term thrown around lightly — folks come in to get their tattooing and piercing needs fulfilled as well.

I was given a live — and quite unnerving — demonstration as the hilarious, and exceptionally nice, tattoo guys injected ink into a lady’s leg. Something I’d never thought I’d be witness to with my fear of stabby things.

And, no, I didn’t get inked — this post is not called “Fear Conquering and Getting a Tattoo.”

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

-Veronica, Illinois Mile Marker

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

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David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
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David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

There’s something special about the old fashioned atmosphere of a candy shop. With shelves full of delectable chocolates, toffee, gummies and other sweet treats, these stores can bring you back to your childhood.

While many might associate these candy shops with a bygone era, one Chicago-area mainstay affords customers the opportunity to jump back in time.

A family enjoys the historic streets of Long Grove and visits Ma and Pa’s Candy, a town favorite

For more than 30 years, Ma and Pa’s Candy, located in the Chicago suburb of Long Grove, has been serving the sweet needs of customers in Illinois. Ma and Pa’s is stocked to the roof with all sorts of delights for the whole family, including 50 varieties of handmade chocolate treats, specialty licorice flavors and colorful suckers. The store also caters to the nostalgic, with legendary products like Mallo Cup, Necco Wafers and Mary Janes among its collection of old favorites. The store truly offers something for every customer, including Kosher and gluten-free options.

Owner Sue Fanara’s passion for Ma and Pa’s makes the candy shop one of the go-to spots in beautiful Long Grove. Her store participates in celebrated local events and candy festivals, including the Long Grove Chocolate Fest each May. Sue prides herself on offering the same customer service that previously made candy shops a popular attraction for parents and children alike. The store is a great place to shop for gifts, and a must-visit destination for candy aficionados.

Ma and Pa’s proudly keeps the tradition of the specialty candy store alive in the Chicago & Beyond region. Friendly service and dedication to providing the finest treats for every taste make this shop a delightful place to jump back to childhood.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

About twenty years ago, Jared & Phyllis Spahn purchased a lovely fruit tree laced piece of land just outside of Hanover, Illinois that inspired the planting of a vineyard.

While the grapes grew, Jared designed the fantastic building that houses the winery and tasting rooms, and Phyllis tended the fledgling adventure.

Rocky Waters Vineyard was busy with our fellow wine tourists when we arrived, but we were greeted personally by the vivacious Phyllis and her dog, Coco Chanel, and given the grand tour.

True passion brings forth great fruit, and the next thing we knew, we were all in Phyllis’ Range Rover bouncing through the fields for an up close look at the vines.

The vineyard was painstakingly laid out so that none of the fruit trees were disturbed. Pear, cherry, and apple trees remain interspersed among the vines and add a hint of flavor to the wines.

Our tour also included a stop at the lakeside cabin that the Spahn’s lived in while constructing the main building. Now it is known as The Fisherman’s Cabin and available as a vacation rental.

Back up at the main house we sampled the fruit of the vines while gazing over the rolling hills and pond below.

It’s hard to imagine a more serene spot to sit on a deck and sip a glass of wine.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

arrow

David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
close
info:
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot day than plunging into the clear waters of a cool swimming hole. While swimming pools have their place, every now and then it is soothing to get away from the smell of chlorine and crowded concrete pool decks sizzling from being baked by the sun.

Bell Smith Springs/ Bay Creek in Shawnee National Forest 
Access to these spots is found a couple miles southwest of the Teal Pond campground

Within the Shawnee National Forest, there isn’t a single swimming hole to be found: there are tons. Many of these are found in the area of Bell Smith Springs and Bay Creek, and they’re gorgeous.

The area has countless scenic pools that look like advertisements for bottled water, with crystal clear swimming spots fed by rocky streams. Better still, on the hike to get to these places, you pass through beautiful craggy canyons and sandstone cliffs exploding with lush vegetation unique to Illinois.

For many, this is the perfect spot. You have to exercise a bit to get there, but when you arrive you’re awarded with a cool dip.

Lake Le-Aqua-na 
Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Recreation Area 8542 North Lake Road Lena, IL 61048 815-369-4282

Because it is man-made and because of good watershed practices, Lake Le-Aqua-na is practically clear, setting it apart from many murky lake swimming areas. Another thing that sets it apart is the wonderful beach.

The lake gained its namesake from a local naming contest. The bookends to the name spell Lena, where it is located, and they’re broken apart by aqua which means, of course, “water”. The pleasant sandy beach area is 600 ft. long, and admission is free.

The beach is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

View of Lake Le-Aqua-Na

View of Lake Le-Aqua-Na

Kincaid Lake Spillway 
Set GPS to 1 Spillway Rd., Murphysboro, IL. Upon arrival, continue on Spillway Rd., which turns into a large parking lot.

The Kincaid Lake Spillway is a bit of a local secret, and it’s obvious why they would guard it.

They have a little paradise there outside of Carbondale. Maybe that’s why directions to get there are a little Batcavian. Once you find it though, there’s an idyllic, three-level cascade spilling into an invigorating, fresh water pool.

During the summer, the spot can crowd with sometimes-rowdy locals, so keep this in mind if you intend to bring children.

Make sure to bring stiff-soled sandals (Tevas, Chacos, etc.), sneakers, or hiking boots for entrance to the area and navigating the falls. They’re a bit craggy.

Lake Kincaid Spillway

Lake Kincaid Spillway

Rend Lake

Rend Lake is a great place for families. There’s such an enormous amount of space to choose from that you can pick seclusion or more populated areas. It’s easy to access and has ample amenities (depending on where you go).

Most beaches are in the South Sandusky Day Use area. If you’d like to wet a hook while others are fishing, the lake is renowned for large crappie and catfish.

Sunset at Rend Lake

Sunset at Rend Lake

Everything Going Swimmingly

Illinois has so many great swimming holes that it’s hard to pick one. Luckily, there are lots of great choices. Whether you aim to pull the car up to a sandy beach or stretch your legs on a nature trail before hopping in, Illinois is the place to be for those thinking outside of the 50-meter swimming pool box.

Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel enthusiast and expert. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group bus tours in the US and Canada, which includes tours of major cities, bus trips to shows and casinos. Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers.