Archive for  January 2014

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One of the best ways to see Southern Illinois’ bluffs and rock formations is on horseback. Milder winters, typical of the Trails to Adventure region, allow for year-round horseback riding in the Shawnee National Forest. Several stables in the area, such as Honeybee Stables and Lake Glendale Stables, offer guided or unguided horseback riding tours for groups or private, romantic couple rides that are guaranteed to be memorable experiences.

Horseback riding tours offer a chance to take in the serene beauty of the outdoors during the winter season. (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

Horseback riding tours offer a chance to take in the serene beauty of the outdoors during the winter season. (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

The miles of equestrian trails that wind throughout the Shawnee Hills cover a variety of terrains and offer inspiring views of caves, wildlife, historic settlements and even a winery. The River-to-River Trail passes through some of the most scenic parts of the forest, with a length that spans across the entire southern section of the state. Many stables offer lodging options in addition to riding, such as the Trail of Tears Lodge & Resort, to accommodate riders who wish to turn their horseback riding adventure into a weekend trip.

During the winter season, riders can relax on a leisurely tour while taking in the natural surrounding beauty no longer hidden beneath fall foliage. Take the family out for a new winter excursion this year that may turn into an annual tradition.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

 

Kite Hills Vineyard Bed & Breakfast is the perfect location for a romantic, peaceful getaway for two.

Kite Hills Vineyard Bed & Breakfast is the perfect location for a romantic, peaceful getaway for two.

With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, it’s not too early to begin planning a romantic weekend getaway that is sure to satisfy. For a quiet, relaxing weekend, couples can retreat to Kite Hill Vineyards Bed and Breakfast in Carbondale. Located on tranquil Kite Hill Lake, this bed and breakfast is the perfect location for a peaceful escape in the beautiful Trails to Adventure region of Southern Illinois.

Treat your partner each morning to a full three-course breakfast, followed by a stroll through the vineyards or around the lake. After exploring, unwind by sampling Kite Hill’s delicious vino. Guests can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting at “The Palate” as well as discounts on the purchase of wine as part of their stay.

Visit ‘The Palate’ during your stay at Kite Hills Vineyard to taste their award-winning collection.

Visit ‘The Palate’ during your stay at Kite Hills Vineyard to taste their award-winning collection.

Kite Hills Vineyard offers an array of unique, high-quality wines, which have won awards at the state and international level. Each pour combines notes of everything from cherries to oak and even a pink grapefruit finish. The winery also shares information about what foods pair well with each of their select wines.

For a special fine dining experience at night, join Chef Georgia de la Garza, formerly of the award winning Heirloom Café in Chicago, for a culinary journey. The chef’s multi-course meal includes wine pairings designed to optimize the flavors of both the food and the wines.

With cozy rooms, an array of wine to sample and fantastic cuisine, a getaway to Kite Hill is the ideal Valentine’s Day escape.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

The past and the present co-exist harmoniously in Naperville, where visitors can step back in time only minutes from the town’s bustling downtown district. Naper Settlement, the Chicago & Beyond region’s only 19th century village, has been perfectly maintained to serve as a family-friendly outdoor living history museum. The 12-acre grounds feature 30 historic buildings that replicate an old pioneer township, including homes, shops, chapel, fort, and one-room schoolhouse.

Naper Settlement features 30 restored historical structures spread out over 12 acres

Naper Settlement features 30 restored historical structures spread out over 12 acres

Costumed villagers and interactive exhibits make the settlement come to life for more than 125,000 visitors each year. To encourage exploration of history at all age levels, Naper Settlement has a variety of exhibition galleries to visit as part of the tour experience.

The ‘Brushstrokes of the Past’ gallery is a combination of artwork, artifacts and historic photographs woven together to share the story of Naperville’s development from a frontier settlement to an established modern day city. The ‘Heritage Gallery’ hosts temporary exhibitions on a variety of themes and topics, highlighting the museum’s artifact and archival collections, local artists, collectors and traveling exhibitions. ‘History Connection’ is geared toward young historians with a number of hands-on, engaging activities. The ‘Food for Thought’ exhibit encourages playing with your food as you go on a scavenger hunt throughout the grounds of the settlement to search for food-related items in the historic buildings.

Naper Settlement is open year-round and located in the heart of Naperville.

Naper Settlement is open year-round and located in the heart of Naperville.

The settlement was established in 1969 by a group of volunteers interested in saving the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church from demolition. This group became the Naperville Heritage Society and raised enough funds to transfer the church to the grounds of the historic Martin Mitchell Mansion. Caroline Martin Mitchell donated the mansion, and its surrounding 212 acres, to the City of Naperville in 1936. She requested her home remain a museum in perpetuity. Today, Naper Settlement continues to thrive and grow while teaching future generations about the importance of remembering the past.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Winter Wine Festival

Celebrate the season with fellow wine enthusiasts at the Winter Wine Festival. This year’s event will take place Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 in the state’s capital, Springfield. The Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association (IGGVA) will be in town for their Annual Conference, making Winter Wine Festival complete with education with festivities.

Sample prize-winning wine from the 2013 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition. (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

Sample prize-winning wine from the 2013 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition. (Photo credit: Mark Segal)

The event kicks off Thursday with an exciting workshop hosted by wine guru, Domenic Carissetti, who will share tips from his 35 years of experience in the industry. After the session, festivalgoers can experience an entertaining night of wine paired with pizza and trivia.

True wine connoisseurs will not want to miss the Friday workshops offered by other top-notch enology experts. After learning about the delicious beverage, a special wine tasting event will take place featuring more than 10 local wineries. Vintners will pour their award-winning, handcrafted wines for guests to sample. Artisan cheeses and other delicious food pairings, from savory to sweet, will be available to bring out the rich flavor of the wine.

Warm up over a glass of wine and delicious food pairings during the 2014 Winter Wine Festival. (Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

Warm up over a glass of wine and delicious food pairings during the 2014 Winter Wine Festival. (Photo credit: Michael Seroni)

For those craving even more wine knowledge, Saturday offers three concurrent tracts: one for wine marketing professionals, one covering best practices for grape growing and a more advanced session on emerging topics in viticulture.

The grand finale of the festival and conference weekend is the IGGVA Annual Banquet and Auction on Saturday night. This concluding event features four courses of culinary delights, paired with the Best of Show and Governor’s Cup winners from the 2013 Illinois State Fair Wine Competition. Whether you are a wine fan or an aficionado, the Winter Wine Festival is sure to please.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

The start of the New Year in Illinois means bald eagle watching season throughout the state. Feathered celebrities fly in by the thousands, making the Land of Lincoln their home through March. One of the best ways to see these majestic birds in their natural habitat is by going on a Bald Eagle Safari in Rock Island.

Thousands of bald eagles migrate from Canada to the Mississippi River Valley during the winter season

Thousands of bald eagles migrate from Canada to the Mississippi River Valley during the winter season

The open, unfrozen waters of the Mississippi River, which hugs the northwest border of Illinois, attract the nation’s bird to the Great Rivers Country region. Bob Motz, a naturalist of the Quad Cities, provides professionally guided bald eagle watching tours from January – March. The “Bald Eagle Safari,” coined by Motz, is a sightseeing experience unlike any other.

Magnified scopes provided on the Bald Eagle Safari make for easy viewing of the majestic birds roosting in the trees.

Magnified scopes provided on the Bald Eagle Safari make for easy viewing of the majestic birds roosting in the trees

Safari participants can witness the detailed features of the bald eagle, such as the yellow of their eyes and the nostrils of their beak, with the help of magnified spotting scopes. The scopes mount on a car window frame, allowing for comfortable viewing of eagles roosting in trees and bluffs. Binoculars are also provided to catch breathtaking views of the eagles’ full wing span outstretched in flight.

While on the safari, participants are guaranteed bald eagle sightings.

While on the safari, participants are guaranteed bald eagle sightings

For eagle watchers looking to get a sneak preview, the Bald Eagle Days Environmental Fair is a must-do from January 8-10. The show is recognized as the largest event in the Midwest dedicated to our national symbol of freedom. Flying demonstrations by a variety of fowl, including the bald eagle, and more than 200 educational exhibits make up this three-day event held at the QCCA Expo Center.

For more outdoor adventure ideas in Great Rivers Country, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism