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Breweries Beyond Chicago Feature Image

Chicago was recently crowned the craft-brew capital of the U.S., but it isn’t the only place in the region to grab a local pint and relax. Check out these top-rated breweries that are just a hop, skip and a jump – or train ride – from the city.

Two Brothers Brewing Company & Tap House, Warrenville

This 100 percent family owned and operated microbrewery and brewpub has been handcrafting its artisan beers since 1997. Located in the western suburbs of Chicago, this 40,000 square foot facility offers free brewery tours on the weekend where patrons can see the magic happen and snag a sample or two of their favorite craft beer. Don’t forget to stop by the Two Brothers Tap House adjacent to the brewery for a quick lunch before or after the tour.

Solemn Oath Brewery, Naperville

Solemn Oath 1

Check out the wide selection of Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged beers! (Photo courtesy of Solemn Oath Brewery)

Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville offers Belgian-inspired and barrel-aged beers with a free glimpse of how the suds are made. Separated by only a half-wall, the taproom at the Solemn Oath gives visitors a full display of the brewery and a chance to experience all of the sights, sounds and smells of the brewing process while enjoying a flight from their latest beer list. This menu changes frequently, so be sure to order a growler to bring home if you find a favorite.

Carlyle Brewing Company, Rockford

 The Rockford Region’s premiere microbrewery has something for everyone, with 10 to 12 styles of ales and lagers on tap at any time and more than 30 styles of beer brewed onsite throughout the year. This European-style ale house offers a variety of fresh-brewed beer to sample and fun, pub-style foods, making it a perfect stop to sip on a cold beer and relax.

NEW: Alter Brewing Company, Downers Grove

Alter Brewing Company 2

New to Downers Grove is Alter Brewing Company! (Photo courtesy of Alter Brewing Company)

The latest to join the craft beer movement in the Chicago suburbs is Alter Brewing Company located in Downers Grove. It’s founded by three longtime brewers from Chicago’s north side who have been perfecting their brewing technique since 1992. Now, the newly-opened 6,600 square foot taproom and brewing facility will offer continually produced beers, as well as seasonal and limited release selections.

For more places to raise a glass outside Chicago, visit www.EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

Winter Getaway in Shawnee NF  Feature Image

With more than 280,000 acres of diverse landscapes and 403 miles of hiking trails, the Shawnee National Forest is a perfect destination for a weekend away with friends or a romantic getaway with that special someone. In the cooler months, this must-see location offers adventure seekers and nature lovers a new, more intimate perspective of the beautiful, wintery outdoors of Southern Illinois.

From the rustic tree houses to stay in and the unparalleled outdoor adventures, here are the top attractions for a weekend getaway in the Shawnee National Forest:

Little Grand Canyon Trail
Take an exploratory hike for a break from the holiday frenzy. Feel the crunch of the crisp leaves beneath your feet as you travel along the 3.6-mile trail through rock walls, eroded sandstone canyons and craggy bluffs as you meander to the Little Grand Canyon itself. The Little Grand Canyon offers a 365-foot climb from the canyon floor and a panoramic view of the Big Muddy River and the Mississippi floodplain.

Instagramer (at) sarahdesign01 captured this amazing shot on a winter hike through the Little Grand Canyon Trail!

Instagramer (at) sarahdesign01 captured this amazing shot on a winter hike through the Little Grand Canyon Trail!

Garden of the Gods
No trip to Shawnee National Forest would be complete without a scenic hike to the Garden of Gods. With fewer leaves, the cooler months expose the dramatic rock formations and highlight the textured cliffs, offering a unique perspective of the forest. The breathtaking view from Garden of the Gods makes for the perfect destination for photographers and hikers.

Instagramer (at) theroadandandrew captured this amazing shot of the trees dusted in snow against the protruding bluffs.

Instagramer (at) theroadandandrew captured this amazing shot of the trees dusted in snow against the protruding bluffs.

Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour
Thrill seekers can elevate their weekend by soaring through the Shawnee National Forest on a Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour. Open Saturday and Sunday from December to March, you can experience the beauty of the wintery forest by zipping through its exposed bluffs and valleys.

Fly through the terrain of the Shawnee National Forest on a tour of eight zip lines and three aerial suspension bridges. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour)

Fly through the terrain of the Shawnee National Forest on a tour of eight zip lines and three aerial suspension bridges. (Photo courtesy of Shawnee Bluffs Canopy Tour)

Timber Ridge Outpost & Cabins
After a day of adventure, get cozy in an authentic log cabin or a unique treehouse nestled in the hills of the Shawnee National Forest. Surrounded by the beautiful woods, enjoy taking in the tranquility of being off the beaten path. Open year round and supplied with heat, there’s no reason not to enjoy the winter season outdoors.

This White Oak Treehouse was built from a 200+ year old White Oak and sits 20 feet in the air.

This White Oak Treehouse was built from a 200+ year old White Oak and sits 20 feet in the air.

For more trip inspiration, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

UK FAM Trip Feature Image

This March, three travel writers from the United Kingdom hopped across the pond and landed in Illinois. They spent an entire week in the Land of Lincoln and had a blast exploring Chicago, Utica, Galena and Rockford. Check out a few photos these international writers took of their Illinois adventures below!

Chicago

 

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U.K. blogger Adam Groffman of “Travels of Adam” loved the view from The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago! (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Odyssey Cruises Chicago 3-29

International visitors ate a phenomenal dinner aboard the Odyssey Cruise in Chicago. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

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Writer Kira Agass loved the classic American diner breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s in Chicago. (Photo: (at) KiraAgass via Twitter)

Utica

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Blogger Sophie Warner of “Story of a Girl Who Lives Above Her Means” loved discovering the canyons and waterfalls at Starved Rock State Park in Utica. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

Galena

travelsofadam Farmer's Guest House 3-30

The Farmer’s Guest House was home for the group during their stay in Galena. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Horseshoe Mound 3-30

These U.K. bloggers were impressed by Galena’s natural beauty at Horseshoe Mound. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

travelsofadam Mississippi River 3-30.ong

Adam was blown away by the view of the Mississippi River from Goldmoor Inn. (Instagram photo: (at) travelsofadam)

storyofagirl89 Galena Historic District 3-31

Sophie snapped this picture of the shops in historic downtown Galena. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

Rockford

storyofagirl89 Midway Village 4-1

These international journalists went back to grade school at Midway Village Museum in Rockford. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

storyofagirl89 Corondo Theatre 4-2

Sophie enjoyed touring Rockford’s Coronado Theatre. (Instagram photo: (at) storyofagirl89)

For more unique Illinois destinations, events and attractions check out EnjoyIllinois.com.

— The Illinois Office of Tourism

Mile Markers Part 2 Feature Image

Have you seen the Great River Road through the eyes of three amazing photographers? In the fall, we sent three incredible photographers – Emily Blincoe, Paul Octavious, and Jessica Zollman – on a memorable journey along the Great River Road! In four days, the team discovered the beauty of Alton and Galena and shared their journey on Instagram.

In Part I, we detailed Jessica’s favorite aspects of the adventure. Read on to find out what Paul and Emily loved most and check out their amazing photos!

Photo by pauloctavious - Mini Abe in pocket

MiniAbe joined Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious), Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) and Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) on their journey along the Great River Road. Here he’s helping them pick apples at Eckert’s in Grafton.

Q: Of all the places you visited in Illinois from Alton to Galena, what experience stands out as most memorable and why?

Emily Blincoe: The McPike Mansion Haunted House tour Jessica and I did in Alton was definitely the most memorable for me.  I have never done anything like that before and I had no idea what to expect.  I wouldn’t say that I do or don’t believe in ghosts; it’s just not something I ever normally think about.  And while I didn’t really ever feel like we got “haunted” that night, it was such a unique experience to learn about, and see photos of, the people who lived in the mansion many years ago.  It was so interesting to see inside the house and hear about all the past sightings.  We even checked out the crypt out back and tried to communicate with the ghosts in candlelight in the basement.  That’s definitely not something I have ever done before.  It was pretty amazing (and crazy!).

Photo by pauloctavious - Galena fog

The team’s journey though the mystical Galena fog. Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).

Paul Octavious: Driving around the hills of Galena in the fog at sunrise was amazing and surreal.

 Q: What destination surprised you the most and why?

Photo by jayzombie - orange tree

Beautiful fall foliage captured by Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie).

Emily Blincoe: I didn’t really have a lot of set expectations beforehand for this road-trip so I would say everything ended up being a pleasant surprise for me.  As far as what surprised me the most, it wasn’t a destination; instead, it was the colors of the fall leaves along the roads.  I have never seen anything like that with my own eyes before.  It was absolutely breathtaking and I was sort of freaking out about it.  I will definitely be back next fall to see that again.  Nature totally blows my mind sometimes.

Photo by pauloctavious - Piasa Bird cave in Alton

Exploring the Piasa Bird Cave in Alton. Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).

Paul Octavious: The Piasa Bird Cave in Alton. The sheer size of the caves and the thought of that Mythical Giant Bird appearing in the cave was exciting and scary.

Photo by thuglifeforevs - Galena barn and fog

Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) captured a great photo of the fog in Galena.

Q: What is one word you’d use to describe your trip?

 Emily Blincoe:  I’m always really bad at coming up with just one word for something.  But I will go with “neat-o” I love small towns, and exploring, and especially exploring with friends.  I loved the leaves and the bed and breakfasts we stayed at and the fog and the overlooks in Galena.  It was all just really perfect.

Paul Octavious: Explorers.

Photo by thuglifeforevs - Eckerts apples

The team enjoyed a stop at Eckert’s! Photo by Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe).

Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a Great River Road trip?

 Emily Blincoe: Go for it!  I can’t speak for the other seasons but doing this trip in the fall was so great.  I would also suggest giving yourself plenty of time to stop and explore your surroundings and maybe even get lost a little.  Don’t rush it.

Photo by pauloctavious - deer

Oh Deer! Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).

Paul Octavious: If you drive past something and think you’ll see something like it, you won’t! Turn around and go explore it.

Q: What restaurant and meal was your favorite?

 Emily Blincoe: I loved Lagomarcino’s.  It reminded me of a restaurant my grandmother used to take us to when I was a kid.  Plus they had the biggest ice cream sundae I’ve ever seen!  Can’t go wrong with that one.

Paul Octavious: Lagomarcino’s in Moline. Get the Sundae!

 Q: Which photo from the trip is your favorite and why?

Photo by thuglifeforevs - Jessica lays in leaves

Emily Blincoe (@emilyblincoe) captures a picture of Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) taking a break from her travels in leaves.

Emily Blincoe: My favorite photo from the trip that I took was the portrait of Jessica in the leaves.  I am so obsessed with the leaves (should be obvious at this point).  My favorite photo that Paul took was the portrait and reflection of Jessica on the Amtrak Train.  My favorite photo that Jessica took was of the corn and the old barn; that was such a great day and a great impromptu roadside stop.

Photo by pauloctavious - tiny house

Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) and the team stumbled across this hidden gem along the Mississippi!

Paul Octavious: A photo of a tiny fishing house on the Mississippi.

 Q: Did you play and games in the car? What’s your go-to road trip game?

 Emily Blincoe: I don’t recall playing any particular games with each other in the car, but Paul and Jessica are both good pals of mine so it was great catching up with them while driving around.  As a kid, I always loved trying to find all 50 states one at a time on other people’s license plates.

Paul Octavious: Two Dots!

 Q: Anything else you want to share with our readers?

Photo by jayzombie - de Immigrant Windmill

Great capture of de Immigrant Windmill by Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie).

Emily Blincoe: I had so much fun in Illinois and I’m grateful I was able to make so many memories with Paul and Jessica on this trip.  Some of which include: the cave room at the bed and breakfast in Alton and all the wiener dog decor, Paul being too scared to tour the haunted house (we still love you Paul), that foggy morning in Galena, the tiny house on the bank of the Mississippi, the baby pigs at the apple orchard, all the deer on the side of the road in Nauvoo, the Piasa Bird Caves in Alton, and so much more.  It’s always such a treat to explore with friends.

Photo by pauloctavious - smiley leaf

Photo by Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious).

Paul Octavious: It was so great getting out of my “bubble of Chicago and exploring my beautiful beautiful state.

 -Emily Blincoe and Paul Octavious

 Meet the Mile Markers:

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Jessica Zollman

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Jessica Zollman (@jayzombie) is a photographer who lives in Los Angeles.
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Emily Blincoe

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Emily Blincoe (@thuglifeforevs) is a photographer who lives in Austin and Nashville.
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Paul Octavious

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Paul Octavious (@pauloctavious) is a photographer who lives in Chicago.

Thank you to our partners, including Great Rivers Country Regional Tourism Development Office and Amtrak, and to the following destinations for making this trip possible including, McPike MansionEckert’s OrchardJackson House B&BNauvoo Grand B&BEagle Ridge ResortVilla KathrineLagomarcino’sDe Immigrant Windmill

 

Hockey Heaven with the Guys FEATURE IMAGE

Guys, it’s time for a Mancation this New Year, and there’s no better winter pastime to spend your vacation with than hockey! Imagine a trip with just you and your buds, some beers and the Chicago Blackhawks. But why stop at an excursion to the “Madhouse on Madison” (United Center) when you could ramp up the experience with a road trip? An hour and a half later you find yourself on the doorstep of Rockford, Illinois, home to the Chicago Blackhawks’ minor league affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.

Get Up Close to the Action

At the BMO Harris Bank Center, the IceHogs throw down the gauntlet against opponents. Fans get an up close and personal experience with the game, in a setting more intimate than many NHL arenas. Some of the games brightest up and coming stars play right there, as the last stop before the big time. For true Blackhawks fans, a trip to see the IceHogs playing is like watching spring training for baseball – it’s a chance to see stars emerging, and a look into the future of what the organization will be.

As an added benefit, the IceHogs are constantly doing special promotions for their fans, from free giveaways to dollar beers, soda, and hot dogs. Stay up to date on all the promotions with the IceHogs calendar.

Illinois Hockey

The IceHogs celebrate after a big win

 Grab a Brew and Kick Back

If you’re feeling a bit thirsty during your trip, your first stop ought to be Rockford Brewing Company. RBC offers world-class beer in a range of styles; from lagers to IPA’s and stouts to saisons. The 16 faucets and two beer engines have something for everyone, and each beer is handcrafted for quality, freshness and consistency.

Rockford Brewing Company

Grab a pint at Rockford Brewing Company (Photo credit: Rockford Brewing Company)

 Time to Eat

No Mancation would be complete without a steak dinner – so while you’re celebrating an IceHogs victory, head to Social Urban Bar and Restaurant to experience some of the best food Rockford has to offer. Order an aged hand-cut steak or some chops, and realize just how much you’ve been missing.

If red-meat isn’t what you have in mind, rest assured Urban can provide ample options to satiate any craving. With a farm-to-table philosophy, you’ll find lots of unique Midwestern dishes on the menu that not only taste good, but also leave you feeling good about supporting local farmers.

So don’t wait any longer! Grab the guys and book your trip to Rockford. Enjoy an IceHogs game, snag some suds at Rockford Brewing Company and give-in to your inner carnivore at Urban Social Bar and Restaurant. For more Mancation trip ideas, visit EnjoyIllinois.com.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism