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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!



travelsofadam Skydeck Chicago 3-27

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)

Kira Agass_Lou Mitchell's

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


storyofagirl89 Starved Rock 3-29

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)


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

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)


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

— 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:


Jessica Zollman

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

Emily Blincoe

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

Paul Octavious

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

-The Illinois Office of Tourism





Southern IL Feature Image

Whether you’re planning a family holiday trip or a weekend getaway with friends this season, there’s no shortage of winter wonderland places to stay in Southern Illinois. We’ve chosen five of our favorite accommodations in the Trails to Adventure region of Illinois, so take a look and leave a comment to tell us what your favorite is!

Blue Sky Vineyard

Experience a taste of Tuscany at the Blue Sky Vineyard in Makanda. More than just a winery, Blue Sky has two guest suites available for rent year round. Delicious Illinois wine and beautiful winter views of this 12-acre vineyard make for a unique and exciting experience. Venture off the property to one of the many towns dotting the Shawnee Hill Wine Tail for local meals and unique attractions.


Cozy up with a glass of wine at Blue Sky Vineyard

 Bell Hill Bed & Breakfast

If you’re looking for a cozy spot to enjoy a winter getaway, then Bell Hill Bed & Breakfast in Cobden is the place for you. Nestled in the Shawnee Hills National Forest, this B&B boasts breathtaking views and fun local activities, like antique shopping, winter horseback riding and sampling local wine at the many vineyards along the Shawnee Hill Wine Trail.

 The Stablehouse

Looking for a home away from home vacation? The Stablehouse in Alto Pass is a fully-furnished, western-themed rental property that sleeps seven. Take in the serene beauty of winter this year with a close group of friends or family on this property. Pets, including horses, are welcome at this outdoor-lovers home!

Winter horseback riding 8270

Enjoy a winter trail ride with friends through the Shawnee National Forest

Davie School Inn

Davie School Inn in Anna, near Carbondale, is a unique place to stay when visiting Southern Illinois and the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and Giant City State Park. Built in 1910, each spacious suite at the inn includes a bookcase and chalkboard from the original schoolhouse days!

Davie School Inn 2

One of the several vintage rooms at the Davie School Inn

Riverview Mansion Hotel

Golconda is home to the historic Riverview Mansion Hotel, a full service Bed & Breakfast since the 1920s. The elegant Victorian-style accommodations include a lounge serving a large selection of local wines, as well as a restaurant onsite. This enchanted hotel setting with its expansive grounds is the perfect place to enjoy the variety of Illinois wines while taking in the beautiful views of the Ohio River.

Where are your favorite places to stay in Southern Illinois? Leave a comment and tell us! For more ideas about winter wonderland trips, visit

-The Illinois Office of Tourism


Passion Passport Feature Image

To celebrate fall in Illinois, we sent four Mile Markers from Passion PassportZach Glassman, Elliot Vernon, Dani Haigh and Jess Schaffer – on a memorable trip in September. Over the course of four days, the group traveled from Chicago to Galena, Rockford, Starved Rock, North Utica and Ottawa. Together they chronicled their autumn adventure on Instagram. Read on to find out what they enjoyed most and to see their photos!

Pumpkin patch in Illinois by Zach Glassman

Pumpkin patch in Illinois by Zach Glassman (@zachspassport)

Q: Out of all the places you visited in Illinois, what stands out as most memorable and why?

A: Galena – it was such a quaint city. We loved how the river ran through the center of town – it seemed to be a central meeting point of sorts; people sat by the water and chatted or read books; others strolled next to it; and yet others were kayaking down it. There were lots of fun, independent shops and restaurants to wander into along Main Street. We really appreciated the diversity of activities we could engage in, too, from relaxing in a cool coffee shop to shopping, to biking, hiking and vespa-riding. It is such a fun place to plan a romantic weekend, or a fun few days with friends or family.

Q: What destination surprised you the most and why?

A: We were most surprised by Rockford. When we first drove through, it struck us as rather industrial; however, we quickly became impressed with so much of the architecture. The Anderson Japanese Gardens were lovely; how special that it is only the second garden of its kind outside of Japan. And the brewery was definitely impressive as well!

Anderson Japanese Gardens by Zach Glassman

Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford by Zach Glassman (@zachspassport)

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

A: What about three words?  Fun, yummy and corn!


Vespa Ride in Galena by Zach Glassman

Vespa Ride in Galena by Zach Glassman (@zachspassport)

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone considering a trip to Galena or Starved Rock?

A: Be sure to take a vespa ride in Galena! There was no better feeling than riding down empty country roads surrounded by cornfields. Bonus: the ride we took led us to a winery, where we indulged in wine and delicious cheese.

In Starved Rock, be sure to try several hikes. There are lots of different gorges and paths to explore. Plan to have enough time to explore.

Q: What meal or dish was your favorite?

A: This was a trip full of incredible meals! The cheese curds at Rockford’s brewery were amazing. Fried cheese dipped in a tangy chipotle mayo – what could be better? The Broiled Whitefish Parmesan from Uptown Grill in Lasalle, Illinois was also delicious – the crust topped with lemon-caper butter just melted in your mouth – and the affogato al café that we had for dessert put it all over the edge.

Q: What is your favorite picture from the trip?

A: Our favorite photo is this team selfie, taken as we were about to begin our kayaking journey down the Illinois River. We love it because it reflects the fun, whimsical nature of travel and the laissez-faire beauty of engaging in new activities with friends.

Team selfie before kayaking journey taken by Zach Glassman

Team selfie before kayaking journey taken by Zach Glassman (@zachspassport)

Q: What is your go-to road trip game?

A: We liked to see who could play the best road trip music and enjoyed some good sing-alongs in the car. Our unofficial trip anthem was definitely Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.

Starved Rock by Elliot Vernon

Starved Rock by Elliot Vernon (@elbow_macaroni)

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

Grab your family, your partner or some friends and get out and ENJOY ILLINOIS! There’s so much to be discovered. All of the places we visited – Galena, Rockford, Starved Rock State Park, and Ottawa – are within a 3-hour drive of Chicago, making them perfect destinations for weekend getaways.

Thank you to our partners for making this trip possible, including Choose Chicago, Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kinzie Hotel in Chicago, Rosebud Rentals Inc., and Starved Rock Lodge.

Meet the Mile Markers:


Zach Glassman

Zach Glassman (@zachspassport) is the founder of Passion Passport. As a photographer, his style is formed by the culture and people he meets around the world. Different experiences, different places and different people helps Zach’s style constantly evolve.

Jessica Schaffer

Jessica Schaffer (@jess_schaf) works as a program director for a non-profit agency. When she isn’t enjoying life in Chicago, she spends her free time planning adventures for herself and others.

Dani Haigh

Marketing Coordinator
Based in New York, Dani (@dhaigh) serves as a digital advertising Account Manager by day and takes any opportunity she can to travel.

Elliot Vernon

Social Media
Elliot Vernon (@elbow_macaroni) is the team’s social media intern who resides in Chicago.

Want to take the same trip as Passion Passport? Check out the map below to start planning your trip.