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4 illinois family baseball

Even though the end of summer is fast approaching, there’s still time to get away before it’s too late. Experience an action-packed family weekend centered on America’s favorite pastime—baseball!

Illinois boasts seven Frontier League professional baseball teams. The teams’ ballparks are located throughout the state, making an Illinois baseball trip only a short drive away. Families can experience a night at the ballpark and visit a variety of Illinois attractions all in one memorable summer trip. Check out the list below for family-friendly baseball trip ideas across the Land of Lincoln!

Trails to Adventure

Southern Illinois Miners

Location: Marion

Ballpark: Rent One Park

Miners Baseball

Root for the Miners in Southern Illinois!


17th Street Bar & Grill (2700 17th St., Marion) – World renowned family style barbeque featured in Bon Appetite and on the Food Network.

Quatro’s Deep Pan Pizza (218 W. Freeman St., Carbondale) – Established in 1975, the pizza joint is a Carbondale staple for locals and visitors.


Garden of the Gods Recreational Area (Shawnee National Forest) – The 3,000-acre wilderness is No. 10 in the U.S. for photographing sandstone rock formations and high vistas. Take in breathtaking views of Southern Illinois atop sandstone bluffs.

Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge (8588 Highway 148, Marion) – Walking trails, wildlife viewing areas and fishing, perfect for an outdoor family adventure.

Extreme Kids (1109 North Railroad St., Marion) – Bounce off the walls at Extreme Kids on huge bouncers, in-ground trampolines and a jungle gym.

Great Rivers Country

Gateway Grizzlies

Location: Sauget

Ballpark: GCS Ballpark  

Watch the Gateway Grizzlies while relaxing in the ballpark’s hot tub!

Watch the Gateway Grizzlies while relaxing in the ballpark’s hot tub!


Sawmill BBQ Restaurant (4060 Mississippi Ave., Cahokia) – Delicious barbeque that is smoked fresh daily. Patrons can choose their own tasty homemade sauce from a list that includes Sweet BBQ Sauce, Hot BBQ Sauce and Mustard Sauce.

Stingers Restaurant & Pizzeria (440 Falling Springs Rd., Cahokia) – The family style sit-down restaurant is a favorite spot in Cahokia for delicious pizza.


Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (30 Ramey Dr., Cahokia) – Explore, visit and learn at the state historic site. Cahokia is the largest prehistoric Indian city north of Mexico. Visitors can climb Monk’s Mound and experience a life-sized village.

National Great Rivers Museum (2 Lock & Dam Way, Alton) – The museum is dedicated to telling the grand history, cultural significance and ecological importance of the Mississippi River. It features more than 20 interactive and computer animated exhibits. Visitors can steer a towboat using a simulator, measure water consumption and see river fish in the aquarium.

World’s Largest Catsup Bottle (800 S. Morrison, Collinsville) –Take a pit stop and see the 170 feet tall structure towering above Collinsville. The tower was built in 1949 for the G.S. Suppiger catsup bottling plant. It is a great photo opportunity to commemorate a Gateway Grizzlies trip!

Land of Lincoln

Normal CornBelters

Location: Normal

Ballpark: Corn Crib

Try a hot dog while cheering on the Normal CornBelters!

Try a hot dog while cheering on the Normal CornBelters!


Destihl (318 S. Towanda Ave., Normal) – Enjoy comforting food with big flavor at the central Illinois gastrobrewpub. Destihl creatively fuses craft beer and full-flavored dishes using many local ingredients.

Maggie Miley’s (126 E. Beaufort St., Normal) – The Irish pub transports guests to Ireland. The owners commissioned a Dublin company to design the establishment and all millwork was crafted by Irish carpenters. Maggie Miley’s offers traditional Irish pub fare as well as American options.


Children’s Discovery Museum (101 E. Beaufort St., Normal) – The museum, dedicated to children’s learning, boasts three floors of unique, hands-on exhibits that are perfect for children of all ages.

Grady’s Family Fun Center (1501 Morrissey Dr., Bloomington) – Let loose at Grady’s Family Fun Center, featuring 18 holes of miniature golf, batting cages, bumper boats, go-karts and kiddie rides.

Historic Normal Theater (209 W. North St., Normal) – Catch a flick in a unique setting that transports moviegoers back to a time when going to the movies was a truly special event.

Chicago & Beyond

Joliet Slammers

Location: Joliet

Ballpark: Silver Cross Field

Watch the Slammers hit a home run in Joliet!

Watch the Slammers hit a home run in Joliet!


Old Fashioned Pancake House Restaurant (2002 W. Jefferson St., Joliet) – The Joliet restaurant serves hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try the pancake sandwich, a perfect combination of eggs and ham sandwiched between two creamy buttermilk pancakes.

Chicken-N-Spice (251 N. Chicago St., Joliet) – Founded in 1979, the downtown Joliet establishment serves friend chicken, Jo-Jo’s, spicy rice and buttermilk biscuits. The delicious comfort food joint is a must-visit in Joliet.


Joliet Historical Museum (204 N. Ottawa St., Joliet) – The renowned history museum boasts interactive exhibits featuring early settlers, Route 66 and a children’s discovery room.

Haunted Trails Restaurant and Entertainment Park (1423 N. Broadway St., Joliet) – Get in the game at the Entertainment Park, featuring batting cages, go-kart racing, laser tag and mini golf.

Rockford Aviators

Location: Loves Park

Ballpark: Road Ranger Stadium

Good old-fashioned baseball with the Rockford Aviators is the perfect way to spend a summer evening.

Good old-fashioned baseball with the Rockford Aviators is the perfect way to spend a summer evening.


Beef-A-Roo (3401 S. Alpine Rd., Rockford) – For over 40 years, Beef-A-Roo has been a favorite dining location for families in the Rockford area. The menu consists of mouthwatering sandwiches, burgers, fries and shakes.

Granite City Food & Brewery (7140 Harrison, Ave., Rockford) – Sip delicious craft beer and taste made-from-scratch cuisine at Granite City Food & Brewery. Excite your palate with fire roasted flatbread pizzas, signature steaks, fresh seafood or mouthwatering sandwiches.


Anderson Japanese Gardens (318 Spring Creek Rd., Rockford) – One of the most authentic gardens, outside of Japan, in the world is the Anderson Japanese Gardens, a serene escape ready for visitors to explore.

Forest City Queen Riverboat (324 N. Madison St., Rockford) – Discover the early history of Rockford aboard the Forest City Queen Riverboat.

Discovery Center Museum (711 N. Main, Rockford) – The children’s museum has more than 250 hands-on art and science exhibits, planetarium, TV studio, robotics lab, and other special events and traveling exhibits.

-Illinois Office of Tourism


World famous grandstand headliners, new culinary competitions, and endless rides and attractions make the 2012 Illinois State Fair a summer event for all to enjoy. The state fair offers entertainment for the music maven, culinary showdowns for the foodie, carnival rides and attractions for the daredevil, competitions for the champion, and games and activities for the kids. It will run Aug. 9 to Aug. 19, from 7 a.m. to midnight at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

Entertainment for the music maven:

Miranda Lambert, female vocalist of the year, will headline the Grandstand entertainment.  Other big names include country artists Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert, pop artist Demi Lovato and rock icons Cheap Trick. Concert goers can view the full list of entertainers by visiting Illinois State Fair Grandstand Entertainment and purchase tickets on Ticketmaster.

Culinary showdowns for the foodie:

Four culinary contests will premiere at the 2012 Illinois State Fair. Contests include the Illinois State Fair Horseshoe Sandwich Competition, Seattle’s Best Coffee “Red Cup Showdown,” Wake Up to Eggs Contest and Backyard Barbeque Pork Chop Contest.

All competitions will take place in the Hobby, Arts and Crafts building behind the Emmerson Building and Lincoln Stage. The dates and time are as follows:

Illinois State Fair Horseshoe Sandwich Competition: Saturday, Aug. 11 at 10 a.m.

Seattle’s Best Coffee “Red Cup Showdown”: Friday, Aug. 10 at 8:30 a.m.

Wake Up to Eggs Contest: Sunday, Aug. 12 at 9 a.m.

Backyard Barbeque Pork Chop Contest:Sunday, Aug. 19 at 1 p.m.

For more information on the culinary contests, visit Illinois State Fair Competitions.

Carnival rides and attractions for the daredevil:

Daredevils can experience more than 100 Carnival Midway and Adventure Village rides, including the popular Mega Drop and Turbo Force.  The Mega Drop sends riders on a 130-foot plunge straight to the ground.  For fairgoers looking for even more thrill, the Turbo Force flips passengers upside down and spins around until the ride completes a full revolution. For prices, specials and hours of operation visit Illinois State Fair Rides.

Competitions for the champion:

The Illinois State Fair boasts some of the best competitions in the country. The competition lineup for 2012 includes General, Livestock, Junior Livestock, Society Horse Show and Western Horse Show. Competitions take place throughout the duration of the state fair. For more information, visit Illinois State Fair Competitions.

Games and activities for the kids:

The Kids Korner is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features free outside and inside activities.  Outside highlights include a Secretary of State Bicycle Skills Course and Baby Photo Contest Display. Inside activities feature face painting, Tiny Tots play area, CDB Building Barn and Spectra’s free family entertainment. The Kids Korner is perfect for all ages, including grownups!

The last day of the state fair is “Family Day” and costs only $2 per person for general admission.

For more information, visit Illinois State Fair website.  Do not forget to check out Visit Springfield Illinois for campground, hotel, and bed and breakfast accommodations.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

6 birding cave valley

Shawnee Audubon members. Photo: T. Treacy

It was a partly sunny morning, when friends with the Shawnee Audubon Chapter went birding at Cave Valley near Pomona, one of the best places to see warblers.     This is an easy trail with great woodland habitat.      Before walking along the trail, we spent at least a half hour birding along the road near the creek. This birding offered us a very nice view of a singing Cerulean warbler. The bird seemed to pose just for us, turning so we could have both side and front views. As you can see from the following list, we saw and heard many more warblers and other birds that morning. Some of the most spectacular were the blue-winger warbler, singing low on a branch, and a black-and-white gleaning along the trunk of a tree. Our only regret was not seeing the Mississippi kites that usually guard the valley.

Some of the Bird list:  black and turkey vultures; Cooper’s, red-shouldered, broad-winged, and red-tailed hawks; killdeer; ruby-throated hummingbird; belted kingfisher; red-bellied, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers; Acadian flycatcher; eastern phoebe; great crested flycatcher; eastern kingbird; white-eyed, Philadelphia, and red-eyed vireos;  Carolina chickadee; tufted titmouse; white-breasted nuthatch; Carolina wren; blue-gray gnatcatcher; eastern bluebird; wood thrush; blue-winged, yellow-throated, pine, cerulean, black-and-white, prothonotary, and Kentucky warblers; northern parula; American redstart; ovenbird; Louisiana waterthrush; common yellowthroat; summer and scarlet tanagers.

yellow-breasted chat warbler

To get to Cave Valley: Follow route 127 (heading north from route 146 or south from Murphysboro) to Pomona road, then head west to the natural bridge road (at the old Pomona store). Turn right (north), staying to the right as the road becomes gravel, cross a bridge over the creek, and watch for an old forest road on the right.

Where do you bird, or nature watch?


Consider an excursion where instead of waking up to the nagging noise of an alarm, the soft rays of sunlight peek through your blinds and a fresh breakfast waits for you, on your schedule. One moment you could be jamming to live music and the next canoeing a scenic river. This may seem like a dream, but it doesn’t have to, and it certainly doesn’t have to break the bank.

Take the Merchant Street Music Festival in Kankakee. This free two-day festival at the historic downtown train depot is a celebration featuring local and regional musical talent, not to mention excellent food and drink.

Canoeing the Kankakee River

A free music festival is great, but we all deserve a full weekend getaway every once in a while.

So for those looking to treat themselves, consider the ‘canoeing on the Kankakee River’ package through the Hilton Garden Inn. The hotel is located just 10 minutes from the festival and the canoeing package includes an overnight stay with breakfast for two and sets you up to canoe on the Kankakee River.

Make it a Weekend

Consider a couple great ways to enjoy this as a full weekend outing.

First, you and your partner could arrive Friday evening to sample some fine dining and drinks and kick back while listening to the sounds of the festival. When you’re ready, retire to the Hilton Garden Inn to get some sleep before heading out on the river Saturday.

Second, your duo could come in early Saturday and head out onto the river for a canoeing adventure. Once you’ve finished up that activity, head on over to the festival to catch the classic car display and of course more delectable culinary options all the while taking in the tunes. After the long day, you’ll probably be pretty tired, and that is where the Hilton Garden Inn comes in to save the day. Wake up the next day and enjoy your breakfast for two before heading home.

Either way, you are sure to have a great time, while saving a few dollars. Enjoy!

Note: To receive the Canoeing the Kankakee Package, contact the Hilton Garden Inn directly at 815-932-4444 with the promo code, CKRP. Make sure to book at least seven days in advance.

-The Illinois Office of Tourism

8 ducky day ahead

August 9th is Duck Derby Day! The river will go yellow (not St. Patty’s green this time) with more than 35,000 rubber duckies splashing and battling their way to the finish line for an outstanding cause.  As a member of the Young Professionals Board for Special Olympics Chicago, we are hosting a team together to raise awareness for the Special Olympics by selling ducks for the big event.  All proceeds benefit more than 21,000 athletes and 11,000 young Athletes of Special Olympics Illinois.

Dumped from a giant truck over the Columbus Drive bridge in downtown Chicago, the ducks will race down river.  Whichever adopted duck crosses the finish line first wins the grand prize! Prizes include a 2012 Chevy Equinox LS, an all-inclusive vacation and many more.

Be a part of  all the action!
Adopt a duck for $5 or Quack Pack (6 ducks for $25). Race Day events begin at 10 AM, bring your family and friends for the fun games, entertainment and free food.  The race begins at 1 PM, and the ducks are off. Join us to cheer on our duckie!

When: August 9, 2012
Where:  Chicago River

For more information, please visit: www.duckrace.com

Good Luck, Emma Carollo
Quack! Quack!