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12 Weekend Getaway Mt Vernon IL

Discovery.  I love to discover and rediscover places in Illinois.  And, last week, I did just that on a quick visit to Mt. Vernon and enjoyed several of its fabulous offerings.

The first stop was 9th Street Grill, a lovely restaurant with excellent daily specials.  The day I visited they had  a gazpacho that was to die for.  A great balance of sweet tomatoes and spices that tasted so good, I asked several different ways for the recipe that the owner wasn’t ready to give up.

Main Gallery Exhibit

Our next stop was Cedarhurst Arts Center which houses an  incredible collection of paintings from artists such as John Singer Sargent, Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins and Mary Stevenson Cassatt.  What I enjoy most about visiting the smaller museums in Illinois is that I don’t feel as rushed as I do at the larger ones and I am able to learn more about the artists.  The Cedarhurst Arts Center has a lovely sculpture garden that is perfect for warm summer days.  Of course there is a lovely gift shop where I spent a few dollars and now have some new treasures of my own.

Not too far is the Jefferson County Historical Village where they have preserved many log cabins from all over the state.  This attraction is only open during the summer weekends, and is definitely worth a trip.  Of course I have to mention Genkota Winery, which I did not have time on this trip to stop by, but that gives me an excuse to go back!

– Jan Kostner

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13 Pilsen 2nd Fridays Art Walk

Pilsen Art Walk

Just a few blocks south of the loop, the neighborhood of Pilsen is home to the Chicago Arts District, a few blocks where you can find everything from the loft studios of up-and-coming local artists to the National Museum of Mexican Art.

While many of these art galleries are open daily, the best time to visit is on the 2nd Friday of every month. That’s when about 30 of these galleries open their doors for special exhibitions where you can meet the artists, enjoy free wine and cheese, groove to local DJs, and even bid on some of the artwork. From 6pm to 10pm, the area comes alive as people of all ages, from students at the local University of Illinois at Chicago to elderly art aficionados, mix and mingle and hop from gallery to gallery.

If you’re walking from the Loop (which takes about 20 minutes), head down Halsted and plan for a stop at Lush Wine and Spirits. This boutique wine shop offers free tastings, wines by the glass, and a small selection of specialty beers. Stop for a drink, or grab some wine or beer to take to a local BYOB restaurant.  From there, continue down Halsted, just past 18th Street, to the area welcome center at 1821 S. Halsted.  Pick up a map of the participating galleries, and you’ll be on your way. You can follow the map, or just wander along Halsted and let the crowds guide you.

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14 Check out some Big sculptures

GSU Sculpture Park

The Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park on the campus of Governors State University (south on I-57) is a pretty amazing place – 26 monumental sculptures by huge names in the art world – Mark di Suvero (who had a show in Millennium Park a couple of years ago), and Tony Tassett’s Paul, a 30 foot fiberglass homage to Paul Bunyan that hearkens back to Michelangelo!

There’s also a temporary show of 12 cast-iron figures in a meadow by an Icelandic sculptor that are certainly worth a trip.

The Metra Electric Line from Millennium Station downtown links Millennium Park and Cloud Gate to GSU/University Park and Illinois Landscape #5. Check it out today!

– Bob Lukens

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15 And the winner is

Spring Cantigny's Way by Kasia Bartnik

On behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism, I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who participated in our spring photo contest! We received so many beautiful (and colorful!) images and I can’t thank you enough for sharing your unique perspective of Illinois with us. Over the past week, the contest received nearly 300 votes from people across the country, and today we are delighted to announce Kasia Bartnik as the winner for her photo “Spring Cantigny’s Way.” Congratulations, Kasia!

If you weren’t able to participate in this contest, stay tuned for details about our summer photo contest.

– Katie

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16 Road Tripping From Galena to Chicago

Main Street, Galena

On a recent scouting trip Kristin Bienert, Midwest Living editor, discovers great shopping and inspiring heritage in Galena, along the Rock River and in Chicago’s entertaining suburbs, including Geneva, St. Charles and Aurora. For more Illinois getaways check out the special section, Drive, Eat, Shop in Midwest Living’s May/June 2010 issue.

A vibrant downtown, too-many-to-count bed and breakfasts and three wineries keep me coming back to Galena, just about the perfect small-town getaway in my book. Come autumn, it will be just us girls at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa; then skiing at Chestnut Mountain in the winter with my husband. On this rambling, back roads trip to Chicago, I’m flying solo.

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