Chicago excursions

Old Jul 25th, 2009, 10:43 AM
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Chicago excursions

I am planning a 12 night vacation to Chicago and plan to spend the first 3 nights and the last three nights in downtown Chicago.

However, would like to see more of Michigan and Illinois and interested in suggestions for excursions. I will be renting a car for the middle six nights and happy to travel 3-400 miles.

Look forward to receiving ideas


Bob from England
robert_butler is offline  
Old Jul 25th, 2009, 11:35 AM
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When I spent a few days visiting my SIL near Chicago last year, I enjoyed the day trip we took to Long Grove, a historic village about 35 miles northwest of Chicago. It's a charming and attractive little town full of interesting and eclectic shops, nice restaurants, and some historic sites, including a covered bridge. They have various festivals and events there throughout the year - we happened to be there during the apple festival, although we didn't know about it until we got there.

Here's their website, where you can get lots of information on sights, events, shops, reataurants, etc. :

If you do go to Long Grove, be sure to go to the Apple Haus for some incredible apple pie, or at least try the apple cider donuts.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 12:42 PM
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hi bob!
come to wilmette (my home town) which is just north of evanston and the city along the lakefront! drive to and from via lake shore drive and sheridan drive. the return trip as you approach the city is one of my favorite views of our city. the stunning Baha'i Temple and gardens are here, just across the street from Gillson Park; our lakefront. you can go to the beach, the dog beach, the tennis courts, there's a sailing beach, volleyball, playground, and free grills scattered about the wide lawns for a bbq or picnic. and admission is free except to the swimming beach.

further afield is harbor country in western michigan. it's a string of lakeside communities that comes alive in the summer. there are loads of b and b's, blueberry picking, wineries, funky art galleries and beautiful sunsets.

you could head for the mississippi and check out starved rock state park.

what time of year are you visiting? any particular interests?
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 12:52 PM
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Hi thanks for your suggestions - vacation starts 3rd September
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 04:07 PM
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We found Galena, Springfield, and Nauvoo interestig.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 04:12 PM
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I would add Madison and Lake Geneva, WI to the list.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 05:04 PM
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If you're going up to Madison, WI, I would highly recommend a side trip to Spring Green, WI. Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's studio and home, open for worthwhile tours, is up there as well as American Player's Theater, an open-air summer reperatory theatre that produces an excellent rotation of plays including works by shakespeare, shaw and coward (all from your side of the pond!). Their season extends into October. In addition, there is an indescribable collection of collections called House on the Rock that has to be seen to be believed.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 09:30 PM
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Our Labor Day weekend is 5 September through 7 September. Since it is widely considered the unofficial "end of summer", it's a hugely popular holiday for getting away. Many of the B&Bs in the areas already mentioned require 3-night stays on these major holiday weekends, which doesn't help you, since you want to travel to more than one destination.

What would be most interesting for you to see, Bob, in those 7 days? And you don't mention your budget, so I'm going to give you some suggestions at all price ranges.

Perhaps you would be interested in the Lake Michigan Circle Tour? If so, in your case, I'd recommend traveling north through Wisconsin and then east through the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, then south down Michigan's western shoreline into Indiana. The Upper Penninsula (the UP) has great natural beauty, and you could make a side trip to Mackinac Island.

The least scenic of all the areas on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour is that corner in NW Indiana which is the closest to the Indiana/Illinois state line. It is largely industrial with steel mills, refineries and the like. Eastward from Portage, IN is A-OK and the lakefront is protected for many miles, which has made all the difference in the world. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and the Indiana Dunes State Park are located there.

If you were interested in visiting more metropolitan areas, I might suggest that you drive the Great River Road along the Mississippi River. Suggest that you first start by going from Chicago to Galena, Illinois. You could drive northwards to Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota or southwards to St. Louis, Missouri.

Another option is a trip to southern Indiana. As I mentioned, NW Indiana isn't the most picturesque and once you get southwards a bit from that area, you find flat farmland. Indianapolis is usually about a 3.5 mile trip from Chicago, but because there is construction on I-65 (Interstate 65) affecting the number of open lanes, it could be longer.

Indianapolis (well, actually Speedway - but it's close enough!) is the home of the world-famous Indianapolis 500. If you are a car-racing fan, you would do well to stop at the "Brickyard" in Speedway to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. See for details.

About an hour's drive south of Indianapolis, however, the scenery becomes, well, much more splendid. The flat lands give way to gently rolling hills. You are entering the area of the state around the Hoosier National Forest (which has about 200,000 acres). This area attracts artists and artisans. Some areas you might be interested in are Brown County (see including Nashville, IN and Bloomington, IN, the home of Indiana University (

Another destination is the recently renovated ($500 million, give or take a few cents) French Lick Springs Resort/West Baden Springs Resort (aka French Lick Resort), which is about 2.5 hours south of Indianapolis. See for details and photos.

On the way back north, you might want to travel eastward from Indianapolis, loop upwards and visit Parke County, home to the largest concentration of covered bridges in the world. (See for information.) The Covered Bridge Festival, which runs in early-October, attracts 2.5 million visitors. Since the lodging is rather limited in this area, you might consider staying at Turkey Run Inn at Turkey Run State Park. See for details.

Because the different states in the U.S. have differing automobile laws, you have to make certain that from wherever you rent the vehicle, they will allow you to go out of Illinois and, more specifically, go to all the states which you are interested in exploring.
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Old Jul 25th, 2009, 10:00 PM
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By the way, if you wanted to watch a great movie with the Bloomington, IN as the background, you might want to rent "Breaking Away".
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