Recreation & Destinations

NWQ Getaway Guide: Fall Edition

By

Our region is filled with exciting destinations, available practically in our backyards! Scroll down to learn more about these popular getaways.

Chicago Rockford International Airport: Introducing a Very Cool New Flight

Frontier Airlines comes to RFD this winter, with regular flights to the low-cost airline's Denver hub. (Frontier Airlines photo)


Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) is no longer just a place to catch flights to tropical destinations. Starting Dec. 16, fliers can visit Denver and connect to a host of West Coast hotspots.

The new flights are the result of a deal struck between RFD and Frontier Airlines.

“Our goal at RFD is to focus on low-cost, point-to-point service,” says Amy Ott, interim executive airport director. “The added benefit from Frontier is that you can connect to any big city in the West where Frontier flies. So, for example, you can go from Rockford to Seattle without going through Chicago.”

Frontier operates small hubs in Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo., but from its main hub at Denver International Airport, travelers may connect with 151 daily departures to westward cities such as San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland and even Fairbanks, Alaska. In all, Frontier flies to more than 80 destinations in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.

But there’s plenty to keep a traveler in Denver. Approaching the Mile-High City, fliers glimpse the majestic mountains and wide-open plains of Colorado, before landing outside the white, tent-like terminal. The 25-mile drive to downtown Denver provides even more beautiful scenery.

This bustling city of 2.7 million and its surrounding region are an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with activities that include high-altitude biking and hiking, whitewater rafting and, of course, snow skiing. Plenty of ski towns eagerly welcome visitors and flaunt their pristine slopes of fresh powder. The Loveland ski area, for example, averages 400 feet of snow each year.

Denver’s also a family-friendly destination, with noteworthy amusement parks, museums, cultural attractions, outdoor adventures, natural wonders and professional sports teams. Adults enjoy a vibrant night life and may choose from among dozens of brewery and winery tours.

Fliers on Frontier Airlines’ new Rockford flights arrive at the unique, tent-like terminal of Denver International Airport. (VISIT DENVER photo)

Frontier flights bring something different to RFD’s lineup. The airport already offers weekly flights to four warm-weather destinations via Allegiant Airlines: Las Vegas, Phoenix, Orlando and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.
Seasonally, fliers can reach sunny Florida stops in West Palm Beach and Ft. Myers, in addition to tropical Cancun, Mexico. Starting in December, fliers can also visit the beaches of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Although Denver is by far the coldest among these destinations, Ott says it ranks among the Top 10 leisure destinations for northern Illinois travelers. Five others – mostly to Florida – can already be reached from RFD. The remainder – including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – are on RFD’s radar screen for the future, although Ott notes that all four can be reached through Frontier’s hubs.

“We’re still talking to airlines and international carriers,” Ott says. “Our goal is to achieve growth in a way that sustains itself.”

Airport leaders expect to serve 20,000 new passengers per year through the Frontier flights. Tickets went on sale in mid-July, and the initial response looks promising. “We got word from Frontier that our first week of sales did very well with our kickoff and promotions,” says Ott.

About 100,000 passengers depart from RFD annually, and RFD leaders expect overall passenger service to double during the next three years.

This isn’t the first time local fliers have reached Denver from RFD. In 2008, United Airlines ended flights to Denver after three years of service from RFD. Other carriers expressed interest in filling that void, but failed to seal the deal. This time things are different, Ott says, because flights are scheduled only three days per week. And whereas other carriers sought business travelers, Frontier is focused mostly on the leisure market.

“Frontier is a brand name that’s popular,” Ott says. “It has low-cost service, and a decent frequency [from RFD] at three days a week. Plus, you can connect to other destinations.”

Frontier Airlines got its start in 1946 by serving the Denver area. Today, it’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings Inc., and operates 550 flights daily.

RFD hopes to gain further attention through its “no-hassle” guarantee and perks, like free parking and easy access to highways, that distinguish it from Chicagoland’s other airports.

“What makes us unique, versus our competitors, is our hassle-free experience and our customer service,” Ott says. “Our goal is to make our passenger experience as pleasurable as we can, once people get into the airport.

“We have free parking, we help with bags, we offer wheelchairs, wi-fi, short waiting times. Plus, there’s a kids’ area. We’re hassle-free and family-friendly.” ❚

Starved Rock Lodge: Meet a Craft Brew Whose Rivals Ale By Comparison

John Leinenkugel pours a sample of his family’s custom craft beer, at Starved Rock Lodge.

When you read about the first inhabitants of Starved Rock State Park, you might think of an ancient people from the Hopewellian and Woodland tribes. While Native Americans were chasing buffalo and taming the prairies of Illinois, Mesopotamians were domesticating grains. All of this happened around 8000 B.C. By 3,500 B.C., parts of the world were brewing beer. It was the most popular alcoholic beverage in Mesopotamia. Beer idioms became part of language and the government took to taxing beer consumption – something governments worldwide have been doing ever since.

Fast forward to 2011, where sales of the Starved Rock Signature Ale have tripled during the past four years. What makes this special craft brew so special?

“It’s brewed by the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, and the fresh draft pour makes it a truly great-tasting beer,” says Andrea Yeruski, food and beverage manager at Starved Rock Lodge. “We added Signature Ale five years ago. We put our stamp on it, but it’s made by Leinenkugel. The smooth-tasting ale remains a one-of-a-kind product because you can’t buy it in a six-pack at any store; it’s only available at Starved Rock Lodge.”

When asked to describe this special craft brew, John Leinenkugel, trade brewer for the Wisconsin-based brewery, says, “We’ve been brewing our custom ale, in our ‘Leinie 10th Street Brewery’ just north of downtown Milwaukee, since 1998. It’s our one and only true ale beer. It’s a cross between an English-style amber ale and a pale ale. We’re honored that a great partner like Starved Rock Lodge is proud to serve it to its guests.”

Brides and grooms seek out the unique ale, too. The lodge hosted more than 125 weddings this year, and many guests requested the Starved Rock Signature Ale for their wedding receptions. “Eighty to 90 percent choose Starved Rock Signature Ale because they want to offer their guests something that’s unique to this destination,” says Jill Jacobs, sales manager at the lodge. Guests request on-tap craft beer more than anything else, when they visit the bar at the Lodge’s Back Door Lounge. Nationally, sales of craft beers were up 11 percent in 2010, even though the overall beer market was down 1 percent. About two-thirds of U.S. adults drink alcohol, and most drink beer, according to a recent Gallup poll on alcohol consumption.

The 4thAnnual Leinenkugel Dinner is planned for Nov. 11, in the Great Hall of Starved Rock Lodge. “Every item on the menu is made with Leinie Beer and the blessing of the Leinenkugel brewery – even dessert,” says Barry Brooks, executive chef.

Tastings of seasonal Leinenkugel beers will be available. Try “Honey Bear,” which blends Honey Wheat with Berry Weiss, or “Red Sunset,” which blends Sunset Wheat with Red Lager.

The evening also features a very special guest speaker from the Leinenkugel family. Throughout the evening, guests will have chances to win Leinenkugel products and even a grand prize. Tickets are $45 per person and are available by calling the Lodge at (815) 220-7386. The fun continues on Saturday, Nov. 12, with a Leinie Pub Crawl in downtown Utica, Ill., ending at the Back Door Lounge, where door prizes and live music are on hand. For more information on Starved Rock Lodge, go to starvedrocklodge.com. ❚

The Lodge at Geneva Ridge: Just the Right Size and Location

Geneva Ridge

Large enough to provide a full array of services, but small enough to make every guest feel special – that describes The Lodge at Geneva Ridge, now under the same management as Geneva National Golf Club.

“With its beautiful location on quiet Lake Como, and easy access to all places of interest in the Lake Geneva area, The Lodge at Geneva Ridge is a great choice both for individual leisure travelers and travelers in mid-sized groups who don’t want to get lost in the shadow of larger convention groups,” says Jennifer Myers, vice president of sales & marketing. “We’re the perfect size. Parents don’t have to worry about their 10-year-olds getting lost as they roam around our resort, and yet we offer most any amenity a person could want.”

The natural beauty of southern Wisconsin is on full display from The Lodge at Geneva Ridge. “Half of the rooms overlook the lake and the others overlook the wooded grounds,” says Myers. “There’s not a bad view in the place.”
Because both properties are managed by the Paloma Management Group, there’s seamless cooperation between them, and a high level of service at an affordable price point.

The 144 guest rooms recently were renovated in cozy Mission style décor; they offer high-speed Internet, new baths with granite, and plenty of space to stretch out and relax.Onsite, there are heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools; 30,000 square feet of meeting spaces; a full-service spa; complete fitness studio; and the Lakeview Restaurant and Lounge.

“The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Myers. “It’s always been known for its Friday night fish fries and Saturday night prime rib dinners, and that tradition continues. There’s also live entertainment every Friday and Saturday night of the year.”

With such options, guests certainly don’t need to be golfers to enjoy The Lodge at Geneva Ridge. But if they do happen to yearn for the links, there could hardly be a more perfect stay-and-play location. The greater Lake Geneva area boasts more than a dozen courses with varying levels of difficulty and price. One of the best is right next door, at Geneva National Golf Club, with 54 holes designed by masters Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player. The bent grass tees, fairways and greens were designed to fully showcase Wisconsin’s gentle, rolling landscape and are meticulously maintained. All players are welcomed, regardless of experience level, and juniors 15 and under play free on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., when accompanied by a paying adult. Junior tees and family course scorecards allow young players to tee up and score like the rest of the family.

The family-friendly attitude at Geneva National carries through at The Lodge of Geneva Ridge. “Families enjoy the heated swimming pools and proximity to all kinds of kid-friendly attractions in the Lake Geneva area, from Animal Gardens to the new zipline canopy tours,” Myers says. “Families never lack things to do here.”

In autumn, the Lodge at Geneva Ridge teams up with local farms and orchards to offer special agri-tour packages. For details on these or other special events, go to www.genevaridge.com, or call (800) 225-5558. The Lodge at Geneva Ridge is located at W4240 State Road 50. ❚

Bookmark and Share

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.