A great weekend’s journey is hours away. Here are some excellent places to visit.
Granite Peak Ski Area: Let the Powder Fly This Winter
It’s time to dust off those skis and hit the slopes. Whether or not there’s snow in Illinois, you’re guaranteed to find fresh powder at Granite Peak Ski Area at Rib Mountain State Park, in Wausau, Wis.
Located just two hours north of Madison and three hours east of Minneapolis, this family-friendly getaway kicks off its early season on Nov. 19 this year.
A Mountain of Family Fun
Granite Peak is a favorite family destination ski resort in Wisconsin, offering mountain skiing with the luxury of a drive-to-ski vacation. It’s the largest ski area in Wisconsin, and with its location in the heart of the state, Granite Peak is also conveniently located.
At 700 feet, Granite Peak has the tallest vertical drop in both Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and it features 75 runs — about twice the number of runs you’ll find at most Midwest ski areas.
Getting to “Yes” has Never Been Easier
If you’re talking about a ski trip to Granite Peak, the kids are sure to be all in. Families return year after year, with generations in tow. From tots to teens to parents and grandparents, the excitement and appeal of skiing and boarding never get old.
“Granite Peak has provided our family with a yearly getaway for more than 30 straight years,” says Colleen O’Malley, of Chicago. “It’s the best value in the Midwest for family skiing and has given us countless memories over the years to cherish.”
High-Speed Lifts, At Your Service
High-speed lifts service 72 of the 75 runs at Granite Peak, whisking skiers to the top of the mountain three times faster than traditional chairlifts. Over a weekend, that can translate to miles more skiing and boarding.
“My sons learned to ski at hills in southern Wisconsin, but they learned to become good skiers at Granite Peak because of the expert instructors and the variety of runs with different degrees of difficulty,” says Mark Kropoloski of Arlington Heights, Ill. “It’s always challenging and once you’re down, you get back up the mountain fast. Plus, you just can’t beat the Midwestern hospitality you’ll find at Granite Peak.”
Better Snow, More Snow, Longer Season
Thanks to the largest and most sophisticated snowmaking operation in the Midwest, Granite Peak can deliver a fantastic winter experience, no matter what Mother Nature delivers.
Just A Fraction of the Cost of a Ski Vacation out West
“It’s important to us to make pricing family-friendly and affordable enough that families can make a few visits to Granite Peak each year,” says Vicki Baumann, Granite Peak general manager. “Our monthly Family Festivals are an incredible value. The key to making your dollars go further at Granite Peak is to order early and online. Always order your tickets at least 72 hours prior to your arrival and you’ll enjoy significant savings.”
Specially priced lift and lodging packages feature a variety of fine hotels in the Wausau area, all just minutes from the slopes. For peak savings, book your ski-and-stay packages online and early. For more information, visit skigranitepeak.com.
Holiday Happenings in Rockford
By Lindsey Gapen, assistant managing editor
The holiday season marks a special time of year in the Rockford region. Sites, attractions, eateries and organizations join forces to make the community a little bit brighter.
“The holidays are a perfect time to establish traditions with your family and friends by participating in local activities,” says Andrea Mandala, marketing and communications manager with the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB). “What better way to celebrate the season than attend local holiday events that are unique to our region?”
The merriest time of year kicks off with Stroll on State, an event that brings more than 60,000 people to downtown Rockford. This year, the event is Saturday, Nov. 26 from 3-9 p.m. Enjoy ice-skating, horse and wagon rides, two outdoor markets, activities for children, a fireworks display and many more festive activities.
The event sprawls the streets of downtown Rockford from Third Street to Main Street.
“We hope that everyone joins us as we kick off the holidays and take in the awe and wonder of this magical night,” says John Groh, RACVB president/CEO. “Stroll on State has become a wonderful tradition for the community and is something we look forward to throughout the entire year. Stroll on State is the perfect embodiment of the spirit of Rockford.”
As the holiday season continues, visitors and locals alike can enjoy a myriad of rich, family-friendly holiday events. Popular returning events of the season include:
• Holiday Festival of Lights: Nov. 25-Dec. 25, Fridays-Sundays 5-10 p.m., Sinnissippi Park. View more than 50 holiday displays sponsored by various local businesses and organizations throughout the region.
• “The Nutcracker”: Nov. 26 & 27, Maddox Theatre, Rockford University. Watch Rockford Dance Company perform this timeless family tradition.
• Rocktown Christmas Walk Dec. 3, parade at 6 p.m., downtown Rockton. Experience the Candy Cane Craft Fair, the official lighting of the Park, a lighted parade, horse-drawn wagon rides and a visit from Santa.
• J.R. Sullivan’s “Hometown Holiday” Dec. 10, 8 p.m., The Nordlof Center. Laugh along at this popular seasonal variety show featuring holiday-inspired storytelling, comedy and seasonal songs.
• Holiday Pops Concert Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., Coronado Performing Arts Center. Join the Mendelssohn Chorale and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra as they bring the best music of the season.
• Holiday Hoopla Dec. 26-30, Discover Center Museum. Merge hands-on arts and crafts with math and science by snipping a snowflake, creating designs and discovering hidden shapes.
• Countdown to Fun! Dec. 31, 12:30-4:30 p.m., Discover Center Museum. Design a party hat, create a noisemaker and get showered with confetti during the countdown to midnight each hour.
• 2016 Snowsculpting Competition Jan. 18-21, Sinnissippi Park. View massive works of snow art and vote for your favorite.
For more information on holiday happenings in the Rockford region, visit gorockford.com.
“It’s exciting to have so many wonderful events for residents and visitors to enjoy,” Mandala says. “Rockford is truly brilliant during the holiday season.”
Starved Rock Lodge: The Perfect Time for Mid-Week Travel
By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge
Winter is the one season of the year when days are shorter, but seem to last much longer. This is a good thing, if you’re looking to relax. Booking a mid-week getaway might be the perfect answer to avoid winter blues and give you a feeling of accomplishment in the process.
Located just south of Utica, Ill., the Lodge’s comfortable hotel rooms and cozy cabins in the woods are just steps away from more than 13 miles of hiking trails, which lead to snow-covered canyons, frozen waterfalls and amazing views from bluffs overlooking the scenic Illinois River Valley of Starved Rock State Park. Parents, children and grandparents alike enjoy getting a glimpse of bald eagles in flight from the top of Starved Rock, Lover’s Leap or Eagle Cliff. Starved Rock Lodge offers guided hikes every Saturday and Sunday, year ‘round. Hikers embark on a 4.5 mile adventure to see LaSalle Canyon and extraordinary views from some of the most beautiful lookout points in the 2,600-acre park. Led by guides from Starved Rock Lodge, these hikes are the safest and most expedient way to see the park from an insider’s point of view.
New for 2017 is “Flight Night” – a progressive dinner that includes travel on a Starved Rock Trolley for appetizers; wine sampling at August Hill Winery; craft beer and mini-main course samplings at Lone Buffalo & Tangled Roots; and a fine finish with decadent desserts and after-dinner drinks at Starved Rock Lodge. This Trolley Trio of Fun is offered as an overnight package or dinner only. For dates, prices and reservations, visit trolleytrio.com.
Starved Rock is a haven for photography enthusiasts. Cardinals, white-tailed deer and a variety of wildlife call the park home. Sunrises and sunsets along the Illinois River are amazing. The lodge’s annual photo contest accepts entries through Feb. 20, 2017. Awards will be presented on Feb. 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Great Hall.
Pending enough snow, Cross Country Ski Weekend is set for Feb. 4 and 5 at nearby Matthiessen State Park. Skis, poles and boots may be rented and beginner lessons are offered.
The highlight of the winter is Eagle Watch Weekend, set for Jan. 28 and 29. Tickets are available for the interesting “Birds of Prey” shows. Hands-on exhibits are on display in the Great Hall and at the nearby Illinois Waterway Visitor Center. Eagle Trolley Tours run throughout January and February. They include lunch, a guided tour and transportation aboard a Starved Rock Trolley. The Winter Wine Walk takes place in downtown Utica on Jan. 11.
Sled dog demos and seminars will take place on Jan. 15 and Feb. 19. Dueling Pianos will rock the Great Hall on Feb. 21 and 22 with additional musical tribute shows on the calendar for the future. All events are detailed on the Lodge website at starvedrocklodge.com.
The Delafield Hotel: A Merger of Sophistication and Comfort
By Jermaine Pigee, deputy editor
Both sophisticated and comfortable, The Delafield Hotel, in greater Milwaukee, offers 38 guest suites one might expect to find at a Four Diamond hotel.
Nestled in a small-town setting, the hotel is near three large cities. It’s 25 miles west of Milwaukee, 50 miles east of Madison, Wis., and 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
“We’re the only boutique lifestyle hotel in Delafield and the greater Milwaukee area,” says Erin Neureuther, general manager. “Our property has an impressive outside image, with a large bell tower that can be viewed from a far distance. We accommodate many corporate clients and business travelers, during the week, and the weekends are perfect for a romantic getaway. We’re also a great destination for a ‘staycation,’ as we’re close to outdoor recreation, boutique shopping and dining.”
Summer activities, such as boating, paddle boarding and kayaking, are available within minutes of the hotel.
“Guests can also experience hiking, snowshoeing and cross country skiing at Lapham Peak State Park in the Kettle Moraine Forest,” Neureuther says.
In 2015, the hotel, restaurant and ballroom underwent an extensive renovation, after Hendricks Commercial Properties of Beloit purchased it.
“The building’s Old World, colonial look and feel provided a unique charm and elegance, but it was also becoming tired,” Neureuther says. “HCP came in with a vision to bring fresh energy and image to the hotel, and to attract a wide range of guests. This exciting new vibe is evident as soon as you walk through the hotel’s front door.”
The custom-made front desk is fashioned after a vintage steamer trunk. Guests can move from the lobby to the ballroom foyer through a signature corridor.
“It has an eclectic, cool look that makes you want to take a seat and converse over a cocktail,” Neureuther says.
The elegant ballroom can accommodate 20 to 250 guests for weddings or galas and the attentive staff attends to every detail.
“The ballroom has a glamorous, sophisticated image and palette, with shades of gray, white, black and silver,” Neureuther says. “Large mirrors line the walls and create more of an open look and six oversized black and crystal chandeliers line the space.”
Some of the hotel suites vary in size, and can accommodate two, four or eight people. The rooms have contemporary yet cozy furnishings, modern technology and a spacious floor plan. They also have views of either downtown Delafield or the rolling Kettle Moraine landscape.
“Visitors spending the night will marvel at the updated guest rooms,” Neureuther says. “The luxury suites are generously sized and offer the perfect mix of masculine and feminine style, with rich leathers, polished brass and fine fabrics.”
Each lavish bathroom is a private oasis, with a Kohler spa tub and gentle overhead rain shower.
If you’re hungry, there’s no need to leave the Delafield Hotel. The former Andrew’s Bar & Restaurant, roughly 8,000-square-feet large, re-opened last spring as I.d.
“I.d. is a high-energy, fun and inviting, shared-plate dining experience with a focus on American dishes, boutique wines, Wisconsin beer and craft cocktails,” Neureuther says.
The transformed restaurant includes a handcrafted bar, community-style tables and a dining bar, which looks into the open kitchen. There’s also a relaxing lounge seating area and private dining is available in the wine room. Treats such as lamb meatball flatbread, wood-grilled octopus and grilled swordfish & shrimp are on the menu.
Learn more at thedelafieldhotel.com.
The Edgewater: A Home Away From Home
By Lindsey Gapen, assistant managing editor
It’s easy to get lost in the moment at The Edgewater. Located in Madison, right on the shores of Lake Mendota, the hotel pulls out all stops for the holiday season.
“There’s a really nice range of activities, whether you want a delicious meal, a memorable spa experience or a location that puts you close to the action of downtown Madison,” says Mindy Bianca, public relations representative. “We’ve been a part of Madison’s social scene for decades, and we’ve been privileged to host many, many celebrities from the worlds of entertainment, sports and politics.”
During the holiday season, The Edgewater is home to a giant Christmas tree wrapped in sparkling lights. The tree presides over the hotel’s ice skating rink, where visitors can skate to their heart’s content while enjoying the beauty of the lake in one direction and Wisconsin’s Capitol building in the other.
Throughout the holiday season, the hotel offers an array of fun activities, including breakfasts with Santa and Bucky Badger, the beloved mascot of the neighboring University of Wisconsin. The Edgewater is located within easy walking distance of some of Madison’s top shops and attractions.
The hotel has many special packages for guests to take advantage of.
“If you simply need to escape the madness of the busy holiday season – and find it hard to do that in your own home, where holiday-related tasks can seem ever-present – the ‘Home Away from Home’ package offers the perfect formula for relaxation and fun,” Bianca says.
Guests can enjoy a daily breakfast for two; parking in The Edgewater’s garage; a bottle of wine upon arrival; and an in-room Christmas movie, snack, popcorn and sodas.
Families hoping to spend some time together, while enjoying Madison and immersing themselves in the holiday spirit, can appreciate the “Christmas by the Lake Family Getaway.” This package provides daily breakfast for two (kids 12 and under eat for free); nightly milk and cookie delivery with a “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” book; hot cocoa; four passes to the Madison Children’s Museum; four passes to the Children’s Theater of Madison’s presentation of “A Christmas Carol” (performed Dec. 10-23); and a personalized mini-Christmas tree to take home.
Since the season is about giving, the “Give the Gift of The Edgewater” package combines an overnight stay with a little something for others. The package includes daily breakfast for two, a $50 Edgewater gift card for a friend or family member and a $25 donation to the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, a hunger-relief charity organization based in Madison.
“Not only do guests get a mini-vacation, but they’re also giving others – both loved ones and strangers – a reason to enjoy the season,” Bianca says. “And honestly, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?”
For more information about The Edgewater, its spa, dining options, special events, special packages and more, visit theedgewater.com or call (608) 535-8200.