Our region offers endless opportunities for holiday escapes. Here are a few ideas for an easy weekend getaway this spring.
Starved Rock: A Laid-Back Getaway with Spectacular Scenery
By Jermaine Pigee, deputy editor
If you’re looking for some fun and excitement in a laid-back environment, Starved Rock State Park & Lodge is an excellent choice for your next midweek getaway or overnight stay.
This destination in Utica, Ill., offers the historical ambiance of a cozy lodge set among towering pines and 100-year-old trees, plus spectacular canyons.
Life moves at a slower pace in LaSalle County, but that could be a good thing in today’s frantic world.
Relaxing water cruises on the Illinois River launch in June, with Land & Water Cruises departing at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays and Dinner & Evening Cruises departing at 5 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Another way to relax is to schedule a therapeutic massage, preceded by a swim in the indoor pool with a few minutes in the hot tub and sauna.
Anyone seeking a creative challenge would enjoy the Lodge’s Paint & Wine Class in the Café. No experience is necessary and all supplies are included. Pick up a brush and have some fun on June 21 or Aug. 16 with all classes beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Parties held on the veranda get you back outdoors every Friday and Saturday night from 8 to 11 p.m. through Labor Day. The grill opens earlier in the day with friendly servers ready to bring you a burger and your favorite “comfort” beverage. There’s also free live music, accompanied by beautiful sunsets over the scenic Illinois River Valley.
If you’re looking for something adventurous, you can check out the Visit a Canyon Tour, which happens on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays through September. A trolley will make stops at Starved Rock’s Visitor Center, the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center and a trip through downtown Utica. The adventure also includes a guided walk to the Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon. The walk is less than a mile and will take about 45 minutes to complete.
Music lovers will want to book tickets to a Patsy Cline Tribute, which will take place June 12 and returns Aug. 14-15 at the Lodge’s Great Hall. Or opt to see a montage show with “Shake, Rattle & Roll” on June 19-20 and “Silver Screen Matinees” on June 26-27.
Country music lovers won’t want to miss the Roy Orbison Tribute Shows on July 10-11 or the biggest singing competition of the summer: The Country Showdown (on the veranda) scheduled for Thursday, July 13 at 7 p.m.
Singer Michael St. Angel will be at Starved Rock Aug. 7-9 as Elvis, The King of Rock and Roll. Guests can hear some of the classics that made Elvis famous, including “Jailhouse Rock,” “Hound Dog,” and “Love Me Tender.”
If you’re a fan of Motown, you won’t want to miss Motown Review, which happens Aug 21 and 22. Gregory James will bring his soulful and distinct R&B singing style to Starved Rock. He’ll perform classics by Al Green, Wilson Pickette, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder and many more.
Visit starvedrocklodge.com or (815) 220-7386 for more information or to book a getaway.
Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa: Rise Above at the Great Galena Balloon Race
By Janine Pumilia, managing editor
One of the most popular annual events in the Galena Territory is taking place June 16-18.
The Great Galena Balloon Race, which raises money for two charities, offers visitors a chance to watch hot air balloons launch and float over the beautiful tri-state landscape, and even to ride in them.
“Visitors will experience a spectacular three-day adventure with multiple balloon races, two night glows, balloon rides, a classic car show, live music, wine and beer sampling events and activities for the whole family,” explains Thomas Ruhs, general manager at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa. The event benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Camp Herkto Hollow, dedicated to improving the lives of youths with diabetes.
Special lodging packages are available.
Even when there are no special events taking place, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa is unlike any resort in our region.
For starters, it’s nestled inside 6,800 rolling acres of the Galena Territory, a semi-private residential community located just outside Galena. This is part of the “driftless” area known for its rolling hills and valleys.
“Because glaciers never reached this corner of Illinois 22,000 years ago, the rugged terrain wasn’t filled in with ‘drift,’ so the landscape remains anything but flat,” explains Emily Lubcke, natural resource coordinator at Eagle Ridge Resort. The result is spectacular vistas, valleys, prairies and woodlands, as well as rare plant and bird species. “There are some pretty unusual features here – sand dunes, caves, springs, underground streams, limestone outcroppings – and a lot of fossils,” says Lubcke.
Because the resort is in the heart of a semi-private residential community, there are amenities most resorts just can’t offer. Guests may stay in a “rustic elegant” room at the hotel lodge or in one of the condo-type villas spread throughout the grounds or, especially for larger groups, in a stand-alone home. You may ask for woodland or lake views, a wood-burning fireplace, full kitchen, hot tub and pet-friendly quarters.
There are four golf courses, including The General, which consistently ranks among Golf Digest’s Top 100. With a 250-foot elevation change from the first hole to the 18th, it offers gorgeous views of the tri-state area.
Eagle Ridge also is home to 6,000-square-foot Stonedrift Spa, which has 10 treatment rooms for massages, facials, reflexology, energy therapies and much more.
There are several excellent restaurants, an indoor and an outdoor pool, on-site boating and fishing, pontoon cruises and the Shenandoah Riding Center for those who wish to explore by horseback on groomed trails. Enjoy a sleigh ride in wintertime.
If four-legged travel isn’t your thing, there are 26 miles of hiking and biking trails, with printed trail guides. Leisure bikes, trailers, children’s bikes, trail bikes and strollers are available for rent. And, of course, there’s a fitness center, sauna, game room, children’s playground and newly resurfaced tennis courts.
Find the event schedule for the Great Galena Balloon Race and learn more about lodging packages at eagleridge.com or call (800) 892-2269.
The Edgewater Offers a Season of Excitement
By Lindsey Gapen, assistant managing editor
The Edgewater is ready for a season of brews, live music and lakeside relaxation. Add on weekly movie nights and complimentary boat rides off the pier, and it’s easy to see why the urban resort in Madison, Wis., draws locals and out-of-town visitors alike.
In true Madison style, The Edgewater kicked off the summer with a large party on Memorial Day weekend. The event featured a free concert from Madison County, complimentary boat rides off the Edgewater Pier and, of course, craft beer and great food.
Thus began a long series of exciting weekends.
The “First Thursdays” music series brings an eclectic mix of cover bands and throwback tributes to The Edgewater on the first Thursday of each month.
“Brewgrass Fridays” occur weekly and combine refreshing brews with bluegrass jams. Enjoy a good old-fashioned Wisconsin fish fry while listening to some of the nation’s best bluegrass music, all while viewing the beautiful waters of Lake Mendota.
“Live & LocALE Saturdays” round out the weekend with artists who showcase the high quality of Madison’s music scene. The weekly summer series features Wisconsin-only bands and favorite local beers, including favorites from Door County Brewing Company, MobCraft Beer, One Barrel Brewing Company, O’so Brewing Company, Potosi Brewing Company, Vintage Brewing Company and Wisconsin Brewing Company.
All concerts are free and open to the public, and programming throughout the summer features more than 30 bands and artists. Whether you’re a family looking for a place to relax or a couple looking to enjoy the sunset, dinner on the lake and live music, The Edgewater is welcoming to everyone.
In addition to live music, The Edgewater hosts movies on the water with a “Facts and A Flick” series. Guests and locals can participate in movie-themed trivia stating at 7 p.m. with an outdoor movie following sunset. Sponsored by Lakefront Brewery, movies begin June 13 and include family-friendly favorites like “Finding Dory” and “Despicable Me” as well as classics such as “Jaws” and “Casablanca.”
Resort guests and Madison residents can head to The Edgewater Pier – one of the only public access points to Lake Mendota – for “Skipper Bud’s Boat Ride Nights.” The complimentary boat rides on Lake Mendota commence on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month beginning June 13. Half- and full-day boat rentals are also available.
The Edgewater offers all of these activities in addition to its delicious on-site dining, cozy accommodations and top-notch spa and salon services. Several exclusive packages are available to add excitement to your stay. Visit TheEdgewater.com for more information.