Time for a road trip! Here are some great getaway spots located just far enough away to feel like you’re seeing something fresh.
Try a True Taste of What’s in Swiss Town
By Sara Myers, multimedia editor
There’s nothing like spending time with family this holiday season, and in New Glarus, Wis., there are plenty of places to grab some good grub and see some sights with family and friends. But that’s just part of the allure of this destination.
A return to community and social activities is driving demand for small-scale events around New Glarus. Bailey’s Run Winery is one place that’s been welcoming those who want to connect. Located just outside of New Glarus, this winery has been holding “mini festivals” in the warm months.
“Whether it’s bingo or a festival, they always have live music and they have a huge outdoor space,” says Bekah Stauffacher, executive director of New Glarus Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a good place for people to congregate and get together.”
New Glarus has a reputation as “America’s Little Switzerland,” in part because of the charming, Swiss-inspired architecture that’s on full display downtown. One of the best ways to experience that Swiss flair is through your stomach. Swiss restaurants such as the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant, Glarner Stube and Chalet Landhaus offer classic dishes including Rösti, a dish comprised of shredded potatoes and cheese mixed together and fried into a pancake.
“The New Glarus Hotel Restaurant has schnitzels, which are like meat pounded flat and then breaded and fried,” says Stauffacher. “They also have Kalberwurst, which is like a really mild sausage covered in gravy. It’s definitely a good place to come get your fall and winter comfort food.”
Downtown is filled with unique, homegrown shops selling all sorts of interesting items. It’s a natural place to get a head start on holiday shopping – and to support local retailers in the process. Find unique gifts at places like The Bramble Patch, Brenda’s Blumenladen, Lollygag Antiques and New Rose. If you’re walking around town with friends and just want a snack, the New Glarus Bakery and Fat Cat Coffee Works are both recommended by locals.
To get into the holiday spirit, mark your calendar for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting in downtown New Glarus, happening this year on Dec. 5. Downtown will be lit with old-fashioned streetlights while the adorable Kinderchor angles perform Christmas carols. Hot chocolate and sweet treats will also be available.
Another annual tradition is the New Glarus Christkindl Market, where visitors enjoy Christmas lights and music while shopping local retailers. The outdoor market hosts decorated mini-chalets that offer a variety of locally made and sourced gifts as well as Christmas decorations and foods. Admission is free and masks are required on attendees over the age of 5.
That’s just the start. Head to swisstown.com for more information on all holiday and winter happenings in New Glarus.
*Editor’s Note: Since publication the New Glarus Christkindl Market has been cancelled. Check out swisstown.com for more updates.
Lindstrom Travel: Making Your Next Vacation Possible
By Sara Myers, multimedia editor
Longevity of local businesses is a source of pride for the Rockford community. Many local staples have been started by families who have carried on through generations, and Lindstrom Travel is a prime example.
In 1928, Frank Lindstrom founded the travel agency, and it’s been in the same family for more than 91 years. Today, the company is run by brothers John, Charlie and Richard Sturm.
“We’ve been around for a long time and we anticipate being around for a long time,” says John, president of Lindstrom Travel. “Our parents worked here before us – we are third generation. We’re still in a position where we’re doing fine. People aren’t traveling like crazy currently, but we are prepared for when this turns to a better scenario.”
With the holiday and winter season upon us, Lindstrom Travel, 5970 Guilford Road, Rockford, primarily assists people who are looking to head to warmer places. Many trips are available now and into 2021.
“We’re sending people to Mexico, and we’re booking a few cruises for next year – I’m booking some river cruises for next year and our Alaska cruise,” says Charlie, vice president of sales.
One always-popular destination is the Riviera Maya, in Mexico. A current package Lindstrom offers, the 5-Night Grand Velas Riviera Maya, includes an elegant suite, personalized concierge services and an award-winning signature spa, which happens to be the largest in Latin America. All suites feature amenities such as a stocked mini-bar with premium drinks, turndown services, Wi-Fi and “fancy” L’Occitane products.
The Caribbean in general is a popular destination this time of year, Charlie adds. One special package is the 5-Nights Cap Juluca. This getaway is set on a mile-long beach in Anguilla – a favorite among Hollywood elite. The exclusive resort features 18 separate Moorish-style beachfront villas, each with no more than six rooms or suites.
Stateside, several options are available, as well. The 5-Nights Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa special typically appeals to wine lovers who want a casual getaway to California. The package introduces travelers to exceptional cuisine and a start-of-the-art space in the heart of Wine Country. Overnight guests will also receive a complimentary bottle of wine, daily wine tasting and a ride on the Napa Wine Train.
Lindstrom Travel can also connect families with popular Florida vacations. The 5-Night Walt Disney World Swan is aimed at families with little ones. The package includes an overnight stay at Swan Hotel, located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and it’s also close to other attractions like Universal Studios Florida, home of several Harry Potter attractions.
Regardless of your travel plans, Lindstrom Travel offers itself as a resource for any travel-related questions.
“We get all sorts of calls. Some people want to know everything and some know specifically what they want or they will just say, ‘We need to get away,’” Charlie explains. “People look to us for answers. We’ve got a lot of experience with that. They want to make sure this is going to be the right thing – the best use of their time.”
For more information, visit lindstromtravel.com.
A Winter Getaway to Starved Rock Lodge
Story and Photo by Kathy Casstevens, Marketing Director, Starved Rock Lodge
Staying in a “positive” mood during a pandemic, in the middle of winter, isn’t always easy. Planning a getaway to a restful place, where you can experience nature, could be a much-needed solution.
If you’ve been working from home or home schooling your children, Starved Rock Lodge, in Oglesby, Ill., offers a variety of out-of-the-box niches to open your laptop outside the four walls of your own home. A “Remote Learning Field Trip” provides fun ways to learn in a beautiful destination. Whether your student is calculating how many gallons of water are in the pool or taste-testing ice cream, it’s educational fun for all.
Historic Trolley Tours (with limited capacity and social distancing on board) provide an entertaining way to learn about the rich history of the Starved Rock region. In addition, Trolley Trio Progressive Dinners are on the 2021 calendar for Jan. 13, Feb. 10, March 10 and April 14. Transportation is provided along with delicious food and drinks at August Hill Winery, The Lone Buffalo/Tangled Roots Brewery and Starved Rock Lodge.
Surprise proposals that take place amidst nature are long remembered, and depending on whom you ask, the perfect place to pop the question is either on top of Starved Rock or in French Canyon. Intimate weddings in Starved Rock Lodge’s Great Hall and Starved Rock Room (with 50 guests or less) offer brides and grooms a rustic and romantic setting to exchange their vows. Special rates are available for select dates this winter. There’s also an all-inclusive “No Stress” wedding package available on Jan. 16 and Valentine’s Day: Sunday, Feb. 14.
Sled dogs from Free Spirit Siberian Husky Rescue are returning this year for live demos and seminars on Jan. 17 and Feb. 28. Indoor seminars have limited capacity and will be set up with socially distanced seating. Some of the furry friends will be available for adoption.
The fireplace is often aglow at Starved Rock Lodge in the Great Hall and in the Main Dining Room. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily with safety protocols in place. Guests are required to wear masks inside the Lodge in all public spaces, except when eating or drinking. Mondays feature a “Burger & Beer” special that serves up a cold craft beer and a sandwich filled with creative toppings.
Regardless of how cold it might be outside, the warm and inviting indoor pool complex is another haven for relaxation. Enjoy two saunas and a hot tub, plus there’s a shallow-depth toddler pool for little ones.
For more information, call toll-free at (800) 868-7625 or book your getaway at StarvedRockLodge.com.
Enjoy the Holiday Cheer in Ottawa
Bby Sara Myers, multimedia editor
When the snow starts to fall and the Christmas lights go up, the holiday season becomes truly magical. In Ottawa, Ill., the arrival of winter is a time for fun and quality cuisine.
There’s plenty of both to be found in downtown Ottawa, where the traditional Chris Kringle Market returns this year. The outdoor market draws together local artisans, boutique stores and hometown restaurants in an open-air market that feels as though it belongs in a charming European village. Though it may look a little different this year, event organizers promise more vendors than ever – and a feeling very similar to what you’d find at markets in Chicago or Milwaukee.
This year’s market takes place Dec. 6-8 and 13-15 and offers complimentary carriage rides, ornament crafting and wreath making, plus entertainment from carolers, professional ice carvers and Santa Claus himself. Adding to the atmosphere, this year local food trucks will be close at hand. And, Illinois State University’s premier all-treble a cappella group, Secondary Dominance, is scheduled to perform Dec. 13 at 1 p.m.
While you’re exploring the Chris Kringle Market, be sure to explore the local shops around downtown Ottawa, where plenty of unique gift ideas await. On LaSalle Street, find Iconic Boutique, a local women’s clothing and accessories store. Prairie Fox Books, a locally owned, independent book store, carries a wide range of new books across many genres. The store routinely hosts authors and special events in a cozy, English library-styled setting. Thymeless, a home decor shop on Columbus Street, offers holiday gifts and vintage items to spruce up your house.
Mixed among the homegrown stores of downtown are unique local restaurants that continue to draw support. Whether or not they’re open to indoor dining this season, they’re still serving take-out orders.
Jeremiah Joe Coffee is a local coffee shop on LaSalle Street where lattes and smoothies have been a staple for 18 years. B.A.S.H., better known as Burger and Sushi House, serves up a one-of-a-kind mishmash of American and Japanese cuisine. Red Dog Grill’s winter menu features Nashville hot chicken and lobster mac and cheese, among other unique finds.
“We’re urging people to shop early to beat the crowd, more or less,” says Curt Bedei, executive director of the Ottawa Visitors Center. “We’re also hoping that people will purchase gift cards to help small businesses. That goes for local restaurants, too. We do have a page on our website called ‘Ottawa Cares,’ where we have a list of businesses that are open, what their hours are and if they have gift cards available.”
For more information about visiting Ottawa, head to pickusottawail.com.