A weekend’s journey is closer than you might think. Check out these fun destinations that are close to home but still feel so far away.
Lake Lawn Resort: Stay and Play Along Delavan Lake
By Sara Myers
As the sun comes back out from hiding, it’s time for a little getaway. Just 90 minutes from Chicago, near Lake Geneva, is a place that’s long been a favorite for unwinding and relaxing. Lake Lawn Resort, in Delavan, Wis., is ready to give you that mini getaway you need.
Considering Lake Lawn has 2 miles of Delavan Lake shoreline, it’s impossible to avoid the water. This season, the resort is launching all-new water-related equipment, including new boats, jet skis and pontoons. Stay right at the lake, in a room or suite, for first dibs on these daily rentals.
“It’s like a summer extravaganza with outdoor watersports,” says Dave Sekeres, general manager of Lake Lawn Resort. “You can stay lakeside in a suite or a room. Some even have a kitchenette, where you can have a lake house experience for a weekend or during the week.”
Lake Lawn guests can climb aboard the resort’s two-level, 76-foot cruise boat, the Lake Lawn Queen. The boat hosts many cruises throughout the season, including a fireworks boat tour, happening June 26. There’s also an adults-only booze cruise and family bingo/lunch cruise.
With three restaurants, Lake Lawn provides plenty of ways to enjoy some serious cuisine with a beautiful backdrop. The Frontier Restaurant and the Fireside Lounge both provide a more upscale, sit-down experience where prime rib is the Saturday-night special. The Lookout Bar & Eatery is a laid-back sports bar atmosphere and is located next to the pools. This is the sort of spot where it’s easy to find a Spotted Cow beer and authentic Wisconsin food like cheese curds. The Isle of Capri Cafe is a grab-and-go restaurant with drinks, small bites and Wisconsin’s Cedar Crest ice cream.
The full-service resort also includes an 18-hole golf course, a variety of overnight accommodations, a fitness center and much more that’s waiting to be discovered.
For more on Lake Lawn Resort, head to lakelawnresort.com.
DeKalb County: Patio Dining Beckons this Summer
By Sara Myers
Getting outside and enjoying a cold, refreshing drink is easy to do in DeKalb County, Ill. Patios across the area are open and inviting the curious for a different kind of culinary exploration this season.
Prairie State Winery, which has been serving a taste of DeKalb County-raised grapes since 1998, now serves special sangria and sangarita slushies exclusively for the patio. While they’re enjoying the beautiful, rolling terrain just outside Genoa, guests can drink specialty red, white and dessert wines. Try a different approach and visit during events like Weenies and Wine, where you can taste Prairie State’s newest vintages, served with a hot dog straight off the grill.
At Whiskey Acres Distilling Co., just outside the city of DeKalb, the patio overlooks rolling farm fields that supply the corn, wheat and rye for this group’s signature spirits.
Distilled-on-site bourbons, vodkas and rye whiskeys are typically the star, but they take a backseat when food trucks come rolling in.
This summer, be on the lookout for several food trucks serving up tasty dishes at Whiskey Acres, including All-Star Grilled Cheese and Burritoville.
All-Star Grilled Cheese offers several sandwiches loaded with – you guessed it – cheese. The MVP sandwich come with homemade macaroni and cheese and American cheese on Texas toast. The Rookie is a simpler grilled cheese sandwich with your choice of American, cheddar or mozzarella cheese on Texas toast.
Burritoville Food Truck – an extension of the popular family restaurant in DeKalb – serves up fresh, authentic Mexican tacos with hearty servings of rice and beans on a flour tortilla.
For a completely different kind of patio experience, there’s Blumen Gardens, in Sycamore. This beloved home decor and garden center, set within an old warehouse, also serves as a wedding and event center.
Its kitschy urban-chic-meets-outdoor-garden setting feels cozy and completely unique.
Throughout the summer and into the fall, Blumen Gardens hosts Artist + Maker Markets, happening June 6, July 11, Aug. 8 and Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The markets feature between 10 and 16 local and statewide artists who are selling their works in the garden center.
Several items are available to purchase at the market, including jewelry, paintings, pottery, candles, garden accessories, natural oils, skin care and clothing.
The markets will also have various food trucks and live music, creating a fun and festive atmosphere. Food trucks and performers will be announced in the near future.
For more information about all of the fun events and activities happening throughout DeKalb County this season, head over to dekalbcountycvb.com.
Starved Rock Lodge: Embrace Spring and Explore the Natural World
By Kathy Casstevens, marketing director, Starved Rock Lodge
Each day, new arrivals appear at Starved Rock State Park, near Utica. Virginia Bluebells have sprouted in Illinois Canyon. American White Pelicans can be seen sunbathing on the shores of Leopold Island. Many other migratory birds can be spotted at Starved Rock because of its unique location on the Illinois River (also called the Mississippi Flyway). This is a bird highway, so bring your binoculars when you visit.
Be sure to start your visit at Starved Rock Lodge, which overlooks the river valley and provides a quick entry into the park’s hiking trails.
Council Overhang glows with warmth as the sun rises over this stunning geological structure composed of St. Peter Sandstone. Ottawa Canyon’s waterfall is flowing right around the corner, waiting for hikers to discover its beauty. Day by day, wildflowers pop throughout the park. From skunk cabbage to Dutchman’s breeches, there are many species hiding in the woods. It’s worth buying a field guide or checking Woodland Wildflowers of Illinois online to learn about the hundreds of blooms that appear annually at Starved Rock.
COVID-19 shut down the world last year and forced us all inside. As the nation and our state re-open, hope comes along with it. Capacity limits are still changing at Starved Rock Lodge, and there’s hope it will continue to increase. Outdoor dining will be offered on the Veranda once warm weather arrives and the Lodge’s seasonal workforce is in place.
Live music has returned to the Veranda every Friday night, and the stunning view from the east end of Starved Rock Lodge’s overlook is the best in Illinois. A new Flatbread Friday menu has been added to the outdoor dining options this season.
The staircase leading from the veranda to the visitor center was closed last summer due to a severe storm, but repairs are starting soon.
“Tribute to the Stars” matinees have returned to the Great Hall and a lunch buffet is included. See website for show dates.
Guided hikes are offered each weekend at the Lodge through November. Along the hike, tour guides explain how Starved Rock got its name and share stories about various legends in the area.
Waterfall & Canyon Tours are the Lodge’s top-selling way to see the magnificence of this National Historic Landmark Sign up when you visit the Lodge.
We are helping brides and grooms-to-be plan their weddings as much as two years out, and creating flexible guest lists is the key to having a post-pandemic dream wedding. The sales team is helping couples plan for a variety of scenarios at both of the Lodge’s outdoor venues, and that includes backup locations in case of inclement weather. The trolleys can transport an entire wedding party to a waterfall for amazing photos.
For reservations and details on all programs, lodging details and menus, visit starvedrocklodge.com.
Explore Elgin Area’s Family Attractions
By Madison Bishop, Explore Elgin Area
Summer is a great time to escape with the family. Elgin-area businesses and attractions have continued to implement strong health and safety standards to ensure peace of mind for you and your family. And we have already done the planning for you! Here are some fun ways to spend a weekend exploring Elgin.
Start your trip with the basics, as you check in to where you’ll be staying. Hotel deals can be found at ExploreElginArea.com.
After checking in, head to South Elgin for the afternoon. Epic Air Trampoline Park is a great way to burn off some energy, but if fresh air and time outside is what you’re looking for, stop by SEBA Park. This park, located just off State Street, is outfitted with equipment for picnicking and play. The Fox River Trail runs directly through it, so you can hop on the trail and do some natural sightseeing all the way into Elgin. The Fox River Trolley Museum is just a block away, and it offers an outdoor museum experience.
Get the day rolling by heading to Elgin for an exhibit. There are many museums in the area, like the Elgin History Museum or the Elgin Public Museum. Both feature interactive exhibits that are great for kids. Near the Elgin Public Museum, you’ll find Lords Park, which is known for its beautiful pavilion and a zoo where you can visit bison. Another great museum is Elgin Fire Barn No. 5, which was the city’s last fire barn to be decommissioned. Built in 1903, this historically recognized landmark now houses the city’s fire-related collection of memorabilia. It’s open Saturdays.
Spend the afternoon getting some fresh air at one of roughly 70 parks and green spaces in town. Festival Park is located right along the Fox River and is a great fishing spot. The kids can cool off in the splash pad, enjoy some of the local public art and explore the playground. This park is also used as an event venue, notably for the Elgin Parks & Recreation’s Movies in the Park series, which happens Friday nights from July 9-Aug. 6.
After checking out of your hotel, head over to Santa’s Village Azoosement and Water Park, a Christmas-themed amusement park that’s home to thrill rides, a zoo and the Santa Springs water park. For more outdoor adventure, stop by Randall Oaks Zoo, a barnyard zoo that’s home to a variety of kid-friendly farm animals. Come visit the mini horses, emus, reptiles, foxes and Great Horned Owls. And, if your family loves animals, Enjoy Pioneer Farm offers the opportunity to hold and interact with baby farm animals in the spring and summer months.
A great way to end your weekend getaway is to take a step back in time at the Underground Retrocade and enjoy numerous cabinets of arcade games. You can forget about the quarters, because for $15 you can get a wristband for unlimited plays.
Check out trip ideas and weekly Explore Elgin blogs for more inspiration. A visit to ExploreElginArea.com or any of the @ExploreElgin social media accounts is the first step to finding a relaxing escape with your loved ones.
Sweetwater’s Gearfest Musicians ‘Gear Up’ for Fort Wayne’s Big Event
By Peggy Werner
For fans of Sweetwater GearFest, this time of year is music to their ears. GearFest is known around the world as a free, action-packed, two-day event of seminars, workshops, live performances, artist appearances, great deals, giveaways and, most of all, the latest gear news and products offered by Sweetwater of Fort Wayne, Ind. This year’s online-only event is scheduled for June 25 & 26.
GearFest Executive Director Bob Bailey says there’s nothing like it anywhere else.
“The Deal Zone is the first place people run to, and we have customers from all over the world wanting to meet up with the hundreds of companies showing the latest products and gear for recording artists,” he says.
Panels of engineers, producers, light designers and award-winning song writers and musicians will talk about what they do. Watch demonstrations and videos of new gear featuring Sweetwater experts and vendor representatives. Attendees will get the inside scoop directly from manufacturers and learn what’s coming out next in brand-name equipment.
Traditionally held on the Sweetwater campus in Fort Wayne, GearFest pivoted to an exclusively online event last year and will be online again this year.
Among the many headliners at this year’s festival are Grammy-winning musician, singer, songwriter and producer Peter Frampton and bassist Ian Hill of Judas Priest. More big-name artists will be announced on Sweetwater.com.
Sweetwater is the largest online music retailer in the world. It specializes in recording equipment and software, guitars and guitar accessories, bass guitars and accessories, keyboards and synthesizers, drum sets and drum accessories, live sound equipment, DJ equipment, microphones and more. All shipping is free and products come with a two-year warranty. There’s live phone support, flexible pay options, an on-site repair shop and an online Knowledge Base with more than 27,000 articles.
Sweetwater focuses on providing exceptional customer service and employs more than 500 highly trained sales engineers, many of them musicians, explains Heather Herron, vice president of corporate communications.
The sales engineers undergo 13 weeks of proprietary training before interacting with customers. Continued training takes place twice weekly so that they have the latest information on new products. Customers are paired with a specific sales engineer who gets to know them and their goals.
“That one-on-one approach is at the core of what we do. It’s not about the sale, it’s about helping our friends make their dreams come true,” Herron says.
The Sweetwater campus sits on 163 acres on the west side of Fort Wayne. The main 400,000-square-foot building houses the music store along with a performance theater, three large conference rooms, a full-service diner, gourmet coffee shop, free arcade, fitness center with a personal trainer, salon and spa, medical clinic staffed by a full-time doctor and a registered nurse. Everything is open to the public, except the fitness center and medical clinic, which are for employees only.
The main building is also home to the Sweetwater Academy, serving more than 900 students. A large outdoor covered amphitheater hosts summer concerts and other events.
Sweetwater was founded by Fort Wayne resident Chuck Surack in 1979 as a recording studio in his home. He went from the recording studio business into the music technology retail business after he was frustrated in his own attempts to find a reliable, knowledgeable music technology retailer with affordable prices, strong customer service and technical support.
Surack hit it big in the 1980s with sound library for the Kurzweil K250 keyboard, and the rest, as they say, is history.
For more information on GearFest and Sweetwater, visit sweetwater.com/gearfest.