Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Beloit & Freeport, ClassicCinemas.com
Winter is an ideal time to take in big-screen movies and this family-owned theater company makes the experience more special than most.
Classic Cinemas breathed new life into Freeport’s 1922 Lindo Theatre in 1984 and has done the same for the only theater in Beloit, what was once known as Schubert’s Luxury 10, 2799 Cranston Road. After a brief closing to address high-priority repairs, it re-opened in November 2019 and has since undergone additional updates and repairs.
Classic Cinemas offers the newest, first-run films but also shows classic, documentary and foreign films plus occasional series built around particular actors or themes. Lindo Theatre shows classic films and has occasionally held film discussions following a showing.
The company operates 14 theaters in Illinois, and the Beloit property is its first in Wisconsin.
Lindo Theatre opened in 1922 and the community chose its name, a nod to Freeport’s famous 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Owners Willis and Shirley Johnson, with son Chris, now CEO, earned the Landmark Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Awards for Stewardship in 2011.
College Avenue, DeKalb, Ill., (815) 753-1936, niu.edu
Nestled in the heart of Northern Illinois University (NIU) is Altgeld Hall, a building better known to students and faculty as “The Castle.”
This campus centerpiece is named for former Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld, who served from 1893 to 1897. He believed public school buildings in Illinois had no character in the late 1800s, so he proposed the idea that new buildings reflect a Tudor Gothic style that resembles English castles.
When completed in 1899, at a cost of $230,000, this hall was the only building on NIU’s campus. Roughly 150 women and 27 men attended classes at what was then Northern Illinois State Normal School.
Altgeld Hall bears five cousins on other public university campuses in Illinois: Eastern in Charleston, Southern in Carbondale, Illinois State in Normal and the University of Illinois in Champaign.
Today the beloved building is part of NIU’s formal logo and is home to President Lisa Freeman’s office, NIU Art Museum and the Division of Student Affairs. There’s also a large auditorium that hosts special events. The interior of Altgeld Hall has undergone several renovations and reconfigurations, including substantial remodeling between 1999 and 2004. The exterior, however, remains little changed from its original appearance.
Devil’s Lake State Park
S5975 Park Road, Baraboo, Wis., dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/devilslake/
If you’re looking for an excellent autumn hiking spot, and you haven’t been there lately, consider heading to Devil’s Lake State Park, the largest state park in Wisconsin and one of the most interesting. At more than 9,000 acres, with 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs and a natural lake that’s 47 feet deep in places, there’s plenty to see and do, and there are 41 miles of trails to hike.
The interesting rock formations alone make it worth the trip, and if you’re a climber, the park offers some of the best opportunities in the Midwest for climbers of all skill levels.
A geological wonder, the Baraboo Range encompassing the park is thought to have once been taller than the Rocky Mountains, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The lake was formed from a river that became blocked at both ends by stone from the last glacial ice sheet, meaning it has no inlet or outlet.
The Nature Conservancy designated the southern portion of the Baraboo Hills one of just 77 “Last Great Places” in the world. About 12 miles of the Ice Age Trail run through the park, and one of the largest contiguous hardwood forests in the Midwest exists here.
Along with climbing, hiking, biking, boating, swimming, birding, photography and cross-country skiing, you can camp at this park in one of three sites. A fall weekend campsite with electricity costs $40 for non-residents.
Wisconsin state parks require vehicle stickers, $16 per day for non-residents.
Because it welcomes millions of people every year, it’s wise to time your visit carefully. An autumn weekday would be an ideal choice and the fall color should be terrific.