Check out these unique destinations that reflect the genuine character of our region.
Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum
723 Williams St., Lake Geneva, (262) 203-5975, tsrmuseum.com
Lake Geneva is a choice destination for anyone who wishes to get away, get out on the lake, or get pampered at a resort or spa. So, it may be surprising to learn that it’s also a birthplace of many a dragon, wizard, warrior and frost giant.
Lake Geneva was the hometown of Ernest Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of the epic fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. It’s here that Gygax started his company, Tactical Studies Rules Inc. (TSR), locating its headquarters in the same converted 19th century home where the Dungeon Hobby Shop Museum resides today.
TSR debuted Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, and almost 50 years later the tabletop game is enthusiastically played by more than 50 million people worldwide.
These days, the museum welcomes Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts who wish to see where it all began. Many of the books, figures, magazines and artwork on display were donated by former TSR employees and date back to the company’s very beginnings, including an original box set of the Dungeons & Dragons game.
Hours: Wed.-Sun. noon to 5 p.m. Admission by donation.
Visitors wishing to take home a souvenir can purchase a variety of items at the gift shop or on the museum’s website. The museum also hosts game nights, continuing the tradition of dice-rolling, attribute-assigning and world-building where it all began.
Red Covered Bridge
County Road 1950 E, just west of Ill. Rt. 26, Princeton, Ill.
Located about a half-mile west of Illinois Route 26, about 1½ miles north of Princeton, Ill., sits a covered bridge built in 1863. Straddling Big Bureau Creek, this bridge is one of only five of its kind left in Illinois.
The sign along the top of the structure gives travelers an idea of how long it’s been there: “Five dollar fine for driving more than 12 horses, mules or cattle at one time or for leading any beast faster than a walk on or across this bridge.”
The bridge was once part of the Peoria-Galena Coach Road, a wagon trail that once stretched 150 miles from Peoria, Ill., to Galena, Ill. It eventually became the first state road in northern Illinois.
The original road followed trails forged by early American Indians. It’s now a driving route that’s a treasure trove for travelers seeking scenic, cultural and historical points of interest.
The Red Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in Illinois that’s open to traffic. Spanning 149 feet, the bridge was built for $3,148.57 and would cost about $72,000 today. It remains a favorite destination for photographers, artists or anyone looking for a scenic spot in a historic setting.
Julia Grant Statue
500 Bouthillier St., Galena, Ill., (815) 777-3310, granthome.org
Standing on a marble podium on the front lawn of the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site is a statue of Julia Grant, wife of the 18th President of the United States.
Long before his name became famous across the nation, Grant and his wife made a home for themselves in Galena, Ill. Upon his return from the Civil War, grateful Galena citizens gave him a hero’s welcome and a fully furnished home for his family. The Grants lived there only occasionally after his election to the White House in 1868.
A statue of the president was erected in 1924, just a few blocks away in a park that bears his name.
Julia’s statue was built in 2006 when a group of residents raised $103,000 and commissioned Lily Tolpo, an artist from nearby Stockton, Ill.
Julia Grant’s statue, sometimes referred to as “Mrs. Butterworth” by locals remains one of only four first ladies to be commemorated with a statue.
As a historic figure, Julia Grant is remembered as the first presidential wife to be referred to as First Lady. She was also known for bringing gaiety back to the White House. Her lavish state dinners were considered a tonic at a still-divisive time in the years following the Civil War.
Julia Grant outlived her husband by 17 years and died in 1902. She is entombed beside her husband in a mausoleum in New York.
Her statue can be visited on its own, or as part of a tour of the Grant Home, which is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.