Camp Atterbury Visitors Center and Museum

My youngest son, who is a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol recently attended a weeklong encampment at Camp Atterbury in Indiana (about 30 miles south of Indianapolis.) A friend of ours who served in the Army Reserves during the Iraq War and a nephew serving in the National Guard have spend a bit of time there and my son was excited to be able to be there living and learning on a working military base for a few days.

His older brother has been through encampment twice, but this was my first time heading down there for an encampment graduation since another brother of theirs had been performing at Notre Dame on the same day - so dad went one direction and I went the other.

It's interesting getting see the barracks and the PX. After the graduation, we paid a little visit to the Camp Atterbury outdoor museum, which includes a number of military vehicles, and an indoor museum across the street. It's next to the base, but with a separate entrance, so you can easily pull off the road an…

Old State Capitol in Springfield

No matter how many times I visit Springfield, one thing I always love to do is visit the State Capitol and gaze up at the amazing interior of the dome. It is absolutely breathtaking. Not quite as impressive in size and design, but stunning on its own is the Old State Capitol. In fact, I like to visit one and then the other just to examine the contrast between the two.

Built in the Greek Revival Style between 1837 and 1840, the structure was the fifth capitol building in the state. It served as the statehouse from 1840 to 1876. It was the first state house to be located in Springfield. It is where Abraham Lincoln presented his famous "House Divided" speech in 1858 and it was where he spend much time doing research and work as both a lawyer and a politician.

The Old State Capitol is open daily from 9 - 5 p.m. (with the exception of some holidays) and there is no admission fee, but donations are welcome. For more information, visit

Keep an eye out for specia…

LeClaire, Iowa

On a recent media visit to the Quad Cities, we did a day trip to LeClaire, Iowa. It's a river town just north of the Davenport that was about a 20 minute drive for our hotel. The main street through town runs adjacent to the river, divided by a railroad with several blocks of eateries, shopping and other attractions.

Dotted with specialty shops, you'll find clothing boutiques, salvage/antique stores and gourmet shops galore, most notably Antique Archeology, which is the store that spurred the "American Pickers" show on the History Channel. You'll find a canning company, olive oil company, popcorn shop and chocolate store.

If you like wine, beer and spirits, you can try all three within a three block area. The Mississippi River Distilling Co. has been in business for 7 years and you can find their products in more than 20 states. As the Iowa liquor laws will change starting July 1, they'll finally be able to offer more than just tastings and products sales and w…

Lagomarcino's in Moline, IL

Dating back to 1908, Lagomarcino's is a classic, nostalgic ice cream parlor and soda fountain where you can enjoy a big delicious overdose of sugar. With homemade ice cream, handcrafted chocolates and the best hot fudge you can imagine, "Lago's" as it is also known has been featured in Midwest Living and National Geographic Traveler and earned a James Beard "America's Classic" Award.

Have a seat at one of the mahogany booths or a barstool at the counter in this charming old-school place that is also a deli, serving up sandwiches on their own freshly made soft rye bread. The hot fudge that is served on the ice cream is from a special recipe that Angelo Lagomarcino, an immigrant from Northern Italy, purchased from a peddler in 1918 for $25. The man promised him and exclusive recipe for the perfect hot fudge. He seems to have been a man of his word. The recipe proved to be popular and is still used nearly a century later.

The ice cream selections span three …

Rock Island Arsenal Museum

Being a mom of five sons who are all interested in military history and as someone who has several military veterans in my family, the Rock Island Arsenal was one of the places I most wanted to see when we planned a trip to the Quad Cities (made up of the towns of Rock Island and Moline, Illinois and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.) I knew it was something my boys would be fascinated by. My husband and I were on a solo trip, but I'm already making plans for a trip back there with the kids this summer.

Rock Island Arsenal is an active military facility and I'll write more on it in another blog post. It was a really interesting place to visit. The Rock Island Arsenal Museum is one of the spots we stopped at while on Arsenal Island. The museum is the Army's second oldest museum, which first opened to the public on July 4, 1905. The only Army museum that dates back earlier is the one at West Point.

This article on the Army's website gives more detail on what is in the collec…

Have a "Gold Bar" in a historic bank turned hotel and bistro

One of the best things to happen to Homewood, Illinois in recent years was the conversion of an old bank building in the downtown area into a luxury boutique hotel with a magnificent bistro in 2015. The hotel was named La Banque, which in French means "The Bank."

The former bank looks like a bank no more, but some special little touches to the building give hint to its former occupants - including plate covers from the safe deposit boxes that were used for room numbers and to decorate the bar area. In the restaurant, a vault serves as a private dining room with the inspection labels still intact showing the signature of J. Edgar Hoover, then the head of the F.B.I. A vault in the basement serves as a workout room in the gym.

There's so much charm and history to this building and so much to love. The restaurant, La Voute (French for "The Vault") is a bistro serving all the best French cuisine and also their signature dessert, the "Gold Bar," which has a b…

Galien River County Park

On one of our visits to Southwest Michigan, we were driving along Red Arrow Highway and stumbled upon the Galien River County Park. And wow, was I glad we did. A short walk down a wooded trail and we came to the New Buffalo March and the scenic overlook tower that offers a beautiful view of the Galien River. It's a nice spot to take photos, watch the kayakers below or just relax to the sounds of nature.

It's just a little off the beaten path, something we'd been near and driven right by on a few occasions. Sometimes when you slow down and take time to explore, the results are quite beautiful.