As a kid, one of my favorite events of the year was our annual girl's trip up to Long Grove, Ill. All the men in the family went off to golf or watch a game together and my sisters, sisters-in-law, mother and I set off for a day of shopping and chatting in the charming, historic area complete with a covered bridge.
There were huge chocolate-covered strawberries from the confectionery, little trinkets and Christmas ornaments we'd pick up. And we'd always end with a good meal at the local tavern.
Today, you can still visit the Long Grove Confectionery Co., where the sight of the gourmet goodies can send you into a sugar coma. Among the treats are those oversized strawberries dipped in rich chocolate that I remember from childhood.
And the sweet, red little fruit now has a whole weekend festival to celebrate it. The annual Strawberry Fest takes place June 25 to 27.
The fest features strawberry treats of all kinds – strawberry drinks, ice cream, strawberry donuts, fruit smoothies and more. Each day, free live entertainment is provided.
Several of the shops follow suit with special strawberry-themed merchandise and foods. Kiddie rides, face painting and activity tents are also part of the fun.
The historic village of Long Grove hosts several festivals throughout the year, with the Strawberry fest considered the "granddaddy" of them all. A blues fest took place in March and there was a Chocolate Fest in May. Coming up is the Great Tastes Fine Art Festival on Aug.14 and 15 and Applefest on Oct. 1 to 3.
The weekly Long Grove Farmer's Market runs 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Sunday through Oct. 17. On Father's Day, the Porsche Club Concours takes place, where you can bring Dad out to admire about three dozen of the automotive marvels.
The historic shopping area was first settled in the 1830s. By 1880 it was a thriving village with several businesses, schools, blacksmith shops, churches and a hotel. There was also a tavern, which still operates today called the Village Tavern. If you stop in Long Grove, be sure to pay the place a visit as the interior woodwork is quite a sight. It's also a great place to wind down after a busy day hopping from shop to shop.
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…
Several years ago we planned a short family trip to Shipshewana right after Christmas while the kids were off school for the holiday break. The area was breathtaking with a substantial blanket of snow. That year, late fall and early winter had been mild and we hadn't seen any snow yet, so when we arrived to all that freshly fallen white stuff, the kids were excited and mesmerized. As we arrived in town, we noticed beautifully carved blocks of ice in some of the parking lots of the businesses. We just happened to be visiting during the annual Shipshewana Ice Festival. Throughout town we got to see several more sculptures and got to watch some being carved.
So, this year when I wanted to plan a short getaway between Christmas and New Year's, I immediately looked up the ice festival dates and decided it would be a great place to visit. On our previous visit, we stayed at a hotel that had a small water park. It has since changed ownership and become the Blue Gate Garden Inn and t…
Since I am a foodie who also writes a food blog, restaurants are destinations for me - whether I'm on the road or close to home. I love when I can find a restaurant that is more than a place that serves food. Beggar's Pizza in Lansing would be one of those.
Known for their hearty pizza with toppings piled high, the Beggar's Pizza chain has close to two dozen locations in and around Chicago and into Northwest Indiana. The Lansing location is my favorite. Decades ago it was a movie theatre before becoming Pipes and Pizza, a pizzeria that features a pipe organ. When Beggar's took over the building, the owners continued the tradition of live organ music and you can still visit on a Tuesday or Friday night to hear the big pipe organ played.
On a visit you'll hear a lot of Disney songs along with other movie and television themes and nostalgic tunes. And sometimes you'll hear a top 40 song you might not expect. On our most recent visit as I was trying to identify a so…