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Showing posts from 2017

Bicycling along the Mississippi River in Moline

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On a recent trip to the Quad Cities of Moline and Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, one item I was looking forward to was some time riding bikes along the river. I was excited to learn that the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau has a few points where you can rent bikes and go for a ride, with rental for an hour up to a whole day.

We squeezed in a ride between breakfast and lunch on a beautiful, clear and mild day. It could not have been more perfect cycling weather. My husband and I picked up bikes at the Quad Cities visitors center at 1601 River Drive. With over 100 miles of paved bike trails, we could have ridden for hours, but to fit within our schedule, we went out for about an hour, but it was a perfect break in our day to slow down, enjoy some fresh air and get some exercise. We put on our helmets, grabbed our water bottles, slathered on the sunblock and hopped on the bike trail that was just yards from where we got our bikes. 


We first headed a …

Confederate Cemetery at Rock Island Arsenal

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On a visit to the Quad Cities, as my husband and I were planning to visit the Rock Island Arsenal, I came across the Confederate Cemetery among the listing of sites. I tried to wrap my head around why there would be a Confederate Cemetery in a union state and then learned that there had been a prisoner of war camp at the arsenal. The cemetery is the final resting place of all those who died while being held at the camp during the war.


The cemetery is all that remains of the prisoner of war camp that held over 12,000 inmates over the course of the war. Nearly 2,000 are buried in the Rock Island Confederate Cemetery, who succumbed to injuries and disease between 1863 and 1865. The cemetery covers approximately three-quarters of an acre of white stones (installed in 1908 to replace wooden markers.) Four confederate cannons sit at the entrance.

As with a visit to any military cemetery, you're hit with a mix of sadness and respect for those who served. The soldiers laid to rest there may…

Don't Miss Big River at Theatre at the Center

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The Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster, Indiana is just a stone’s throw across the Illinois border and offers a number of classes, exhibits and performances for lovers of the arts. The Theatre at the Center is a 410-seat rounded theatre that is the only professional theater company in Northwest Indiana and the quality of the experience is comparable to that of a professional theater in Chicago.


The current run of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn continues through October 15. Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, the musical follows some of Mark Twain’s classic tales along with music by Roger Miller.
I had the opportunity to see this masterpiece twice and couldn’t recommend it more. James Romney as Huck and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, who plays the role of a slave named Jim, do an extraordinary job of portraying this unlikely friendship and the adventures they encounter along their journey. 
Humorous and heartfelt, you’re completely …

Camp Atterbury Visitors Center and Museum

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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

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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 www2.illinois.gov.

Keep an eye out for specia…

LeClaire, Iowa

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.




Wrigleyville

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Being the huge Cubs fan I am, a visit to Wrigley Field is something I always recommend for visitors to the Windy City. Even if you're not a Cubs fan, but are a baseball fan, you'll be able to appreciate the charm and tradition and history of the country's second oldest ball park. 

But, if you head to a game (or even if you don't), there's just something magical about the neighborhood and it's a fun place to be on game day - or even stroll around on a non-game day. There are some lively bars and awesome eateries in the neighborhood for a bite (I love Cubby Bear and Rockit Burger Bar.) It's also worth taking a walk all the way around the ball park to see the statues erected to some Cubs legends. Stop in the Wrigleyville Firehouse and meet the friendly crew.

This past year more changes were made and I have mixed feelings. I'll always long for the Wrigleyville of my youth, when we parked at a nearby convent and walked over to our day game (they were all day g…

Lincoln's Tomb

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A cemetery may seem an odd place to put on a travel itinerary, but Oak Ridge Cemetery is not a typical cemetery. It's the final resting place of our beloved 16th president and his family (minus one son.)

This solemn spot is well worth stopping and walking through. The monument is an impressive structure with several infantry and calvary statues on the exterior. Inside you'll find statues of Lincoln and other symbolic pieces as you walk the halls to the burial room with marble walls and gold leaf celling.

A bust is situated outside the entrance that most visitors get up close to, rubbing the nose for good luck.

The tomb can visited for free from 7 a.m. - 8 p.m. from April - August and 7 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. September through March. For more information, visit lincolntomb.org.







New Buffalo Public Beach in New Buffalo, Michigan

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From our home in the Chicago suburbs we can get the Michigan state line in about an hour. It's one of our favorite day-trip destinations. Several times a year we make our way up to Southwest Michigan for shopping and festivals and dining and picking our own fruit at farms and visiting wineries and breweries and distilleries and watching parades. There's so much to do and see.

Often we end our day with a stop at the New Buffalo Public Beach. Sometimes we go earlier in the day and spend a few hours there, but we discovered that after 8 p.m., you don't have to pay to park in the lot...and there's still a bit of daylight to come after 8 p.m. So, you have a little time to lay on the beach or swim or build a sandcastle or fly a kite - and you can do it all as you watch the sun set over Lake Michigan. It's really breathtaking. And you can't beat the price tag.



Thunderbay Falls in Galena Territory

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I absolutely love waterfalls and could sit in front of one all day long just watching and listening to water flow. If you happen to be a guest of Eagle Ridge Resort in Galena, a luxury resorting with lodging at their inn or in villas and homes throughout the property, you can take advantage of the beautiful Thunderbay Falls that are situated within the Galena Territory.

The falls are just off a marked road, but easy to miss. However, they are well worth seeking out. Here's a peek.



Fort Mackinac

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On our first visit to Mackinac Island, we had been encouraged to visit Fort Mackinac. It was a great recommendation for our family of boys, all of whom are into military history. As part of Mackinac State Historic Parks, this well preserved piece of American history makes for a fascinating visit for any age.

Our visit was part of a tour via horse carriage and we explored over a dozen historic structures. It also includes the oldest building in the state.

With interesting exhibits and some period furnishings, taking a walk through transports you to a different place in time. From soldier barracks to the post hospital to the officers' quarters, you're able to get a sense of what life was like for those who resided on this island fort in the 18th and 19th centuries.

A big hit with my kids were the weapons firing and the cannon firing. The costumed interpreters are full of knowledge of the time period, staying in character as they convey the history of Fort Mackinac to guests.

Eve…