Sunday, October 20, 2019

Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Lodge

Disclosure: Our accommodations were provided. I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.


As summer was winding to a close, I thought it would be nice to take one last weekend getaway with the boys. I made plans for an overnight visit Grand Bear Lodge at Starved Rock in Utica. Located just a couple minutes from the entrance to Starved Rock State Park, it's a great place to crash and connect after a day of hiking the beautiful trails.

We stayed in a vacation villa, so it was just down the road from the main resort, but so room and comfortable. It had a kitchen larger than my kitchen at home, a full-size dining room, a living room with sofa bed and bathroom, then upstairs were two bedrooms and another bathroom. The villa is designed to sleep 8. I loved that our spacious master suite included a jacuzzi tub. We had plenty of space to spread out, but could gather together for mealtime or a movie.



The highlight of the lodge is a 24,000 square-foot indoor water park that includes a lazy river, wave pool, slides, water playground and hot tub. Admission is included for guests of the resort and they also offer day passes.


There's a lot more to do though, than just hang out at the water park. We explored the arcade and had a fun time doing mini golf. We also hung out at the Bear Island outdoor bar. There's plenty of activities scheduled at the resort as well - from movie times to crafts to hula hoop contests.



I was impressed with the food at Jack's Place Restaurant. I had a chef salad that was huge and loaded with meat, cheese, egg and avocado. We also ordered a pizza that exceeded my expectations - it had a really good crust that was nice and crispy and I loved the crumbled sausage.

They also have a cafe for sweets and snacks and a hot breakfast buffet on weekends.


For more information, visit grizzlyjacksresort.com.




Sunday, October 6, 2019

Fair Oaks Farms Now Has Apple Orchard

In late August I visited Fair Oaks Farms to be part of a consumer panel for a conference being held there and had a little time afterwards where I thought I'd explore the grounds a little. I have fond memories of many visits over the years - taking my teens there when they were little, stopping in the cafe or the Farmhouse Restaurant for lunch while traveling, going on field trips with my boys to check out the Diary Adventure. I was also surprised to learn that they now have an apple orchard that has opened.

The season was just starting and they were offering free picking to visitors, so I couldn't resist. I was in a dress and dress shoes, but it was such a beautiful day I couldn't resist taking a walk out to the orchard to do some picking. It was a weekday afternoon and I had the whole place to myself. It was quite peaceful and a I gathered a big bag of apples that I brought home to make some pies. It would make for a fun family outing - especially when paired with the other attractions.

Fair Oaks Farms includes some fun outdoor activities that kids will love - toddler tractors, rock climbing, a big air pillow for jumping on. Then there's the Corp Adventure, the Dairy Adventure, the Pig Adventure - all designed to give visitors an overview of agriculture and a better sense of where their food comes from.

No visit is complete without getting a bit to eat in the Cowfe. They served some awesome sandwich there along with some delicious rich, ice cream. I always get some of the award-winning cheese, too from the Dairycatessen. And if you have time and want an amazing farm-to-table dining experience, make sure you pay a visit to the Farmhouse Restaurant. For more info, visit fofarms.com.




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