Tuesday, January 21, 2020

10 Fun Ways To Spend Time in Kenosha This Winter

We've been to Kenosha several times over the years. It's always a fun place to hang in the summer when you can visit the beach and spend time enjoying the lakefront, take in a Kenosha Kingfish baseball game or explore the Bristol Renaissance Faire. However, we also love Kenosha in the winter. There are so many indoor attractions to enjoy and the lakefront is still quite beautiful when there's a bit of snow on the ground and ice on the lake.

Kenosha Public Museum

This free public museum overlooks Lake Michigan and was established in 1936 and covers history of the Kenosha area and beyond with over 80,000 in its collections. The highlight of the museum for many visitors is the mammoth exhibit with the largest and most compete mammoth excavated in North America.

Photo: Kenosha Public Museum

Located next to the Kenosha Public Museum, the Kenosha Civil War Museum gives a sobering overview of the cost of war and concentrates on the involvement of the Union soldiers from the Great Lakes states. The two-story museum's permanent exhibits include the high-tech 360° movie technology in its short film Seeing the Elephant.

This museum located next to the 1860s Southport Light Station gives a great overview of Kenosha and it's past industry, which includes vehicles and other products made in Kenosha along with rotating exhibits showing what early life was like in the area.

Shop at Tenuta's 

This Italian deli and liquor store is a foodie's paradise. Pick up meat, cheeses, prepared sandwiches (like their famous "Muff-lotta", canoli, lasagna, sauces, take-and-bake pizzas and other treats as well as a large selection of imported items. 

Spend a little time exploring this artist co-op where you'll find many mediums of art, from paintings to jewelry to pottery. They also have a make-your-own pottery studio where you can pay by the pound.

Have fun on a little train ride through this Jelly Belly distribution center where you can learn more about the how the candies are made, try out unusual flavored beans at the tasting counter and pick up a number of discounted items - like seasonal treats and the belly flops candies that are not as attractive as Jelly Belly beans, but taste just as good.

Another haven for foodie fans, you'll find all kinds of unusual sauces and other items on the shelf and can pick up Kringle pastries and cheese bread made in their on-site bakery. And then there's an entire room of cheese where you can try samples and choose from dozens of varieties. In the tavern, you can enjoy a beer along with their complimentary signature cheese spread and crackers - or you can ask for it in a plastic cup and you can sip while you shop. There's also a restaurant serving sandwiches, cheese curds and other hot food items.

You do have to go outside to jump from store to store, but it's worth it for the discounts you can get on clothing, shoes, purses, chocolates and other items.

Spend some time outside on the slopes or the tubing hill at this fun winter resort just outside of Kenosha. I've never been on skis, but have had a lot of fun tubing there with my kids. It's such a thrill going down and I love that there's a conveyor to take your tube back up the hill so you don't have to carry it.

Being held this year from February 1-9, pick out some restaurants to try out while they are offering a number of fixed-price menus. Special breakfast, brunch and lunch menus are available during this time for just $10 and dinner offerings are $20 or $30. More than 40 eateries are participating, including Twisted Cuisine, Tuscany Bistro, Ashling on the Lough, Boat House Pub & Eatery, Brat Stop, Grab's Burger Bar, Sazzy B, The Coffee Pot, Waterfront Warehouse and more.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Historic Long Grove, Illinois is Full of Nostalgic Charm

Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were the visits I would make with my sister, sisters-in-law and mother to the little community of Long Grove, a northwest suburb of Chicago. The historic downtown business district seemed frozen in time and the village had restrictions on building in and modifying the downtown area to help retain that small-town country feel.

The Village Tavern in Long Grove, established in 1847.
We'd go for a day trip to shop in the quaint boutiques and we'd end with dinner at the old Village Tavern. On a trip to Long Grove earlier this year, I was so pleased to see that not much has changed since I was a kid. The Village Tavern, established in 1847, is still there - the oldest continuously operating restaurant/tavern in the state. A lot of the shops I remembered were still around and there were several newcomers. There's now a winery and a brewery there, too.

We visited High Tea with Gerri for the traditional tea service and it was so lovely and charming. And I popped into the Long Grove Confectionery for some goodies and visited some other shops. It's such a fun throwback and a great way to spend some time in Lake County, Illinois. For more info, go to visitlakecounty.org and longgrove.org.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Take Advantage of Rare Opportunity to See Sanfilippo Estate During Holiday Season

On a media trip I took last year to McHenry County, we had planned for some outdoor activities that had to be adjusted when we had heavy rain. Our hosts with Visit McHenry made some calls and re-arranged the schedule a bit and instead of spending time on a lake, we boarded a bus and got a tour of a magnificent mansion in the northwest suburbs. I love spending time on the water and doing outdoor activities in the summer, but in the end I was pretty grateful for this rainfall. If it hadn't happened, we would have missed out on this tour, which was one of the best parts of the trip.

Our tour was of the Sanfilippo Estate, which is a private home not open to the public except for special fundraising events organized by the Sanfilippo Foundation. We were lucky to get this private tour. We were able to see much of the family's collection that includes steam engines, vintage music machines, a steam locomotive, an 1890 carousel and much, much more. As we made our way through the exhibits, each room was more breathtaking that the last. There's also a theatre with an 8,000 pipe Wurlitzer organ. Right now tickets are still available for three holiday concerts on December 6, 7 and 8. It's one of the few opportunities each year to visit the estate. I was there is June and I can only imagine how beautiful the place is during the holiday season. For more information, visit sanfilippofoundation.org.

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.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

49er Drive In in Valparaiso, Indiana

I love nostalgic spots - old diners, historic homes, shoppes filled with vintage merchandise. But one of the throwback attractions I most enjoy visiting is the 49er Drive In Theatre in Valparaiso, Indiana. Although the cars are modern and the concession stand has an updated menu, it still gives you a feeling like you've stepped back into the 1950s when you're there. 

When you buy your ticket, you always get to see a double feature (if you can stay awake that long). You get to see the old jingles with dancing popcorn buckets before the show begins. There's a grassy area for kids to play in while you get settled. The National Anthem is played before the movie begins. 

We love making our way to the 49er Drive-in on a summer night. We open the back of the SUV, snuggle up with blankets and pillows and eat popcorn while we fight off mosquitos. It's such a fun way to spend time together as a family.

The 49er dates back to 1956 and continues to thrive. With only about 330 remaining drive-in movie theatres in the country, the 49er offers a fun diversion and a way to pull kids away from the screens at home to see the latest flicks together on an outdoor screen.

49er Drive-in
675 N Calumet Ave.
Valparaiso, In

Friday, August 30, 2019

Old German Beer Hall in Milwaukee

While in Milwaukee last month for the grand opening of the Saint Kate Arts Hotel, my husband and I took a walk over for brunch at the Old German Beer Hall on Old World 3rd Street. We’d been there once before on a previous trip. Hofbrau was the favorite beer of my late father-in-law and there’s not a lot of places to get it on tap. So, hubby got the full pint. I got the miniature. 

He was in the mood for waffles and since it was a weekend they had a brunch menu with Belgian Waffles. I went for my favorite German dish, schnitzel. Most of the time, it seems like restaurants that have schnitzel serve the pork version, but I’ve had veal a few times. I was surprised that they offered only schnitzel, but that was fine with me. It came with fries, but when I paired it with some of hubby’s waffles, it was perfect - chicken and waffles the German way.

If you find yourself in Milwaukee and want to get some German bar food and some cold authentic German brew, pay this place a visit. I’ve only been there at lunchtime, but I’ll bet it’s a blast on a Friday night. They have one of those fun nail games - with a long German name that I can’t remember or pronounce.

10009 N. Old World 3rd Street

10 Fun Ways To Spend Time in Kenosha This Winter

We've been to Kenosha several times over the years. It's always a fun place to hang in the summer when you can visit the beach and ...