Relax, Wine and Dine in Central Illinois

Published Date Author: , February 23rd, 2012
by Monika Sudakov, Chestnut Street Inn, Sheffield, Illinois
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Hunter's Ridge, Sheffield, Illinois

Hennepin Canal, Sheffield, IllinoisJust a quick 2 hour drive south of Chicago lays a perfect haven for rest and relaxation. The area along the I-80 corridor offers numerous activities for a quick weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city. Everything from outdoor activities like hiking and biking to historical sites, antiquing and shopping to fine dining, you can find it all in Central Illinois.

First, stop is the famous Starved Rock State Park. Open year round, the trails and spectacular nature hikes are breathtaking here. For another unique outdoor activity, try biking or hiking the Hennepin Canal Parkway. Beginning at Bureau Junction and continuing on to Colona, IL, this hard packed gravel trail is approximately 60 miles in length. A great length for just a short ride or you can explore the entire trail for more avid bikers. There is also extensive geocaching and letterboxing along the canal trail.

For the history buff, several unique sites are open for tours. The Hegeler Carus Mansion in La Salle, IL offers a step back into the late 1800’s. This unique home is partially renovated and in the process of being completely restored. View everything from the old kitchen to the original work out room complete with horse and rings.

Covered Bridge, Sheffield, IllinoisThen make your way to Princeton, IL where the Lovejoy Homestead, part of the Underground Railroad, can be toured by reservation. This historic landmark and museum is a special part of the history of equality in Central Illinois.

Finally, make your way to Bishop Hill to view the historic Swedish colony from the mid-1800’s. It has been said that for a period of approximately 20 years, during the height of this utopia, about 80% of all brooms in the country came from Bishop Hill. Plenty of shops, restaurants and artisans are on display here, particularly in the summer months.

If shopping is your passion, Historic Princeton, IL has a bustling main street full of unique gift shops and numerous antique stores. Princeton is also home to Festival 56 and November 10, one of the only remaining true summer stock theater festivals in the country.

The festival produces approximately 6-8 shows per year, including their popular Shakespeare in the Park and numerous other straight plays and musicals.

For the furniture and home decorating buff, a stop at Good’s Furniture is a must. Encompassing most of the downtown area of Kewanee, IL, Good’s has practically any kind of furniture you can think of. Even if you aren’t looking for anything in particular, it is worth a couple of hours to look around. And their unique gift shop and restaurant are the perfect respite after an afternoon of shopping.

Enjoy visiting wineries? There are a number in the Central Illinois region. August Hill Winery in Utica offers tours and wine tastings daily of their extensive wine selection. Of particular note are their Almond Infusion and Raspberry Infusion, both of which are great with dark chocolate for a special treat.

At Lavender Crest Winery in Colona, IL not only can you do a tour and wine tasting, but they have a great spot for a quick lunch. They too have a number of award winning selections that are perfect for a special gift or treat.

Chestnut Street Inn, Sheffield, IllinoisAnd finally, if you are a foodie, than you must pay a visit to the Chestnut Street Inn in Sheffield, IL. This award winning bed and breakfast features gourmet Mediterranean cuisine using locally grown foods. The bed and breakfast offers luxurious accommodations and is open to the public for meals by reservation only. Recently featured in Midwest Living Magazine and the recipient of the 2012 Lanierbb.com Awards for Best Restaurant and Best Selection of Recipes, the inn specifically extends a welcome to the LGBT community. Formerly from Southern California, the innkeepers both come from a theater background. They retired from performing to pursue their dream of owning their own bed and breakfast and restaurant.

Sample menu from the inn includes a North African Inspired Shrimp Scampi Appetizer, Roasted Butternut Squash and Chestnut Soup with Arugula and Creme Fraiche, Filet Mignon with Middle Eastern Spiced Blueberry Sauce, Goat Cheese Creamed Quinoa and Roasted Asparagus, Cinnamon and Orange Blossom Creme Brulee. Menus vary seasonally. The innkeepers also make a specific point of accommodating various dietary restrictions, in particular gluten free, but also vegetarian, vegan, dairy free and any other restriction. Whether it is just for a day or for a long weekend, Central Illinois is the place to come. There are lots of activities to fulfill your every desire or a whole lot of peace and quiet for a romantic, peaceful few days off to get away from it all. So what are you waiting for?? We are waiting for you.

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