Tag Archives: Illinois

Quad Cities (IA/IL) pandemic road trip?

For over a year (a pandemic year), we grandparents here in Des Moines have been searching for mid-way meeting spots to rendezvous with our 18-month-old Chicago grandson and his parents. Until this week, Iowans were on Chicago’s quarantine list, discouraging visits there.  And last I heard, our grandson’s child care center still requires him to NOT attend for two weeks after stepping foot into Iowa. Hence the search, in particular, for meeting spots on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River.  I had high hopes for the  John Deere Pavilion and  Tractor & Engine Museum in Moline (Illinois) which has cool combines, tractors and other heavy farm equipment laid out (presumably safely) for kids to explore.  But it is still closed.   It’s part of the four-building John Deere headquarters.  which I’ve long wanted to see for reasons that would not excite a toddler — its architecture (designed in 1964 by Eero Saarinen) and  stunning art collection. At one point, I was desperate enough to consider the Quad Cities Airport (also in Moline) as an indoors meeting place during the bitter cold winter . This PR list below offers a few other options although most are in Iowa — which still may be an issue for us. It does mention that the John Deere “family mansions” are open but again, not so much fun for a toddler.


#1. If you have littles, the Family Museum is a great place to explore.  Besides interactive exhibits, their newest addition is the Luckey Climber. It’s the first in Iowa, and the Quad Cities.  The Luckey Climber reaches two stories high.  The custom-designed vertical maze of climbing platforms is both a jungle gym and work of art. The vertical maze is enclosed inside a seamless netting made from handwoven vinyl-coated, steel cable.  In addition to the fun of climbing, kids have a great destination once they reach the second floor — The Imagination Studio consisting of the Think Shop along with art and clay studios welcome the climbers.  For more information, contact 563-344-4106 or www.familymuseum.org

#2. John Deere is an important part of the Quad Cities legacy and economy, and the Deere-family mansions are a popular stop for visitors.  Spend some time in the afternoon on a free tour of the Deere-Wiman and Butterworth Center homes—the first being built in 1872 and the latter in 1892. A special feature of Butterworth Center is the library, built in 1917. The room was designed to hold an 18th century Italian ceiling painting originally found in Venice, Italy.  Believed to have been painted by Gaspare Diziani, the painting is one of only six known Venetian ceiling paintings existing in the U.S. today. Tours include both homes and begin at 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.  Preregistration is required on the website at www.butterworthcenter.com or by calling 309-743-2700.

#3. Live Action Games will keep your throwing arm in good shape as you try to hit the bullseye with an axe.  Sounds easy enough right?  Not really.  This adventure is for ages 10 and up.  The challenges do not end there.  You’re trapped and surrounded by enemies. The clock is ticking on your survival. Can you keep your calm and find your way out? Put your skills against the clock at the Live Action Games’ escape rooms.  They have a variety of breakout games for you to try and conquer. Make reservations online at www.lagqc.com or 563-594-1952.

#4. The Quad Cities is known for its many local flavors and ice cream is certainly one of them. Indulge in a culinary ice cream adventure and dip into places like Whitey’s Ice Cream, Here’s the Scoop, Country Style, Lagomarcino’s, and Carnevale Gelato.  Find more information at visitquadcities.com.

#5. For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design is a new, world-renowned exhibit at the Figge Art Museum.  For America features over 90 works made between 1810 and 2010 by some of the greatest American artists, drawn from the collections of the National Academy of Design in New York.  For America presents a unique history of American art and the country as seen through the lens of artists.  You can visit in person and purchase tickets in advance or take a virtual 3D tour on www.figgeartmuseum.org.  Plan for their March Free Family Day on March 13 featuring an introduction to the For America exhibit.  A free registration grants your family 2-weeks of access to a virtual line-up, which means you can choose your day to play.

#6. Explore the role of toys and play in society through Play: The story of Toys at the Putnam Museum, one of three exhibits currently in place at the museum. For all ages, Play takes a look at toys that are educational, creative, and meant for the outdoors. Visitors will be able to reminisce about favorite toy fads and dangerous toys they may have had growing up as well as view new inclusive and technological toys. Faces of the Past explores portraitures around the world and across time.  Visitors can expect to see faces representing 20 countries and 35 cultures.  Birds and You examines the role we all can play in protecting and preserving the birds we see every day in our backyards and fields. Visitors can expect to see a variety of taxidermy mounts, eggs, and nests from the Putnam’s collection while learning about the issues facing birds today and the simple things they can do to help. For more information, contact 563-324-1933 or www.putnam.org

#7. You can plan a photo scavenger hunt contest with others or do one on your own.  How it works: use your phones to take pictures as guided by a list. Upload photos to a Google photos album shared among the others participating. Do a screen share on a Zoom call and look though the photos together while sharing stories. Here’s an example of a QC family scavenger hunt.  Or go searching for public art murals in the Quad Cities.  It’s a chance to explore and see the murals in the QC up close.  It’s fun whether you are a Quad Citizen exploring your own backyard, or you can make it a family event when visiting the QC. Here’s a list of murals in the QC

#8. Try a slice or two of Quad Cities’ style of pizza.  There are several hallmarks of “Quad Cities-style” including the hand-tossed malt crust, crumbly sausage with fennel, toppings hiding under the deliciously, gooey layer of mozzarella cheese, and scissor-cut into strips.  Locals have their favorite QC-style pizza places whether at the long-time establishments like Harris, Frank’s, Clint’s, Gunchie’s, or newer ones such as Benny’s or Quad City Pizza Co.  You can tell we’re into pizza here because over 40 years ago, Happy Joe’s founder Joe Whitty invented the taco pizza here.  Yes, it’s just like it sounds with sauce, spiced up meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and crushed taco chips on top.

#9. Immerse yourself in Native American history.  Listed as one of the 7 Wonders of Illinois, Black Hawk State Historic Site takes you back through history beginning with the Sauk and Meskwaki Native American Indians and the warrior Black Hawk to woodland trails and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  Explore the museum, lodge, amazing history of this site, and miles of wooded hiking trails. For more information, visit www.blackhawkpark.org.

#10. Take in the heat and humidity at the Quad City Botanical Center and explore the tropical plants and trees, feed the Koi fish, enjoy the waterfall and venture outdoors to see the conifer gardens.  You can check out their website to see what’s blooming at www.qcgardens.com.

#11. Get outdoors and stroll or bike the trails along the Mississippi River, pull out the Mountain Bike and take a challenging ride on trails at Sylvan Slough and Sunderbruch Park.  Green space is abundant in the Quad Cities and Scott County Park, Loud Thunder Forest Preserve, Illinwek Park, and Wildcat Den State Park offer trails to hike and get back in touch with nature through forests, hilly terrain, rocky outcroppings, and amazing views.  Start exploring at visitquadcities.com.

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Galena, Illinois and territory

Lovely fall getaway, meeting the Chicago branch of our family (15-month-old grandson Linus and parents) in the old river town of Galena in northwest Illinois. Galena proved a perfect near-middle meeting spot between Chicago and us in Des Moines, a three/three and a half hour drive for each. We didn’t realize how hilly and bucolic this corner of Illinois is, but learned it is Illinois’s only county in the Midwest’s 4-state Driftless Area, so named because the land-flattening glacier didn’t pass through during the Ice Age, therefore not leaving behind “drift,” i.e. glacial deposits or smashed down the rolling landscape. The Driftless moniker never sounds right to us.) The area looks like nearby southwest Wisconsin to the north and northeast Iowa to the west, with high ridges overlooking forests, river valleys, waterfalls and streams.

We stayed close to our Airbnb, given the pandemic, cooking and eating in our cozy 2-bedroom townhouse-ish dwelling in “Galena Territory,” a vast resort development fashioned out of rolling hills dotted with farms outside town. It was tastefully done, meaning not over done, with small clusters of earth-colored contemporary housing scattered in woods and valleys, here and there.

On Saturday morning we strolled down Galena’s Main Street, which is lined with well-preserved 19th-century red brick buildings with restaurants and enticing shops. (Not as many antique stores as when we were last there 30 years ago. More upscale home decor and fancy food shops.). Given the pandemic we entered only one store, an excellent kitchen store, The Grateful Gourmet, and got coffee, hot cider and pumpkin donuts at a cute cafe, the Trolley Depot, where we sat outside, on a chilly but sunny day. Everyone wore masks, which we greatly appreciated. When we return I’d like to visit some of the grand old historic homes, including President Grant’s . There’s also a branch of the Chicago Atheneum, a design/architecture museum. Next trip we’d also like to go to the classic looking supper club we passed in East Dubuque, Illinois, which is perched high above the Mississippi,

On the way out of town, we stopped briefly at Terrapin Orchards in Elizabeth, Illinois for apples. Linus loved the sweet little play area fashioned out of an old Cat bulldozer whose scoop was filled with field corn kernels and tonka toy trucks. Paradise for a little boy (or girl). Then we parted ways, with the Chicagoans heading southeast and us Iowans heading southwest.

We drove the scenic route along the Great River Road through the old worn Mississippi River towns of Hanover and Savanna, past Mississippi palisades state park, with its high wooded bluffs. In Savanna, we stopped at Fritz’s Finds, a funky junk/antique shop in an old brick opera house with stained glass windows. To our surprise we had pass through a dark bar to get to the few rooms with junk. We didn’t linger, given the pandemic, but it was odd to be in a bar where people sat shoulder to shoulder mask-less at the bar and at a few tables, listening to a 6-piece band. Wish we could have stayed. The band was good and made me miss live music all the more.

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Bike the Drive/Logan Square Bang Bang Pie Shop —Chicago

Yes, Bike the Drive was definitely worth getting up at 5:30 a.m.. The chance to ride a bike along Lake Shore Drive with nothing except other bikes, albeit thousands of them, was much-appreciated. The annual event was orderly and well-organized, with lots of helpful volunteers, very little red tape or lines, and plenty of free food (bananas, apples, cliff bars, even designer coffee.) I was riding a borrowed 6-speed Schwinn with a very comfortable wide seat. The only minor challenge was making it up several minor inclines. Otherwise the route was flat and very scenic. I spotted sights along “LSD” I’d never seen during decades of zipping along it in my car.

We got lucky with the weather. The sky was overcast and dark at times but it never rained beyond some drizzle. At points, the sun almost came out and the lake looked beautiful, as did the dramatic skyline. What a treat to see some of the dramatic high-rise architecture along the river leading to the lake from new vantage points. And for a moment you had a feel for what might be if we were all less dependent on our gas-guzzling cars. I did recall, at times, the thrill of riding on some bike-only bridge in Copenhagen and, of course, the temporary bike-only rural roads in Iowa during RAGBRAI.

I rode a few blocks from Emma and Rockets in Edgewater to the BRyn Mawr entrance onto the Drive and rode south 8 miles to Grant Park where I met up wi5 my sister Jill and two of her friends who took the El in from Oak Park. I wanted to keep riding south but we sort of ran out of time (there are some timing issues to keep track of – and I am glad I started at 6:30 am) so we rode back north. next time, I may being my bike and ride all the way down and back, the earlier the better.

This afternoon we went to the Sunday farmers market in Logan Square and to delicious Bang Bang Pie shop, which serves, yes, pie — sweet and savory. We had excellent chocolate caramel pie and key lime pie (they’d run out of strawberry rhubarb) and sampled the chicken pot pie. Also had great homemade lemonade with free refills. We also walked Millie around E & R’s lovely Edgewater neighborhood.

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Japanese style toilets in Peru, Illinois 

Sapp Brothers might not have the cheapest gas in Peru, Illinois but holy cow, it has the same toilets we grew to like in Japan. They spray water and blow air into your  private parts to clean and even blow dry. Never seen this  at a U.S. rest stop.

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Where to eat in Oak Park, Illinois (after getting my sister’s okay)

This from a NYTimes article on Oak Park, Illinois (several years after my 36 Hours NYTimes article on Oak Park). Of course I will first run these dining options past my sister, a long time Oak Park resident.


Lake Street is the main commercial corridor in downtown Oak Park, brimming with restaurants and shops.


With gluten-free options and a homey feel, Delia’s Kitchen (1034 Lake Street, 708-358-1300; deliaskitchen.net) can send you to breakfast nirvana. Try the Mediterranean omelet ($9.50), with feta, baby spinach and green onions.

The Lake Street Kitchen and Bar (1101 Lake Street, 708-383-5253; lakestreetkitchenbar.com) is a solid destination for farm-to-table fare. For brunch, try the carrot cake French toast, served with candied pecans and a cream-cheese glaze ($11); and the smoked sockeye salmon and rye crepe ($11). Pair meals with drinks like the Boulevard Blue, with raspberry vodka, blueberries and lemonade ($10); and Smoak Park, with mezcal, ginger liqueur, orange juice and lime ($13).

Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie (119 North Marion Street; 708-948-7720; sugarfixe.com/opmenu) has a variety of French pastries. The gluten-free lemon macarons ($2), cupcakes ($3 to $3.75) and turkey and Gouda croissant ($4.25) are winners.

Close to the Oak Park Green Line train station, Maya Del Sol (144 South Oak Park Avenue; 708-358-9800), a Latin fusion restaurant, is popular with locals. Start with the taquitos de camaron, with shrimp, roasted tomato sauce and onions ($10). Then try the carne asada, with skirt steak, Brie and chimichurri ($26).


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Wedding at Allerton: Monticello, Illinois

Spectacular weather for a wedding on November 1, no less. Almost hot, near 70 degrees and lovely autumn light as Dirck walked Emma out of the mansion at the rural retreat Allerton, past a pond and to the man she would soon marry.

Allerton proved a lovely setting for a wedding, outside and in. The wedding was in a garden overlooking a small pond and a wooded hillside beyond as the sun started to drop. Inside, the festivities spread out across several elegant rooms including a two story library packed with old books, a main hall where Emma had spared no detail in decorating the tables with vintage travel items, orange and teal colors, and a handwritten letter in an old airmail envelope to each and every guest. She also had vintage postcards on a front desk for people to fill out if they wanted and toss into an old suitcase. We even watched the KC Royals win the World Series in the bar room! It was really nice to stay in the surprisingly spacious Gate House at Allerton after leaving the wedding at 1 am. And in the morning, we stumbled into another area of the manse for a goodbye breakfast.

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Big Grove tavern/blind Pig Pub/kopi in champaign

Two days later: Let the wedding festivities begin! We drove in misty rain to champaign, Illinois from Des Moines, stopping in Iowa city to pick up our niece. And in Galesburg at Baked for some okay pizza and watery tomato soup.

The weather cleared briefly when we arrived (and is spectacular today for my stepdaughters wedding). My brother and I snuck away to catch up over coffee and chai at cafe kopi (which was cute place although the server erred in asking us to bus our cups when we left. Really? After we each bought $4 drinks?) tacky. (Although we didn’t mind bussing.)
The rehearsal dinner at the big grove tavern was good. Good steak, pork loin, veggies, faro (must add faro to my repertoire). Our room at the new Hyatt place here is really sleek and light and clean (and quiet!) Very pleasant.

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American Harvest eatery/Lincoln home (natch)/FLWright house (surprise!)–Springfield

Honest Abe’s house was worth a visit in Illinois’s state capital but a nearby house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright knocked our socks off. The hour long tour took us all though the rambling Dana-Thomas  house with barrel vaulted ceilings, original FLWright furnishings and even a duck pin bowling alley in the basement. The house was a sight to see! Also had a good brunch at the american harvest Eatery. Now barreling home on Interstate 80 after a brief stop at the always good Oasis cafe for some middle eastern food in Iowa City. Best part about Springfield was seeing emma and rocket (and noah and Rachel!)


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Snowy drive on I 80 through Illinois

so far we have seen two cars in the ditch along Interstate 80 heading east through Illinois from Iowa but the roads aren’t that bad and we have seen several plows. very foggy and wintery scene. wish I was in the country Peru rather than Peru Illinois.



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Riding the Great River Trail along the Mississippi in Illinois

A friend just returned from biking the Great River Trail along the Mississippi. She started in Moline, staying overnight at the Stoney Creek Inn, then rode north to Port Byron, about 25 miles, where the “tugfest” – a tug-of-war contest with LeClaire Iowa (across the river) was going on. She stopped at a good ice cream shop in Hampton (I think called Remember When) and explored the towns north of Cordoba, ending up in Savanna which turned out to be a biker (as in motorcycle) mecca. She and her friend picked up some food for a picnic with a good view at Palisades Park. They also ate at Bass Street Chop House  in Moline, which was good.

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Filed under bike trails, biking, Illinois