TMS 2013 Rockford, IL

August 20-23, 2013

The 2013 Travel Media Showcase conference was held in Rockford, IL from August 20-23. The 70 travel writers and 82 exhibitors networked, went on local area attraction tours, and experienced the best of what Rockford has to offer!
Rockford Offers Collection of Unique Architecture
June 11, 2014
Noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright created many homes and buildings in his career, from the famous Pennsylvania Fallingwaters to churches, corporate headquarters and the Guggenheim. But the only project Wright designed that was handicapped accessible was the Kenneth & Phyllis Laurent House in Rockford, Illinois.
Summer Fun for Kids: Get 'Em Outdoors!
May 2, 2014
Ah, children! Our legacies and our greatest accomplishments. Tomorrow's leaders... today. But, man, they sure are loud, messy and sometimes really expensive. With three long unstructured months of summer break rounding the bend, don't let them smell your fear. It's time to take the kids outside and enjoy the wide range of outdoor activities Wisconsin has to offer.
Chicago's Peninsula Hotel Redefines Luxurious Elegance
May 1, 2014
"Luxury" is a word seldom paired with "easy," and "elegance" rarely implies "comfortable." So when the Peninsula Hotel combined Midwestern hospitality with Far Eastern graciousness 13 years ago, glass ceilings in hospitality shattered all over Chicagoland. From the doorman to the Michelin star chef, staff believes guests' needs should be anticipated before they are articulated.
Cincinnati, the Queen City, is Fit for a Princess
May 1, 2014
I am torn between touting Cincinnati's treasures and keeping the city under wraps so I can continue to easily park my car downtown. The spirit of Cincinnati is what I imagine the spirit of Florence was during the Renaissance: so much happening and most of it creative, innovative and exciting. The streetcar is a work in progress and will add to the city's charm and convenience.
Marina Profile: Grafton Harbor
May 1, 2014
Some people see a need for something in their community and talk about it. Others, like Joe and Jan DeSherlia of Grafton, Ill., see a need and figure out how to fill it. The small community of Grafton is situated at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, around 40 miles from St. Louis. That alone seemed to make the location a natural spot for a waterfront development, without even considering the fact that Illinois' Great River Road runs right through the town as well.
Anderson Japanese Gardens offers a tranquil respite in Illinois
April 28, 2014
When I was in Rockford, Illinois last summer, I was impressed by the beauty of this riverfront midwestern town. One of my favorite spots was the Anderson Japanese Gardens, a place for "reflection, serenity and renewal" just off Rock River in the heart of Rockford. The gardens reopen this week, on May 1, 2014, for the 2014 season.
Main Street Days in Grapevine
April 22, 2014
Grapevine, Texas, a quintessential American town near Dallas, is kicking off summer with the 30th Annual Main Street Days from May 16-18 in the historic downtown area. The festival includes family friendly activities like the Grillin' Competition at the Town Square Gazebo, live music on stages throughout the venue, a Carnival Midway and shopping on Main Street.
Bigots Can't March: Holocaust Museum: Skokie's Answer to the American Nazis
April 14, 2014
It takes more than a swaggering neo-Nazi to scare a Holocaust survivor as a bunch of goose-stepping Neanderthals learned when they attempted to bring their particular form of hatred to Skokie, Illinois.
Frank Lloyd Wright Laurent House - Friday Feature Photos
April 13, 2014
Frank Lloyd Wright built the house of my dreams - too bad he built it for someone else before I was even born! I've never studied architecture, however, I've always been drawn to the period homes I've visited across America. Boston's South end brownstones. Lake Charles' Charpentier District. The beautiful historic community of Bardstown, Kentucky.
Midwest Travel: Summer in Rockford, Illinois
April 7, 2014
Home of the sock monkey and Mrs. Fischer's potato chips, Rockford, Illinois may seem like an unlikely destination for a road trip. Less than a two-hour drive from Milwaukee, Chicago, Madison, Dubuque, and the Quad Cities, Rockford offers many of the amenities of the "big city" without the big price tag.
Anderson Japanese Gardens: Paradise on Earth
March 28, 2014
What better place to be on a sunny spring day than in a fertile garden surrounded by luxuriant plants and bubbling brooks. One such magic location is Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford., Illinois. As you enter the garden. all your senses are rewarded. A fresh earthy fragrance mingles with the sounds of a small tumbling stream and multi-shades of green greet you.
Rockford, Illinois's Swedish Heritage
March 28, 2014
Rockford, Illinois has the third largest concentration of Swedish people per capita in the United States. Erlander Museum in Rockford preserves Rockford's Swedish roots. It's named for John Erlander and his daughter Mary. The Englander family is typical of many Swedish immigrants to Rockford. John emigrated from Sweden to Chicago, Illinois and then Rockford. He worked as a tailor and later opened a furniture store in partnership with other Swedish men.
Vera Bradley, Queen of Fort Wayne, Indiana
March 25, 2014
I admit to being a New York fashion snob who would sooner shop in le Midi than in the Midwest, so not until I attended the Travel Media Showcase conference in Illinois last summer had I even heard of Vera Bradley. The friendly team at the Visit Fort Wayne tourism booth told me they were hometown to the Vera Bradley Company, and that the dizzying array of quilted fabric handbags and kids' packs at Rockford's Crimson Ridge Boutique was the largest collection of Vera Bradley gear outside Indiana. Really?
Living Like Laura in DeSmet, South Dakota
March 11, 2014
I can remember reading the 'Little House' books by Laura Ingalls Wilder over and over again as I grew up in southwest Iowa. I never grew tired of Laura's stories of life on the western frontier. And though I knew Laura was telling stories of her life, I never imagined that I would be able to visit the places where Laura once roamed the prairies. In the fall of 2012 I shared the 'Little House' books with my own girls, who loved them as much as I did (my eldest can still be found with a 'Laura book' when she has a bit of quiet time). Then, last summer, I surprised them with a trip to "visit" Laura in South Dakota.
Happy Birthday St. Louis (Part Two)
March 11, 2014
St. Louis is celebrating its 250th anniversary throughout 2014 with a series of signature activities and events culminating on February 13, 2015. Visitors and residents alike get to choose from a wide variety of celebratory experiences and the city's historic significance plays as central a role in the anniversary activities as it did in the building of the nation. Events are added regularly and updated schedules are posted online.
Rockford rocks!
March 10, 2014
Rockford was once known as Midway since it was half-way between the mines of Galena and Chicago. It was soon renamed for its ford across the Rock River. It prospered as a center of industry has became a city known for its history, performing arts, a unique baseball team, a grand movie palace, and an exceptional garden. And now Rockford rocks with arts and entertainment along its new Riverwalk.
Where the Elite Eat in Yuma, Arizona
March 10, 2014
If you've been to Wall Drug in South Dakota, you know the spirit of Lutes Casino in Yuma, Arizona. It's the state's oldest pool hall, but who wants to play pool when there is so much to eat and look at. Yes, that is an old cowboy boot plunging through the ceiling and a plane gliding overhead. Suspended from the ceiling are a full sized Signal Gas sign and a sign for Western Union. Wall art, ceiling art, and standing curiosities give the casino a weird-dream ambiance. Lutes describes the art as "early eclectic." If that is too fancy a term, just think "interesting junk."
Happy Birthday St. Louis (Part One)
March 1, 2014
St. Louis dates its official founding from February 14, 1764, when Pierre Laclède Liguest, his teenaged scout, Auguste Pierre Chouteau, and 30 men, stepped ashore to establish a trading post on land granted to Laclede by the King of France. Laclède had made the three month journey up the Mississippi from New Orleans and chose a site on a bluff on the western shore where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers converge. The Village of La Ville de St. Louis, named in honor of he French crusader King Louis IX, began shortly after. This year, St. Louis is celebrating its semiquincentennial, 250 years of people and events changing the city, the country and our world.
Go bananas at Rockford's Sock Monkey Madness Festival
February 18, 2014
Let's face it, many of us spend a great deal of time monkeying around. Why? Because it's fun! And in Rockford, Illinois they're about to really go ape at the annual Sock Monkey Madness Festival, set for March 1-2 at the Midway Village Museum.
The Rockford (Ill.) files
February 16, 2014
During the 19th century, in a time of expansion into the upper Midwest, rail- roads brought a group of immigrants with skills, ingenuity and perseverance, along with the hope that hard work would create a better life in a frontier village in Illinois. Immigrants from Sweden planned to settle in Chicago, but a twist of fate changed that and they set up Rockford, Ill., to be a business, government and cultural center.
Sock Monkey Madness in Rockford, Illinois
February 13, 2014
It's a history and toy-lover's delight, and a time to monkey around. Sock Monkey Madness Festival will be celebrated at the Home of the Sock Monkey, Rockford, Illinois. It all happens between 11 am and 5 pm on March 1 and 2 at Midway Village Museum. Have fun discovering more about Rockford's and America’s past.
The Peaches of Rockford, Illinois
February 1, 2014
Rockford was home to a unique era in baseball history. Many of the best players in the men's league were in the military during World War II and to keep up the interest in the sport, gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, owner of the Chicago Cubs, decided to organize the first professional baseball teams for women.
Rockford, Illinois: Swede Town
February 1, 2014
How did a frontier village in Illinois grow to become an industrial and cultural center? It was due, in part, to a group of immigrants from Sweden who planned to settle in Chicago in 1852, were confronted with an plan-altering epidemic, and had the skills to fill a need after a devastating fire.
Relive Groundhog Day - Woodstock, Illinois
February 1, 2014
There's a sense of dèjà vu in Woodstock, Illinois, a quaint town with a centralized square and located about an hour north of Chicago. In 1992, Woodstock doubled as Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania, the site of the famous groundhog named Phil that fore-tells whether the United States will experience six more weeks of winter by either seeing or not seeing his shadow.
Groundhog Day
January 26, 2014
Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is a BIG DEAL! According to tradition, the groundhog emerges from his burrow early in the morning of February 2nd to prognosticate about the end of winter. If he sees his shadow, he scurries back to his hole to hibernate for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't see his shadow, that means winter ends soon!
Go North By Northwest: Discover Cowboys, Indians, and Corn
January 24, 2014
Mention South Dakota and everyone immediately thinks of Mt. Rushmore. I knew that the monument was carved on sacred land belonging to Native Americans, but I didn't realize how much of the state revolved around their culture and heritage. Using Sioux Falls as my home base, I wanted to explore southeast South Dakota.
Nearly destroyed by wind and killer waves more than 100 years ago, the coastal island of Galveston provides some ... Texas-size fun
January 19, 2014
We were on an island with gentle breez- es and shimmering water with the lyrics of the 1969 Glen Campbell hit "Galveston" dancing in our heads. We heard the "sea winds blowing" and watched the "sea waves crashing" and "sea birds flying in the sun," all on this Texas island in the Gulf of Mexico.
Visit a Museum - Most Interesting Machine Museums in America - Best of 2013 Part 2
January 8, 2014
Museums have been around for centuries-in fact, the word museum was first used in ancient Greece and Rome. Back then it referred more to a place for philosophical debate and discussion, than a collection of interesting artifacts. While many museums feature smaller artifacts of day-to-day life, we've always been most interested in machine museums.
Eckert's Grafton Farm
January 6, 2014
Johann Peter Eckert farmed all his life in Dietzenbach, Hesse Darmestadt, Germany. When he emigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1837 with his wife and four sons he saw no reason to change. He went on to buy each of his sons a farm. The family had followed the tradition down to the present day.
Dinner on the Dock
January 6, 2014
What is more fun than au fresco dining overlooking a picturesque river. Dinner on the Dock, held every Thursday during summer at The Prairie Street Brewhouse in Rockford, Illinois, combines all the right elements. It offers a perfect venue for dining on the Rock River, great food catered by The Backyard Grill and Bar and music by assorted talents. The event space which is also available for weddings and other events abuts a 60-slip marina and offers a excellent view of the river. After dark, the lights of the bridge lend a fairytale atmosphere. It also allows boaters to dock and dine.
Tinker Tales
January 6, 2014
Right in the heart of Rockford, Illinois is a historical and architectural treasure, Tinker Swiss Cottage. The cottage is unique as it is one of just a few Swiss style homes built in the United States.
Sage Advice About Rosemary Time
January 6, 2014
Most of Florida is on Eastern Standard time. Some is on Central Standard Time. Then there are places that have a timing all their own. Rosemary Beach is just a tiny blip on the Florida map in Walton County but it is one of these special places. Here you forget about the usual timed things, Appointments, schedules, routine, none of these apply here. In fact you won't need a watch or clock since the town bells toll on the hour during the day.
A Walk in the Park
January 6, 2014
Winter Park, Florida gets neglected. People lump it together with its big sister, Orlando. While Orlando is filled with big theme parks and glitzy attractions, Winter Park is more low key. Winter Park is one of the prettiest little towns in Florida and one of the most artistically inclined. It has its own charm and repays visitors with memories of a wonderful time.
U.S. Vacation Attractions & Things To Do - Looking Back at the Best of 2013 - Part I
December 26, 2013
As 2013 rushes towards 2014, I like to look back at my experiences. After traveling a lot of miles this year, I thought I'd share the highlights. Hope you enjoy them too!
Andrew Johnson's Tennessee
December 22, 2013
None of the sons of Tennessee had a greater impact on American history than Andrew Johnson. Although Johnson was born in a log cabin in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29, 1808 he spent the better part of his life and political career in Tennessee. What is believed to be his birth home is on display in Raleigh in Mordecai Historic Park.
Hampton, Virginia - One of 2014's Best Holiday Destinations for Boats & Ship Lovers
December 19, 2013
Ahead, the highway seemed to disappear right into the ocean as Interstate 64 dropped into the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, a 3.5 mile four-lane construction of tunnels, bridges, and tressles. It was certainly our first experience with an immersed tube as a roadway! Locals, however, take it for granted, since it was way back in 1957 that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel became the world's first immersion tunnel connected to man-made islands.
Lubbock, Texas: More than just Buddy Holly
December 15, 2013
Buddy Holly was a scant 23 years old when he died tragically in a plane crash, but he had made such an impact on the entertainment world that his death was called "The day the music died." His hometown of Lubbock, TX, remembers him every day in a multitude of ways from naming a street after him to a museum dedicated to Holly and the Crickets.
Cowboys to Christmas in Grapevine
December 10, 2013
Texas may be known more for the Dallas Cowboys and cowboys in general, but the city of Grapevine is making a major bid to become known for Christmas. For a month before the holiday is actually upon us, Grapevine transforms itself into the Christmas Capital of Texas... and a number of surrounding states. Its historic Main Street glows with enough lights to make New York's Broadway blush in comparison. The blast of color strung from lamp posts, across the street and from every store in town lights up enough to be seen from space.
Galveston, Texas: A treasure of an island in the Lone Star State
December 10, 2013
We were on an island with gentle breezes and shimmering water, the lyrics of the 1969 Glen Campbell hit dancing in our heads. We heard the "sea winds blowing" and watched the "sea waves crashing", and "sea birds flying in the sun" - in Galveston.
Swede's role in making Rockford what it is today
December 9, 2013
One of our favorite museums in Rockford was the Erhlander Home Museum. John Erhlander was one of many Swedes who immigrated to this area in the mid-19th century. This is not a huge mansion; it is a large family home. It was built in historic Haight Village and his neighbors were among the most influential people in Rockford including the mayor.
Christmas in Grapevine, Texas
December 9, 2013
Everything's bigger in Texas, including ice storms and Christmas celebrations! I had the opportunity to visit Grapevine, the Christmas Capital of Texas, to see first-hand how they celebrate Christmas Texas-style. As an added bonus, I survived "Ice-maggedon" too! As of this writing, the greater Dallas area is still recovering from the ice storm... but Texans are hardy people. While last week's celebrations deferred headlines about Christmas to the weather, it's now time to CELEBRATE, Texas style!
3 Reasons to Visit Charlottesville
December 6, 2013
Virginia is home to many great vacation destinations from Williamsburg to Washington, from Virginia Beach to Shenandoah National Park. One of her greatest gems is Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and beloved home of Thomas Jefferson. I've lived only three hours from Charlottesville for the past twelve years, but just made my first trip to this charming town. I definitely plan to return!
Bonnie & Clyde take on Fort Worth
December 4, 2013
Fort Worth is only a half hour drive from Dallas, but the two cities are not only miles apart, they have a breach of centuries. Dallas is a big, business-lie city while Fort Worth still revels in its history as a major cowtown. Add to that the fact that arguably the last great gun fight of the Old West took place in its historic Stockyards section, but major league baddies like Bonnie and Clyde were visitors.
8 Minutes in Charlottesville
December 3, 2013
Eight minutes! Yep, 8 Minutes in Charlottesville is all you need to explore this fabulous college town rich with history, arts, entertainment and food. More on Charlottesville's award winning foodie traditions in a later post... for now, learn why all you need is 8 minutes in Charlottesville!
Buddy Holly every where, all the time
December 3, 2013
Lubbock, Texas may not be at the top of your bucket list for places to visit, but maybe it should be. Lubbock is Buddy Holly all the time in every place. Although this mid-sized city has produced more than its fair share of celebrities, the ill-fated rocker stands out as the most cherished for the local citizenry.
Only in Galveston (part two)
November 21, 2013
Significant sites and attractions are not confined to Galveston's downtown Historic District. Unique restaurants, museums, lodgings, outdoor venues and historic locations are spread throughout the island as well as beaches and nature and birding trails.
10 Things You Must See & Do in New York State's Hudson Valley
November 19, 2013
There are many attractions to visit and enjoy in New York's Hudson Valley. From history to geography to culture, you'll find the Hudson Valley a great destination rich in things to do see and do.
Midwest Travel: Starved Rock State Park, Utica, Illinois
November 18, 2013
If you live in Wisconsin and love the Kettle Moraines, Devil's Lake, or even the Iron Range, then you should point your car south and head down to Utica, Illinois for a getaway in the Illinois River Valley.
Only in Galveston
November 14, 2013
Galveston, Texas is in the unique position of being able to offer visitors a chance to combine outdoor activities, architecture tours, exceptional dining, entertainment and accommodation options as well as an opportunity to experience a truly unique history. In 2013, the Texas Commission on the Arts designated the Galveston Downtown Cultural Arts District a Texas State Official Cultural District. With all it has to offer the city can once again be recognized as "The Playground of the South."
Four great reasons to visit LeClaire, Iowa
November 14, 2013
The city of LeClaire, Iowa is named for Antoine LeClaire. He was important in developing the area where he maintained a sandstone quarry. The city is located just a few miles from the Quad-cities on a bend in the Mississippi, River and is known for its yearly Tug Fest which is a tug of war across the river with the town of Port Byron, Illinois.
Galveston's Pleasure Pier for good, clean fun
November 8, 2013
Like most of Galveston’s attractions, its Pleasure Pier that opened, or re-re-re opened, in 2012 has a history punctuated with hurricanes. The original Pleasure Pier stood from 1943 until Hurricane Carla demolished it in 1961. In 1965, an over-the-water hotel delighted Gulf lovers until Hurricane Ike splintered it in 2008.
Hotel Galvez, Queen of the Gulf
November 7, 2013
Galveston, Texas, is a resilient barrier island with a celebratory spirit. When Hurricane Ike flooded 75 percent of the island five years ago, only the islanders believed that Christmas would come again in all its radiant beauty.
Galveston's Holiday Magic
November 5, 2013
Galveston is a resilient barrier island with a celebratory spirit. When Hurricane Ike flooded 75 percent of the island five years ago, only the islanders believed that Christmas would come again in all its radiant beauty. "Yes," Galveston proclaims, "there really is a Santa Claus." He will arrive December 14 on the Galveston Railroad Museum's Harborside Express Train.
Poughkeepsie's Walkway Over the Hudson - Some of the Best 2013 Fall Foliage
November 4, 2013
The best way to see fall foliage is from a walkway above the oranges, reds, golds and greens-particularly if that walkway is Poughkeepsie's Walkway Over the Hudson River.
Indoor Adventure at the Mall of America
November 3, 2013
The kids are back in school, winter is inevitable, and road trip season has shrunken to the tune of a long weekend or holiday vacation. Accommodating both road warriors and jet setters with a long layover or stopover at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International, the Mall of America offers more than just mega shopping.
Waterpark Roundup: Waterpark of America
October 29, 2013
Located minutes from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, residents from near and far make the mecca to the southeast corner of the Twin Cities in the name of shopping, entertainment, dining, and adventure en masse. At the Mall of America, that is.
Best Halloween Event for Grown-Ups - Where else but in Sleepy Hollow, New York?
October 28, 2013
The legend of Sleepy Hollow, with the image of the headless horseman galloping through the night, has the ability to give us all a bit of a shiver at Halloween-even when we're grown ups.
Top 3 Historic Destinations in Rockford, Illinois
October 26, 2013
While the history of Rockford, Illinois may seem short when compared with cities farther east, it has considerable history to share with visitors.
Peachhead Approved Vacations: Vacation in Illinois August 2013
October 14, 2013
I recently visited Illinois to discover some of what this state has to offer. My first stop was the city of Rockford, where I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Rockford. The rooms are a very nice size and each room has a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker. Kids will love their indoor pool, complete with a water play area with water spraying and a slide.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow — October Foliage Tour of Sunnyside — Washington Irving’s Home
October 14, 2013
Halloween today wouldn't be complete without The Legend of Sleepy Hollow-a story Washington Irving first published back in 1820. This year, when we were planning our fall foliage tour down the U.S. east coast, I was thrilled to be able to add in a stop to visit the spot that inspired that story, Tarrytown, New York.
Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse Rock Island Illinois
October 13, 2013
Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse is an entire evening of entertainment. What could be more fun than seeing a live production, not having to find a restaurant before or after and even being serenaded by your multi-talented wait staff? That is what you get with your ticket at the Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse.
Richardson's Family Adventure Park
October 9, 2013
Richardson's Family Adventure Park is located in Spring Grove, IL. Farmed since 1840 the Richardson family has continuously adapted and grown to fit the needs of families everywhere. From their beginnings of farming corn and soybeans to adding Christmas trees in the 1990's to now offering one of the best family attractions in the area.
DuPage County
October 8, 2013
Archeological evidence points to the fact that during the Paleo Period, around 12,000-years ago, Indians entered the area that is now DuPage County, Illinios. They were migratory and it is not until the Woodland Era, 1,000 B.C., that Native Americans began to settle in the region. When Europeans made first contact in the form of Louis Joliet and Father Marquette in 1673, the primary tribe was the Iliniwek. By the turn of the 19th century the Potawatomi Tribe had moved west and established large settlements, four of which were located in DuPage.
FALLing In Love With Chicago Botanical Gardens
October 8, 2013
Fall is a great time to visit the Chicago Botanical Gardens. The weather is perfect during this season for strolling around the 26 gardens and four nature areas. The summer colors may be starting to fade, but the gardens are now alive with explosions of fall colors that are just as vibrant as summer’s intense blooms. Flowers in bloom right now include mums, lilys, sedums, sweet william, and alumroot.
Roots N Blues N BBQ
October 7, 2013
There's no stopping it; when the calendar says that fun-in-the-sun season is over, it's over. But in Columbia, Missouri there's no sadness as summertime slips into autumn; in fact there's a huge farewell party in the form of the city's annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, a three-day event featuring tons of good food and musical performances by the likes of the Black Crowes, Steve Earle, Mavis Staples and Johnny Winter.
Haunted Tale: Woodstock Opera House
October 7, 2013
The Woodstock Opera House, built in 1889, originally housed the library, city council, court, and fire department for the city of Woodstock, Illinois. The Opera House sat above on the second floor. The Opera House was the hub of entertainment for McHenry County and the surrounding area. Besides traveling theater groups, it housed the local farmers’ market and wrestling tournaments.
8 Family Fun Things To Do In Rockford, IL
October 3, 2013
Small towns around the midwest offer more fun and entertainment than most people realize. Rockford, IL is one of those towns. This town located approximately 90 minutes west of Chicago offers fun activities for the entire family whether you have little ones or teens. Rockford is home to the sock monkey festival, world-class water ski team, music, arts, shopping, museums, outdoor fun and so much more. Rockford will provide your family with big city fun and culture, but with small town cost and ambiance.
A little Piece of Switzerland in Rockford Illinois
October 3, 2013
Tinker Swiss Cottage in Rockford, Ill. is designed to look as if it were in Switzerland. As a matter of fact, it is one of the few houses of Swiss style still in existence in the United States. Robert Tinker became enamored with the design style on a trip to Switzerland and decided to create one in of all places, Rockford. In his own words "I only wanted to build a home that would give Rockford a name."
Midway Village: Bringing the Past to Life
September 30, 2013
Midway Village in Rockford, Illinois is a few miles and a hundred plus years from modern downtown Rockford. It's 137 acres of yesterday. Here you do more than learn about the past, you relive it. The village contains 26 buildings all dating from between 1830, the year Rockford, originally called Midway because it was halfway between Chicago and Galena, was founded, and 1904. Most are authentic buildings moved to the village site. Six are reproductions differing only in scale from the original building. The oldest building in the village dates to 1840.
The Music Never Dies
September 30, 2013
There are some places where the music never dies. I discovered one in Alton, Illinois. you may think of Alton as part of Abraham Lincoln's heritage. or the home of the world's tallest man. Maybe it brings to mind the image of the Picta Bird.
Ghosts of the River Bend
September 30, 2013
The Mineral Springs Hotel began with two brothers, August and Herman Luer. They were successful German businessmen who planned to build an ice house and cold storage facility on the site of their meat packing plant. In 1909, while workman were drilling a well, they discovered an underground spring. The spring smelled of sulfur and, after testing, was believed to have medicinal powers. The brothers changed course in mid-stream so to speak, and built a luxurious hotel and spa with a water bottling plant on the lowest level. Advertisements for the hotel claimed "largest swimming pool in Illinois." The brothers also claimed the best dining and miracle cures from the mineral water.
From Rail Splitter to President
September 30, 2013
I've devoted a lot of space to Confederate persons and sites. I'm a Southerner, what else can I say. Still, in all fairness, the Federal side deserves some space. So this Civil War Trails will look at the Union's top man, Abraham Lincoln. In particular one town that begun his catapult to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Chug a Love: Breweries Plus Food Equals Fun - Grafton Winery and Brewhaus, Grafton, IL
September 30, 2013
This place combines it all when it comes to dining pleasure. Wine connoisseurs will be extremely happy with the award winning vintages created in the winery like their award winning Summer Peach or Apple Crisp wines. Beer drinkers get hand crafted brews made onsite. You can ask for a tour of the brewery or sit back and enjoy the view of the Great Rivers Scenic Byway at the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers while you dine on special dishes, many of which Head Chef Chris Leith prepares by incorporating their wines and beers into them.
Chicago Southland
September 28, 2013
Ford's 1908 Model T is widely regarded as the first automobile that was affordable for the ordinary worker at a cost of $850. As Ford perfected his assembly line technique the time it took to assemble a complete car went down from an initial production of 11 cars per month to 93-minutes per car six years later, as did the price, to as low as $250 per auto in the mid-1920s. The automobile industry grew and ownership blossomed, but now that people owned cars it began to become apparent that there were few good roads on which to drive them. Of the more than two million miles of road very few, outside of metropolitan areas, were more than wide dirt paths.
Rolling on the River in the Quad Cities
September 27, 2013
If you have ever dreamed of taking a cruise on the Mississippi River, the Celebration Belle offers the opportunity to take several different types of cruises. With themed cruises, narrated lunch and sightseeing cruises, dinner and dance cruises, 100 mile day cruises and fall overnight cruises, there is bound to be one to suit your fancy.
A Favorite Childrens Destination in the Quad Cities
September 27, 2013
I started to smile as soon as I entered this museum and I never stopped. What a wonderful place for children. The bright colors are so welcoming and as we left we saw some smaller children literally having to be dragged out the door, they didn’t want to leave. If you are bemoaning the fact that your kids don't use their imagination or are glued to the TV or a video game, bring them to the Family Museum in Bettendorf, Iowa and watch them blossom.
Spacious Room in Rockford Illinois
September 20, 2013
Rockford, Ill has a wide selection of hotel choices. There are quite a few of them clustered in an area on the eastern outskirts of the city. One of the most popular is the Hilton Garden Inn. We spent three nights here in August 2013 and absolutely loved it. The lobby is very attractive but it is the friendliness of the desk staff that really makes this hotel a standout. They could not have been nicer and allowed us to check in early and always greeted us when we passed by the desk. We felt very welcome at this hotel.
Marriott Hotel in Rockford Illinois
September 20, 2013
The Marriott Courtyard in Rockford, Ill is location right off of East State Road which is one of the main arteries in the city of Rockford. It is hard to find another street that has as much to offer when it comes to amenities. The hotel is easy to find, less easy to actually get to. It is on an access road that is accessed from Bell School Road right past the Burger King. It is easy once you figure this out.
Rockford, Illinois, A River Runs Through It
September 19, 2013
Rockford Illinois, 77-milles from Chicago, is the state's third largest city. It straddles the Rock River and both the east and west areas of the city offer great shopping, trendy restaurants, a lively music scene, historic sites and numerous options for outdoor experiences. The city is extremely ethnically diverse and provides unique cultural experiences and events that can only be had in Rockford.
College town sounds: Bloomington, Indiana
September 18, 2013
Bloomington, Indiana is the home of the flagship campus of Indiana University and if there’s one thing the IU student body loves to do it is support their sports teams. And while it seems that everybody in "B-Town" adores their Hoosiers, there’s something else that makes Bloomington go nuts, and that is music. Lots of indie bands call Bloomington home and they keep the local clubs packed while promoters regularly bring bigger shows and festivals to town. B-Town is a hotbed for indie record labels too; Jagjaguwar, Dead Oceans, Secretly Canadian and Flannelgraph are just a few of the imprints based in town. With so much going on it doesn't hurt to have access to a crib sheet so here's a little info to help you get the Bloomington music scene sorted.
Volcano Falls Review
September 18, 2013
Adventure parks, the modern day arcade, offer video games, go-karts, miniature golf and lots of noise, chaos and cheap food. After all, they're geared for kids and teens. Generally, I try to avoid fun parks. They're so dirty and the food is not quite up to my foodie standards. But then, I visited Volcano Falls in Rockford, Illinois. I discovered that not all fun parks are created equal.
Illinois-Driving the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway During River Road Month
September 16, 2013
There's nothing like leaving Interstate Highways behind and jumping onto some of America's great scenic byways to get a true sense of what the regions are about. I was lucky enough to experience many of the natural wonders of The Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. Its 33 miles - all of which I explored - wind west and north along the Mississippi River banks, starting in Hartford, Illinois, and ending in Grafton, Illinois.
What's the Best Japanese Garden in the U.S.?
September 12, 2013
What's the most beautiful Japanese garden outside of Japan? Would you, like me, think that maybe there’s a gorgeous Japanese garden in Central Park? After all, they have a zoo! Or maybe in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco? It turns out that Central Park does not have a Japanese garden at all. And the Golden Gate Park is home to the oldest Japanese tea garden in the United States, but it is not considered the most beautiful. Don't get me wrong, it is beautiful... it's just not the MOST beautiful. Stumped? The most beautiful Japanese garden outside of Japan is Anderson Gardens located in the unassuming city of Rockford in northern Illinois.
Ten Ways for Families to Celebrate Fall in the Midwest
September 12, 2013
Who knew the small city of Rockford, Ill., a little more than an hour from Chicago, is home to Jane, the most complete juvenile T-Rex (about 11 years old, scientists estimate) and Homer, the most complete adolescent Triceratops. He's seven feet tall and weighed more than two tons! You can visit them both at the Burpee Museum of Natural History (
Great Traveling Off the Beaten Track: Where the Heck is Rockford, IL?
September 12, 2013
There are more places in the continental United States that you have never heard of. But for that matter, people from those places probably never heard of your home town either. Some years back we stumbled onto Wisconsin Dells, north of Madison and popular with Mid-Westerners for weekend getaways and extended vacations. Anyone in Chicago could tell you about "The Dells and what a great family destination it is," but East Coasters didn't have a clue.
Rockford Illinois Rocks
September 11, 2013
Who knew what an amazing place Rockford, Ill. is to visit? Certainly not this writer and what a wonderful surprise it turned out to be. There is history, culture, shopping and so much more. No matter what your pleasure you will find something of interest in Rockford. These are just a few of the things that were enjoyed on a recent trip to Rockford.
John Deere is Big in Moline
September 11, 2013
One of the premier destinations in Moline, Illinois is the John Deere Pavilion. John Deere has been a major employer for more than 100 years. While the number of employees has declined over the years, the influence on the economy of the city has not. The iconic green and yellow equipment has been part of many families across the country for generations.
Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells
September 10, 2013
We don't visit many resorts in our travels, so when we do decide to visit one, we make sure it is a resort worth remembering. Though our stay at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells was short, the two huge waterparks, 'hidden' wavepool and comfortable golf villa made our stay memorable ' and put it at the top of my daughters' 'must return' lists.
The quirky movie set town of Woodstock, Il
September 10, 2013
Remember Groundhog Day, the 1993 critically acclaimed, feel-good movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell? Film director, Harold Ramis, decided that the town square in Punxsatawney wasn't suitable for the film so he scoured neighboring states looking for the perfect town. Once he pulled into Woodstock, he knew he found the ideal "set", complete with a famous old courthouse, beautifully restored Opera house, brick-paved streets and charming Victorian buildings. What might have been Woodstock's 15 minutes of fame is still holding firm 20 years later "where everyday is Groundhog Day".
Rollin' through Rockford
September 9, 2013
When I first entered the city limits of Rockford, IL, I have to be honest... I was not terribly excited. My first impressions were that of a generic retail big box community in the western shadows of Chicago. I had come to the area for a travel conference and was seriously wondering how this community was chosen as the host. However, just like your mom always told you, "it's not wise to judge a book solely by its cover." I soon discovered that Rockford had a whole lot to offer both visitors, and residents alike.
Hands-on at Discovery Center Museum
September 9, 2013
On a recent trip to Rockford, Illinois, the kind folks at the Discovery Center Museum provided me a fabulous tour of their TOP 10 children's museum. Unfortunately, the kids weren't with me. They would really have enjoyed it. But... since the kids weren't there, I got a chance to play!
Chicago's West Loop filled with culinary gems
September 6, 2013
Thankfully I was on the low end of my five pound weight fluctuation when so I decided to take full advantage of my one day in Chicago to explore the fabulous food scene in the trendy, West Loop area. I laced up my comfiest sneaks and headed over to my designated brunch spot, Stephanie Izard's (the first female to win Top Chef) Little Goat Diner. Swarms of cool kids were chitchatting or sipping coffee as they waited for the hostess to text them that their table was ready.
Chicago's West Loop best explored on an empty stomach (Photos)
September 5, 2013
With only one day to explore the Chicago restaurant scene I decided to allocate my stomach space to the trendy, West Loop area, loaded with culinary delights. I laced up my comfiest sneaks and headed over to my designated brunch spot, Stephanie Izard's (the first female to win Top Chef) Little Goat Diner. Swarms of cool kids were chitchatting or sipping coffee as they waited for the hostess to text them that their table was ready.
Chicago's burbs filled with interesting sites
September 5, 2013
Next time you visit Chicago and feel like you've covered all the major attractions why not head for the hills (or in the case the suburbs) for some fascinating sites? Make use of the areas superb train system or if you decide to rent a car, be sure and save time for a drive along Sheridan Road leading up to North Shore and Lake County, to see how the rich and famous really live. I've got my house all picked out.
Wonders of Woodstock, Illinois (Video)
September 5, 2013
Woodstock, Illinois is such a perfect, small town USA (down to the bandshell and gazebo in town square) that you'd swear Disney had it built on their back lot. Actually, it's almost the reverse.
ROCKFORD: A City Glorified by Water, Trees and a Love of Nature
September 4, 2013
There is something special about Rockford. Perhaps it is in the water. The city, Illinois second largest, has many attractions, but it is those imbued with water that seems to make the city especially attractive. There is the city's four rivers, led by the relatively-wide Rock River, which flows gently through the middle of the metro, providing a mecca for fishermen and recreational boater and a great dock replete with great restaurants and the home of Illinois' largest music festival On the Waterfront.
Seven suburban sites you won't want to miss in Chicagoland (Photos)
September 4, 2013
Although Chicago is filled with fascinating sights and neighborhoods it's also well worth hopping the rails or renting a car to explore the unique offerings scattered throughout the 'burbs. Although there is excellent public transportation, you might want to rent a car so you can see, ooh and ahh over the gracious, old mansions strung like pearls along Sheridan Road leading up to North Shore and Lake County.
Travel writer Janet Groene likes Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, Israel: Travel Tidbits For September 3, 2013
September 3, 2013
Festifall brings food, music and fun to Lakewood, Wisconsin on September 14. Did you ever see llamas run? It's hilarious. Be in Hammond, Wisconsin for the Running of the Llamas on September 14. That same week, the two-day Maple Fall Fest is held in Mansfield.
Five not-to-miss late summer music festivals
September 3, 2013
The summer isn't over yet and neither is the fun to be had at music festivals taking place throughout the country. Here are five picks to help you slide into autumn with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
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