Category: Illinois (Page 2 of 3)

Marko’s Fish House in Madison, Illinois

ChiBBQKing told me that Marko’s Fish House in Madison, Illinois served one of the best fish sandwiches.

I had to see for myself.

Madison, Illinois is a smaller city of approximately 5,400 residents located just across the river near Granite City. Until this day, I had visited neither.

The first two things you should know before heading to Marko’s is that its open Tuesday-Friday and that you need to bring cash.

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Exploring The Great River Road Part III: Old Bakery Beer Company

Read Part I (Maevas Coffee in Alton) & Part II (Ruebel Hotel & Beasley Fish) of my Exploring The Great River Road series. 

It’s easy to understand why people, since the beginning of time, have been seduced by the Mississippi river.

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The Great River Road got under my skin. I drove it for the first time a week ago and yearned to return. I’m not sure why I feel so drawn to the river. Maybe it’s that I always grew up near it in Minnesota. Or maybe it’s the river’s sparkle or vastness . This weekend I insisted on returning.  “You have to see the river,” I insisted to Jake. There’s something magical about how driving on the Great River Road makes you feel like you’re suddenly transported far, far away.

I loved visiting Old Bakery Beer in Alton, Illinois. The brewery recently opened in 2015 with sustainability a priority. I know Jake would love it, from the beer to decor.

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Exploring The Great River Road Part II: A Haunted Hotel & Buffalo Fish in Grafton, Illinois

From Maevas Coffee Shop in Alton, Illinois, I headed towards Grafton on the Great River Road.

Read Exploring The Great River Road Part I: Maevas Coffee here.

I stopped along the Main Street that run along the river and popped my head inside a couple of shops before heading to Beasley Fish for lunch. The road was lined with shops, restaurants, and inns. Many buildings displayed “For Sale” signs in their windows. This Saturday afternoon was pretty darn near perfect at sunny and 75 degrees. Everyone seemed to know it, too.

Anticipating a meal of fried fish, I hesitantly passed on the fudge shop. One antique shop made me pause when I read a hand-painted sign near the entrance. “Just lookin’ doesn’t keep us cookin'”. The truth was that I was just looking. “Does this mean I shouldn’t go inside?” I wondered. “What if I don’t find anything I want. Am I supposed to just buy something? Why would you buy something you don’t want?”

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Exploring The Great River Road Part I: Maevas Coffee, Alton, Illinois

Driving to new places alone still fills me with anxiety. The payoff, though, is those moments where I find myself standing in the midst of something beautiful or staring at a landscape that fills me with wonder. Something inside of me feels like it grows a little bit bigger or something. I can’t quantify this feeling or put a monetary value on it, but it’s so worth chasing.

This weekend, I cruised down the Great River Road to Alton, Illinois and then to Grafton. Driving the Great River Road felt wild. Towering limestone bluffs lined one side of the road, while the wide river flowed along the other. The road was smooth and wide and the river curved and glittered. I felt like I was transported somewhere far, far away.

Motorcycles and fancy little sports cars passed me on the left. Soon enough I’d catch up with them around the next bend when I found them pulling off from the side of the road to take a photo or pause for a view of the river. We all had the same idea.

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Five More Reasons To Visit Springfield, Illinois

The third Springfield post’s a charm.

A couple of weeks ago, Sara of Travel with Sara invited me to join her on a road trip to Springfield, Illinois, the land of Lincoln. The Springfield Convention and Visitor’s Bureau had graciously invited her to visit and arranged all of our lodging, dining and activities. When she said she had room for one more, I jumped at the opportunity to join her.

Learn about why the Lincoln Ghost Walk was my most memorable experience and what Springfield foods we ate.

This third and final Springfield post will focus on the stuff between. We experienced as much of Springfield as possible within our 36 hours. Here are five more reasons to visit Springfield:

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
I confess I haven’t visited many museums, post-college, except for the occasional art museum. When I grew up, my folks took my brother and I to museums during every vacation and I know we’re all the better for it.

I hope you’ll believe me when I say that the Lincoln Museum is worth a visit.

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A museum employee will greet you upon entering and offer a minute-long guide to exploring the museum. Our guide highly recommended that, if nothing else, we attend the museum’s two videos presentations Ghosts of the Library and Lincoln’s Eyes. I was not sure what to expect, but found them both engaging.

This replica of the Lincoln family is located in the lobby entrance.

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A figure of John Wilks Booth lurks around the corner and I can only imagine what would happen if like Night at a Museum occurred here after dark. Fortunately, I think the Lincoln family mannequins far outnumber those of Booth.

Ghosts of the Library utilized holograms that explained the museum and library’s mission to preserve Lincoln-era memorabilia and educate the public about this period of history. The museum continually receives historical items people randomly find or donate. Lincoln’s Eyes explains how the presidency affected Lincoln and his family on a personal level. People who are easily startled should know the seats shake during parts of the presentation.

The museum features many life-sized displays depicting different parts of Lincoln’s life, but my favorite corner was the Treasures Gallery displaying items like the Lincoln family’s letters and clothing. You can find more original pieces in the Lincoln home.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site
In 1887, Lincoln’s son Robert donated the family home to the National Park service as long as they maintained it and allowed the public to visit free of charge. The home is located on a four block stretch that the park service has renovated as closely to Lincoln’s time as possible. It’s the only national parkland in the state.

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Park rangers lead small groups on tours through the home. Reserve a free ticket at the main park building. If the site is busy, you may have to wait for a tour which leaves an opportunity to explore the rest of the historic site. Several of the restored homes are open for viewing.

One employee facilitated an interactive demonstration on how women in Lincoln’s time washed clothes. She invited the children to participate and we, adults, were more than happy to oblige as they eagerly volunteered.

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When it was time for our tour, the park ranger advised us to hold our bags closely so they didn’t scrape the home. We viewed some of the Lincolns’ original belongings including a horsehair furniture set, Mary’s cake stand, and stove. We also got to use their original stair railing, which the ranger called “shaking hands with Lincoln.”

Mary's Room

Mary and Abraham slept in separate, connected bedrooms. This was Mary’s.

The house is also decorated with items from the Lincoln era or replicas based on photos, such as Mary’s wallpaper. I especially loved wandering the neighborhood at night when it felt like I was stepping back in time, but don’t miss the opportunity to visit the site during the day when it’s staffed by knowledgable rangers.

Washington Park Botanical Gardens
We caught a moment of serenity as we wandered through Washington Park and its botanical gardens.

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Sara walks up the hill towards the Thomas Reese Memorial Carillon.

The rose garden reminded me of the Lyndale Park Rose Garden by Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, MN. We arrived at the botanical gardens just in time to take a peek before closing.

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We were mesmerized by all of the flowers and the singing birds.

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There are 150 species of plants growing just within this conservatory. Admission is free.

Lincoln Tomb
The Lincoln Tomb is located in the Oak Ridge Cemetary and is open to visitors free of charge.

Vertical Monument

Abraham, Mary and their three sons Edward, Willie, and Tad rest in this tomb. One of my readers shared that it’s tradition to rub Lincoln’s nose for “luck” while visiting the tomb. Of course, we had to participate. The statue is elevated and I saw adults hoisting up their family members just for this opportunity.

LIncoln Nose

Korean War, Vietnam War, and Word War II memorials are also located at the cemetery.

Phil Kadner explains why people should visit Lincoln’s tomb in his Post Tribune article, though, I would broaden his plea to the entire city when he says:

“It is difficult, even now, despite the books about his life and the movie, to comprehend just how beloved and reviled Lincoln was at the time of his death. Many schoolchildren will likely be forced to see “Lincoln,” through school outings or by well-intentioned parents. Do them a favor and take a trip down to Springfield. Take them to the tomb. 

At Oak Ridge Cemetery, you can feel the meaning behind the words.”

Route 66 Drive In
We ended our road trip on a lighthearted note, by going to the Route 66 Drive In. The Drive In is located next to Knight’s Action Park, so we mini-golfed while we waited for dusk.

Goft Collage

This drive in features two movie screens on opposite sides of the sprawling parking lot that show a pair of movies, back-to-back. The employee listed our film choices of cars, robots and apes so we chose apes, of course! We brought plenty of treats including Del’s popcorn the Chamber had left in our hotel room and Beth’s addictive Fish Snack Mix.

People trickled in as it got darker and darker.

Sara fully expected to dislike Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but ended up getting a kick out of the film as the plot thickened. I never expected that apes would make me feel so emotional. “Oh no,” I kept thinking, these battling monkeys are going to make me cry and that’s how I’m going to leave Springfield.” Plus, Sara might laugh.

Drive In Movie

In the end, all was well. The apes did not make me cry and so Sara did not have to laugh (at me, at least).

Springfield surprised me. I expected to have fun exploring a new place, but I didn’t expect the city to move me so profoundly. If you pursue the loves of food and history, you’ll want to experience this city for yourself.

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