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Garden of the Gods
Explore the dramatic rock formations, cliffs and trails of the most visited site in the Shawnee National Forest. Millions of years in the making, the Garden of the Gods provides spectacular views unlike anywhere in the Midwest. See Camel Rock, Anvil Rock, Devil's Smoke Stack and other magnificent rock formations in this hiker’s and photographer’s wonderland.
Starved Rock State Park
Seasonal waterfalls, awe-inspiring bluffs and rugged canyons dominate the storied landscape at Starved Rock. Rich with history and beauty, Starved Rock’s hiking trails meander through towering trees and scenic overlooks along the Illinois River. Outdoor activities include hiking, canoeing, paddle boat cruises, cross-country skiing, trolley rides, fishing and picnicking. Visitors can stay at the historic Starved Rock Lodge or in one of its cozy cabins.
In the heart of the city you’ll find a state-of-the-art park designed for the new millennium. Discover the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture, the multimedia Crown Fountain and the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, all with Chicago’s stunning architecture as a backdrop. The park is also host to many free cultural programs, concerts and family activities. Plus, there's alfresco dining in the summer and an ice skating rink in the winter.
Tunnel Hill State Trail
Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one, but one not to pass up, as long as you’re up for the challenge. The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.
Giant City State Park
Spectacular woodlands and sheer sandstone walls create a challenge for rock climbing and rappelling, as well as hiking. Outdoor lovers will also find horseback riding, a lookout tower, cabins and a swimming pool. Dine at historic Giant City Lodge, known for its homemade fried chicken dinner. Two different locations in Giant City State Park near Carbondale give you climbing options. A trail behind the picnic shelter takes you to a set of steep bluffs known as Shelter #1 near the Makanda entrance; another climbing area of the park includes the steep sandstone cliffs in Devil's Standtable. Plan to bring all of your own equipment since no permanent anchors are allowed. Ropes are permitted in both areas. After rainstorms, the wet sandstone gets really slippery. Use caution when grabbing for ledges as copperhead snakes warm themselves on the rocks during sunny days.
Matthiessen State Park
Canyons, streams, prairie and forest combine to delight visitors at Matthiessen State Park. Located in central LaSalle County, approximately four miles south of Utica and three miles east of Oglesby, Matthiessen is a paradise for those interested in geology as well as recreation. Visitors can expect to see beautiful rock formations in addition to unusual and abundant vegetation and wildlife. All of this, along with park and picnic facilities make Matthiessen State Park a popular choice for a special outing.
Buffalo Rock State Park
On the bluffs of the Illinois River, this small but charming park is home to an enormous outdoor sculpture. Mounds representing five earthen sculptures molded from Illinois clay, known as Effigy Tumuli, invite visitors to walk around and explore. All five subjects, including a snake, turtle, catfish, frog and insect are native to the Illinois River area. This State Park offers the ideal terrain for the beginner hiker.
The Morton Arboretum
Magnificent, 1,700-acre museum of trees and plants from around the world. Hiking trails, paved roads, restaurant, gift shop, open-air tram and handicapped accessible facilities.
Galena Cellars Vineyard
Experience Illinois wine at Galena Cellars and celebrate a 30 year tradition of family winemaking. Located just a short drive from downtown Galena, Galena Cellars Vineyard--A Lawlor Family Winery--provides an escape to the country and a breathtaking view. Enjoy wine tasting, from your choice of 40 different varietals, while relaxing on the comfortable wrap-around deck of the charming farmhouse turned Tasting Room, and learn how the twenty-two varieties of grapes grown in the rich soil and unique terroir found there go from vine to award-winning wine. Meet winemaker Christine Lawlor and chat with the knowledgeable and friendly tour guides as you tour the state-of-the-art facility and partake in a sensory program designed to help you fully experience wine tasting with all of your senses. In love with the vineyard? Stay a little longer at the Vineyard Suite or Country Farmhouse. Or imagine celebrating your special day in this scenic setting. Special arrangements are gladly catered to for engagements, showers, weddings, family reunions, meetings and group tours. The vineyard is open daily May through October and weekends or Saturdays only November through March. Special events at the vineyard include Wine Lovers’ Weekend in March, Fall Harvest and Art Festival in September, and Nouveau Wine Weekend in November. Honored with more than 1,000 awards from competitions throughout the world, the Lawlor Family looks forward to raising a glass with you and sharing their passion for Illinois wine.
Rustle Hill Winery
On the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail, this winery features an amphitheater bandstand for live music, great wines and beers, restaurant and cabins for rent.
Blue Sky Vineyard
Along the majestic Shawnee Hills Wine Trail you’ll find Blue Sky Vineyard—a stunning Tuscan-inspired winery and vineyard. Stroll through the vineyards, enjoy wine tastings, and relax on the outdoor terrace with the rolling countryside as your tapestry.
Mississippi Palisades State Park
The Mississippi Palisades State Park, located near the confluence of the Mississippi and Apple rivers in northwestern Illinois is known for its steep cliffs and interesting rock formations, as well as its beautiful trails that lead you to some of those awe-inspiring giant boulders. One such trail is the Sentinel, clocking at over 1.3 miles it’s the longest trail in the park and leads you smack dab into Sentinel Rock, where you can take a turn at trying to conquer this monolith.
Galena On The Fly, Inc.
Hot air balloon rides sunrise and sunset daily. Reservations required. Gift certificates available. Groups welcome. Call for pricing and information.
Kite Hill Vineyards Bed and Breakfast
Kite Hill's B&B is located on a 30-acre estate with a five-acre vineyard, all surrounding Kite Hill Lake. Start your day with a full three-course breakfast followed by a stroll through the vineyards or around the lake. After a full day of Southern Illinois activities, enjoy a complimentary wine tasting at the winery.
Tuscan Hills Winery
Tuscan Hills Winery, recently opened in 2011, is on Historic Hills Drive, directly behind the Harley Barn. This winery is located on eight picturesque acres which helps bring an Old World Tuscan feel to the heart of Effingham. The owners are focused on creating elegant, approachable, and perfectly balanced wines of the highest quality. Wine tastings, along with space available for reservations makes this a must stop for group tours. Tuscan Hills Winery wants you to "Come as our guest, but leave as our friends." We welcome you to plan your next event at Tuscan Hills Winery - whether it's a beautiful wedding in our vineyard or book the space for your next meeting.
Mackinaw Valley Vineyard
Experience a bit of Napa Valley in Central Illinois. Visit the winery, tasting room and gift shop. Enjoy the panoramic view available for weddings, receptions and meetings.
Hidden Lake Winery
Walk the trails around the five-acre lake, or sit and enjoy the waterfall and views of the Silent Forest as you sip a glass of wine.
Walnut Street Winery
The Walnut Street Winery plus Saunas is unlike many other wineries. We make fine wines in small batches using the best raw materials available from some of the best vineyards all over the world. Our wine garden features a bocce ball court that is 60 feet long and 13 feet wide. You can enjoy your wine out in the open air, along with a delicious Isabell's Pizza or some of the great Wisconsin cheeses that we have available. The wine garden is a unique setting for hosting wedding receptions, class reunions, office parties, Christmas parties and other group events.
Famous Fossil Vineyard & Winery
The name Famous Fossil was inspired by the many fossils emerging from the earth as grapevines were planted. Sculpted and reshaped over thousands of years, the rolling hills are now home to over 12 varieties of red and white wine grapes. You’ll taste Marquette, Frontenac and St. Croix in our red wines and LaCrescent, Traminette or our blend of Prairie Star, LaCrosse and Brianna in our whites. Looking for a sweet wine? You’ll fall in love with our Blackberry, Red Raspberry and our “pie-in-a-glass” Summer Rhubarb wine. Enjoy a glass of wine in our tasting room and snack on our delicious Sweet & Savory Plate filled with local cheeses, sausage, crackers and more. We’re open year round with events and festivals every month including painting classes with local artists, wagon tours through the vineyard, and our Fossil Fest in August and Garlic Fest in October. Our beautiful Oak Barrel Room overlooking our vineyard is available for parties, showers and meetings. So come see our vineyard, watch wine being made and taste the best of the Midwest at Famous Fossil Winery. Open daily from 11-6. Visit www.famousfossilwinery.com to learn more.
Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden
Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a 155-acre living museum filled with spectacular gardens and rare trees. There’s beauty in every season from fragrant magnolia trees in spring and a butterfly garden in summer to the brilliant colors of fall and snow-capped evergreens in winter, when trails are cleared for walkers, cross-country skiers and snowshoeing. A 1.8 mile, handicapped-accessible paved path winds through the arboretum plus many secondary, chipped trails. Kids will have fun navigating the maze in the Children’s Garden. Klehm is dog-friendly and any leashed dog is welcome. Filled with four season beauty, Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden is waiting for you to explore.
Galena Cellars Winery & Tasting Room
You’re in good company. Experience the charm of Galena in suburban Geneva. The newest addition to the Galena Cellars Family, the Geneva Wine Tasting Room & Gift Shop hosts a beautiful oak bar in a light, airy setting. In the warmer months, enjoy live music with wine and cheese on the outdoor patio. Sit. Swirl. Sip & Savor. Relax on our beautiful Wine Patio after shopping Geneva’s historic district.
Walkers Bluff Winery
Local winery with a General Store, 5 star cuisine at Legends Restaurant, wine cave, open air pavilion, gazebo and much more. Enjoy a glass of wine while listening to live entertainment. Boasts a large childrens play area, large handcarved sculptures, and even a full service gas station at the general store. You must visit to see the magnitude of this destination.