3 Days | 272 Miles | in 1-3 Days
Illinois makers in south Chicagoland are crafting some pretty wonderful things. There are handmade guitars, glass art made with ancient techniques, and sparkling wine from Illinois grapes. So grab a drink and embrace your artisanal side as you discover all things south Chicagoland-made. And don't forget to drop by some of the can't-miss local attractions.
Embark on your day at Brewpoint Coffee (IM) in Elmhurst. Grab a delicious cup of one of their signature brews, then head over to Rare Bird Preserves (IM) in Oak Park for a real breakfast treat. They source local, sustainably grown fruit to create the tastiest jams and preserves. Try some on a warm scone or muffin in store, and buy a jar or two to take with you.
Now it’s on to Forest Park. If the name Accents by Fred (IM) intrigues you, that’s nothing compared to the wonder you’ll experience browsing the handmade jewelry, crafts and ceramics on display. Fred and his wife Ann have been making their own glass beads for the past 20 years, ensuring every item is unique.
From one craftsman to another, walk down the block to Danche Guitars (IM). Even non-musicians will be captivated watching Danche Ivanovic build and restore guitars.
All Illinois makers share a commitment to quality, and Carnivore (IM) is no exception. Enjoy a mouthwatering lunch of hamburgers, sausages, steak or seafood, most of which is freshly sourced directly from local farmers.
Kick off your afternoon admiring one-of-a-kind creations in nearby Riverside at Higgins Glass Studio (IM). Louise and Jonathan Wimmer use the ancient art of glass fusing to create artworks of all shapes and sizes. From rings and pendants to room dividers and large-scale window treatments, you’ll have no trouble finding something that’ll add brightness and color to your home.
Just minutes away in Brookfield you’ll find Brookfield Zoo, an expansive park that’s home to nearly 500 species. In addition to more than 2,400 animals who call the zoo home, the park hosts a range of events and temporary exhibits, so there’s always something new to see.
When hunger strikes, try dining at Thornton Distillery (IM). What was one of the oldest standing breweries in Illinois now creates its own range of spirits to fill their extensive cocktail menu. The distillery restaurant — The Well — is known for its pizza and flatbreads, including gluten-free and vegan options, plus other snacks like Bavarian pretzels.
Instead of a brewery that’s now a distillery, how about a train station that’s been repurposed as a brewery? Stop by Flossmoor Station (IM) for a soup, salad and a sandwich, or one of their gourmet burgers. Stay and unwind over some award-winning craft beers before calling it a night.
Keeping with the theme of things that used to be other things, check into La Banque — this luxurious boutique hotel in downtown Homewood served as the local bank from 1925 to 2013, and there’s no mistaking the unique history that emanates from its walls.
Prepare for an adventure-packed day with a quick breakfast at the hotel. Then, swing into Homewood Bat Co. (IM) for a behind-the-scenes look at the business supporting some of the biggest names in professional baseball. They’ve spent years perfecting their process for building state-of-the-art bats, and even have a batting cage out back so you can try before you buy.
The Chicago area is home to a number of talented glass artists, and Sue Regis Glass Art (IM) is among the most impressive. Sue’s passion is helping people preserve memories of loved ones through elegant glass pieces, and she even hosts classes to introduce folks to the craft. Stop by her downtown Joliet studio to see that passion up close.
You’ll want to fuel up before this next stretch. Just around the corner, you’ll feel like you’ve somehow taken a side trip into Latin America when you step into Chévere Latin Cafe. All their food is made fresh daily, so order a Cuban Sandwich Combo and thank us later.
When dining is done, continue your trek to Streator — in the heart of this quaint town, you’ll discover an artsy oasis. Tucked within K’s Secret Garden on Main Street, Fine Field Pottery (IM) gives you a chance to see pottery being sculpted, participate in classes, or purchase some of the functional and ornamental stoneware items on display.
It’s been a busy day; it’s time to get away from it all and explore the rugged wilderness of Starved Rock State Park. Whatever time of year you visit, expect a feeling of awe as you take in the natural beauty of these stunning canyons, bluffs and waterfalls. You may even catch a glimpse of some white tailed deer, or even a bald eagle.
For a different type of family-friendly adventure, you can instead check out Boggio’s Orchard and Produce (IM) in Granville. In addition to in-season fruit and vegetable picking, their bakery offers a host of homemade goodies, and the youngsters can blow off some steam with the corn maze and go-karts. Just make sure to check ahead on which activities are available for the season.
After traversing through the surrounding scenic landscape, you’ll appreciate this next local creator even more. Rich Midwestern soil allows Illinois Sparkling Co. (IM) to grow the resilient grapes that ultimately become some of the best sparkling wines around. Sample the offerings in their delightful tasting room as you gaze out at the idyllic vineyard.
Next up: Ottawa. When you arrive, make sure to pass through the Starved Rock Country Welcome Center & Illinois Made Gift Shoppe, which sells a variety of unique items created by Illinois Made makers.
If you firmly believe ‘fresh is best,’ you can’t pass up Tangled Roots Brewing Company (IM) and Lone Buffalo. Louie Rizzo and his team grow their own barley and hops for the brewery’s beers, while Executive Chef Brok Kellogg sources most of the ingredients for Lone Buffalo’s menu from the surrounding farms. It’s all served in a converted theater originally built in the 1800s.
Carry the rustic, woodland feeling into the evening by checking into the Cabins at Starved Rock Lodge. They may look like the log cabins of Abe Lincoln’s day, but we promise you’ll find heating, air conditioning and modern comforts, too. Prefer a full-service hotel? Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center also offers rustic charm, but with lovely amenities like a dining room, bar, veranda, and indoor pool.
Start your morning in Ottawa with a specialty breakfast skillet at Hi-Way Restaurant. From there, take a leisurely stroll to the beginning of the Murals of Ottawa walking trail. This compelling piece of visual storytelling features 10 murals that showcase major events and figures from Ottawa’s history. Feel free to explore on your own, or book a tour through the Ottawa Visitor’s Center.
While the murals give you a snapshot of history, the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington will make you feel like you’ve actually stepped back in time. Explore this expansive park with self-guided tours from your smartphone, and keep an eye out for the bison who call these classic Midwest prairies home.
Before you leave town, swing past the Gemini Giant, an illustrious 30-foot statue built in the 1960s as a tribute to the Gemini space program. For those craving a photo op, now’s your chance! If you do post a pic, make sure to use #EnjoyIllinois so we see how much fun you’re having.
The giant looms over the grounds of the Launching Pad Drive-In, a Route 66 mainstay (open for the spring/summer season) dishing out lunch staples and decadent milkshakes — including the imaginative Peach Pie a la Mode Milkshake, which features pie slices from the local Fleckenstein’s Bakery. Have lunch there, or make the quick drive to Bourbonnais to rest your weary legs at Brickstone Restaurant and Brewery (IM). Family owned since 2006, they’re constantly experimenting with new flavors in both their beer and seasonal restaurant menu. Can’t choose what to drink? Try a selection of brews with a tasting flight.