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The Heart of Handcrafting

Offbeat Illinois

3 Days 354 Miles


Bloomington, Champaign, Charleston, Effingham, Greenville, Monticello, Springfield, Urbana, Vandalia

The Heart of Handcrafting in Illinois.

Pioneering the art of modern making

A reverence for history and tradition inspires these makers' incredible creations. Maple treats with a 200-year legacy, the lost art of blacksmithing making a comeback, and much more handcrafted goodness. So grab a treat and witness future history being made in the Land of Lincoln region of Illinois. And don't forget to drop by some of the can't-miss local attractions.

Day 1:

Springfield Area

  • Restaurant

No trip to Springfield would be complete without a visit to Mel-O-Cream Donuts (IM), so why not start your adventure there? They’ve been handcrafting tasty breakfast treats for nearly a century, and they’re always rolling out intriguing new flavors.

Illinois is the Land of Lincoln, and the Lincoln Memorial Garden Nature Center is dedicated to preserving the Midwestern landscapes our 16th President knew and loved. Spend some time walking the trails amid the woods and prairie, then grab a souvenir at the Split Rail Gift Shop before departing.

Next, head into the heart of Springfield and check out Sangamon Reclaimed (IM), a local hidden gem. This team of veterans and firefighters breathes new life into reclaimed wood from barns dating back more than 100 years, crafting these materials into custom furniture and signature wooden Flags for Heroes

Time for lunch. Cozy Dog Drive In (IM) pioneered a great Midwestern treasure: the corn dog. For peak Illinois Americana, grab a Cozy Dog or a bowl of chili, then take in the historic Route 66 decor and memorabilia that lends this iconic establishment its vintage charm. 

For an interactive look at history, head to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Holographic and special effects theaters allow you to immerse yourself in history, and reproduced clothing and toys from the 1800s make you feel like you’re part of our state’s storied past. The museum is also home to historic gems — like an original hand-written copy of the Gettysburg Address — that will leave you wide-eyed with wonder. 

Within Oak Ridge Cemetery you’ll find the Lincoln Tomb, the final resting place of the president and his family and a fitting next stop. In front of the monument, visitors routinely rub Lincoln’s bronze nose for good luck — a tradition worth embracing, especially if you’re the superstitious type. If you fancy a tour inside the tomb, make sure to register ahead of time. 

A short drive from the city in New Berlin you’ll find the award-winning Danenberger Family Vineyards (IM). More than a quality wine-tasting experience, this is the perfect place to stop to savor a bite to eat, enjoy live music, and appreciate the historic farmstead of this century-old, family-owned vineyard.

Now you’re relaxed and primed for dinner at Maldaner’s (IM), which has offered one of the finest dining experiences in Springfield since 1884. Whether within its comfy confines or out on the stylish patio, you’re sure to enjoy the Mediterranean-influenced meals prepared with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients.

You’ll be ready to rest tonight. Stay the night at the President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, which is near many of Springfield’s top attractions. Relax with a dip in the indoor pool, or hole up in your room to map out tomorrow’s explorations.

Day 2:

Bloomington-Normal, Champaign, Urbana and Monticello

  • A couple in the snow

Custom Cup Coffee (IM), the all-important first stop of the day, produces a seriously good cup of joe. All their flavorful, single-origin beans are sourced directly from co-ops or farms known for quality, social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Grab a tasty breakfast sandwich before moving on. 

Now you’re ready to get rolling on your voyage to Bloomington-Normal. From March through August, sweets lovers will want to punctuate the drive with a stop at Funks Grove Pure Maple Sirup (IM) in Shirley. The Funk family have been expertly crafting maple syrup since 1824, and they’ve since expanded their line to include maple treats and ice cream. 

Before heading into town, take a slight detour and visit Ropp Jersey Cheese Farm (IM) — we promise it’ll be worth it. The beautiful Jersey cows living on this family-operated farm produce some delicious cheese, and you can even take a tour to see how it’s made. Just make sure to check their website or call ahead for tour information. 

At Epiphany Farms Restaurant (IM) in Bloomington, every ingredient is “farm to fork.” Epiphany’s sustainable network supports a number of local food producers and helps foster a thriving culinary culture in the area. With cuisines ranging from classic American fare to Asian fusion, you’re in for a deliciously fresh Midwestern dining experience.

Now you’re officially fueled up for the drive to Champaign. Before reaching your destination, however, you’ll want to see a unique style of fiery performance art at Prairie Fire Glass (IM) in Monticello. Since 2002, Jim Downey has been blowing glass vases, bowls, and garden ornaments, and seeing him at work is an absolute delight. 

If exploring an outdoor oasis is more your speed, take an easygoing stroll through Allerton Park and Retreat Center in Monticello. Built in 1900, this former private residence features manicured gardens, self-guided walks, and also hosts weddings and live music events. Make sure you check their event calendar before visiting to see what’s happening. 

When you arrive in Champaign, we recommend immediately stopping for some of the best speciality sweets and gourmet popcorn in Illinois. For over 10 years, CBPB Popcorn Shop (IM) has wowed both locals and visitors with chocolate-covered pretzels, homemade caramel apples and more than fifteen inventive popcorn flavors. 

Now that you’re in town, take a walk through Downtown Champaign to experience its historic storefronts and boutique shopping opportunities. Browse some local businesses, grab a drink or a snack, and check out any local events that may be happening. If you have time, swing by Campustown to experience an eclectic range of shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and beautiful university buildings. 

Always worth a visit, the University of Illinois Arboretum is a living collection of plants from around the world. The Sen Cherry Tree Allée is an absolute must-see in spring, when the blossoms form a colored ceiling against the sky. Explore this green thumb’s paradise, and maybe even take away some ideas for your own horticulture endeavors. 

If you’ve been wondering where you’ll find your next meal, look no further. The underground location of Farren’s Pub & Eatery may seem secretive, but their burgers are famous in these parts. This lively establishment offers a variety of family-friendly dishes, with a welcoming vibe and an impressive selection of craft beers.

Round off your evening with an ice-cold brew at Riggs Beer Company (IM). Riggs is home to tasty, locally made beer, and it’s also a destination for live music and entertainment. You can try your hand at lawn games in the beer garden, and various food trucks seem to appear at the most opportune times to dish out snacks. 

You'll be ready to unwind after that action-packed day. You can stay in the heart of downtown at the Hyatt Place Champaign, where everything is close by. Or, just outside downtown, the Hilton Garden Inn of Champaign offers a comfortable stay with an indoor pool and some pet-friendly rooms.

Day 3:

Charleston, Effingham, Vandalia and Greenville

  • Interior of a restaurant with people dining

Have a coffee and a bite to eat before setting out from Champaign to Charleston.

You may associate blacksmithing with an era gone by, but Lorelei Sims is keeping her modern forge burning in Charleston at Blacksmith Chic (IM). As you witness Lorelei create everything from large outdoor works to intricate, delicate-looking pieces, all you can do is marvel at the skill and precision with which she practices her craft.

By the time you reach Effingham, you’ll be all fired up for lunch. Curious about what Kristie and Niall will be serving up at The Firefly Grill (IM)? Simply walk around to the back of the building. Most of their produce is grown organically on-site, and whatever they don’t grow, they source from local farmers. From premium steak to pizza, soup and salad, you’re sure to be impressed with their farm-fresh cuisine. 

It’s on to Vandalia, where you’ll discover what other area artisans are making with locally-grown grains. Book a tour at Witness Distillery (IM) to see how they’re creating their unique brand of whiskey, vodka and rum — and sample the fare if the mood strikes. 

Another day, another family-owned cheese farm. Travel down the road to Greenville and experience Marcoot Jersey Creamery (IM), a seventh-generation dairy farm that produces European-style cheese wheels. Watch from the viewing windows as their team creates creamy havarti, delicious smoked gouda, and “tipsy” cheddar (which is made using local beer). 

There’s one more farm on your checklist, and they have a different range of fresh produce on offer. At Rolling Lawns Farm (IM), you can taste some of the freshest, most flavorful milk in Illinois. Better still, that scrumptious milk is the main ingredient in their handcrafted ice cream — a sweet ending to an Illinois adventure for the ages.

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