Who wouldn't want to take a cycling vacation in Provence, bag trout in Patagonia or explore mountain villages in South Caucasus? But it's spring break, a measly week or so to free ourselves from the bleak post winter ennui. If a beach vacay isn't doable this spring, read along for a day's drive out of the suburbs and into a getaway that tickles the seasonal senses.
Illinois is in your wheelhouse
Nearby springtime getaways in our state may not excite the wanderlust neurons but there are travel treasures.
A complete change of scenery is tucked into Illinois' White Pines State Park at White Pines Resort, about 65 miles west of Elgin. The lodge and cabins within the park in Mount Morris are open for the 2018 season with 385 acres of quiet (save for chirping birds), miles of hiking trails and even a playhouse offering musicals. Among the 25 log cabins, you can book a romantic number with a hot tub or others good for groups. Weekends, cabin prices are $146 (including tax) and $135 weeknights (two night minimum).
The on-site restaurant offers homestyle dishes amid rustic decor and the huge Sunday breakfast buffet is well known in these parts. Browse www.whitepinesinn.com.
Five miles from White Pines, Oregon's Conover Square is an old piano factory converted into a mall of antique and resale shops for your pickin' pleasure and a model railroad museum. Families may want to check out John Deere Historical Site (a few minutes south of Oregon in Grand Detour) for tours and Oregon's family-owned pubs and restaurants are fun to try for local flavor.
Then drive less than an hour west to charming Mount Carroll and its Downtown Historic District with brick streets; artist, antique and artisan shops; quaint eateries; bars with evening entertainment; and looks that haven't changed much the last half-century. Mount Carroll is home to one of the only year-round continually run haunted houses, Raven's Grin. Among the guesthouses and inns around town, you can't miss the Historic Square's Bridgewater Inn at the Glenview (www.ourbridgewaterinn.com), built in 1886. It hosts its share of bicycling enthusiasts since it's just 10 miles east of the Great River Bike Trail in Savanna and the owners are cyclists who can help you chart a course.
Savanna, hugging the Mighty Mississippi, has become a favorite stop of motorcyclists, bicyclists and pickers. Hole up in The Nest at Palisades, secluded luxury cabins high above the river (www.thenestatpalisades.com) or right in town at the Blue Bedroom Inn (www.bluebedroominn.com) above The Savanna Marketplace. Owned and operated by expat Chicagoans, it has four boutique style guest rooms and backs up to the Mississippi River. Right across the street, Frank Fritz Finds is crammed with collectibles from Frank Fritz, co-star of the History Channel's "American Pickers."
Savanna is the starting point for 60 miles of bike trails that travel to the Quad Cities along the Mississippi and the Inn has a small stable of mountain and recumbent bikes for your spring adventure. When you're hungry, indulge in hand-breaded chicken, catfish, shrimp, giants burgers and more at Poopy's (www.poopys.com) which calls itself "Illinois' Biggest Biker Destination." The food is substantial, the music is loud and the menu is naughty. Take the The Savanna-Sabula Bridge across the Mississippi River and you land on the island city of Sabula, Iowa. Locals rave about Bombfire Pizza on the very sleepy island. Get the straight shot on all of it at www.visitsavanna.com.
A little more than an hour's drive south from Savanna, you can sink deeply into spring in the Quad Cities (www.visitquadcities.com) and the QCCA Flower & Garden Show in Rock Island, from March 23-25, with thousands of flowers, plus plenty of gurgling ponds and gardening displays. Get tickets at www.qccaexpocenter.com. Walk right next door for more color at the Quad City Botanical Center (www.qcgardens.com) or head across the river to Davenport, Iowa, for the Vander Veer Conservatory's Spring Flower Show and the Easter Lilies, March 25-April 10. Also in downtown Davenport, the Freight House Farmers Market operates year-round on Saturdays displaying produce, specialty meats and cheeses, wine, eggs, baked foods, specialty goods, organic products, flowers and plants (www.freighthousefarmersmarket.com). Other worthy stops in town include the impressive Figge Art Museum and the Putnam Museum and Science Center. Stop by the River Music Experience, which offers live music, exhibits and multimedia content about American roots music and its journey up the Mississippi River. Each of the four towns provides plenty of outdoor recreation, food and drink, and intellectual escapes for families, couples and friends.
Consider booking a stay at The Current, a player in Davenport's riverfront renaissance and rated 4 Diamonds by AAA. On the site of the city's first hotel (built by renowned architect Daniel Burnham), The Current has an outdoor rooftop restaurant and lounge, a perfect place to see the sun rise or set over the Mississippi.
Contact the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 747-7800 or visit www.visitquadcities.com for other lodging and activity ideas.
Some folks find comfort marching up and down Lake Geneva's main drag, licking cones and window shopping. For the rest of us, there are some interesting vacation diversions in the nearby Wisconsin resort destination.
Ranked the No. 1 attraction in Lake Geneva by TripAdvisor, the Tristan Crist Magic Theatre presents legitimately impressive illusions in a tiny permanent magic venue.
Wholesome enough for kids and good-natured fun for adults, the show by Crist includes a lady levitating in the air and a motorcycle materializing in two seconds. Book tickets in advance to guarantee your seats in the 50-person theater (www.lakegenevamagic.com).
If it's not too muddy, take a rustic hike in the Duck Lake Nature Area trail that follows the southern side of Lake Como between Lake Geneva and Como, Wisconsin. The former rail bed is restricted to hikers. The 21-mile Geneva Lake Shore Path, with views of estates built by the 1 percent after the Great Chicago Fire, is a well known weekend pastime. If you'd rather not get your new Nikes dirty, rent a scooter at Scoot Jockeys to putt-putt around town (www.scootjockeys.com).
Lake Geneva has golf for every level of play with 11 courses ranging from championship to casual recreation, driving ranges, an indoor golf simulator and pros for lessons. Lake Lawn Resort and Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark at Grand Geneva also offer miniature golf.
Take the opportunity to see the largest lens-type telescope in the world, and the birthplace of modern astrophysics, at Yerkes Observatory or see the area from up above via Lake Geneva Canopy Tours (www.lakegenevacanopytours.com). There's a spring break special: two people zip-line or climb the 16-obstacle high ropes challenge for the price of one, weekdays between March 19-April 13. Use coupon code SPRING. The company also offers a new Digital Scavenger Hunt on beautiful wooded hiking trails while capturing photos and video on your phone as you find "hot spots," each with a unique set of challenges.
Where to snooze? Lake Lawn Resort beckons with a Spring Break Escape Package that includes two night accommodations, $50 resort credit per night, two 140th Anniversary Celebration Beach Towels per room, and two spring break recreation activities per room per night. Available for arrivals between March 23 and April 7. Check into Calladora Spa, play golf on the championship Majestic Oaks golf course, or spend family time engaging in some of the spring break activities.
Book a room online at The Ridge Hotel (www.ridgelakegeneva.com) and get a $25 dining credit and midweek rates starting at just $99 (plus tax and resort fee). The redesigned property has an inviting modern look, indoor pool with sauna and steam rooms, discounted Lake Geneva activities for the kids, Wine Down Wednesdays for adults, weekly dining specials and a fabulous on-site restaurant, Crafted Americana. The hotel's team makes it easy by setting up zip-lining, high ropes course, Clue Room activity, shows and movie tickets at a discount for the lovely couple or entire family. Call (800) 225-5558.
The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa presents family-friendly spring break opportunities from mid-March through mid-April. The resort has a spectacular indoor pool with floor-to-ceiling windows and spring break programming set to an Explore the World theme. Activities include glass painting, Jamaican jewelry making, ice cream social, cupcake decorating, making Brazilian sea salt and sugar scrub and a scavenger hunt. Outdoor activities include s'mores at the harbor-side bonfire, hiking, biking and disc golf. Easter weekend brings an elaborate brunch, indoor petting zoo, decorating seasonal sweets, candy egg hunts, Easter Peep S'mores and other family-friendly activities. Book your room at www.theabbeyresort.com.
For additional lodging and recreation ideas, call (800) 345-1020 or explore www.VisitLakeGeneva.com.