Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Friday, December 8

Gapers Block

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Yet Another Jen / May 24, 2005 10:26 AM

I've just returned from a weekend in Union Pier Michigan. It took only 1 1/2 hours to get there and we had a great weekend. Very calm and very close.

strawberry / May 24, 2005 10:42 AM

I'm partial to Memphis, TN. It's a rockin little city-- and home of the King. But it also has great nightlife, sights, shopping, and is very kid-friendly. My only disclaimer is that it does get hotter than Hades in August.

Tom / May 24, 2005 10:45 AM

Madison Wisconsin has lots of the urban amenities that we Chicagoans love, but on a smaller scale. The lakes and bike trails make for good recreation, and there are ample bars and restaurants. The farmer's market is world-class.

Now if only we could get there by high-speed rail...

Nicole / May 24, 2005 10:48 AM

Oooh, I was going to say Madison too! Hello, Union Terrace!

Right on about the rail though . . .

e_five / May 24, 2005 10:55 AM

I like Memphis, too, but it is over 500 miles from Chicago-- a little outside of the bounds of driving range, I'd say. If you expand that far, you might as well include Toronto (505 mi).

A nice summer driving trip is going up to Manitowoc, WI and taking the SS Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan to Ludington, MI, through the small towns on the other side of the lake, then back to Chicago.

salty / May 24, 2005 11:10 AM

I don't drive, but a cool getaway is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on the South Shore Line commuter train.

You can catch it downtown at the Randolph Street Metra Station, and take it for about 80 min. to the Beverly Shores station, home of the Beverly Shores Depot Museum and Art Gallery.

Andrew / May 24, 2005 11:23 AM

Not so much of a weekend getaway as a day trip, but Richmond is fun if you're into antiquing. The whole downtown is antique shops.

Heather S. / May 24, 2005 11:40 AM

You can pretty much make this a day trip but the Amish area of northern Indiana is pretty cool. Shipshewana, Indiana, has a downtown filled with shops and restaurants like the Blue Gate restaurant. Since I am a popcorn addict I always make a stop at Yoder's Popcorn for some Tiny Tender popcorn.

Here's some links:

Thurston / May 24, 2005 11:43 AM

I once took a weekend trip to Cleveland and I enjoyed it. We caught the tribe at Jake field and sampled the terrific mustard served there, attended a concert one night and participated in some cheesy and amusing night life the next night, and visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Not too shabby. There's probably other stuff we could have done too that I just don't know about.

leah / May 24, 2005 11:48 AM

Galena is a sweet little town right on the Mississippi. Just take I-90 to Hwy. 20 and you're there in 2.5 hours. The drive on 20 west of Rockford is gorgeous. You didn't know IL had hills, did you?!

Galena has great biking (you can rent!), cute shops (if that's your thing), more bed & breakfasts than you can shake a stick at, and even a haunted hotel!

There are plenty of fun things surrounding Galena if you're burned out on the heaps of tourists that flock there on the weekends. You can drive 15 miles to Dubuque, IA and drop granny off at the gambling boat and swing over to Dickeyville, WI (no crap) and check out the weird but awesome grotto. And if you're a supernerd like me, the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa is just a 20-minute drive from Galena.

adragnet / May 24, 2005 12:07 PM

Any of the beach towns in western Michigan are really nice like South Haven or Saugatuck. If you feel like a drive try the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Traverse City and ride the dune-buggies. It's only five hours.

Steve / May 24, 2005 12:11 PM

Seconds to Galena and Saugatuck/South Haven -- just network a little to find the B&B that's right for you; we got burned at one in South Haven that was run by a very unpleasant and frugal innkeeper. I need more Madison in my life; heck, after hearing Garrison Keillor go on about it on his radio showgram this week, I almost want to move there!

brian / May 24, 2005 12:22 PM

Another decent weekend getaway is to book yourself a nice room at a boutique hotel in the city. We've had great mini-vacations at the Monaco and W without it costing much more than $100 (after taxes).

staci / May 24, 2005 12:44 PM

Being a former resident of NW Indiana, I have to second the Indiana Dunes suggestion. The surrounding area also features a Wizard of Oz museum, which can be fun. But if you want a cheap day trip to an amusement and water park, check out Indiana Beach in Monticello, IN. The carp are nasty and the rides are a little scary, but it's fun to check out the locals while floating on the lazy river.

Mike A. / May 24, 2005 12:52 PM

I took a trip up to Door County last October and it was awesome. The trees were all different colors and with the tourist season winding down it was very quiet and relaxing.

I also enjoy camping/hiking trips at Starved Rock state park. It can get crowded in the summer, but there are some cool trails there.

d4ve / May 24, 2005 1:06 PM

brewery tour/house on the rock/taliesin trip through the various small towns in wis. monroe/new glarus/mineral point/dodgeville/spring green and to top it off- madison.
them little roads are fun to drive, straight outta them car commercials yo.

kerry / May 24, 2005 1:10 PM

My parents' cabin on Plum Lake in Sayner, WI!

Erica / May 24, 2005 1:22 PM

Warren Dunes in Michigan is pretty cool for camping.
The area (McHenry?) around the Chain-o-Lakes (near the Wisconsin border) is pretty cool (again, if you boat). It's even fun for a day trip by car.
I like visiting local downtown areas, too, like Joliet, Aurora and Elgin -- I suppose because they have some history to them.

bran / May 24, 2005 1:44 PM

I enthusiastically second House on the Rock. ( It is a carnival cross-bred with a museum and, frankly, is something you should not miss in your lifetime. The surreality of it all is mindblowing (and mindnumbing). Ferchrissakes: they've got a whale (aka, sea monster) that's bigger than the Statue of Liberty!

Jonsey / May 24, 2005 2:06 PM

>Now if only we could get there by high-speed rail...

High speed rail?

The rocket scientists who run the trains can't even make money moving millions of people a year from the Loop to the north side without losing their shirt.

Let's crawl before we walk.

Benjy / May 24, 2005 2:22 PM

I did the Taliesen & House on the Rock weekend two summers ago and it was definitely worth it. But don't forget to hit the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum!

Anybody know of good white water rafting areas that are close enough for an overnight trip?

steven / May 24, 2005 2:37 PM

It's already been mentioned, but South Haven is great. Easy going and laid back. Plus you get to watch the sunset over the lake...not something you'll find in Chicago.

Ron / May 24, 2005 2:45 PM

My favorite is

(link contains some nudity ...*nsfw*)

The Ponderosa Sun Club in Roselawn Indiana.

(it's rumored to be the site of the next Gapers Block party

the saints / May 24, 2005 3:49 PM

We believe our country's greatest Catholic cities have been severely neglected on this list:

St. Paul, MN
St. Louis, MO

St. Paul is clean and quaint with an incredible arts community and at least one awesome Italian deli (Cosetta's).

St. Louis has the Arch, the brewery, the river, and some great neighborhoods (Soulard, in particular).

And both are within a five hour drive from Chicago.

Leelah / May 24, 2005 4:52 PM

Hooray for the Dunes!

The Lincoln Log Cabin somewhere down in southern IL is an interesting getaway, especially if you like to pretend it's 1845. And who doesn't?!

saraheva / May 24, 2005 5:08 PM

I grew up within 2 minutes of Starved Rock State Park and only now, after living in the city for quite a while, do I realize how singularly beautiful it is there. It's almost exactly 100 miles away, so it's about 1.5/2 hours away. (map 61373)

If you go there, eat here:

* Lou's LaGrotto (get the nuggets)
* the Igloo (after-football game destination since the '60s)
* Uptown Grill (for a wine list and salads with more than iceberg lettuce)
* Duffy's (an irish pub)

Starved Rock tourism also helps my tiny hometown of Utica, which was hit by that strong tornado a year ago. The town still reflects the damage. Geez.

FlowFeel / May 24, 2005 7:29 PM

Just south of Ind. Amish country is a gem of a Summer party spot. The lake region including Wawasee, Syracuse, Tippiecanoe and Webster plus many more turns into a happenin' lil' spot in the summer. Some hot shots hang here like Tom Crusie and Steadman (Oprah's guy) - they have houses down there. (Katie Holmes - jet ski - bikini - please!!!) It is hopping check out some rentals - flowfeel hangs around these parts in the summer!

paul / May 24, 2005 8:23 PM

Benjy, no rafts, but if one cool thing you can do in Spring Green is take a canoe trip down the Wisconsin. We bungy our canoes together to form our own rafts. Alas, no real white water either (go further north for that), but floating lazly in a big drinking flotilla is nice too.

And I second, House on the Rock is by far the best roadside attraction in America, if not the world.

holden / May 25, 2005 8:25 AM

Yeah for Warren Dunes State Park. Went last year for the first time and it was a great time. They had a 100 mile bike ride on an Apple weekend or something that sounded fun too.
Galena is great also. It has a pottery festival weekend called '20 Dirty Hands'. Great fun if you are into ceramics.

jennifer / May 25, 2005 8:39 AM

Here's another vote for House on the Rock. I love it--so weird and creepy, yet interesting.

Blake / May 25, 2005 9:24 AM

For God's sake, people, please leave the Amish alone. They don't come to your community to gawk at your strange ways, do they?

leah / May 25, 2005 9:57 AM

Debbie Downer here, reporting for duty. Paul, be careful on the Wisconsin, man. People go for a nice lazy float down the river AND NEVER RETURN every summer. I've gone tubing down it myself, but I won't do it anymore. Too dangerous. 'specially when you're having beers and such.

jennifer / May 25, 2005 10:19 AM

Blake, I don't want to get into an argument, but actually, they do. Have you never seen the large groups of Amish people walking around downtown? And it's not gawking, it's experiencing and learning about a different culture. How is what your saying any different than saying "don't go to (insert any country here)"?

Blake / May 25, 2005 11:42 AM

The difference, Jennifer, is that it's rare one spends more than an hour or two buying peanut brittle whilst among the Amish, while days and weeks spent in another country allow you to genuinely experience and learn about a different culture.

Veronica #2 / May 25, 2005 12:04 PM

I only leave the city by plane. I dont have a car and I dont have any friends with cars either.

Kado / May 25, 2005 5:56 PM

Having grown up in Amish land i know all about the gawking - but dont forgot someone is cashing in and it isnt outsiders - which the AMish keep up - it is the Amish! Tons of super-wealthy Amish run these spots. Go for a day - but like i said earlier - hit the lakes!

Emerson Dameron / May 25, 2005 7:48 PM

I've mentioned this before, but I recommend Indiana, if only on the 4th of July. For the sky candy.

paul / May 25, 2005 9:35 PM

Debbie Downer, some people drive on the interstates to the Dells every year and never return.

The stretch of the Wisconsin I'm talking about is between Spring Green and Muscoda. While conditions change from year to year, the biggest danger is your canoe getting stuck on a sand bank, or maybe needing to paddle for a few minutes in the slow spots. Most of the Northern parts of the Wi. River aren't that bad either. The Flambeau is the scary one, which is probably what Benjy was looking for.

That said, go with a large group, in canoes, not tubes, and don't be dumb with alcohol around anything that can kill you, even if it's a foot and a half of lazily moving water.

Amy / May 31, 2005 8:23 PM

Nobody mentioned Louisville. I went to school there, great local music scene, lots of cute little restaurants, and of course Churchill Downs and the Louisville Slugger museum! And there's always something going on at the "waterfront", the park along the Ohio river.

N. Pitt / June 7, 2005 5:18 PM

I'm trying to organize a big group of people to go away for a weekend; some want to camp in tents and some want to sleep in a cabin or some kind of a building with walls. Does anyone know of a cool campsite that offers cabins? Or a cottage that one can rent with a campground nearby? Thanks!

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