Champaign, Ill - Getaway to Suburban St. Louis and Lake Geneva
By Marcia Frost
Midwest weather has been rather unpredictable this winter so planning a spring break trip is a little more difficult. Here are two trips that will work regardless of the weather.
Just outside of St. Louis there are a few towns with some rather interesting offerings. I spent two days in Chesterfield recently for the opening of Rock and Brews, a chain of restaurants owned by KISS members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. They were on hand for the festivities, which included a free meal for local veterans, as well as a grand opening fundraiser to benefit local organizations that help the military.
(Simmons and Stanley even took some time out to interview with me for The Daily Meal.)
Rock and Brews has a spot for live music and lots of memorabilia that explore the best in rock. You’ll also find MTV videos on the screens, a huge beer list, and great food. I got to sample the pulled pork, wings, and macaroni and cheese. The menu is rather large and even includes a section for dogs! They are welcome on the patio, which is enclosed in the winter.
After the party, we spent the night at the Doubletree Chesterfield. I’m always a fan of the brand and their warm chocolate chip cookies. This one is in a great location, right near a major mall (and not far from Rock & Brews). It also has a huge athletic center attached that includes indoor and outdoor tennis courts and pools, a jogging track and a basketball court.
We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then headed to nearby Maryland Heights, Missouri to the Escape Challenge. It was my first time trying out one of these and it was so much fun. We were put in an “Escape Room” for an hour to try to solve the mystery of the mad bomber of St. Louis.
There were clues that led us to combination and key locks, bringing us to more hints on how to get out and find the criminal. We were a few minutes late in finishing, but had an excellent time considering there was only two of us.
My next spring break destination is one I was happy to return to, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. I had so much fun at the Escape Room in St. Louis, I thought we’d try the Clue Room in Lake Geneva. This one was a bit harder as we tried to put Al Capone in jail. We had a lot more difficult clues, as well as combinations to be found. It was again lots of fun.
It was a beautiful day for ziplining with Lake Geneva Canopy Tours, but they’ll set you up for a fun ride even if you get a colder day or snow. This two-and-a-half-hour tour follows the ropes along the 100-acre property, which also includes cycling, and jeep runs (the jeep was also used to take zipliners to the top of the hill.
Lake Geneva Canopy is ready for beginners and experts all year round, as long as you are seven years old and weigh at least 65 lbs.
We stayed at The Ridge, which is being completely renovated one step at a time so it doesn’t interfere with the experience. The open lobby area is beautiful. The hotel has an indoor pool and whirlpool, and Spa, with a eucalyptus steam room open to guests, and large fire pit and an ice skating rink, weather permitting.
The Ridge is close to town and has a coffee shop, The Bean, and an excellent restaurant, Restaurant, Crafted Americana. Everything we ate there was amazing, from the salmon and Mac n Cheese with chicken and bacon for dinner, to the Big Mess for breakfast. We also tasted some spectacular house made desserts, such as the layered carrot cake and the Fried Oreo with peanut butter cream and caramel sauce.
We also went over to the Timber Ridge Lodge & Waterpark in Lake Geneva for some indoor splashing fun. In addition to the slides, they have a lazy river and an adult-only whirlpool if you just want to relax while the kids are running around. There’s also a snack bar in the water park and a barbecue restaurant in the hotel.
New to Lake Geneva is the Tristan Crist Magic Show. Illusionist Crist and his helpers will keep you guessing the whole time. He’s also a lot of fun, telling jokes and interacting with the intimate audience. Since the theater is not very large, be sure to get your tickets in advance.
While downtown, take some time to explore the shops, cafes, and the water that surrounds Lake Geneva.
Everything I did on this trip was not on my trip to Lake Geneva two years ago, except for a visit to Studio Winery. I loved this place last time and it was even better than I remembered. The combination of a winemaker and musician with an artist wife gives you an unmatched atmosphere. They were doing wine and painting before it was popular.
They also have live music on Saturday evenings, as well as other events. We tasted wine, nibbled on pizza, salami and cheese, and painted. I must say that even though I am not a painter, I had a relaxing, fun time. Their wine is fantastic and has musical names such as Hendrix (pinot noir like), Joplin (a sweet ruby port), and Pink (a dry cherry sparkling). Our favorite was Coltrane, a white that’s a cross between a moscato and a Riesling.
Our last stop in Lake Geneva was at Sprecher’s Pub downtown by the water. They are most known for their sodas, which now go way beyond root beer to a half dozen flavors. They also have a hard root beer and produce a selection of beers. Everything we ate for lunch was fantastic, starting with the Wisconsin cheese curds. In fact, one member of the group took it one step further and got the humongous Curd Burger. They are very allergy and family friendly and have a kid’s menu. I had a great Reuben. For dessert, we picked three different items that were sinfully delicious.
Before we hit the road, I took a quick look around at The Cove hotel, connected to Speicher’s. They are in the middle of a massive renovation of this property, which has condos that are great for families.
Read more of Marcia Frost’s adventures at http://www.WineAndSpiritsTravel.com.