Weekend Road Trips

Getaways for couples close to home

Champaign, Ill - Grown-up Weekends Close to Home, Midwest Travel Expert Marcia Frost
With Valentine’s Day coming up and the kids in school until spring break, it’s time to think about a few getaways for grownups.

Sailor Jerry takes Chicago

Norman Collins, aka Sailor Jerry, was a prominent American tattoo artist who spent years in Chicago creating body art that is known to last for decades. In celebration of his birthday, I spent the weekend with the Sailor Jerry Rum group discovering the man, the rum, and the art.

The first stop was the most important: the Tattoo Exhibit at The Field Museum. This exhibit will be at the museum until at least April (an extension is being considered because it is so popular). The exhibit explores the history of tattooing and it’s many uses, from religion to expression, and even its use during the Holocaust. This also includes a history of Sailor Jerry and a collection of the tattoos he is most famous for. * At the end of the Tattoo exhibit is something you’ve probably never seen in a museum – a live tattoo parlor. Well-known artists from around the world are providing tattoos (for $250, to benefit the museum) while onlookers can see the whole process. You can see the guest artists or book an appointment through this link.

This weekend, Spike TV’s Ink Master Oliver Peck was the artist in residence and he came along with us after his shift was over to check out some of Chicago’s bars with Sailor Jerry’s Rum cocktails, with easy to mix ingredients such as ginger beer, sour mix, or pineapple juice. We finished at one of the newest that is getting raves around the country, the Broken Shaker. Here we tasted Sailor Jerry’s Rum and Tequila Punch, along with Mai Tai’s made from the rum. Fortunately, that last stop was also our hotel, the eclectic Freehand Chicago. The rooms at this hotel aren’t very big, but it’s got a friendly and casual feel that makes it perfect for a getaway for two. It also has a café that serves coffee and breakfast during the day, and tacos and cocktails at night.

Romance in Washington, Illinois

For a true getaway for two very close by, head to the quaint town of Washington, Illinois. The town circles the square, which Abraham Lincoln frequented.  It is filled with some fun and tasting shopping, some of which actually was here back in the days of Lincoln. When William Holland opened his Holland Mercantile. The eighth generation is now running that store, along with the candy store – which has a real soda fountain – and the Caramel Popcorn shop on the same block. You’ll also want to stop by the antique shops as well as Le Bakery, where they have ethnic treats such as cannolis and the local favorite, Mini Cinis.  Be sure to also visit Lori’s Kitchen store. They have cooking classes which are very popular with couples.

You don’t have to go anywhere for the perfect romantic stay on the square as the Cornerstone Inn is located right there. This 19th century inn is on the National Register of Historic Places. The rooms are each uniquely decorated, from the President’s Room where I stayed in comfortable luxury to Noah’s Ark, where my friend Rhonda was, with its carved woodwork and high bed. Every room has a bath (a few have Jacuzzis) and lots of privacy. You may find it difficult to leave the inn and you won’t really have too much, because it has its own restaurants and bakery.

Denhart’s is the bright and casual spot where all guests receive a made-to-order breakfast of their choice. It’s far from your usual fare, with pancake, waffle, eggs, and crepe options. Rhonda loved her skillet, filled with hash browns, eggs, ham, and cheese. I went for something sweeter with the Apple Pancakes. Even though I skipped the whipped cream and syrup, it was a scrumptious treat covered in a cinnamon cream.

We also ate at the C-Note Pub at the Cornerstone Inn for dinner. It’s a great spot for a dinner for two. We started with wine (they have a big selection, as well as a good beer list) and the Potato Skins, which were made to accommodate my allergies, was delicious and three full potatoes large. For our meal, Rhonda was thrilled with the Reuben. I had one of their great burgers, which are huge.

After dinner, we were fortunate to be in town for “Vienna to Broadway” at the Five Points. You would not expect a Broadway style production in a small town like this, but the Heartland Festival orchestra accompanied the performances of Sarah Jane McMahon and John Cuda, who have extensive opera and Broadway experience respectively. The show was wonderful and I highly recommend trying to catch one in the series. Their 2017 schedule is here.

Before you leave Washington, make a stop at The Blend. I loved the Fudge Brownie coffee, which had plenty of natural flavor without adding anything to the brewed cup. It is one of about nine blends that they roast and serve here, the latest of which is Italian-style espresso. The café itself is unique in that it was totally renovated in 2014 after the tornado that came through this town. All the wood used in the renovation was recycled from places that were demolished by the tornado.

Note: some of the art and videos in this exhibit are pretty graphic, so I’d recommend making this trip to The Field Museum in Chicago without the kids.

Read more of Marcia Frost’s stories at http://www.WineAndSpiritsTravel.com.



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