By Debra Karplus
Yes, there are many activities you can do with your grandchildren in a huge city like Chicago. But while vacationing in Illinois, plan to take a roadtrip “downstate” as city folks call it, for a weekend escape from the urban life of Illinois’ windy city. Located south of the border arbitrarily definedby Interstate 80, seemingly in the hinterlands, surrounded by corn, one can find a myriad of fascinating sites to visit with the little ones after setting foot out of the city. Indeed, there’s much ado in Central Illinois.
Sojourn south to Springfield
There’s a strong presence of sixteenth president Lincoln in Illinois’ state capital, where Interstate Highways 72 and 55 meet. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, built in 2005, is an interactive state-of-the-art museum that you and your grandchildren can enjoy. Open daily except for major holidays, there’s much to experience and learn from both the permanent and special exhibits. There’s free admission for children under five.
If the weather cooperates, you’ll definitely want to visit nearby Lincoln’s New Salem State Historic Site, in Petersburg, approximately twenty miles northeast of Illinois’ capital city. Your grandchildren will be enchanted by the preserved nineteenth century village with a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, sawmill and so much more. Combine education and fun in New Salem.
Amazing Amish antiques and adventures in awesome Arthur
Arthur, Illinois, immediately west of Interstate 57 along Route 133 offers a trip back in time. This functioning community will dazzle your grandchildren as they marvel at the black horse-pulled carriages, not automobiles that transport local folks to market and around town. You and your grandchildren will relish the quaint shops and dining establishments which serve tasty home-style cooked meals. Drive along some of the back roads to savor the picturesque splendor of the Illinois countryside.
Festivals, fairs, and farmer’s markets outdoors and in
During most any spring, summer or autumn weekend you’re likely to stumble upon some festival or fair, such as the, the July Bagel-fest in Mattoon, the Arthur Cheese Festival in September, or the Broomcorn Festival in Arcola (home of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy) where you can watch the Lawn Rangers compete for fastest lawn mower; or any of a number of annual sweet corn festivals such as the one each Labor Day weekend in Hoopeston, Illinois.
Farmer’s Markets abound throughout Central Illinois. One of the larger ones in Urbana, Illinois has expanded in both size and duration, now open from early May until Christmas. It’s an outdoor market except for the colder months of November and December, when it moves indoors. Your grandchildren will enjoy seeing and sampling a wide variety of local produce that varies as the season progresses, including large pumpkins each fall. They can watch demonstrations of crafts such as wood carving, and listen to live music, including fiddle playing and blue grass.
Sensational state parks
Illinois has over one hundred state parks, the majority of which are located south of Chicago. Whether you and your grandchildren enjoy hiking, boating, camping, picnicking, or taking photographs, the state parks in downstate Illinois will not disappoint you. Fox Ridge State park near Charleston has numerous trails from easy to challenging, and is especially beautiful each autumn as the leaves on the trees turn colors. The Lake Shelbyville is an extensive recreation area that your grandchild will like. Additionally, the Shawnee National Forest, further south off Interstate 57 can be breathtaking, whatever the season.
Plan a trip with your grandchildren and do consider Central Illinois as an out-of-the-way vacation spot. You’ll be impressed at the many things to do with children of all ages. Your grandchildren will treasure memories forever of your time with them experiencing America’s heartland.
Author biography: Debra Karplus is a licensed occupational therapist, teacher, and freelance writer for national magazines, baby boomer, and grandmother of two. She lives in a college town in Central Illinois. She has been published in Grand Magazine in the past. Learn more about her at http://debrakarplus.blogspot.com.