ALONG THE LAKE: NATURE AND HISTORY, GREAT FOODS & THE ARTS are calling. Like the boats to a lighthouse, and yes, there are those to see, Lake County, Illinois and Lake Michigan, are calling with appealing sights, sounds, experiences and flavors.
Miles of trails, nautical, too—biking, hiking, boating, and lakes of course, craft brews along the Lake County Libation Trail™. Take in history and nature at gems of preserves, complete with shaded overlooks with breathtaking views. Do a drive-by for some of the best public art or plan ahead for a special performance at an historic theater or at the nation’s largest outdoor music venue. There’s so much to do! Amazing, affordable (and free, too)—is calling! Take it all in, then rest your head, at hotels and lodging that want to pamper you, put you first — without breaking your budget. Lake County is calling!
History is rich in Lake County, and so are the special moments to create and share. Rise with the sun (or anytime thereafter) from your rested stay at The Inn on Sheridan, an independent boutique hotel which offers beautiful accommodations with comfort and budget in mind. U.S Naval Station Great Lakes recruit families and first responders, have a HERO DISCOUNT offer, so be sure to ask when checking in. Ideal for an overnight getaway, it’s only blocks from the Lake Michigan shore and Metra Rail service. Enjoy the 24-hour fitness facility, library or stop by Callie's Coffeehouse & Boutique, for one-of-a-kind items and the perfect latte.
Head north or south, depending upon your taste for sites and foods, along Sheridan Road. Nature, outdoors, showstoppers, margaritas and lakefront-seating with a craft brew, await. Boundless nature is perched and ready at nearby Lake Bluff Open Lands Preserves, including the town’s first natural setting, Carolyn Goetz Wetlands. There, you can get your Zen going, listening to the wind in the white pine forest and sitting on the observation deck. This wetland is a habitat for blue winged teal, wood duck, red tailed hawks, snapping turtle, frogs, and other wildlife. It is also home to dozens of young bur oaks and white pines. Great for birdwatching and photos.
Take a car ride with nostalgia—homes of grandeur and yesteryear and public art displays to be discovered, as you head along Lake Michigan on Sheridan Road. On the map is the City of Waukegan, with majestic Waukegan Harbor & Marina for scenic strolls, charter fishing and excursions, with shows, classics and live performances that greet you at the historic Genesee Theatre. From your favorite comedians to singers, songwriters, you can catch a variety year-round. Less than a four-minute drive from the theatre and in the heart of the downtown business district, is the most authentic Mexican, taste bud-pleasing food at La Casa de Samuel, known for Carne Asada, amazing seafood, handmade corn tortillas and margaritas that will have you making a return trip. Top off your visit with an evening at a Lake County Libation Trail favorite stop, Winthrop Harbor’s Harbor Brewing Company (and lakeside biergarten). Their “recipe” includes a unique style of fun, flavorful beers and classics.
Towns: Lake Bluff, City of Waukegan, City of Zion, Winthrop Harbor
Oh, does Lake County have music, top names, and the must go-to for the perfect stary-night outdoor performance. Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival stands as not only North America’s oldest outdoor music festival but also one of its most musically diverse. Ravinia spreads across nearly 36 acres and features three unique performance venues, the open-air Pavilion, the iconic Martin Theatre and the intimate Bennett Gordon Hall. This itinerary also offers the convenience of Route 41, Sheridan Road, and the popular east/west thoroughfare, Lake-Cook Road.
Whether you want to see current chart-toppers, classic rock legends, or take in a performance by the nation’s finest orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Ravinia has something for everyone.
How 'bout a craft brew or homemade taco? Nearby in the Ravinia District in Highland Park is Ravinia Brewing Company, complete with live music and an outdoor, game-laden patio. As they describe it, it’s “BEER...TACOS... AND A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE...”
Still hungry? Look no more to find a “Food Network” star with The Shanty in Wadsworth. Tradition, the local community, and a creative take on food and beverage are the foundation of The Shanty. The restaurant has been a gathering place to eat, drink, and socialize for over 100 years. Fresh ingredients are key to their locally-sourced and inspired menu. Enjoy fresh seafood, aged steaks, prime chops, fresh poultry, pasta, and vegetarian/gluten-free, and scratchmade American and global-inspired dishes.
Pop over, just a few miles north, to Zion’s gem of outdoor spaces at Illinois Department of Natural Resources Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park. “Naturally" speaking this has it all. The 4,160-acre park, offers ample opportunities for swimming, boating, picnicking, hiking, fishing, camping and appreciating nature. More than 650 species of plants have been recorded in the dunes area alone, including dozens of types of colorful wildflowers. Prickly pear cactus thrives in large colonies in the dry areas, and the wet prairies are carpeted with a wide variety of grasses and sedges. There's a nature center, open on select days.
A salute to RED, WHITE and BLUE await as you head to points north in Lake County. If you've ever wanted to travel back in time and take a look at history, visit Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve in Lake Forest (convenient from Route 41 or Sheridan Road). This amazing outdoor attraction, nature preserve and former historic U.S. Army post, holds national significance for its landscape and architecture design, and for the preparation and training of American soldiers for military service (from the Spanish-American War to Operation Desert Storm). Both the preserve and the historic Parade Grounds (National Historic Landmark) are a must-see, free and open to the public. Relax on the sandy shore, enjoy trails and learn through self-guided, one-of-a-kind outdoor exhibits.
BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS. Ideal for birdwatching, this scenic destination-preserve offers savanna, ravines and a lakefront location for visitors to observe one of North America’s busiest flyways for migratory birds. It is also one of only a few places in Lake County that offers free public access to Lake Michigan and an awe-inspiring lake overlook perched on a 70-foot-high bluff (—swimming and water activities are not permitted at the preserve).
Where to relax and rest your lakeshore-visiting self or group? It’s the warm and friendly Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago/Waukegan. A contemporary room or studio suite awaits, with comfort and amenities. Free hot breakfast on weekdays. Your four-legged friends are also welcome at the pet-friendly Waukegan hotel (fees apply).
Towns: Highland Park, City of Lake Forest, City of Waukegan, Town of Wadsworth, City of Zion