The Chicago Public Schools will be on Spring Break next week, and while we’re still not out of the woods in terms of unfettered travel, many of us are craving some adventure. Here are a few ideas for road trips that will keep you within Illinois, followed by some online recommendations so you can check out the world from the comfort of that Meister Bräu-themed cabana that you built for your backyard.
Where the buffalo roam:
- The Nachusa Grasslands is a nature conservancy started by prairie enthusiasts and ecologists in the 1970s to preserve a portion of Illinois’s natural landscape. It’s now a 3,800-acre preserve just southwest of Rockford, with a volunteer center and headquarters in Franklin Grove. The drive from the Reader offices in Bronzeville is just under two hours, and birdwatchers and hikers alike will be rewarded with the possibility of seeing over 200 bird species on the preserve. But Nachusa also has some unusual residents: a herd of bison, growing in size since 2014. The bison are allowed to roam in a 1,500-acre area and as the Nachusa teams warns, there is “no predictable time” that they’ll be up and about. It’s still worth taking a trip to see if you can catch a glimpse of the huge beautiful creatures. Travel information is available at the Nachusa website.
- Those interested in a longer trip could drive about six hours south to Belknap, Illinois, home of the Shawnee National Forest and also the Mermet Springs dive site and scuba training facility. It’s an 8.5-acre spring-fed quarry stocked with everything from interesting fish to the Boeing 727 that crashed (don’t worry, it was make-believe) in the 1998 Wesley Snipes and Tommy Lee Jones movie U.S. Marshals. Scuba divers and snorkelers are welcome, and the facility offers scuba lessons for the uninitiated. Mermet Springs is about an hour south of Carbondale, so you could plan on staying there and checking out the Southern Illinois University campus. And for the curious, here’s what that “Saluki” business is about.
- It’s no secret that I love records and (as other insane hoarders might tell you) part of the appeal is the search for that hidden vinyl treasure. Some in-state stores to check out on your driving jags: Recycled Records in Springfield (previously written about for our 2018 Road Trip issue), Record Wonderland in Roselle, America’s Groove in Effingham, and the grouping of stores in the Bloomington-Normal area including Waiting Room, Reverberation, and the book and record shop Bobzbay.
On the interwebs:
- The DePaul-area film nonprofit Facets continues to offer new movies through its online screening series. Tickets usually allow the viewer to rent the movie for two to four days, and proceeds from ticket sales support Facets’s mission to bring independent film from all over the world to audiences and bridge cultural divides through highlighting storytelling. This week’s offerings include the “speculative documentary” Truth or Consequences, set in the town of the same name in New Mexico in a near future when space travel has begun.
- You can check out a bunch of local museums without leaving your couch or cabana chair through virtual tours at their websites, but the Chicago History Museum also offers special tours of other Chicago treasures. Check out a tour of the murals of Pilsen on Tuesday 3/30 or a trip down memory lane with Chicago’s Lost Restaurants on Tuesday 4/13.
More coming up:
- Fri 3/26 and Sat 3/27, 9 and 11 PM: Rosa’s Lounge hosts blues musician Joanna Connor and her band for four shows to celebrate the release of her record 4801 South Indiana Avenue.
- Sat 3/27, 1 PM and again on Sat 4/24, 1 PM: The Chinese American Museum of Chicago hosts a free storytelling workshop on Zoom with storyteller and UIC outreach specialist Ada Cheng.
- Sun 3/28, 2 PM and 5 PM: The Promontory in Hyde Park celebrates soul, R&B, and hip-hop with We Love Soul’s eleventh anniversary celebration featuring DJs Sean Alvarez, Duane Powell, and Joe Kollege.
- Mon 3/29: Several of the Chicago Park District’s indoor pools are reopening for lap swimming, including Auburn Gresham’s Foster Park, Wrigleyville’s Gill Park, and Pilsen’s Harrison Park facilities. Advance registration is required; check out the Park District’s website for details.
- Thu 4/1, 7 PM: The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center joins WTTW to host an online discussion about The Windermere Children. Free, but registration is required.