Romantic B&B Overlooking Acres of Organic Gardens
At The Brightwood Inn, a 14-acre property bordering Matthiessen State Park and located about two hours from Chicago, breakfast is a big deal. After all, the innkeepers sell produce from their organic gardens at local farmers' markets, so they’ve got a reputation to uphold. In the summer and fall, freshly picked seasonal veggies, berries, and herbs make their way into dishes such as custom omelets and orange french toast, and in the winter, bowls of fresh fruit and homemade muffins and breads top the table. The inn itself has a homey feel, with ornamental gables and a white wraparound porch. Each guest room is unique, but all share a country-chic style and include a gas fireplace and two-person whirlpool tub. Both the Vieux Carre and Mallory Square rooms boast broad bay windows with views of the vegetable gardens. The Tortola room is a good pick for a romantic stay, thanks to its canopy bed and pink-and-white decor. If you choose to stay in the Aspen suite, you’ll be greeted by a bouquet of flowers, a carafe of soup, a loaf of french bread, a bottle of champagne, and homemade chocolate. There are plenty of cozy nooks to explore throughout the building. You can nibble on homemade cookies from the jar in the library, or play board games in the space the innkeepers call the Gathering Room, which is stocked with stemware for any wine you might have brought along. It’s also worth exploring the surrounding landscape, which boasts wineries, historical mansions, and forested hiking trails.
Oglesby, Illinois: Scenic State Parks with Waterfalls and Summer Flowers
The Oglesby area's star attraction is Starved Rock State Park, named one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois in a 2007 poll. Here, 13 miles of hiking trails wander past sandstone bluffs covered with white pines and cedars. The Lasalle Canyon path stands out, thanks to several delicate, veil-like waterfalls along the way. For smaller crowds, try hiking through the lesser known Matthiessen State Park adjoining the inn, where deer congregate around salt-laden mineral springs. In summer, the park's meadows are blanketed with wildflowers including black-eyed susans, partridge-pea blossoms, and purple mint buds. As the mercury drops later in the year, many of the region's waterfalls freeze into crystalline stalactites, and bald eagles migrate to the nearby Plum Island Eagle Sanctuary to retrieve their snuggies before winter.
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