Images from Starved Rock State Park & Lodge – Winter 2012

Shortly after Christmas, right before New Years, we took our annual trip to Starved Rock State Park. This year we were unable to stay for our usual length of time so we had to pack as much activity into a shorter time period than in visits past.

Usually we stay inside one of the cabins at the lodge but this year we decided to stay in one of the lodge rooms. While it didn’t offer as much privacy as the cabins (nor a fireplace), there were definite benefits. We need not worry about the hungry racoons with the beady glowing eyes lurking in the darkness outside when we wanted to take a swim in the pool, eat in the Lodge Restaurant or relax in the Great Hall. Nothing like racing out into the cold in half wet swimwear. That will most certainly put some pep in your step!

Before checking in we made sure to stop at the Illinois River Winery to pick up some of their local wines. We selected the Strawberry-Rhubarb and a bottle of Mad Jack’s Apple Pie shots. We enjoyed the Starved Rock Lodge’s decadent Sunday Brunch Buffet complete with made-to-order omelet station, waffles complete with fruit toppings, vegetarian pastas, carving station, bacon, sausage,fresh fruit and so much more. There was definitely no shortage of desserts either! After fueling up at the buffet, we ventured onto a trail that we had not ventured into before and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the St. Louis canyon complete with frozen waterfall.

After our hike we decided to take a dip in the pool as well as relax our sore muscles in the hot-tub. At this point we had developed grumbling stomachs so onward to a place we visited last year, the Uptown Grill for dinner. The Uptown Grill is located in LaSalle County which is only a short drive away from Starved Rock and features a very delicious and diverse menu. I started things off by selecting some of their unique loose leaf teas. For dinner we opted for the Margarita and Fajita special. We topped off our meal with warmed chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

After dinner we drove through the small towns of Peru and Utica before arriving back at our room. Before officially heading home we visited Cracker Barrel, one of the few places around where Cornbread Dressing is considered a “vegetable”.  We plan on visiting Starved Rock again for our anniversary in the fall. A time of year we’ve never had a change to visit. If possible, we hope to make another trip out here again before then.

Check out a few images from the trip below:

Starved Rock State Park entrance, alternate view

Starved Rock Lodge entrance

Holiday decor and Fireplace

Starved Rock Lodge Fireplace

Inside

Trees, Sun and Leaves

Victory?

Meet me in St. Louis Canyon

Hubby and me inside St. Louis Canyon

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Holiday Ambiance

Lone drinker

Bridge over Peru

Rear of Starved Rock Lodge

Steps to Starved Rock Visitors Center

Still stumped

Leisurely Flubbers

View the complete set!

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4 Nights in Starved Rock

During the last week of December the hubby and I took our annual winter break trip to Starved Rock State Park located in the small town of Utica, IL.

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Starved Rock Lobby Entrance

We really enjoy visiting the lodge and the park itself during the winter time and look forward to the scenic view of the park covered in snow and ice. However, we did not get ANY snow. Not one bit. This trip was the first time I had my good camera with for a Starved Rock trip so I was really hoping to get some majestic snow shots in, however many of the hiking pics ended up feeling like they were taken on a crisp fall day, not the last week of December.

Fireplace in Dining Hall at Starved Rock Lodge

Fireplace in Dining Hall at Starved Rock Lodge

Regardless of the fact that snow was MIA for this trip we still very much enjoyed our stay. The lodge itself is really perfect during the winter when I look to achieve that rustic-warm-by-the-fireplace-hot-cocoa-in-hand feeling which you can literally do here. The Great Hall has a large two sided fireplace, the Dining Hall has another one and you can even have a fireplace of your own if you rent one of 4 Sunset Cabins that have one. The Dining Hall has some delicious food and I am happy to see they have incorporated more vegetarian friendly options on their menus. The Sunday Brunch Buffet is also something worth checking out. You will not walk away hungry. If you do, well, then your doing it wrong! Also, be sure to stop at the Backdoor Lounge, located near the Dining Hall for a drink.

Cow, Bar and Christmas Lights

The Backdoor Lounge at Starved Rock Lodge

Utica, is a very small town but that’s part of it’s charm.  One of the places we make it a point to stop at every year is the Illinois River Winery. This year we purchased some Strawberry wine, Hallowine (a Halloween spiced apple pumpkin flavor best served warm) and one called Festiva which is very much like a champagne. The Festiva was a perfect choice with New Years Eve being right around the corner. Another one of our favorites is their Cranberry Snow which we’ve often found in local Chicago liquor stores. If you can’t make it down there in person they do make most of their wines available for online ordering.

Moon over the Illinois River Winery

Illinois River Winery

We also made a stop at Finnegan’s Bookstore in it’s new location. I’m always happy to set foot in an independently owned bookstore in this day and age. Finnegan’s has a diverse selection of new and used books in a wide variety of topics and genres. Make sure to ask for your Free Wooden Nickel! Seriously, do it.

We also dined at two wonderful establishments, Canal Port and the Uptown Grill. Canal Port, also located in Utica, has some wonderfully tasty food including some the largest fried mushrooms I’ve had in quite a while. They have a wide variety of seafood, pastas, meat dishes and salads. Ask for a table near the fireplace for a little extra ambiance.

Outside of Canal Port

The hubby outside of Canal Port

Uptown Grill is located in LaSalle which is only a short drive from Utica. Uptown describes themselves “polished casual dining at it’s best” and I have to agree. This was a really great restaurant which was decorated nicely for the holiday season. Their menu is LARGE! I ordered the Saganaki and Portobella Fajitas which were both delicious. I also ordered a drink called the Fine and Dandy which certainly lived up to it’s name.

Uptown Restaurant

Uptown Restaurant

Oh and last but not least, Starved Rock State Park itself! Again, I wish we had at least a bit of snow for picture purposes but alas it did not work out that way. Regardless, the scenery was quite beautiful and relaxing. The benefit to no snow was that we were able to walk near Canyons that have been blocked with ice patches in the past.

Stream into Canyon

Stream into Canyon at Starved Rock State Park

If you would like to see more pictures from our trip as always here’s the link to my Flickr set.

Till next time folks and once again have a Happy New Year!

Lighted tree

tata

KK